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How An Executive MBA Can Strengthen Your Entrepreneurial Ideas

How can an Executive MBA boost your entrepreneurial mindset? We hear from one EMBA grad who has co-founded multiple startups

It’s true that you don’t need an MBA or Executive MBA degree to become a successful entrepreneur. 

Yet if you’re someone with extensive experience in the business world and an itch for entrepreneurship with no idea where to start, attending business school could help you make those all-important first steps.

Executive MBA (EMBA) programs are aimed at those with around 10 or more years of work experience—CEOs, executives, and senior managers are usually found among a typical EMBA cohort. 

Here’s how an EMBA could strengthen your entrepreneurial ideas:

You’ll gain a solid foundation in entrepreneurship 

Knowing about business doesn’t necessarily translate to understanding entrepreneurship.

This was the experience for Max Gravel—an Executive MBA grad from Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business, which is based in Montreal, Canada.

Prior to business school, Max had worked in several senior leadership positions for a large bank in Canada for almost 20 years.

“I was going to apply for the role of vice president but many of the competitors were MBA degree holders so I knew it would make it hard to select a non-MBA holder like me,” he says.

Max chose John Molson after hearing about the school from a colleague. He became even more interested in the program after finding out his fellow candidates would be people with a similar level of experience in business.

He says one of the standout features of his EMBA degree was learning about new areas, such as entrepreneurship. 

The Executive MBA at John Molson offers many entrepreneurship-focused courses including Creativity and Innovation and Starting A New Venture, which help professionals understand the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. 

“Courses like these helped improve my entrepreneurial mindset and gave me the confidence to plough through no matter what,” he says.

You’ll learn to face new challenges

Halfway through his EMBA, Max began to realize that his initial career aspirations had changed.

“I realized it wasn’t just about accessing higher management positions, I started to think about starting a business. Although I had done part-time projects, I was missing the push to do it full-time and risk it all,” he says.

This risk-taking attitude is intrinsic to becoming an entrepreneur.

The John Molson Executive MBA helps students become better risk-takers through offering case competitions, which is where students figure out solutions to a real problem that a local company is facing.

Meanwhile, in the Venture class students get the opportunity to start a business from scratch and pitch it to an experienced venture capital panel. This is where students can learn about investment strategies, improving existing products or services, and finding market gaps.

In one such venture class, Max co-founded a premium dog food business named ‘Topz’, which he and his John Molson business partner still run today. 

Interested in Max’s managerial approach and banking expertise, he was invited to collaborate with his Executive MBA peers who were working on the initial plans for ‘Truxweb’—a digital platform that helps companies source their trucking needs and aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by sourcing empty trucks that are returning from initial deliveries. 

Max is both co-founder and chief growth officer for the EMBA-born startup.

“Thanks to the EMBA, I felt ready to pursue multiple ventures,” he said.

Learn from peers across different industries

No matter what your business experience, there’s always more to learn from your peers who have worked in different industries.

In the John Molson Executive MBA, professionals come from sectors such as consulting, sales, marketing, technology, and entrepreneurship.

“My [Truxweb] colleagues brought experience in technology, transportation, shipping, logistics, while I was able to help structure a logical approach to strategy setting and documenting the process,” says Max.

As an independent entrepreneur, building a network can take time and resources. Executive MBA programs enable you to access a network of experienced professionals from the very first day of the program, believes Max.

Tap into a knowledgeable business network 

It’s not just about learning from fellow Executive MBA students—there’s a lot to gain from connecting with professors.

Max often consulted his finance professor to receive expert advice when launching his startups. 

He’s even used his business school connections to access introductions to venture capitalists, banks, and the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Montreal.

“Across the EMBA, my critical thinking has been challenged and I’ve learned how to better communicate with high-level people, which has made the possibilities of success in entrepreneurship increase dramatically,” he says. 

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