MBA blog

The executive decision: why it makes sense to work alongside a part-time MBA

After two years of running a business, Heather Baker decided to study for an executive MBA at London Business School. She blogs about what it's like to work and study at the same time.

When I launched my company in 2008, my business plan was nothing more than a two page Word document stating who would own what, and what the entity would be named. I’m sure I intended to elaborate but once the finance was in place and the domain name registered, that all-important file was immediately relegated to a distant folder somewhere in ‘My Documents’ while I proceeded to wing it.

Yes, like most start-ups, pretty much nothing went to plan in Year One , and I found myself blagging (and blogging) my way through my first few years of entrepreneurship.

And it was tough. Anyone who has founded a business will tell you that the learning curve is steep, but in my case, with no formal business training, only three years of experience and facing the worst economic crisis since before the TV was invented (how did the entrepreneurs of the 30s cope without the Kardashians?), it was practically vertical.

Nevertheless, somehow the business survived, even making a modest profit. But after two years of ‘learning by doing’ and making what sometimes felt like every mistake in the book, I came across the Executive MBA programme at London Business School. I had often thought about doing an MBA, but it had never occurred to me that I might be able to do it without having to give up work entirely for a couple of years. This one, according to the marketing material, promised to fit in nicely alongside my day job. I had no spare time for anything alongside my day job, but the allure of learning the ropes of business management from some of the leading people in the industry prevailed, and I decided to go for it.

The first hurdle was GMAT, the highly intimidating exam that acts as the gateway to any MBA. I somehow made it through, landed myself a spot on the programme and paid my deposit, when it suddenly dawned on me what I had just committed to: over the next 18 months I would need to squeeze 62 days of lectures and around 246 hours of study time into my schedule. Where was I going to find the time?

Resolving not to share this little mental calculation with either my boyfriend or my business partner, I started reading. And luckily, I’m quite good at that, because I soon found out that the amount of reading required to complete an MBA would put even the most steadfast Kindle addict to shame.

Once the initial shock had subsided, I found myself balancing the sheer panic induced by the extra workload with the relief of being surrounded by specialists at the tops of their fields. And that’s just the other students! My classmates are experienced professionals (most have been working for around ten years by the time they start the programme), drawn from a cross section of industries (from publishing to medicine), and all highly motivated to form strong relationships and get the most out of the programme. Add to that the world class faculty and this makes for a rich learning environment indeed. 

Unlike a full-time MBA, an executive programme runs alongside your career, with the benefit that everything you learn in the classroom can be applied in the office the next day. Not only is this possible, it’s actively encouraged, and I was delighted to find that many of the projects and assignments require students to apply their learning to real life businesses. As a real-life business owner, I’ve found this quite useful.

And the business is already benefiting. Sure, not every McKinsey model or strategic plan on the course is relevant to a media start-up, but the learning certainly informs your thinking, and, like most things, you take out what you put in. If I were to dust off the old business plan now, it would be immediately apparent how much I have changed and learned. However, perhaps more importantly, my company now enjoys a new HR management system (that has helped build a truly strong team), an improved approach to accounting, and a vastly more confident (if very time-poor) MD.

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are a recent psychology graduate ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Graduate Graphic Designer

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Largest Independent Motor D...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Guru Careers: Graduate Sales Executive

£18 - 24k OTE + Uncapped Commission: Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Executive ...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...