Remembering the first IMD MBA class
Prominent alumni revisit their experience of a lifetime
Finnish entrepreneur, Jan M Koivurinta and Australian Private Equity guru, Greg Minton, took a trip down memory lane together, visiting friends around the world and catching up with IMD where the friendships all started in 1990 – during the first IMD MBA program after the merger of IMI and IMEDE.
Jan, who actually played a role in the merger, joined the MBA to develop his skills for a line management role. But more than the business skills he acquired, Jan believes that the core of the program even then was based on the participants themselves and the small class size:
“There was a lot of work and you had to learn to deal with constant stress and the need to prioritize, but the size of the class was critical as you got to learn from everyone – not just the faculty. Over the years, the small class size has also allowed IMD to be more flexible and viable to take up new ideas.”
“IMD made a big change in my career. I always had an entrepreneurial spirit and a sense of freedom, and I’ve always loved what I do.” After graduating, Jan’s company sent him to Paris to build a new global business, and he subsequently spent several years moving around before deciding to return to Finland to help companies in trouble after the banking crisis. “IMD gave me the confidence and competence to keep an open mind to what I want. Lots of companies were in poor shape, people were depressed and I could make a positive impact on the culture and mentality.” Based on his success as a turnaround manager, Jan went on to set up on his own companies and joined several SME boards. Today, even though he’s semi-retired, he still sits on the Board of Directors at Zalaris ASA, and works with start-ups like Defendec OU and other companies.
Greg started out as an engineer and rugby league player, but realized that he didn’t enjoy engineering and it therefore wasn’t going to lead him to success. Inspired by an article in Forbes, IMD’s action-oriented teaching suited his style. His father mortgaged his house to pay for his year in Switzerland, and from graduation to retirement Greg says the program “delivered in spades! … The intimacy of contact with both faculty and classmates was a key selling point even back then. All the professors know you and give you their time. The intensity of the program results in friendships that are really bonding and lifelong. Success is not just about money, happiness is much broader.”
A job offer from McKinsey started a global career and by the time he was approached by a Private Equity firm he was responsible for $350m turnover and one thousand employees. “Growing business isn’t a finance game, it’s about business operations. The secret to my success was based on skills learnt at IMD and willingness to change. I’ve enjoyed going to work every day since my MBA and how many can say that?”
Looking back at their experience and successes, we asked Jan and Greg what advice they would offer to today’s MBA participants:
Jan: “Be brave and ready to take risks. Build friendships, it’s so easy to be consumed by work, but don’t forget about the importance of networking. For our Scandinavian party, we went to the embassy, invited other executives and looked for the most innovative ways to drink beer! I studied harder at IMD than I did for my other degrees, but when we had fun everyone joined in!”
Greg: “The program teaches you to cope with the future - find out what moves you forward and don’t be afraid. When you get out, you’ve got to be action-oriented - it’s those who get things done who are successful.”
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