Classmates to life mates: A case study

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 May, 2012, 12:00am

Joe Leung and Aries Ng have a lot in common. Both are Hong Kong-born entrepreneurs who've had the opportunity to work in Japan early in their careers. They were classmates in Ivey Asia's Executive MBA class, and in after-class get-togethers, they often swapped ideas about the day's discussions and experiences from their respective businesses.

The dinners eventually evolved into romantic dates and, shortly after finishing the 18-month course, Leung and Ng were married.

A drastic company change drove Leung, who owns a lingerie business, to Ivey's campus in Wanchai. 'Three years ago, I changed my business model from OEM to brand business. Before long, I found out that there were a lot of things I needed to learn so that I can run my business better. I talked with my friends who have MBA degrees, and they recommended Ivey's case study method. It was the right choice for me,' Leung says.

The programme's virtual situations and real-world case discussions taught Leung that 'you can make bold choices which you will never do in real life as it is totally risk-free. We learned to be more creative in our management way.'

He adds: 'Every module in this course has been helpful to me. In finance, I am not good in numbers. But now I do trust numbers as I know numbers never tell a lie. They will tell you exactly what the condition of your business is.'

Leung also discovered the need for a business strategy. 'We tend to focus too much on daily operations and tactics, but if you want your business to have a brighter future, you need to have a sound business strategy. And you shouldn't look at only one part of the business. You must look at the whole picture.'

For her part, Ng - whose family-owned firm supplies lighting, electrical distribution and cable containment products - was not after a degree or certificate when she chose the Ivey EMBA. 'I was looking for what I really needed: practical skills and experience. In Ivey, we did a lot of case studies and simulation. We immersed in virtual situations in which we had to respond to different challenges. This is the teaching method that I like. I don't want to go through the theories and homework while not truly understanding their practicality,' she says.

Ng recounts how the course transformed her. 'I was one of the less-experienced people in my class. I was parachuted into my current position without a mentor. I was struggling with my business decisions due to lack of business training and experience. After the Ivey [EMBA] programme, I developed a much stronger business sense. I can now see the whole picture: what kind of business I am running, what's our position in the market, and what our company future direction should be.'

One component of the programme that Ng found very instructive was the executive field project. 'We were like business consultants. We had to go to the company, know the executives, do a performance size-up, and talk to people. We tried to show them the business from another angle. I learned a lot from that,' she says.

'Ironically, the clearer you see your business, the more problems you see. Now we're even thinking of diversifying our portfolio and do more high-return projects. I think this is the best thing that I got from Ivey. It helped me think very differently,' Ng shares.

At collaborative class discussions, Ng also learned to appreciate criticism. 'My classmates challenged every decision. Each had his own way of seeing things. I learned that there's no one way to solve a problem. You will be inspired by how people solve problems in different ways,' she says.



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