How an MBA prepared me for handling a crisis in my business | TopMBA.com

How an MBA prepared me for handling a crisis in my business

By Katie S

Updated December 6, 2021 Updated December 6, 2021

After finishing his studies, Edwin van der Ham was set on starting his own company. At first unsure of what kind of business it would be, he noticed IT company Worldonline becoming very successful and, most importantly, in need of someone to supply their packaging needs. So, in 1999 Ham founded Montapacking – a packing company to do just that.

Edwin later expanded into logistics and e-commerce. Montapacking now fulfils the IT needs for 1,500 web stores and handles their orders and returns. In the world of online shopping, it’s clear to see how they have thrived. However, for Edwin, there was more that could be done and in 2016 he decided to investigate what could diminish the company's currently impressive growth in the future. 

“I realised that I, myself, could benefit from an additional education.” Edwin realised he needed to ensure he developed his own knowledge and skills alongside his company’s growth. He looked into MBA programmes and finally sat in on a class an Nyenrode. After that class he was “really excited to follow my education with them”. 

Montapacking’s setback  

In September 2018, Edwin received a call that there was a large fire in one of their largest distribution centres in Molenaarsgraaf. It was a large enough blaze for the Dutch army to assist the fire brigade, and alongside the incredible danger was the complete loss of stock for sixty of their customers.  

“Not only did the revenue of one of our biggest distribution centres fall to zero percent, but also our customers had no revenue.” As a result, their customers were unable to pay outstanding bills, while Montapacking dealt with depleted income and received the claims from customers and private individuals on top of paying for environmental damages.  

Handling a crisis 

While at the extreme end of the scale, all businesses need to deal with setbacks or crisis situations. Edwin found his MBA education had helped him prepare for this. While at Nyenrode, they carried out crisis simulations where as a group they had to manage a crisis that became larger and larger. Edwin’s three main takeaways from this were:  

  1. If disaster strikes, immediately create a crisis team.

  1. Make sure someone is available for communication.

  1. Take into account that the crisis may become larger very quickly before it can be contained. 

It was these takeaways that helped him handle the crisis in 2018. “After I had received the call during that night in 2018, I drove to Molenaarsgraaf. In the car I decided to manage the crisis in the way that we had trained during the module.” 

In hindsight, Edwin is satisfied with the way they managed the crisis. Furthermore, that “if we hadn't done the simulation during the Risk & Finance [module], the outcome would have been different." This suspicion has been confirmed by Montapacking’s recovery and performance in following years. The company’s annual report over 2019 shows a healthy profit and in November 2020 the company reported record order intake. 

Studying while managing a company 

Edwin found studying while he worked meant the two blended well together as he chose modules that were relevant to the company. “For the Finance module I researched maximal self-sustainable growth, for my Strategy & Organisation module, I researched the best business strategy for my company for the coming years. In doing this I managed to explore different aspects of my own company and its future, all the while also following these modules.” 

He found that studying an MBA had real world applications. “In academia, impact is often measured by citations and journal rankings.” Meanwhile, his crisis management modules had a real impact on his handling of Montapacking’s crisis. “This is how Nyenrode achieves its mission: shaping responsible leaders.” 

This article was originally published in December 2021 .

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