The deciding factor behind Louis’ decision to study an MBA

When COVID-19 hit, Louis Bollard had to make a decision. His startup – “a host community for sports supporters…like an Airbnb for away fans” (00:36) – looked like it would be badly affected by the pandemic. To move forward with his career, he decided to look back. He noticed that the University of Bath – where he spent his undergraduate years – were offering financial support for people in his position to study an MBA.

“I did my undergraduate here (in Bath) and I already knew a few of the people in the School of Management,” he tells us. “They were offering [MBA] scholarships for local people, so they got in touch with me…one of the requirements of the scholarship was that you had to have lost your job because of COVID, or for your business to have been severely affected, so I qualified under the second part of that.” (04:50)

The COVID-19 pandemic led to increased demand for MBAs all over the world, with many people using it as a way to sharpen their skills in an uncertain global job market. Having seen his startup effectively grind to a halt, Louis saw it as the perfect time to study an MBA.

“I think the deciding factor was the COVID situation. I thought for now it looks like people aren’t going to be going anywhere for the next eight to nine months, so you might as well make use of that time.” (04:25)

Tapping into the Bath rugby industry

Having spent his undergraduate years in Bath, Louis already knew the city well. And so he knew that it’s one of the few cities in the UK that prefers rugby over the national sport of football. He has since leveraged the university’s links with the rugby community to expand his professional network.

“I think more than anything I wanted it to give me that foothold in Bath. Bath is a rugby city, and my startup is primarily focused on rugby, so I wanted it to give me those connections to the local community, to local supporters groups…” (01:55)

“I’ve used the careers services by tapping into a few of the personnel and then they put me in contact with certain people from local rugby clubs – one of them is the chairman of Bath Rugby here, another is the non-executive director of Scarlets Rugby in South Wales.” (06:28)

Louis’ experience shows the importance of location when it comes to choosing an MBA. Business schools tend to have close links with the local business community, so try to consider whether you would be able to use those connections to further your career.

Learning to better yourself every day

Although Louis has had to take a step back from his startup while he completes his MBA, that decision does come with one big advantage. It means he is in a position to immediately apply his learnings from the program into the business.

“It’s allowed me to apply some of the more theoretical stuff to my actual business. In terms of my entrepreneurial thinking, it’s just kind of solidified a lot of what I thought initially and what I thought beforehand.” (08:57)

But more than anything, the MBA has taught Louis the value of incremental improvements. Hearing the stories of other entrepreneurs has taught him how to overcome setbacks by focusing on daily improvements. Try to better yourself in small ways every day, and the results will come.

“It’s made me a bit more resolute and determined in that sense because a lot of them (other entrepreneurs) just say you’ve got to keep growing, keep learning, keep plowing on, keep making improvements. If you’re making those steady improvements as you go, you’ll be slowly building something.” (09:34)

Advice for future MBA students

Reflecting on his experience, Louis cites the importance of going into your MBA with a clear plan in mind. By considering where it fits into your journey and how it’ll help you achieve your goals, you’ll have more chance of being accepted into the program – and then be better-placed to reap the rewards of it.

“Know what you want to do before you go into it. I’ve benefited because I do know that – I know what I want to achieve and I know the reason why I’ve done it (the MBA). Some of the other people on the course didn’t really know and thought this might give them direction, but at the end of the year they’re still in the same ‘I don’t really know’ situation.” (11:23)

“From an entrepreneurial standpoint, if you’ve got the option to do one and you’ve got the opportunity there, and you can use it as a year to solidify your own business, then I would recommend doing one.” (12:08)

No matter your industry, company or location, there will be an MBA program out there that meets your needs. MBA graduates may traditionally be associated with certain sectors, but Louis’ experience is proof that the skills gained from an MBA can be applied to almost any business. In a still-uncertain job market, those skills could be the small gains you need to get ahead of the rest.