MBA Grad Teaching Start-ups to Flourish

Zulfiqar Deo is the MBA giving lessons in start-up success to SMEs

BusinessBecause is always on the look out for enterprising MBAs. We recently caught up with a man of many talents, Zulfiqar Deo. He's an entrepreneur, a writer, a business mentor and sole proprietor of BizStuff, a business management consultancy focused on helping SMEs build their internal capacity. Zulfi has his finger in many pies and this puts him in a great position to share some very useful tips on what it takes to manage a small business venture. 


Do you think an MBA is necessary for most entrepreneurs?

Business is an art. However, in the same way that going to Art School doesn't guarantee success as an artist; having an MBA won't either. I feel that if you can find an MBA course customised for Entrepreneurship, then great. It will certainly help to increase your chances of success from day one.

You've written a book called 'MBA for StartUps' - how would you sum this up in a sentence?

'MBA for Startups' is an MBA Level reference booklet for Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses to help them with managing their ventures. This means it focuses mainly on the business management of the venture. For example, how the entrepreneur can use Project Management to introduce a new capacity. It covers the 8 generic Business Management disciplines, which they will need to build in house at some point. This helps to identity the hidden risks and complexities while growing the business.

What were the best, and worst, memories of your time at Haaga Helia business school?

My best memories include meeting the people on my course because they were helpful and open with their experiences and knowledge. There was lots of work to keep busy with! Another highlight for me was my MBA Project getting published in an academic business journal.

Worst memory was getting turned down for funding by my bank because the course was in Finland. Funding across EU borders is really tough.

Why did you choose to study an MBA in Helsinki? Did you consider any other locations?

The course Structure was my driving motivation. The HH MBA course has a class size of 20 a year. 2/3's is options based. 1/3 is project work for a real company. So the application side of what you learned there was really good. It was tough to get on though. They had their internal exams and not the GMAT. No, I didn't consider other courses because they didn't offer the same course structure.

You've founded a company called BizStuff - what is this?

BizStuff is Business Management Support specialist. It focuses on SME's and helps them gain access to customised Business Management support commonly only available to larger companies. For example, the common tendency is to scale down a solution for a large company for SME's and this doesn't usually work. Bizstuff fills this gap.

Your LinkedIn profile says you've been a 'Virtual Business Mentor' - what did this entail?

Virtual Business Management mentoring is part of the professional services I offer. I offer my services on a freemium basis so most company's benefit in some way. I focus on mentoring because SME tend not have experienced and qualified managers in-house. By working with external Business Management Mentors an SME can build internal Business Management capacity in the same way their larger counterparts can without breaking their budgets. This helps them to lower their failure rates and increases their chances of scaling up successfully.

Do you have any advice for current MBA students who are thinking of setting up their own company?

Sure. Focus on the customising the content of your courses for the SME sector and work with a few SME's during your MBA to make sure you understand the key differences. This will certainly help afterwards. The startup experience is great but can be very destructive as well. If you can pick up some experience before you start your business in that environment you know what to expect and it makes life a lot easier. For example, the budget you may have been accustomed to in a larger company may just not be available. This means you have to learn to deliver the same value without the same resources. However, freemium technology has made life easier now.

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