Blazing A Trail: Adopting An Entrepreneurial Mindset

Sharvan Pethe with London Business School classmates at the finals of the Launchpad programme

I wonder if the person I was a year ago would recognise the version of me who is writing this column today? I mean, of course, the chiseled jawline, soulful eyes, and dazzling smile remain. As cliche as it sounds though, the first year of my London Business School MBA experience has been truly transformative.

Contrary to prevailing opinions about top MBA programmes, I don’t think my classmates or I would have felt such a sense of growth and development if we’d sat back and let the MBA just… happen to us.

VALUE OF AN ENTREPRENEURIAL MINDSET

It’s a seductive thought: imagine getting that first acceptance from an elite business school, posting a gushing humblebrag on LinkedIn, and propping your feet up on the coffee table as the offers roll in. The reality is far from that fairy tale, however.

While there is a ton of material online about how to get into business school, there’s far less about how to make the most of a program once you’re in it – especially important given the time, effort, and money you’re investing. Some people come to an MBA program with a defined objective – an industry or career move they are looking to make. Others are more open to exploring the options ahead of them. Both are fantastic goals to enter a program with. What I’ve found matters most is being intentional about how you go about achieving those goals. For me, this has only been possible through adopting an entrepreneurial mindset.

This mindset is a set of behaviours and beliefs that forms the bedrock essential to building a new venture. It’s all about emphasising a long-term view of success, while placing agility, practicality and efficiency at the forefront of everyday decisions. Having this mindset means relying on your initiative and trusting your instincts to chart a sustainable path towards your goals. No one tells you what you should be doing every day, and no one tells you what good looks like: the buck stops with you.

Sharvan Pethe

BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CORPORATE LIFE AND BUSINESS SCHOOL

For most of my working life, I identified as a consultant with hopes of making it up the corporate ladder. I enjoyed learning about different industries and helping solve important problems for my clients. The client or consulting partners often dictated when projects were due or what success looked like. Defined frameworks guided how you approached a problem and there were structured feedback processes and support networks.  If you were good at navigating this environment, as I was, you were a good consultant and often delivered what your clients wanted.

I’m sure this sounds familiar to some of your own experiences in the working world. I argue that this mode of thinking doesn’t fit an entrepreneurial path, nor does it align how I would recommend approaching an MBA.

As a career path, entrepreneurship was something I only stumbled on while on a long, reflective walk. I thought about the moments that had an effect on who I was and what was important to me. All of those came from engaging with human experiences far beyond my own, through travel or volunteering. This newness is something we don’t experience often enough in our daily lives, especially with our social media choices often separating us into echo chambers. I think it’s time for a more purposeful way to browse content that focuses on expanding our view of the world. Sapia, my business venture, is a media platform that does just that.  It’s a huge part of the reason I’m at London Business School.

THERE’S A REASON WHY IT’S CALLED A “FIREHOSE”

I’ve found that an MBA is very similar to the experience of exploring an entrepreneurial venture. They are both unstructured, tiring, and (at times) mildly terrifying. They are also two of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

The MBA is a running firehose of personal and professional opportunities. Regardless of how competent you were in your pre-MBA life, there’s no way you’ll be able to get a grip on the entirety of it.  In my first year at London Business School, I had career presentations, club events and cohort trips in the calendar before I even set foot on campus. If you’re not intentional about the choices you’re making, the experience can easily become overwhelming.

LBS’ London campus is on the doorstep of Regents Park

Here’s where the entrepreneurial mindset pays off in spades. These are three great ways to bring this to life and maximize your time in business school:

1. Consider the Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

As an early-stage entrepreneur, you have limited resources at your disposal. This applies unequivocally to the MBA experience, in the form of time and energy. Coming from consulting, I’d always been predisposed to getting things oh-so-perfect: dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s. This doesn’t always help during an MBA. The MBA is a delicate balancing act between academics, career pursuits, and your social life. At times, you’ll need to decide where the smartest investments of your time and energy lie – understanding what the MVP looks like is crucial.  Ask yourself what outcome is just satisfying enough to move onwards. It’ll save you many late nights.

2. Pivot Quickly!

You’re going to get knocked back as an entrepreneur and as an MBA student. A “No, thank you” from a potential co-founder or a venture capitalist hurts just as much as a rejection from an internship you had applied for or a club that you were hoping to run. Take a deep breath. It happens to everyone and it’s not the end of the world. Understanding the feedback, learning from it, and making tweaks to your approach quickly is going to keep your mind engaged productively and help you accelerate toward achieving your goals!

3. Don’t Go It Alone

It’s hard out there! As an MBA student or an entrepreneur, you’re going to need a great support network to help push through tough times and celebrate the good ones! Find some good mates within your program and support each other through the once-in-a-lifetime experiences you’re all having! Recently, I competed in the final of the Launchpad programme, a venture accelerator at London Business School. I was pleased to be alongside three of my stream mates: Rachel Sackett, another competitor, and Aastha Kamra and Martin Reyes, who both helped organise the programme. 13 of our stream mates came out on the day to vocally support the four of us who’d put months of effort into the programme. I can’t begin to express how glad I was to have so many friendly faces in the audience.

Wherever you are in your MBA journey or in your career, I hope you’ve been able to take something impactful from these few minutes of reading.  Perhaps by adopting an entrepreneurial mindset, you’ll be able to get a little closer to the ‘Happy Ever After’ your MBA fairytale deserves!

Feel free to flick me a message on LinkedIn if any of this column has tickled your fancy.

Until next time!

Sharvan is a former strategy consultant and LBS scholarship recipient from Auckland, New Zealand. He spent four years working on important problems across a variety of industries, including helping to establish New Zealand’s national COVID-19 contact tracing service.

Sharvan comes to London Business School with an interest in ventures and technology. During his time at LBS, he’ll be busy validating his own entrepreneurial idea in the media space. In his spare time, Sharvan enjoys hiking, writing and comedy – hobbies he’ll continue to cultivate during his MBA experience.

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