I look out the window. A continent away, in the green archipelago I call home, the Asian Institute of Management is celebrating with its faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends. On June 7, AIM made a triple announcement: the launch of the AIM Dado Banatao Incubator, the opening of the first batch of the Master of Science in Innovation and Business and the relaunch of the AIM Master in Entrepreneurship.
A friend emails a picture of my students (now alumni), on stage talking about their experiences in the ME, with the message “You should be proud.” I answer in the affirmative. Of course I am proud of them.
Outside the window, if I look closely, I can see the very top of the Eiffel Tower. Beside me, my husband is preparing for the day. As I prepare for a day with family, I think that this is precisely what we hoped for our ME alumni—to be able to get things done, to have a life, to find a balance.
Globally, there are two general kinds of educational programs for entrepreneurs—those meant to educate individuals who want to be entrepreneurs and those meant to develop those who are already entrepreneurs. The program that made Babson famous is the first kind—essentially an incubator for individuals who wish to be entrepreneurs. The Harvard program for owners and presidents is the latter—essentially an accelerator.
The AIM ME program is an accelerator. It is designed for owners, general managers and presidents of businesses at a point of inflection. At this point of inflection, the entrepreneur stands at a nexus, a point during which he must both change the business but still continue to run the business. The research on enterprises shows that many enterprises never make it to the next level. Even more tragically, many enterprises fail altogether while aiming for the change. The most common reason for this failure? A capability gap – one that begins with entrepreneur and is reflected in the enterprise. This is the gap that the AIM ME addresses.
Entrepreneurship in AIM
The ME is a part-time 18-month program, with a normal class schedule of two whole days every two weeks. This delivery schedule allows ME students to continue to manage their businesses while enrolled in the program. In fact, the AIM ME is designed to guide each student to apply what is learned in the program to his own enterprise.
There are many examples of ME alumni who used what they learned in the ME to grow their businesses. Myrna Alberto redesigned the product offerings and revenue model of 1Isa to make it the leading rewards management firm in its industry. Joe Magsaysay’s Potato Corner hit one billion in sales. Mary Grace Dimacali grew her baked goods offerings into a chain of cafes. Cathy Saldaña reimagined their architecture company into one providing architectural services to a global market. Yoling Sevilla re-engineered The Leather Collection into a business with a flexible supply chain.
But the ME is not only about the enterprise, nor is it only about business. As one of my mentors in AIM always likes to say – we don’t teach subjects, we teach students. Some of the most interesting stories, and successes, come from those who also strove to apply the personal lessons of the program.
In the middle of his 18-month journey, Kamrul Tarafder, who had originally registered a consulting organization realized he wanted to do more than simply advise micro-finance organizations, he wanted to run one. The organization he founded is now one of the two largest microfinance organizations in the Philippines.
Len Cabili, founder and chief designer of Filip+Inna, had originally enrolled in the program to help out in the family business, one which she eventually decided she would hand over to one of her siblings so she could concentrate on her true passion – fashion, design and preserving local culture. Filip+Inna is a global fashion brand that showcases the work of Philippine indigenous artisans. Each of her collections is co-created with an indigenous tribe. Beginning with the T’boli of Lake Sebu, she now works with tribes across all the three major island groups of the country.
The ME voyage is a voyage of discovery. Some of these discoveries lie in absorbing the hard-nosed skills of finance and control, of market research and market sizing, of quality management and productivity, of compliance and governance. There are other discoveries, and some of the most important ones come from journeys inward.
There is an exhilaration to being an entrepreneur—one that is two parts excitement and one part terror. Running an enterprise in growth stage is a constant balancing act—between opportunity and resources, between work and life.
One of the things we try to teach in the ME is how to design the internal engine of the enterprise – all of the parts: hardware, software, and liveware (the people part). In this new century, businesses must thrive in a world of volatility and uncertainty, a world both connected and divided. Beyond short-term profits, the entrepreneur must aim for robustness and sustainability. Innovation and value creation must lie at the heart of the new enterprise. The entrepreneur must aim for an enterprise engine that learns and evolves.
While the young enterprise relies almost solely on the entrepreneur for energy, the more mature enterprise develops a life of its own—one still connected to the entrepreneur, but one which can survive apart. That is the aim of the entrepreneur—to be able to run the business and still live a full life.
Night and day
Across the street, there are large, square windows, standing like sentinels behind iron grills guarding balcony ledges. This off-white slightly square building is an anomaly in a part of Paris that reflect a much earlier time. At night, between each window, lights located near the floor of those balconies illuminate the building facade. These lights make this otherwise severe building a dramatic frame for the night sky.
Above the rooftops across us, the Eiffel Tower beckons. It’s easy to miss in the day – that little spike of the tower top. But in the dark, it is a sight to behold. As soon as the sun comes down, light beams slice clockwise through the night sky. Every hour on the hour, at this time of the year, the tower sparkles. I am watching these sparkles as I think of the ME alumni, former students now friends. I imagine them on stage and in the audience. In my mind, they sparkle.
For more information about the ME, go to me.aim.edu. Applications are now being accepted. Enrolment ends July. Classes begin Sept. 26, 2016.
Readers can email Maya at [email protected] Or visit her site at http://integrations.tumblr.com.