Completing my MBA – was it worth it?

On Friday I submitted my final piece of work for my MBA – a consultancy report on the viability of establishing a Paddlesport business in Oxford. Only 15,000 words, but with an additional 25 appendices it was a colossal 65,000 words and 250 pages. Some real blood, sweat, and tears to complete it, I would estimate 60-70 days solid work. I hope I have done enough!

In 2015 I was looking for a new academic challenge. Having competed an MSc in school based research (2007), the NPQH (2010) and recently complete the director of children’s services 18 month programme (2014) I was up for a new challenge – I wanted to do a PhD. But what in?

For me a key element has to be in usefulness, as much as academic research is interesting, I think it has to be a useful journey. My first Masters was on formative feedback and laid a strong foundation for my future direction as a school improvement consultant and adviser and the NPQH foundations for school leadership, although I was somewhat disappointed with the programme.

I have always been interested in leadership having spend a lifetime leading various organisations. I was interested in school leadership having been through 10 years of the National Strategies – government dictated educational change; And not really impressed about the successes. However I was newly appointed as a school improvement manager responsible for supporting 30 primary and secondary schools. What became apparent was the lack of leaders leading our schools. The NPQH was never the best foundation, idealised education, what a lot of the schools needed to understand was that schools in the new landscape of academisation were businesses, with devolved budgets and complete autonomy. With multi academy trusts on the horizon it was a matter of time for LAs to be disconnected with schools and education. So in order to better support my schools I decided to do an MBA, if schools are businesses how best to support them than understand business. So in 2015 I self-funded my MBA, £14,000. As Sarah always reminds me, the most expensive iPad ever, but still in use, 4 years on!

The first module of the MBA was Business in Context where you had to analyse your own business. As we had just been outsourced to a new “Learning Trust” I applied the business tools and analysed the BLT. The analysis forecast that the BLT was on a trajectory of oblivion over the next 3-5 years unless it changed is modus operandi. However few education leaders understood business and the businessman in charge of the BLT had a track record of ‘asset stripping’, so the future was bleak. Within 12 months I was, with many expert colleagues made redundant, we were to challenging of the new regime. The few remaining were the dross, more interested in their ego and pay packets failing to realise the primary role of a business it to create and keep customers, a job they seemed uniquely unable to do. It was sad to see the final death throws of the organisation in April 2019 with £600,000 debts, largely from cash strapped schools. Criminal really.

Bucks Learning Trust goes into liquidation


Anyway back to my MBA. The second module was on leadership capabilities – which I found remarkably useful particularly having to work for ‘leaders’ who were appointed more for their ability to bullshit than their leadership capabilities. A very challenging few years; Its no crowning success to go from a team of 14 to a team of 2! The Leadership Capabilities module, came at the right time, it let me appreciate and manage such torrid behaviour, until I was offered redundancy!

The next few MBA models were uniquely important – understanding entrepreneurship and Business Start-up. Two modules that came at the right time as I was establishing my new consultancy business in education. It let me thing and realise I could go it alone and be successful – probably not as successful as the forecasts predicted but useful writing the business plan!

The later few modules were on Consultancy and Project Management and the foundation for my final consultancy report – establishing a paddleports business in Oxford, Thames Valley Outdoors. Which I suppose I now need to make happen.

So the question is, was it worth it?

From a business perspective – the income generated needs to exceed the investment – so the jury is out – but I suspect it will, I do have a consultancy business – that is not as successful as it could be, the limiting factor is my own procrastination, the future paddlesports business is equally dependent on my drive and determination.

From a personal perspective – I think so. I enjoyed the final consultancy project, in a perverse way. It was incredible hard work, with a lot of ‘blood, sweat and tears’ but the final chapter I’m most proud off. It was the reflection and reflexivity of the whole project that made me realise that I had learnt a great deal.

LINK to final chapter of my MBA

So what next?

Well I still want to do a PhD, but not yet. I can get a £24,000 loan to fund it, thanks to a new government loan scheme, as long as I start before I’m 60, I will have 30 years to pay it off! Seems like a no brainer.

I might do an MEd in educational leadership as I can get the school to fund it, as part of the apprenticeship levy, but do I really want to do this?

I think I need a break for a while to embed the learning from the MBA and to gain greatest value, perhaps I need to re-evaluate my educational role currently and return to the foray of school leadership – but do I really want the stress and strain though?

Finally, reading through this blog it is interesting to think, did the MBA lay the foundations for change or was it the catalyst for change, and growth?

I suspect the later.