"I had plans of taking over the business, and an MBA helped prepare me for that."

After inheriting the family business, Objective IT, Lara felt like she had gaps in her knowledge to successfully become Managing Director. She embarked on The Essex MBA to help her develop her knowledge and skillset.

Lara will be speaking about her time on The Essex MBA and her career since at the upcoming Unimy webinar on 30 June, "The Essex MBA: Impatient to fuel your ambition?".

Lara explains how studying for an MBA has helped her manage the business and how the networks she has made have been invaluable.

Can you tell us about your business?

We are a bespoke software development and data analytics agency, who work on projects such as web applications, mobile apps, and systems integration. Then the data analytics side is things like dashboards, KPIs and machine learning like product recommenders and classification models. We offer this service for all sorts of businesses, small and large.

I like to think that if you have a slightly weird and wonderful company that an off the shelf solution doesn't quite fit, we are the right people for you.

We have a team of 15 people, based in Chelmsford. We will have been going for 35 years this summer, with the business started by my mother in 1987. I wanted to study for an MBA to become MD, and allow my mother to take a step back.

Why was an MBA right for you?

The MBA suited my needs as it gives an introduction to everything. I really wanted a classroom-based experience that I could apply to my role.

I knew the business quite well, but as we speak to lots of different companies on lots of different things, I thought having an MBA would be very useful to help me with a more consultancy style approach. So, understanding different areas like operations, marketing and accounting gave me a broad overview which enables me to serve our clients better.

Essentially the MBA helped me to get a general 101 of how to run a business. 

What parts of the MBA did you find particularly useful?

The accountancy module was really useful just because it was something I hadn't done much of before.

The consultancy module was also great and since completing my MBA we have added consultancy as a service.  All of what we do is bespoke so our first phase of that is understanding the client and their needs. So going in listening, helping people funnel their ideas and create road maps. We have turned this into a service now and we label it as ‘data strategy consultancy’. 

I have to say confidence is the biggest thing I got. Going into an MBA, meeting people, being in groups and speaking in front of people, shouting your ideas a bit more, and having people to bounce off of, and chat to who are on a similar journey was invaluable. Even though we are in completely different businesses and completely different situations, we are all doing a collective thing and talking builds your own confidence because you realise all these things you're feeling and thinking everyone is!

Do you have any advice to entrepreneurs and others taking over a family business?

Don’t be lonely, having a group of people and strong network groups is vital! It’s about having people to talk to and bounce off in professional life, as people in your personal life will often get completely bored of it!

What parts of the MBA helped foster your entrepreneurial spirit?

Really the culture of everyone in the cohort, you drive each other with ideas. Something which was helpful specifically was the business simulation week where a business owner came in with a disco truck, and we simulated running the business for a week. This was a great opportunity to be free and come up with ideas, and then at the end we heard the back story and it was so interesting.

The other incredibly useful thing I got from the MBA was the ability to write concisely and properly in a business way. This is really helpful for report writing or writing succinct proposals. At the time you don't think about the essay feedback you just think about getting the grade. However, in hindsight that feedback on every module just makes you a much better writer and communicator. You can then take this away and use it in your own business. You don't necessarily take it away on purpose it's just ingraining it in you to become better at it. You are refining your skills without you even realising it.

How would you summarise what the MBA offers?

Essentially it is a really useful 101 into business and it gives you the toolkit of unlocking what questions to ask. For example, what to ask your accountant, what to think about to get a better strategy, insight into everything. You need to have enough knowledge but to run a business you don’t need to know everything; you need to know what is going on and what is going wrong!