For business leaders, adopting this ethos could be the secret to getting ahead. But where do you start?
We spoke to two grads about how studying an MBA prepared them with the mindset, vision, and leadership skills to think outside the box and further their careers.
Developing an entrepreneurial mindset
While some people may be natural-born entrepreneurs, developing the strategic and resilient entrepreneurial mindset to tackle today’s business challenges requires work.
Having worked in startups in her career, Caroline Baeten had an insight into growing business ventures but started to recognize areas for improvement.
“From my experience, I could feel where things were strategically not ideal within companies but couldn’t pinpoint the root of the problem. I wanted to learn more about business so I could problem-solve more effectively,” says Caroline.
That’s when Caroline decided to enroll in the Full-time MBA program at Vlerick Business School in Brussels, a program that is focused on molding entrepreneurial leaders.
It certainly had the desired impact as a few years after graduating, Caroline launched her own company Dressr—an online membership platform focused on encouraging conscious consumerism through fashion rental.
“The only reason I felt confidence in starting Dressr was because I had the foundations Vlerick had given me,” she says.
During the program, students take part in an intensive week-long business game in which teams compete to run the best company. The Integrated Management Exercise helps students to understand what is needed to take a company to market and how to leverage the skills of their team for success.
“I have great memories from that course. It was when I first started to feel an entrepreneurial drive,” says Caroline.
For Carlos Ramirez—an international student from Costa Rica—his motivation to join the MBA was to further his career and think more innovatively as a project manager, especially as the real estate development company he works for was expanding into bigger projects and new regions.
“An entrepreneurial mindset is about building solutions within a company. The MBA encouraged me to take risks, enabled me to have tough conversations, and how to handle the people around me,” says Carlos.
Focusing on creating a positive impact
With new obstacles constantly arising—sustainability regulations, the growing urgency of the climate crisis, and socio-economic challenges—creating a positive impact in business isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. Business leaders need to challenge the status quo to think of new ways to create impact, while also growing their business and making profit.
In launching Dressr, Caroline is focused on combating issues with sustainability in the fashion industry by transforming consumer habits.
“Our mission is to normalize rental with the goal of reducing the negative impact of the fashion industry by increasing wears per item,” she says.
The business model of Dressr—just a three-year-old company—is built to scale. This means that as the company grows to new markets and works with even more brands, the logistics will stay the same. However, Caroline also knows the importance of adapting.
“Once you have the vision, how you get there can be challenged but don’t compromise the vision of the company,” she says.
To help grow her business and provide valuable experience for aspiring leaders, Caroline invited MBA students from Vlerick Business School to undertake a company project with Dressr.
“It’s something I advise for all fashion designers and business owners that are doing everything themselves. There are so many motivated, bright, young people that want to learn and have great ideas to help with the company,” says Caroline.
On the Vlerick MBA program, students have the chance to work with a company and gain valuable experience to work towards their career goals via the two-month Knowledge-in-action project.
Rising to new challenges
Risk-taking, challenge-hungry business leaders have an eye for new opportunities. However, it's important to be prepared with the skills and know-how to before jumping in blind.
“I knew that I wanted to study abroad and to pair my technical skills with a more holistic understanding of business. I wanted to become a great leader with a view over finances, legal, marketing, and commercial. A Jack of all trades,” says Carlos.
After bolstering his business expertise and entrepreneurial skills on the Vlerick MBA program, Carlos felt inspired to take a leap in his career. He co-founded a startup in Costa Rica called Indi—a platform for providing gig economy workers in Latin America access to financial and health solutions and benefits. In its first year the company raised more than $150k in funding, he says.
Carlos later opted to return to his career in real-estate at Garnier&Garnier in Costa Rica, using his learnings to jump the career ladder to a senior project manager role. His experiences studying the MBA and leading a startup opened him up to new ways of thinking and gave him a broader perspective of business so he is better positioned to lead and innovate in his role as the company grows.
Carlos is navigating Garnier&Garnier towards bigger projects in the residential and hospitality sectors. He is currently part of the team leading the development of the first Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Costa Rica.
"The experience of the MBA and building a company taught me to approach my work and life with an intrapreneurial mindset and think thoroughly to find solutions and look for opportunities to grow," he says.
During the Vlerick MBA program, Carlos had leadership coaching sessions where he was able to explore his own leadership styles and understand how they aligned with his values.
“As a project manager, you are the one in the driver’s seat to make sure things get done but leadership is also about getting along with your team, communicating, and making it an enjoyable work environment,” he says.
It was also extremely beneficial for his leadership development to study abroad and be surrounded by such a diverse cohort, he adds.
“Adapting to a new country and being able to meet people from so many nationalities taught me as much about innovative problem-solving and what it means to have an entrepreneurial mindset as the program itself,” he concludes.