Tag: Consulting

Cass MBAs consulting in Colombia

There’s an old adage which goes something along the lines of ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’.

For the past year I’ve felt a little bit like said above. Drastic life changes, meeting new people, learning things which have little relevance to old Claire etc etc. It’s almost like undergrad, but on a different planet where everyone speaks using interpretive (and extremely cool) dance.

The International Consultancy Week was a chance to showcase everything we’ve learnt for the past year. As its name would suggest, it’s a week where we worked on a business strategy project within a diverse range of industries, designing solutions for business development issue.

It was essentially going to be a week of hell, with the addition of a small holiday on the back. In Colombia. In their winter.

The cohort were divided into groups which were pre-auctioned, and I managed to land the most awesome group consisting of Lizzy, Kylie, Dipen and Pascal. Our company were a ‘small’ coffee producing company called Cafetal De La Trinidad (CDLT), who were looking to access the international market post ‘Colombian crisis’. Previously, CDLT were one of the largest producers in Colombia, dating back to the early 1900s. After a hiatus, they were back in the market with their first harvest of high quality coffee due in August. Our duty was to offer advice and consultant them on the international market.

Anna and Alejandro have to be two of the most impressive, persistent and slightly mental people I have ever met. With over 400 hectares of land, the farm has an undeniable spread of lush landscape and potential. Their plan is simple; producing high quality coffee using the very best techniques. As an aside, do you know how much WORK it takes to create a simple cup of coffee?

Here are 10 steps for all us novices out there:

  • 1) Plant coffee tree/s in vast amounts.
  • 2) Pray for rain (or wait on a horse–and preferably not being eaten by said horse)
  • 3) Wait for two years (preferably here, in a comfortable hammock).
  • 4) Pick berries.
  • 5) Depulp in big machine.
  • 6) Do some technical stuff.
  • 7) Wait some more time whilst beans dry.
  • 8) Do some more technical stuff.
  • 9) Pray again (pose for pictures)
  • 10) Celebrate your first green bean harvest!

 

(There are quite a few more steps before, during and after this, but those are semantics)

Another thing no one actually tells you in business school is how incredibly hard it is stepping outside of your comfort zone. Everyone may have their own specialist remit, but when you’re trying to consult to people who have been in their industry for years – you have a large chance of getting caught out pretty quickly. Which is why it’s incredibly important that the clients you acquire have the graciousness to accept your views and thoughts. That shows business and human acumen.

And to pay homage to my fellow ICW’ers: here are a few shout outs that I must mention:

Laura – thank you for putting up with me #RoomieFromHeaven

Adam – Hope you saw a GP back in London.

Pascal – thank you for being my spirit animal.

Greg – #RunRussianHorsieRun.

Ola AKA David Bailey #ThankYou.

For everyone who came to ICW (and I’m sorry I didn’t mention you all – I ran out of word count) – thanks for being awesome; you really are and you really were all the best memories I have.

And for those of you who didn’t come, here are some pictures for you to enjoy!

  • Saturday: Long day...
  • Saturday: Long night...
  • Sunday: Started by praying for a good week...
  • Followed by a tour
  • You can take the man out of Malaysia...

 

Claire Georgeson
Executive MBA (2019)

 

The last hurdle before reaching the Cass MBA finishing line

 

The BMP, less known as the Business Mastery Project, is the final puzzle piece of our Cass Full-time MBA and simultaneously the biggest one.

What is the Business Mastery Project?

The name itself is puzzling. If you are wondering ‘What on earth is a BMP?’ let me make things clear for you. It’s our version of a dissertation or thesis.

So why can’t it just be called that?

The thing about the BMP is that apart from being worth 50 of your 230 credits and therefore clearly a defining part of your MBA experience, there are so many variations to it and no two BMPs are ever the same.

The BMP can be broadly divided into three types: a desk-study project that is closest to an academic research paper, a company-sponsored BMP that is set as an internship, or a business plan that may be used as a basis to kick-start your start-up.

If that’s not wide enough in scope, I heard one of my MBA classmates, Ross Kelly, who was researching on LP Fundraising for early stage Venture Capital firms, say “I think mine is a bit of all three.”

Our course director, Dr Paolo Aversa, told us that the BMP should be a work of passion, since for many of us, it might be one of the last opportunities to really dig our teeth into a project outside of work.

I took those words to heart and truly believe that this was the most important thought in my decision-making process.

Starting on a project idea

Throughout my MBA, I have learnt to flexibly apply concepts to a variety of situations. While many want to silo situations, as MBA students we learn to keep an open-mind.

Thinking about digitalisation and evolving business models have been constant topics throughout our MBA and it seemed perfect to link these to my area of interest: creative writing, the subject of my other master’s degree.

After several iterations talking to classmates from both my MBA and MA, I had managed to distil my thoughts into a BMP title: “The impact of digitalisation on the publishing industry: How is digitalisation changing the publishing industry’s revenue model for authors?” It was putting a business spin on a creative product.

I chose Dr Alessandro Giudici as my supervisor; he had co-authored a paper on digitalisation in the publishing industry. He helped me in the early stages with suggestions of academic research to start my literature review (I’d have fallen into all sorts of rabbit holes otherwise, like reading an 18-page research paper just on the definition of e-books).

Although I got to this point rather quickly, it took me months to tackle initiating it. Only once I had done some preliminary research, did I start to get a sense of where I was going with it.

It took a few back and forth discussions between myself and Alessandro to finalise the project. In the end, my BMP developed into a qualitative study with semi-structured interviews of recently published authors and a case study on the London-based alternative publisher Unbound.

Unlikeliest outcomes during my research

I had come across Unbound through one of my favourite books, “The Good Immigrant”, and was intrigued by their model. I was lucky that the London Writer’s Club–a newsletter I’m signed up to–was organising an event with one of their editors which allowed me to hear their thoughts.

After having secured the publisher’s side of the story, I wanted to interview authors who published with Unbound as well.

Following a few cold emails, the ones who replied were the unlikeliest candidates: Andrew Grumbridge and Vincent Raison, the two men behind the Deserter blog and podcast, “an aspirational lifestyle website for those with a predilection for doing f*** all.” (Their words, not mine!).

I had supported their crowdfunding campaign on Unbound and their book was now in the typesetting stage. Not only did they reply to me in detail and provided me with all that I needed for my case study but they ended up inviting me to join them for drinks at Brick Brewery in Peckham Rye to the opening of a free photo exhibition on the Dulwich Hamlet’s 2017/18 season.

So, despite neither liking beer nor football much (yes, I’m a complete failure as a German), I found myself exploring a brewpub in Peckham Rye to have a beer with some authors I cold emailed for my BMP.

And it’s become one of the best most memorable nights of this summer.

That’s possibly the most unexpected outcome of my BMP.

I used my network from my MA to find a few other authors willing to volunteer some time for this project. I was surprised at how forthcoming everyone was. They weren’t just being nice to me; my research resonated with them. It wasn’t a theoretical concept but a real-life issue that was at the heart of the writing profession.

In early August, I handed in my first draft and thought I was pretty much done. I was wrong.

Submitting my BMP

After a week of peace (burning up in the heat that was the 2018 European heatwave), I received the feedback. Alessandro’s comments were practical and to the point, guiding me in the right direction but leaving the interpretation and execution to me. After the second iteration, I knew my work was done. And thanks to a late-night open printing shop near my house, I got it printed and bounded, ready for submission on Aug 27th.

…and now we wait!

It’s been over a month now since I submitted my BMP and I don’t know the final outcome yet. But whatever it is, I rest secure in the knowledge that I’ve done something meaningful that will stay with me forever as a tangible outcome of my MBA.

Whenever anyone asks me about writing and the publishing industry, you will see a fire light up in my eyes. This is the fire that people want to see, the fire that makes you interesting to others.

My advice when choosing a BMP topic is to not get too caught up with having it directly relate to your job or expecting it to open doors for you. If it does, great! But if not, don’t worry, just make sure it’s something meaningful to you. The rest will follow.

Full-time MBA (2018)

Roar of approval for Dublin MBA consultancy week

Right at the end of the core components of our Full-time MBA, our entire cohort went off to Dublin to complete our International Consultancy Week in early April. I think many would agree with me that this was one of the most pleasant experiences of our MBA so far because it was the perfect setup for so many reasons.

First of all, unlike most of our coursework, we got to choose the project we’d be allocated to according to our top four preferences. This was an opportunity for us to find areas of personal interest but also to reflect on what our own unique strengths were, ensuring we’d be choosing a project we could contribute to the most. It wasn’t surprising at all that HouseMyDog  was one of the most popular choices.

A start-up platform business that connects dog sitters and carers to dog owners, HouseMyDog is representing the kind of digital innovation and changes in business models we have discussed throughout our MBA right from day one in our strategy course.

Combine that with dogs and you have a winning formula to attract keen MBA students ready to leave their mark and contribute to a growing business. Being a dog lover myself and having also worked occasionally as a dog-sitter using a similar platform in London, I was keen to learn more about the differentiating factors of this business and what they saw as their formula to success.

Putting this aside, the project brief also outlined an early stage growth strategy in Germany which suggested my German background may be of some use here. Although several other projects caught my interest, I was delighted to find out I had gotten my first choice in the end.

Even better was discovering who my team mates were. Even though we hadn’t chosen each other, it almost felt like it when I saw the list. By the end of our core modules, we had pretty much worked in one project or another with almost everyone on the MBA and also had developed a good understanding of everyone’s skills and personalities.

There were people I naturally  gravitated towards and many others whose talents and qualities I had discovered through the team working process. Varun and Vicki had both been in my block 1 and 2 team which was where most people had developed the closest bonds due to the intensity of the work and the sudden change that had hit us all at the beginning of the MBA. I knew that my block 1 and 2 team was a strong performing team with a successful track record throughout.

Betty and James were both part of my team during our ‘Achieving Your Potential’ professional development training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst which was the most physically challenging outdoor aspect of our MBA and these two helped and supported me through it. I knew I could not only trust all of these people but I looked forward to working together in this new constellation.

The project started with us getting in touch with Santi, one of three Cass professors who were our mentors for this project and spent the week in Dublin with us. Communication with James, the CEO of HouseMyDog, started via email to get some hints on how to prepare ahead of our stay.  We began with basic market research around the pet care industry in the UK and globally.

Once in Dublin, we met James in person on Monday and were given some space within the Huckletree coworking facility where HouseMyDog were based (in case you wonder: no, there were sadly no dogs). James introduced us to his team and ran us through a presentation of the company. It’s right then that we understood how small this company still was and how our own contribution through this project could make a real difference to them. James emphasised this wasn’t just a school report; our findings would be really valued and put to use in the company’s growth strategy going ahead.

At the beginning of the week, we had a brief discussion around the bigger aims of the consultancy project. Throughout the week, those aims were broken down further with a clear set of deliverables that we’d have by the end. The project had to fulfil James’s expectations but also our criteria as a project that was part of an academic course. It was a hectic week for James, still he found the time to answer any of our queries and give us feedback through the process.

At the other end, our mentors were available to us every day to discuss the progress we had made and make sure that we hadn’t gone off-track;  the objective professional perspective was very helpful and Santi did a great job at guiding us within the path we had chosen, leaving us in control.

On the final day, we presented our findings to James. Even though we had worked on this for the entire week, I was still surprised at how it all came together in the end with contributions from everyone in the team neatly captured in the final presentation (which was largely a product of Betty’s great visual presentation skills). James’s overwhelmingly positive feedback was an extremely satisfying end to our week’s work and we proudly took home our HouseMyDog t-shirts.

Apart from working on the project, there was also plenty of time to enjoy the last occasion our entire cohort would be together. Dublin offered plenty of opportunities to get a drink and it didn’t always have to be a Guinness (although it often was). After Sandhurst, this was the second time we all spent days together in the same hotel. While at Sandhurst, we were still finding out a lot about each other and it was time to perhaps mingle with people we hadn’t had the opportunity to with, yet here in Dublin, we were just enjoying each other’s company, completely at ease with each other.

One afternoon, we were also taken on a tour of Howth peninsula and Malahide Castle. It was interesting to experience everyone’s perception of that too. Having grown up in Germany myself, I have visited large castles but also smaller ones that may look more like a luxurious large-size villa. Malahide Castle is not imposing in size but steeped in its long history including claims to possibly possessing the oldest chair in Ireland. Hearing about the losses during the Battle of the Boyne especially caught my interest, given I only recently revisited this part of history for my Life in the UK test.  The visit was a welcome break for everyone to replenish and get to know Ireland a bit more beyond the city centre of Dublin.

The whole project didn’t end in Ireland. Once back in London, we had another month to prepare our final report to the company. Largely based on the work we did in Dublin, it gave us some more time to reflect on the experience and the knowledge gained, and compile it all in a clearly structured report which we could be confident would make a positive contribution to the company.

Overall, the International Consultancy Week was such an uplifting and unique immersive experience contributing to HouseMyDog, an exciting start-up with so much potential, working alongside a group of people I respect for both their personal and professional qualities.

Full-time MBA (2018)

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