Success Secrets: Running a Business While Earning a UWA MBA

UWA MBA and entrepreneur

This article is sponsored by the University of Western Australia Business School. Learn more about its MBA program.

Ask anyone. Operating your own business means working way more than 40 hours per week. Besides long days, success requires commitment, passion, and – of course – more than a bit of luck. Getting an MBA is similarly time consuming. The notion of doing both at the same time could be the recipe for a nervous breakdown – or failure.

Still, to a few driven entrepreneurs it’s an ideal arrangement. Despite the time stress, having ready access to case studies, professionals and professors makes it easier to evaluate marketing and business plans. It also allows for a deeper level of self-examination than most owner-operators are able to indulge in.

Daniel Jovevski began his online mortgage comparison website, SwitchMyLoan, in 2012 – the year he began his MBA studies. Last year the site referred over US$106 million worth of home loans. That was one reason he won the 2013 Young Entrepreneur Award, beating other business owners from across Western Australia in the under-35 category. After winning the award, he revealed that he started the company at the same time as he began his MBA, in 2012. “My friends, family and MBA colleagues thought the idea was absolutely absurd! However, in hindsight it was the best decision I have yet made in life.”

TopMBA.com spoke with Daniel about what motivated him to take such a risk, and how attending the University of Western Australia’s business program helped him achieve his goals.

Why did you decide to do an MBA?

After working in the banking industry for four years, I decided in early 2012 to give my business idea a go. The MBA was more an insurance policy, so if the business didn’t take off, then I at least came away from the experience with formal qualifications to re-enter the job market. Thankfully, I haven’t had to make a claim on that policy! The decision to pursue an MBA was taken fairly quickly. I had a look at available MBA programs available, online/on-campus, and quickly made the decision to apply at UWA. The school had a great reputation, and I quickly gelled with the program director, had an interview, and just knew it was the right place to be.

You began a business while pursuing your MBA.  What were the advantages and disadvantages in doing this?

Starting a business and concurrently studying the MBA presented some major challenges as well as significant opportunities. The major benefits were being able to apply new knowledge and really sculpt the business using the MBA. This came from the classroom, and most importantly peers within the program. The coursework allows you to look at things with ‘MBA goggles’ on. Being able to take a 40,000-foot view of all the facets that influence business decisions I think was incredibly powerful. Pre-MBA, you tend to get stuck in the rut of thinking day-to-day; it redrew the horizon in terms of how I thought about business problems.

My colleagues and lecturers in the program were nothing short of amazing; it was a great way to leverage real industry experience from my peers. Given that I started the MBA at 24, it was steep learning curve socially, as the average age of most students was mid-30s. However this was a great opportunity to enjoy the e the prior experience of my colleagues with deep domain knowledge about certain subjects and industries. The age factor quickly became irrelevant as I quickly became branded as an entrepreneur, and drew the respect and confidence of the classroom around certain topics.

The downside is it effects your free time, having started a full-time workload with the business pretty much taking up all weekends, so it’s definitely not for the fainthearted. It also puts limitations on business growth, as you’re not able to solely focus on the outcomes of business, but on the flipside you’re learning something new and taking that new piece of knowledge and putting into practice. It’s a double-edged sword at times, and finding the balance is crucial.

Tell us a little about SwitchMyLoan – are you planning to expand outside of Australia?

SwitchMyLoan removes the pain from people getting a better deal on their mortgage; we compare rates from over 17 different financial institutions and negotiate special discounts and offers for clients based on their unique circumstances. We’re domestically focused in our niche of residential mortgages, and believe there is tremendous growth potential as consumers move their financial purchasing habits online. SwitchMyLoan is an entirely web-based business.

Many entrepreneurs are successful without doing an MBA. Why do you think it’s been helpful for you?

The MBA is by no means a precursor to business success – it boils down to you, the individual, and how you see your career being shaped by completing a MBA. Entrepreneurial flair is often at odds with formal education, that’s no secret. On the whole I’m largely supportive of pursuing an MBA even if you’re an entrepreneur or are looking to pursue a business idea. The quality of the end product – you – is no doubt improved. Of course there are plenty of caveats, but I’ll give you some practical examples of how it helped me in business.

Talking the talk in boardrooms: there’s a level of respect that goes with the MBA; you’re much more conversant in high-level conversations, being able to look at the bigger picture, and distill a complex idea into plain language.

A stamp of approval: the corporate vetting process is often unforgiving in making quick snapshots about you as a person. The MBA is a stamp of approval that can quickly add credibility and make dealing with people easier and more effective. It accelerated my personal brand by leaps and bounds, and gave me a seat at the table that otherwise wouldn’t have been there.

Your network of peers: having access to industry professionals that are only an email or phone call away. Your introductions to people become easier. There’s an unwritten code which is part of the ethos of an individual that takes the MBA, and that’s to help your fellow alumni and also having the ability to reach out to receive advice and support from a trusted network.

What advice would you give young entrepreneurs?

My biggest piece of advice is to surround yourself with people that want to see you grow as an individual. Entrepreneurship can be very lonely at times; you want to make sure that you have a solid support network of friends, family, mentors that help you in your development as a person.

(conversation edited for length and clarity)

This article is sponsored by the University of Western Australia Business School. 

Written by John Bankston

Content writer John began his career as an investigative reporter and is a prolific educational writer alongside his work for us, authoring over 100 nonfiction books for children and young adults since 2000.

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