Dear Class of 2012,
Welcome to Manchester Business School.
I hope you all are ready for a life changing experience, and one that you will remember for the rest of your lives. This past year has been an eye opener to say the least – the things you come across, the people you meet, the diverse backgrounds you encounter, the overall experience is unparalleled in my opinion. Having gone through what you all are about to embark upon, I think I stand in a good position to provide you with the “Top Ten Tips” for your first year here at MBS.
So here we go.
1. NETWORK. You will hear this word endlessly during the first term and throughout your first year. CMS, external speakers, your seniors, everyone will tell you to NETWORK, NETWORK, and NETWORK. Sure, its great to network and you will get many opportunities to do so at MBS with all the events that are planned for your class. But remember, your NETWORK starts with your class. The 128 students in the class of 2012 is your immediate network – try and get to know as many of your class mates as possible for you will be kick starting your career again together in 18 months time. In the longer term, it is your ties with your class mates that will count.
2. PRE-MBA. Many of you are coming back into student life after a long time so the motivation to dig into the books, do your readings, and be prepared for all the classes will of course be there amongst majority of you. But that can wait for the autumn, winter, and spring terms, which will suck the life out of you. You will work harder in those 9 months than you ever have in your life. So use the relatively relaxed time during the PRE-MBA to go around Manchester, partying, and doing everything that you won’t have time for once the real stuff starts.
3. INVITATIONS. Accept them all! You will get invites for parties, events, conferences, discussions, staff-student meetings, and a whole lot more. Go everywhere and don’t miss anything – especially where there is free food and drinks to have! These events are great platforms for interaction and learning – make the most of them.
4. STUDY GROUPS. Some people are used to studying individually, while others are used to studying with friends around them. Form your study groups. The amount you learn through discussion and interaction with your colleagues is significantly more than what you learn by reading a book by yourselves. If you are not used to group study, then try to get accustomed to it. You will have loads of group work to help you get used to it – use that for exams as well. Try and go through the pain together – it hurts less!
5. WATCH YOUR WEIGHT. Well I should be the last person commenting on this, since I have lived on burgers and pizzas for the last year. Finding time to cook at home will be difficult, but try and do so. Bulk shopping for groceries and taking turns to cook for 6-8 people can really help. Burgers and pizza just make u tired. If you want delivery numbers for Dominos and Pizza Hut, give me a shout!
6. M&A. You will hate this project. It will be challenging and it will be time consuming. You will feel like there is nothing else to do in this world besides M&A. It will stretch you and it will test your patience and nerves. For majority of our class, this was probably the most stressful project. BUT try and learn as much as you can from M&A because it is one project that brings together everything that you learn during the first two terms – corporate finance, marketing, accounting, strategy, operations management – you will apply concepts from all the courses in this project. For me personally, it was one of the best learning experiences at MBS and it will surely help you during the spring project and later in the IB.
7. VCIC. Take part. All of you should take part in this. Only 25 of you will benefit completely from it since there is an initial round with the MBS competition involving the top 5 teams. If there is an MBA learning experience outside the classroom, then VCIC it is. Besides M&A, VCIC was surely one of the best learning experiences of my time at the MBA. Once again you apply corporate finance, strategy, and marketing – anything that makes you apply concepts from more than one field is surely worth trying out. Form your teams now, check out http://www.vcic.unc.edu/ to understand how it works, and start preparing. The competition will be launched soon.
8. INDIAN / PAKISTANI FOOD. There’s nothing like it! And there’s plenty of it in Manchester. I know Americans, Mexicans, Greeks, and Europeans who have started loving this kind of food since they have been in Manchester. Akbar’s, East Zeast, and Zouk are surely the best Indian / Pakistani restaurants you will find here – forget Curry Mile and go to these places. For the best North Indian / Lahori style dishes, go to Akbar’s and East Zeast. If you are a fan of nihari and paayas, go to Zouk. If you visit Zouk, make sure you try the lobster – lobster meat cooked in Indian spices – there is nothing like it. Everyone will tell you about Curry Mile but the food isn’t that great but if you have a sweet tooth, make your way down to Sanam – jalebis, gulab jaman, gajar halwa, ras malai, and the works! Aaloo poori also available. And right across the street from there you can find kulfi and falooda. Anyone’s mouth watering?
9. SCHENGEN VISA. If you are from Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, or any other Middle Eastern country – apply for your Schengen visas now and try to get a multiple entry one. Your class mates will make plans to travel around Europe, one of the best advantages of doing an MBA in this part of the world. Most of your classmates will not need a visa to travel to these places but you will. So do it now and don’t miss the plans!
10. WORK HARD, BUT PARTY EVEN HARDER!
I hope you all enjoy your stay here. You will love it, but at times you will also hate it – but don’t worry, bad times will pass. What’s more important is the overall experience and I can assure you that it will be one hell of a ride!
All the best.
History will tell you that India and Pakistan have always been on opposing ends, while USA and Pakistan, and Germany and USA, have rarely teamed up to achieve the same objective. MBS, however, provided the opportunity for an American, a German, an Indian, a Pakistani, and a Colombian to come together as a team and work towards achieving one goal.
It all began around the 3rd week of the pre-MBA when I received a call from Matt Brown who wanted to know whether I had joined a team for the upcoming Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC). He mentioned that he was looking to form a team along with Maxi and Catalina, and asked me if I would like to join them. We barely knew each other, but the idea of teaming up with 2 entrepreneurs and a former accountant / auditor, given my consulting and private equity background, was top notch. The next day, we all met at the MBS bar and briefed each other about our backgrounds and experience. The only thing our team was missing was a 5th member and someone with technology / IT experience; without much delay Gunjan was on board.
MBS staff and faculty always talk about the diversity of the class, the importance of working in teams with people from different cultural and professional backgrounds, and how diversity can bring in different perspectives to the table. MC GUM is probably a great example to demonstrate that – 5 people, 5 different nationalities, 5 different professional backgrounds, 5 perspectives but 1 team.
Our first hurdle was a “smoothies” investment case where we were competing against 18 other teams from MBS, out of which 5 would go on to take part in the internal VCIC. We made it to the 5, and now the challenge was tougher. But we were confident, as always.
We had from 7pm in the evening till 7am the next morning to analyze 4 business plans before the actual day of the competition kicked off. Remember, we had to eat and sleep within those 12 hours as well! The next morning is when the fun began; it went something like this – listen to 4 entrepreneur pitches, conduct 15 minute due diligence with each, select a business to invest in, prepare an offer and a term sheet, negotiate, and get ripped apart by the judges.
It was an overwhelming experience to say the least. Working on very little sleep and an extremely tight schedule was a challenge. I had not felt this stretched even during my consulting and private equity days. It all paid off though when MC GUM were announced the winners of the competition and the team to represent MBS in the European VCIC Finals at London Business School.
The lead up to London was intense. Training schedules were put in place; Vishal, whose team were runners up in the MBS competition, joined us to provide feedback on our teamwork and strategy; Fran and Chris from CMS organized meetings with Venture Capitalists to help us prepare for the competition; Ian and Alex from the Incubator allowed us to practice our negotiation skills against them using their business plans; and Francis, Malcolm, and Richard Phillips were always available for valuable feedback and comments on our overall strategy.
In addition to all of this, each member of MC GUM read different VC books, prepared comprehensive notes on them, and put together a study guide to help us during the European Finals.
All this amidst juggling M&A, BITC, Operations Management, PMO lecture and workshop presentations, internship search, exchange applications, internship interviews, scheduled classes, and what not.
Why you ask? Because we wanted to win and go to North Carolina to compete in the Global VCIC Finals.
By the time the London competition came along, MC GUM was ready and raring to go. We were well prepared and confident of giving the likes of INSEAD, Oxford, Cambridge, Cranfield, Rotterdam, IESE, and HEC a run for their money.
The format of the competition was the same as the one held at MBS, with the only difference being that this time we had one evening and full day to analyze the business plans before we came to the day with entrepreneurs and VCs. That day and a half was spent at a hotel in London and on LBS campus analyzing the 4 business plans provided to us. Due to the Non-Disclosure Agreements we signed, I cannot disclose the nature of the business idea but I can tell you that none of them included sectors that any of us had worked in before. Not as industry specialists anyway.
The night before the D-day, 26th February, we were prepared with our in depth market research, list of questions, and strategy to tackle each entrepreneur.
With very little sleep, MC GUM finally arrived to LBS at 7am to kick the day off. As soon as we entered the hall, where the entrepreneurs would pitch, we met up with the team from Rotterdam. They told us how one of their team members could not make it due to visa problems and they had to ask another colleague to join them at the last minute. While we waited for the entrepreneurs we also got to meet the team from HEC, who briefed us on what was going on at their end about organizing the MBAT. It was good to meet students from other business schools and hear about similar experiences that we have here at MBS. They are not very different from us you know, which makes me wonder what the rankings are all about.
The entrepreneurs arrived soon and pitched their ideas to us. Our due diligence sessions that followed went very well. We made sure our teamwork was witnessed; we asked all the relevant questions, we demonstrated our knowledge regarding the sectors, and we had at least 1 entrepreneur thinking hard about his business model after we questioned it.
There was some discussion within the team following the due diligence regarding which business to invest in, but the decision was reached soon. After submitting our deliverable, comprising of the executive summary, valuation, term sheet, and supporting data, we had a long wait of 3 hours before our negotiation session; we were the last of the 8 participating teams to negotiate.
Before we walked in for our negotiation we were warned about the hard time the judges had given some teams. It was nothing new for us having experienced the same at MBS a couple of months back and we were ready and confident. The negotiation went smoothly and we managed to close a deal in 12 minutes.
The 10-minute Q&A with the judges started off with 1 judge giving us a comment regarding one of our terms. It was more of an example of something his VC fund had experienced. That was followed by some technicalities pointed out in terms of our “precise valuation” and “investment fit with the fund”. We weren’t asked any questions and it was definitely not a grind. After 7 minutes, none of the judges had any more questions, and at least a couple of them nodded with confirming acceptance to what had just finished.
We walked out of the hall confident; however we had no idea how the other teams had done. But we surely knew that since we were not given a hard time by the judges, we had done most of the things right.
To say that the results were disappointing would be an understatement, but at the end what matters is that we performed as a team and made sure it wasn’t a cake-walk for anyone; not even Oxford who were the eventual winners of the competition.
This VCIC experience has been a phenomenal one for MC GUM. Starting off 6 months ago without knowing too much about each other, today we are all close friends and have come a long way since those pre-MBA days as individuals and as a team. It has been one hell of a roller coaster ride, but one that has been educational and entertaining.
The support we got from the faculty, staff, CMS, the Incubator, VCs was invaluable; while the support of our colleagues at MBS was truly motivated us. Knowing that all of you were rooting for us kept us going.
Unfortunately we did not make it to North Carolina but we can assure you that the MC GUM experience will not go to waste – everything that we have learned during this journey has been captured in a comprehensive study guide (which is being finalized as I write), and it will be shared with the class of 2012 to help prepare them for VCIC next year.
MC GUM may not have won, but we are well set to help the next team from MBS win it next year!