Even though he’s on sabbatical this year, Professor Rakesh Sarin can’t just walk away from teaching. He says he enjoys teaching the MBA and Executive MBA program students and is learning too much from them not to teach at least one class. He particularly enjoys teaching the Executive MBA students, as he says they bring new challenges.
“EMBA students are lot more engaged on conceptual issues, even though they have to balance work and study,” says Sarin, who holds UCLA Anderson’s Paine Chair in Management. “They also can apply their new knowledge to their careers immediately, as they already hold full-time jobs.”
Smart Business spoke with Sarin about how the EMBA program differs from the MBA program and how it can change the way you think in your own business.
How does the EMBA program differ from the MBA program?
Students in the EMBA program have more experience. Their primary goal is learning to enhance their careers. It really changes the nature of the discussion in the class.
EMBA students are generally very well prepared. They are used to meeting deadlines and managing their time; you don’t have to monitor whether they are preparing for the class.
Whereas in the MBA program students are focused on learning concepts; in the EMBA program students like to challenge concepts and see extensions of them as they apply to real life. Some of that goes on with MBA students, as well, but they tend to focus more on being sure they can apply those concepts to their homework and exams. EMBA students also think about exams, but more as a reflection of their understanding of the material, and not so much as a goal. They are more interested in how to apply the concepts they learn to the real world.
It’s interesting to talk to them because they tend to bring their own ideas and experiences into whatever concept we are covering. They’re also not afraid to offer their own opinions. The answer might not be what I had in mind, but they are thinking of it in a different way, and I find that very refreshing.
How does their work experience translate to the classroom?
One example is when we were doing a case in which students had to decide whether they were going to put more money into a marketing campaign of a dealer promotion, or put more money into consumer promotion, meaning they would give coupons directly to consumers. There was a student who had faced a similar situation at his job at a major corporation and he was able to provide a lot of input on what he did. Another example is when I was talking about something that happened a couple decades ago. Because of one student’s work experience, he was able to update us on what had happened since then.
Our students are very willing to share their experiences, which helps solidify what they learn. As a result there are a lot of things from the classroom that they are able to apply very quickly to their careers, and are then able to come back and talk about their own real-world applications. From an instructor’s perspective, it’s very refreshing to hear, ‘I learned this in the classroom, and here’s how I’m going to now try to apply it to my work situation.’
How does the EMBA program impact the way students think?
It helps them with decision making and changes the way they think to become more analytical.
The program really emphasizes analytical thinking and how to use it to make real-world decisions. We try to not just teach regression analysis, for example, but how to use regression analysis to improve the forecasting of what you are doing in your company and improve decision making.
How do study groups encourage students to work together?
I find that students in learning teams build closer relationships and are more willing to help one another out. They may be competitive in the classroom when they are discussing something, but within their groups, teamwork reigns. I give two kinds of assignments in my class in which students can work together in groups. In the first, they work together to submit group assignments. In the other, they can work on problem sets as a group, but must submit assignments individually. It can be hard to judge because I only see the output, but I get a greater sense of the entire team contributing.
Sometimes the more goal-oriented MBA students tend to outsmart themselves by delegating someone to do the primary work. Then, when I ask questions, I can see someone is on top of it, but the other group members are less engaged. I don’t see that in EMBA students. Someone might be carrying more weight than another person, but they have all talked about it and have all engaged in the assignments they have been given.
Those relationships often far outlast the classroom. Those 70 students in the program move from one class to another, and are together for the whole year. That builds relationships and further enhances the value of the EMBA program.
Rakesh Sarin holds UCLA Anderson’s Paine Chair in Management. Reach him at (310) 825-3930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Edward Leamer arrived to teach in UCLA’s Executive MBA program, he had previously taught Ph.D. students in economics, but was unsure how to approach teaching at a business school.
While researching what approach to take, he hit upon the idea of using macroeconomics — which was not his field of study — and set out to learn as much as he could in order to apply it to the classroom.
“In macroeconomics, there are no clear answers and there is no science to exploit to determine what will and will not work,” says Leamer, professor of management, economics and statistics at UCLA and director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast. “Instead, you need to look at the data in order to form an opinion.”
Leamer is a also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of the Econometric Society; a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research; and a visiting scholar at the International Monetary Fund and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
Smart Business spoke with Leamer about how Anderson’s Executive MBA program can change the way you see the world and help you invent solutions you never thought possible.
How does the Executive MBA program differ from an MBA program?
In the EMBA program, there is a small group of 60 to 70 students. These students are typically 35 to 45 years old, and they are really going back to school to learn. They bring with them a lot of information and a lot of knowledge. The EMBA really creates a different kind of class environment.
In a regular MBA program, the students are younger and mostly coming directly from years in the classroom. They are still finding it difficult to speak out because they are afraid to fail. The EMBA students have more confidence about their own experiences, and they are much more willing to speak out and take that risk of failing.
I try to teach students how to learn, how to create knowledge on their own, and that requires them to go outside of their comfort zones. It’s all about looking at data and telling stories. I don’t tell them the answers; instead, we look at the data together and work out answers. For example, can we determine if another economic dip is coming? How do we form that opinion? And how do we persuade ourselves and other people that those conclusions are correct?
Anyone can participate in that conversation. The students come to the program with a lot of background and spheres of substantial expertise, and the goal is to put them in a setting in which they are out of their comfort zone.
How does the program try to change the way students view the world?
Students need to recapture their inner child. Children who are 4 or 5 years old are the best analytical thinkers in the world. They are constantly exploring the world around them. There is an enormous amount of learning going on, and they are not worried about failing. They are not looking around to see if the other kids are smarter than they are. They are just enjoying their surroundings and learning.
Students in the EMBA program need to do the same. They’ve already taken the first big step by going back to school, because that opens the possibility that they are going to fail. That step needs to be leveraged, and the professors need to take advantage of that to make sure they are pushing the students into areas that are uncomfortable for them.
I try to rekindle their inquisitive spirits, because I think the job market of the future needs individuals who can solve new problems, not those who know a lot about the solutions of the past. The market wants people who can figure out problems that haven’t been solved yet; the best education teaches people to solve problems.
What is the interaction between professors and students?
The best students are really here to learn. They don’t simply accept everything that the professor has to say. They ask questions and are a pleasure to work with. That really is the way of the classroom. The professor should be learning right along with the students, with the professor and students learning from each other. I tell them, ‘Don’t expect to learn just from me, but from the whole community.’ It is very important to be having those conversations.
There is so much untapped potential in each one of us, bottled up, and we just never give ourselves a chance to release it. There are physical, emotional and intellectual things that we are afraid to do. But it’s in all of us. A student on paper may not look so good, but it is the job of the faculty in the EMBA program to unlock that potential in each student.
How do relationships formed in the classroom benefit students outside of it?
I don’t think you can get an education without participating, both inside and outside of the classroom. So we create work groups of seven or eight students to work on problems together outside the classroom, and when they return to class, they are very participatory. After graduation, they continue to have lifetime relationships with one another that they’ve built up in their study groups, where they really bond, and they follow each other throughout their lives, supporting one another both in business and personal matters.
Edward Leamer is professor of management, economics and statistics at UCLA and director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast. Reach him at (310) 206 -1452 Edward.Leamer@anderson.ucla.edu.
Gary Ryals has a successful career as a Navy SEAL, serving three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he was looking for something more, something that would, at some point, help him into a new career. He found that something in UCLA Anderson’s Executive MBA program.
“The largest thing driving me was the desire to be exposed to issues outside of the defense industry,” says Ryals, who currently serves as the Executive Officer of a San Diego-based SEAL Team. “The intent was to prepare myself for a potential career transition, and to broaden and diversify the way I think.”
Smart Business spoke with Ryals about how an executive MBA can transform your thinking and help you lead in ways that you have never imagined.
What was your experience like in the classroom?
The program excels in two dimensions. First, the professors and academics are amazing; you’re provided the opportunity to study with brilliant professors. You are learning every day from people who are world-class, internationally recognized experts. They are on such a high level and you have incredible exposure to them.
The second dimension is that you are with an older, more accomplished peer group, typically in the 37- to 40-year-old age range. Your classmates frequently are people at the director level, who have started companies, or who are or have been in C-level positions. For example when you’re talking in finance class about firms taking their stocks public and the mistakes that are made, there are students who have already made that mistake and can contribute their experience.
The depth of experience in the student body is incredible and you can learn a lot from both them and the professors. I chose UCLA because it offered a really strong brand that I knew would be helpful in advancing my career, but it was much more powerful than I expected.
How have those relationships forged in the classroom carried over into your career?
It’s a cliche that your network is your net worth, but it’s true. Especially as you transition and move into new spheres, it’s the networks established through school or other organizations that really help catapult you. I’ve had alumni call me because of my military and specials ops background.
And in the three years since I graduated, I’ve leveraged that network quite a bit. I’ve started a leadership coaching and consulting business, and, despite having no advertising, I’ve received multiple jobs through my Anderson peers. In addition, the Executive MBA Career Services program reaches out to graduates and is always helping them to find opportunities. I hear from someone at the school — and not just in a mass e-mail — a couple of times a quarter, saying, ‘I saw this opportunity and thought of you,’ or ‘I’d like you to come up to a leadership luncheon.’ There are a lot of opportunities and the school continues to stay really engaged with students after they graduate. The UCLA network is really very supportive.
How has your executive MBA impacted your current position?
Previously, I was very experience based. I was an instinctive leader and decision maker. I was much more anecdotal. I would visit sites and talk to people and make decisions. That’s part of leading and managing, but it’s also peering beyond the first level of perception of the problem.
As you progress into higher levels of organizational management, you get to a level where you can’t know everyone. You really have to start being a data-driven decision maker, and UCLA prepared me very well for that with a very rigorous program. It taught me how to model different decisions, how to look at decision trees, how to model economic factors, how to be metrics oriented and to really look at what the numbers show.
By teaching us how to do a deeper analysis, measuring results and failures, putting numbers to paper and trying to quantify where things are going, I became a data-driven thinker. The program changed the way I think.
How did the program help you differentiate between leadership and management?
One of the things that the program is really good at, in addition to technical skills, is leadership development. A lot of people are seeking that transition from being a technical manager to a broader leadership and management role. Managing is about managing systems, being very focused on controlling a system to produce a consistent product and meeting specific goals.
UCLA provides this, but the program also stresses a leadership development side that is very solid. Leadership is about anticipating changes, seeing opportunities and leading your people and your organization through that change. It’s not just about having those technical functional management skills, but also really being able to lead a group of people across an organization and across different units within that organization to achieve an outcome. UCLA is really at the forefront of trying to develop these additional skills. The school offers 360 reviews, executive coaching and frequent lectures and mentoring with senior business leaders. The Anderson EMBA program prepares people to lead as well as manage an organization.
Gary Ryals, MBA, is the Executive Officer for a San Diego-based SEAL Team. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Earning your executive MBA can seem like an overwhelming proposition. Between work and family obligations, you may feel it’s impossible to do much else, but doing so can offer great rewards, say Tim McCarthy, president and CEO of iWalk, a company that develops and manufactures robotic artificial limbs for lower limb amputees.
“My advice is, don’t wait,” says McCarthy, a graduate of UCLA Anderson’s executive MBA program. “As your career and family commitments expand over time, your available free time decreases. There is never the ‘perfect’ time to add an MBA to the equation. Once you have made the decision that earning your MBA is an important goal, you have to go for it.”
Smart Business spoke with McCarthy about how to choose the right program for your needs and how the experience will open doors and change the way you think.
How did an executive MBA help you reach your goals?
I set a personal goal of earning my MBA soon after completing my undergraduate degree. Unfortunately, each time I was motivated enough to begin the application process and enroll, I was distracted by other commitments and forced to stop and re-prioritize.
Finally, in 2005, I found a time when it made sense for both my family and the company I was working for at the time to make the commitment. They both encouraged me to enroll, and with their support over the two years, I was able to check this important goal off my personal to-do list.
Professionally speaking, I had a long-standing goal to become the CEO of a medical device company with a burgeoning life-changing technology. Less than 14 months after earning my degree at UCLA, I was hired as the CEO of iWalk, an advanced bionics company who has developed proprietary robotic muscle and tendon solutions for lower-limb amputees.
I’ve always believed that the best measure of any degree is when that degree opens at least one door for you professionally. My MBA played a critical role in elevating me from a vice president of sales and marketing to my current CEO position. Without this degree, the door may have never been open for me.
What was it like going through the program?
Adding a top-rated MBA program to an already full plate is not an easy undertaking, and doing so should not be taken lightly, especially if you want to get the most out of your learning experience. Even though my employer encouraged me to enroll, they did not lessen the performance expectations of my position within the organization.
Successfully balancing family commitments and work obligations while earning my MBA was one of the toughest, yet one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. It isn’t easy, but with a supportive network you do find a way.
Why did you choose this program?
The EMBA program at UCLA offered me the right combination of scheduling and location convenience, research and teaching excellence, appropriate peer-to-peer learning with a general management/quantitative focus, all within a top-rated brand.
As an MBA candidate, make a list of what’s important to you, and then rate potential programs according to those criteria. Looking back, there’s no doubt that I chose the right program for me because it offered the key elements which were most important for me to achieve all my goals.
How have you drawn on former classmates to succeed?
I had never worked for a venture-backed company prior to my current role, and I had no real experience in raising capital. So during our most recent fundraising, I called on three classmates with startup and venture capital experience for input on my investment deck. With their assistance, we successfully closed a substantial Series C round in 2010, which will allow us to achieve our near-term commercial goals.
I tapped into that alumni network, not in the most traditional manner from the standpoint of official programs offered by the school, but I have certainly taken the fullest advantage of the people I met while there and tapped them for expertise in their functional fields.
What experiences did you have in the classroom that you’ve been able to translate to the workplace?
It had been almost 20 years since I sat in a classroom. And the further you separate from current best business practices and science, the more instinctual of a manager you become, especially if you’ve spent your entire career in one specialty. Because I had this very specific experience and had been successful, I’d almost relied entirely on my instincts, and managing on instinct alone can be very dangerous as your responsibilities are broadened beyond your functional vertices.
The program taught me to think more critically, analytically and cross-functionally. It taught me to use current and more complex data analysis tools to validate my assumptions and instincts. It taught me how to leverage teams of functional experts to further validate strategic initiatives across the entire organization.
Finally, the most important lesson I learned was a reinforcement of prior lessons. The program forces you into situations where you must work with people who are not like you, be that functionally, culturally or otherwise. Diversity of thought is critical to both a robust learning experience and to the success of an organization.
UCLA provided me the tools to further sharpen that very important understanding: success in life comes down to working and interacting effectively with a broad spectrum of people.
Timothy McCarthy is president and CEO of iWalk. Reach him at (949) 683-6382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon, Director of Women’s Cardiac Services at Saint John’s Medical Center, mother of two boys, wife of a liver transplant surgeon, philanthropist, author and businesswoman, 2006 graduate of UCLA Anderson’s executive MBA program Kathy E. Magliato is a skilled multitasker.
“Having five plates spinning in the air at once is something Anderson teaches you,” Magliato says. “The expectation at Anderson is that you will be able to maintain your personal and professional life while still being able to commit to the workload of the executive program. With this expectation, however, comes the full support of the UCLA faculty and your fellow classmates to ensure everyone’s success within the MBA program.”
Smart Business spoke with Magliato about how to fit an MBA into your busy life without sacrificing career or family, and how the experience will change you.
How did an executive MBA enable you to achieve your goals?
When people ask me that question, my answer is simple. The best way I could describe Anderson’s executive MBA program is that it was a springboard for my mind. I don’t mean that as a cliché; I mean that very honestly.
As a physician coming into the program with very little business experience, it broadened my horizons within the business community, but it also caused me to think a different way. I think differently; I approach problem-solving differently having the skill set I achieved with my MBA.
I remember floundering in one of my business classes when the dean took me aside and said, ‘Kathy, you don’t see this now, but you will leave here having learned and absorbed more than anyone else because you came here with the least amount of business knowledge.’
In general, whatever level of business experience you have when arriving at business school, you will definitely be at a much higher level when you leave. I came in at the ground level, but people coming in at the fourth floor will leave at the 10th floor.
How would you describe your executive MBA experience?
The Anderson community is a world-class institution. I sat across from some of the brightest minds to which I have ever been exposed. The people chosen through the admissions process are all at the top of their game. I learned as much from my fellow students as I did from the extraordinary professors. By using the Socratic method in class — which was completely different for me, as I was used to rote memorization in medical school — I was able to learn not just from the professor, but also from the students sitting next to me.
The professors were bright, insightful, unbelievable communicators. They have a passion that made you want to learn about what they were discussing. It was important to me to understand what they were talking about.
The curriculum was a balanced yet diversified portfolio of subject material. Since 2006, when I completed my executive MBA, the program has continued to grow and has become much more diverse and more multifaceted. As an example, the international business program focused either on China or France when I was at Anderson. Now, the sky is the limit in terms of international business exposure. That program has really blossomed. It’s a testament to Anderson’s continuous commitment to further develop and broaden the curriculum.
Why was this particular program a good choice for you?
I thrive on challenge and Anderson’s executive MBA program sets the bar very high. They drive you to be your best, but in a way that is completely supportive. There is this feeling it creates, a feeling which says ‘I am going to come into class and do my best today, and if I can’t get there, then help is available to get to that level.’
From the aspect of being a woman — it’s a gender-neutral program. I come from a very male-dominated profession, and I found it quite refreshing to be in a classroom setting where gender was not an issue. The women in the class thrive as much as the men.
Also, many women considering an executive MBA wonder ‘How can I fit this into my plans to have a family?’ Anderson was incredibly accommodating and supportive when I chose to have a child during the second year of school, which was unique.
How have you benefited from the UCLA Anderson alumni network?
The alumni network is very powerful and far-reaching. I would feel comfortable calling any alumni from Anderson and discussing business ventures with them. Personally, the alumni network has helped Michael Whitt, PhD, a fellow ’06 alum, and I develop a business centered around a medical device patent we put together at Anderson as part of a project for an entrepreneurial studies class.
What lessons learned in your executive MBA program have you been able to implement in your career?
One of the major lessons I took away from Anderson was the importance of branding. Each of us as individuals has a brand. You need to figure out what your brand is, and determine how to use that brand to its fullest.
It really took an MBA to figure out what my brand should be and how to best leverage it. After leaving Anderson, I wrote a book, ‘Heart Matters,’ which became a platform for me to leverage myself as a nationally recognized authority in heart disease in women. So now, no matter what I am doing — being a mom, running our medical device company, Cordex Systems LLC, raising money for venture capital and other startups, being a full-time heart surgeon or doing media events — I’m also constantly developing myself as a brand and aligning myself with that brand. That’s a life-long lesson I learned from Anderson.
KATHY E. MAGLIATO, M.D., MBA, FACS, is Director of Women’s Cardiac Services at Saint John’s Medical Center and President of the Greater Los Angeles County American Heart Association Board of Directors. Her book, “Heart Matters: A Memoir of a Female Heart Surgeon,” is currently available in paperback. Her website is www.kathymagliato.com.
When UCLA’s Anderson School of Management created an Executive MBA program, its faculty members were concerned.
“The suspicion was that somehow the Executive MBA would be a watered-down degree,” says Carol Scott, faculty director of the executive program and professor of marketing at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. “Some were concerned we would relax our admission standards because people who have been out of school for a while might be a little rusty. Also, this was the university’s first program that was to be fully self-supporting. The faculty was nervous about whether we would deliver a quality education or if we would somehow dilute it to keep the tuition dollars rolling in. We didn’t know if employers would even accept an Executive MBA.”
As it turned out, their fears were unfounded. However, the program has evolved in many ways since its inception.
Smart Business spoke with Scott about how and why the executive MBA program has changed since those early days.
How has the program evolved over the years?
The program has certainly been constantly changed and adapted to students’ needs at this stage of their life and career. UCLA has always had a strong theoretical focus, but it has also had a strong connection to practice.
From the very beginning, one of the capstone requirements was a course where the students do what was called a ‘living case.’ We would invite a company in and the class would take on strategic questions for the company. They would then do presentations for the company. Now, that has evolved into the international business project. As international business became more important to all of us, the executive MBA was leading that charge. The final living case became an international situation, where we would invite companies with an international business issue to participate and have the class work on their problems.
There have also been changes in curriculum. The Anderson school has a strong focus on information technology and its use for business. The curriculum has evolved both that way and with an international focus, giving students the ability to see the organization as part of a larger world. Also, the student body has evolved over time.
How has the student population changed?
The program has a very diverse group of people with a variety of backgrounds. We always have entrepreneurs, as well as professionals like physicians or attorneys. The focus of the program has shifted a bit from people who came for some basic functional knowledge to people connecting the course material to leadership principles. Although the character of the students has changed quite a bit, we still have a very strong component of people with advanced degrees in other fields. That has remained constant through the years.
For example, last quarter I had a student who was an extremely well-known scientific researcher. Now he’s trying to figure out how to bring his ideas to market. Being able to marry those people with the business knowledge they need is just incredible.
Many people find themselves in business without a business background. They might have gotten a degree, even an advanced degree in the sciences or engineering, for instance, and found themselves working their way through their organization, ultimately into managerial roles, but had never gone to business school. Many people return to school for that reason.
How do the Executive MBA students differ from the full-time students?
The EMBA students are ready to take what they’ve learned and run with it the next day. When you teach the full-time program, you know you’re teaching the future business leaders of the world, but there will be a significant time lag. You are giving them the key fundamentals to help them, and hopefully will keep them learning throughout their careers, but it’s going to be a while before you see the true impact.
With EMBA students, that’s just not true. You see it immediately. They come back into the classroom with the excitement of having seen something work. It keeps the engine running. I always say walking into that classroom is like turning the key of a Ferrari. You just start up the class and it takes off. We get together as in a lab to see how we can use business knowledge to make their dreams and ideas come true.
How is a change in curriculum considered and how do you determine which direction to go?
People always say change in a university is like moving a graveyard. It happens very slowly and painfully. In my first few years with UCLA, curriculum changes were tortuous. Any potential changes went through many faculty and committee discussions. By the time we thought about it and went through all the machinations, it was often too late for a change to be effective and keep up with the evolving business world. Over time, we, like other businesses, realized that was not going to work.
There are still times when the faculty is not happy about a change because they get comfortable with what they are doing. But we all appreciate that innovative spirit and the thought that the program needs to evolve.
You don’t think about academics as innovative rebels, but there are a few. We’ve been lucky to have them in the right place at the right time.
Carol Scott is faculty director of the executive program and professor of marketing at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Reach her at (310) 825-4458 or email@example.com.
Before taking the plunge, many people considering an Executive MBA program want to know what they can expect in the classroom.
Antonio Bernardo, a professor of finance at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, has taught in the MBA program for 16 years and the Executive MBA program for the last six. He says the real-world experience of the Executive MBA group creates a lively, collegial atmosphere.
“There are many occasions when the students relate their work experiences to the issues we discuss in the classroom,” Bernardo says. “It shows how real organizations try to execute policies we recommend in theory.”
Smart Business spoke with Bernardo about how the Executive MBA classroom works.
What are the main differences between a full-time MBA course and an Executive MBA course?
One of the big differences between the two programs is the EMBA students immediately see the value of the material we are covering in class and can use it immediately in their careers.
Students will come up to me and say ‘I’m working on this problem right now that is exactly like the material we are covering in class. How would I deal with this nuance?’ People immediately see the value and have applications for it, many of them in real-time.
Another big difference is the classroom discussion tends to be richer. Students have more management experience, they are obviously a little older than the full-time students and the backgrounds are quite diverse. That is one of the reasons why I love to teach in the program. I learn a tremendous amount from the students who bring their own experiences into the discussions.
What is the environment like in an Executive MBA classroom?
One important aspect that is true in all our programs, but especially true with EMBA, is that it is a very collegial environment. The students recognize they need to work together and learn a lot from each other. They have intense demands on their time from their work and family life, so they have a lot to do.
That happens in our full-time MBA program too, but I think the EMBAs recognize it is a matter of survival that they work well together in groups and lean on each other. Everyone sees it as a positive sum game; we can all make ourselves better by helping each other out.
What is likely to be covered in a normal EMBA class?
An EMBA class is less likely to go according to plan. I will have a plan for the class, but quite often a really interesting thing comes up in the discussion and I don’t want to just ignore it because I have to follow my plan. Normally, my planning is a lot more flexible, and I leave a lot more time for discussions that you can’t predict in advance.
Learning from the experience of others is a big part of the value in an executive MBA. My view: Don’t try to kill those kinds of discussions. Let them flourish, but at some point you have to rein them in. For me, that has always been the challenge. How do we make sure we get all this experience into the classroom discussion without overwhelming the material we have to cover?
How do you relate that back to subject material that initially spurred the discussion?
The topics specifically covered in the core course I teach in corporate finance are mainly issues surrounding valuation and capital structure. For instance, how do firms finance themselves?
That is a pretty rich set of topics to get student input on, because invariably EMBA students are working on exactly those types of problems. It’s not that challenging to get it back to the material; the harder part is the nuances that come up in execution. Often, that is where the students have an interesting perspective. The theory will say, ‘You should take investment projects in these situations,’ and a student will point out an organizational challenge that makes it difficult to execute that policy. Those issues of execution often show up in the classroom discussion. The theory says one thing, but in reality you have to deal with different situations. How do we deal with those nuances? That is where the discussion gets incredibly interesting.
Why would someone opt for an Executive MBA instead of a full-time MBA?
If a person is in a very good position at their firm, the opportunity cost of leaving that position to go to a full-time program would be very high. That would be one reason. An Executive MBA is a good choice for people in a strong career path in their current organization who need to develop skills to push them over the top.
The other advantage of an Executive MBA is that the scheduling of the program can be accomplished while maintaining your career. The EMBA group meets every two weeks on Fridays and Saturdays. Obviously, these people have an incredibly difficult workweek with their careers and family life, but the scheduling of the EMBA allows them to juggle all those different things in their life.
Antonio Bernardo is a professor of finance at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Reach him at (310) 825-2198 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
With today’s technology, it is not that difficult for a business to expand internationally. Through modern transportation, technology and, of course, the Internet, any business can sell its products or services anywhere in the world.
However, while it may be easy to do, it’s difficult to do well.
“Businesses need to understand the markets they are considering,” says Gonzalo Freixes, associate dean, Professional MBA Programs at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. “The foreign regulatory environment is very different in other countries than it is here. For example, labor laws are extremely different in most other countries than they are in the U.S.”
Companies also should research the logistics of doing business in that country, from supply chain distribution issues to the best marketing options, to financial reporting structures.
Smart Business spoke with Freixes about what companies should know about global business.
How can a business determine where it should expand?
If you are going to go global, you have to determine where it makes the most sense to go. To determine that, you have to do some actual feet-on-the-ground, field market research in that country. Go to the country, talk to people in that industry, talk to customers, suppliers, distributors. If you get a chance, talk to your potential competitors, because today’s competitor may be tomorrow’s strategic partner.
That preliminary field research is very important to determining what the marketplace is like. Is there a demand for the product or service you are selling? Is it a crowded competitive space? Is there a niche market you could enter as a way into the country? It also helps you get an idea of the regulatory framework to find out how difficult it is to do business in that country, in terms of setting up an entity there.
To do business in some Middle Eastern countries, you have to have a local partner in that country. That local partner must own a certain percent of your business; otherwise you won’t be allowed to do business there.
Most importantly, identify that there is a market there, and what your delivery strategy or mechanism will be for getting your product or service there.
Where should businesses start with their research?
Don’t rely entirely on the Internet. The Internet and written research in the public domain about a particular country or market is helpful in establishing a foundation of what to expect, but there is no substitute for actually picking up the phone or, more importantly, meeting people face to face. In so many other cultures, and in some degree our own, personal relationships and interactions are the biggest drivers toward being able to do business successfully.
In other words, get on the phone and get on a plane and go talk to people. Don’t be afraid to cold call. If you have people you know in that country, whether it is fellow alumni, former business colleagues, friends or classmates, leverage those contacts to help you learn about the country and the culture.
After identifying a market for expansion, what should a business’s next steps be?
Devise your strategy. Explore the various options. Do you want to go there directly and set up a subsidiary of some sort? That tends to be expensive. Do you want to partner with a reseller or agent? You need to talk to them to see what kind of deal you can set up or find a reputable local company to be your strategic partner in a joint venture.
Those are the three different models. You need to investigate in-country to determine which of the three would be most helpful. Local business experts will be able to give you pros and cons for each.
How can businesses avoid cultural faux pas?
There are major differences in both the business culture and the general culture of other countries, especially in terms of how business relationships are viewed. For example, in some cultures if you go to lunch or dinner with another business person, you don’t talk about business. Eating is the time to get to know each other. You talk about business when you get back to the office.
In some cultures, it is impolite to say ‘no.’ They have other ways of saying no without being impolite. You can find out some of the basics on the Internet. Most American consulates around the world have a commercial attaché. The foreign consulates can be a great source of information. Meet with the attaché and have them guide you on the do’s and don’ts of doing business in that culture.
In certain cultures, how you deal with a man or woman would be different. Do you shake hands or not?
What other advice would you give a company considering international expansion?
Do you homework on whether that is the best place to do business. A lot of people make the mistake of setting up shop somewhere because they hear it is a good market, but don’t find out first if their product is viable in that marketplace.
We do a lot of projects at UCLA Anderson where our students do the reverse — they advise foreign companies who are trying to enter the U.S. for the first time. One small company had developed technology that scans a passport and incorporates it into the system of hotels or casinos in Europe. However, they found out that in the U.S. no one has to present their passport when entering a hotel or casino. So what is a huge need in Europe doesn’t exist in the U.S. You have to make sure you are offering something of value that can be monetized.
Gonzalo Freixes is associate dean, Professional MBA Programs at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Reach him at email@example.com or (310) 794-6640.
Executive MBA programs are geared toward people who have been working in the business world for around 14 years and have quite a bit of managerial experience, says Carla Hayn, senior associate dean of the Executive & Fully Employed MBA Programs at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
“Most executives who enter an Executive MBA program are more mature, experienced and about 10 years older (with an average age of 37) than people enrolling in full- or part-time MBA programs,” she says.
Smart Business learned more from Hayn about how to find the right MBA program.
How can an executive determine whether getting an MBA degree is the right choice?
It you are on the brink of being promoted or have already moved into a top management position, an Executive MBA program will definitely enhance your skill set and your ability to succeed in your career. You’ll have opportunities to learn more about the specific areas in which you may need more specialized knowledge (e.g., corporate finance, brand management, supply chains, etc.). You’ll have classmates who are experts in their fields from whom you can learn. You can make use of the array of elective courses to acquire further expertise in your field.
Why are elective offerings an important part of MBA programs?
All Executive MBA programs provide you with the ‘core’ business knowledge in accounting, finance, marketing, economics, etc. However, programs vary widely in the number of electives available to executive students.
At UCLA Anderson, we provide 15 electives each year especially for our executive students in diverse areas such as Mergers & Acquisitions, Venture Capital & Private Equity and Online One-to-One Marketing. Executives can also choose from the wide array of electives offered in our full- and part-time MBA programs. In addition, executive students can travel through our International Study Programs (recent trips include Brazil, China, S. Africa, India) and our exchange programs with partner Executive MBA programs throughout the world. Executives can even earn certificates in finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, sustainability, or international studies, officially recognizing their accomplishments in these areas.
Are there other features that distinguish one Executive MBA program from another?
Absolutely. Among the other important factors to consider in choosing a program is the stature of the faculty. Exactly who will be teaching you? Are they excellent communicators? Is the classroom experience not only challenging but also invigorating? Ask to attend a class and find out for yourself if the students are engaged in the learning process.
UCLA Anderson is known as a leader in experiential learning. The Strategic Management Research Project is a capstone course that synthesizes the knowledge our executive MBA students acquire throughout the program. Five to six students work on consulting teams for a six-month period to solve a multifaceted problem confronting an organization.
All first-rate Executive MBA programs should also stress leadership development to help you develop your own management style, building upon your strengths. Look for a program with experiential workshops, engaging seminars and informative guest speakers.
Additionally, though executive students are quite accomplished, they still benefit from career guidance. A top program should have a knowledgeable career services director who is dedicated to the program and has a proven track record dealing with executives.
Talk to the current executive students and find out how satisfied they are with the various components of their program — the students are an excellent source of information.
Are there other benefits that Executive MBA students should expect from the program?
Beyond relevant knowledge, there are wonderful networking opportunities. Not only will you be sitting in class and working on teams with your classmates, they will be part of your lifelong network. A number of our Executive MBAs have gone into business together. Schools with strong alumni networks like UCLA Anderson’s make sure that you have the opportunity to know past and upcoming executive students, members of the other MBA programs and graduates from all of the schools on campus. UCLA Anderson’s network is very strong with access to more than 37,000 alumni. If someone is moving to Hong Kong, I can easily find a person among the 95 active alumni there who is eager to provide friendly advice and introductions.
Finally, what is the return on investment of the Executive MBA program?
Investing in an MBA degree is one of the most rewarding investments you can make, even when compared to the return during a bull stock market! Most estimates show that the present value of the incremental earning power over an executive career due to an MBA degree is about $500,000. This high return is due to the fact that executives with an MBA degree are usually promoted faster, are considered for a wider array of executive positions, have access to more job opportunities through their increased business and social networks, and have a different view of themselves that prompts them to explore higher and more financially rewarding positions.
A recent survey of graduates of the UCLA Anderson’s Executive MBA Program shows an average salary increase of 158 percent within five years from graduation. While this survey was taken when the economy was stronger, it is not unreasonable to believe that an executive’s salary would double (increase by 100 percent) within five years of graduation.
The knowledge acquired in an Executive MBA program translates to a higher rate of business success, whether you are working for a large public company, a smaller private company, or are self-employed.
Carla Hayn is the senior associate dean of UCLA Anderson, in charge of the Executive & Fully Employed MBA Programs. Reach her at (310) 206-9225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.