The following essay was submitted to the Wharton MBA program by our client. The client was accepted to the program.
In my 2nd year in university, my 2 study partners and I were all working for software companies. We frequently discussed ways to make quantum career leaps. One that fascinated us was starting our own company.
One day we came up with an idea that would increase sales for consumer goods retailers and simultaneously decrease monthly consumer expenses. Each day, we polished our idea together for a couple hours.
After 2 weeks, I decided to get outside feedback. I looked for people who had at least 10 years experience in consumer goods. Finally, I convinced a friend, to connect me with a board member of the 2nd largest consumer goods retailer in my country.
I presented our business model to the board member, and he instructed his right-hand to set us meetings with managers who could evaluate our plans. Over the next month, we went to one meeting after another. The responses varied from enthusiasm to skepticism. Each time, we improved our presentation according to the feedback.
Finally, I managed to set a meeting with the previous CEO of the largest consumer goods retailer. He concluded our meeting with: “Guys, in my opinion, it’s not going to work”.
I couldn’t say if it was the pressure from school and work or the CEO’s negative feedback, but since that meeting, I wasn’t able to motivate the team to go on. We consciously gave up.
2 years later, one of my teammates called out of the blue: “check out this link…it works!”. I think he expected me to feel disappointment. Actually, I felt pride – my first business attempt was viable after all.
But, I had failed to push it through.
Looking back, it was an amazing experience. I learned much about myself, but two lessons stand out. The first was that, at the time, I didn’t question what drives each team member. For me, it was primarily an adventure, and losing some money because I was working less hours for a while was a risk I was willing to take. Later, I realized that one teammate, who was already in a long term relationship, was really worried about financial security. Then I understood that that was the core reason for many of our business strategy disagreements. Since then, I have learned to analyze others’ motives. I found out that it not only improves my communication with peers, but it also helps me convince my supervisors.
The second lesson was an eye-opener. I learned that I simply enjoy business. I was excited before each meeting, and had fun analyzing business models and role playing with my friends. I experienced energy levels that I had only ever felt playing soccer. I realized I am not willing to compromise on a career I will just tolerate, I want one that excites me.
This realization completely simplified all my future choices. About 2 years ago, my CEO gave me a choice between a business and a technological position. That was the easiest decision I made in my life.