As anyone who runs their own business knows, entrepreneurship ain’t easy! Your business takes over every single thought in your head from morning till night when you rest your precious little head on the pillow. And even then, tomorrow’s to-do list and your customers’ requests haunt you in your dreams.
Even though its rewarding and fun, the two words that come to mind first are challenging and exhausting. Couple that with an executive MBA program and you probably won’t sleep again for the next two years. Kidding! But not really.
If you are thinking about pursuing your MBA as a business owner or while being in a high position in a small one, let me help you out with the nitty-gritty: manage your time wisely. This may sound obvious, but time management is the most important piece of advice I can give you. I try my best to block my calendar completely for school work every Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Funny story: I blocked my calendar at 9 a.m. to write this blog post in my office, its 9:14 a.m. and I’ve already been interrupted three times. Twice by customers calling my personal cell (those always get answered!) and once from an urgent email from our office manager asking me what account our big loan is coming out of because the account didn’t reconcile. That sounded scary so I logged in right away to verify all is good on the financing front.
Anyway, back to the blog. Here’s what my typical week looks like during a term:
Regular workday. I’m in the office by 8:15 a.m. and stay until about 4 p.m. I’m home by 4:30 p.m. when I get on the Peloton for 30 to 45 minutes, then shower, cook dinner (my husband and I decided to start a gluten-free vegetarian meal plan just to make our already busy life more interesting). There’s usually a couple text messages and work phone calls during all this.
By 7 p.m. I have two options: watch last week’s episode of “The Real Housewives” or READ FOR SCHOOL. The housewives usually win for about 20 minutes until I remind myself why I’m doing this program (to be the best most successful entrepreneur I can be) and I move to the kitchen counter and pick a class to work on.
Same as Monday minus the Peloton, because no one needs to spin two days in a row. Oh, did you want to know about school? Right, I’ll probably have a team meeting tonight via Microsoft Teams. Our team agreed to meet about once a week for no more than an hour, though they normally run longer because we end up spending a lot of time catching up before we get down to the good stuff.
Same as Monday because I spent a lot of money on that bike and I need to feel its justified. Also, health. During a typical week, team assignments will be due by Friday before class, so we are working on submitting them by tonight. I’ll do another read-through of the final draft and give my OK to the team. Someone on the team will submit the final assignment and send a screenshot to the group chat of the confirmation.
It’s a residency weekend! I live about 30 minutes from campus, so no long drive or flight for me. After work, I eat dinner with my husband, pack my suitcase with my best business casual clothes, and head to the JB Duke Hotel around 7 or 8 p.m. Right next door to Fuqua, the JB Duke is where our cohort stays and where most of our classes are held. There’s normally a bunch of people at the bar so I’ll ‘network’ over a cocktail with my new Duke friends.
Class all day! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner with my new gang followed by some more networking time before bed. Now this is where the business owner part gets tough. Just because my weekend started on Thursday night doesn’t mean my customers’ businesses did also. I’m getting emails, texts and phone calls even though I committed to Duke from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Before I leave the office on Thursday, I’ll give my assistant a heads up that I will not be able to answer for most of the day Friday unless it’s urgent. In class, I’ll keep my phone on silent so I don’t get distracted. During our 15-minute breaks, I’ll fire off some text messages, forward voicemails to the office and check on the group chat (I have a TON of group chats right now) with my drivers to make sure everything is still going according to schedule and that everyone is still healthy and happy.
The full day of class is broken up by lots of meals and yummy snacks. Duke does the most amazing job keeping us fed and hydrated. It’s exciting walking out to the afternoon break and discovering what they put out. My favorite snack is the giant, soft pretzels with cheese dip—they are neither gluten-free nor vegan. It’s about balance, not perfection.
Class starts at 8 a.m. again, but this girl doesn’t miss a meal so I’m taking advantage of the omelet station by 7 a.m. Class ends earlier today so after eating lunch at the JB Duke with my team and saying bye to everyone, I’m back home by 2 p.m.
At this point, I normally need a nap but we usually have something planned. I’ll pick up my other half and head to my parent’s house for family dinner with my five nieces and nephews, two sisters and two brothers-in-law. Since my dad and I work together, I’ve seen him all week, but I’ve been pretty MIA since Thursday night, so we catch up on business over a glass of wine. I’ll spend some more time with the kids then drive the 30 minutes back to Cary to be in bed by 10 p.m.
We do it all again.
I’m exhausted just writing this out. Then I remember my teammate with the three kids under six—he’s probably more tired than I am. Listen, no one said this was going to be easy. The greatest things in life never are, but you need to commit to the things that are important to you. I want my family concrete business to make it beyond me to the third generation, which only 13% of family businesses do. I want my waste management business to have 100 trucks by 2030, and I want a Duke MBA. If I can make this schedule work on top of my personal commitments, you can too!
The benefits definitely outweigh the sacrifices. I already began implementing lessons from school into my business after finishing only Term 2. I’ve already made life-long friends and created a network of incredibly supportive, smart, and talented people that are 100% willing to help me reach my goals. Just as I am for them.
This program is an investment in you, and your future. So you need to put in the work to get the most you can out of it. To finish this off in true Blue Devil fashion, here’s my contact info if you want to talk about how to make it work before taking the plunge. I’m proud of you, and you got this!