“Are you a Thoughtful MBA Applicant?”

Hello! My name is Jack Mara and I am a 2015 graduate of Darden Business School. At Darden, I founded a company called 10Thoughts that provides readers with the best article content recommended by business professionals and MBA students. 10Thoughts allows readers to rely on a talented group of recommenders to stay well versed on relevant topics across the business spectrum.

The MBA Exchange kindly invited me to write this guest post for their blog. Running 10Thoughts I see a lot of great article content so they suggested I pick out 10 great articles that capture the true value proposition of a top MBA education. I loved the idea, so here it goes…

This is How Uber Takes Over a City
We all know Uber, at this point the concept seems so obvious and simple that everyone assumes that the success of Uber was basically a certainty. However, this article discusses the massive hurdles a disruptive company needs to fight through to actually bring their product to market. Uber needed to wage battles with city governments, build large scale lobbying campaigns and launch massive marketing efforts to convince the general public to appeal in bulk to their representatives.

Uber needed to solve seemingly impossible problems across the entire business spectrum to succeed. Uber needed leaders with an understanding of all different aspects on the business world and how they interact. While no one can be an expert on everything, you need to be generally fluent across the spectrum of business activity in order to lead projects that seek to solve exciting, large scale issues. Top business schools are the best training grounds for this skill set.

The Economist Who Studied All You Can Eat Buffets
Free food…all you can eat…relatively cheap. How on earth are buffets profitable? In school you study different business models, to figure out how they work. You can then take the knowledge of hundreds of different business models into the real world and try and determine how they fit into different problems you are trying to solve.

For example, I talked to a friend the other day. She uses a product that lets her go to an unlimited number of different workout classes across many gyms for $125 a month. She claims to be going to so many classes that she is “breaking their business model” and wonders how they can possibly make money…

Well, in business school you will study so many different business models that you will be able to figure out how this can work. This women is literally walking around telling everyone about the business and how she is “breaking it.” The company is losing money on her, but she is marketing the company so well that she will likely refer a handful of new customers that will probably all be profitable. The company turned a power user into a free salesperson: she is not breaking the business model, she IS the business model!

Netflix CEO’s Plan for World Domination
Big, exciting innovative company with huge growth potential creating a strategy to change the world! These are the types of strategic problems you are trained to solve in business school. These are the types of problems companies pay MBAs to solve.

Why Bottled Water Is Insane
Marketing is so important…I never appreciated the importance of marketing prior to business school. There are knock off Coke products like “RC Cola” that are 95% of the way to tasting like Coke and are probably half the price. No one buys them. Coke is so great at marketing that no one wants to drink RC Cola.

I played soccer growing up, I always bought Nike. Did I actually take the time to try every brand side by side to determine the best product? Of course not. Can I conclusive say Nike is (or was) the best product? No – I have no idea. There was something about Nike’s marketing that appealed to me and turned me into a loyal Nike customer.

I underappreciated marketing before business school. Business school opened my eyes to the importance of marketing and its power to influence many designs in my life. Prior to business school everyone underappreciates some aspect of the business spectrum. After learning how they all work and function together, you realize why every piece of the business puzzle is critical to the success of organizations.

This particular article is about bottled water and how big companies convinced consumers that we need to buy bottled water…something that we can easily attain for free! Pretty much all of us now buy bottled water, this is EXCELLENT marketing.

The Story of How IN-N-Out Made it Big
I love this story. IN-N-Out built their company in a very unconventional way. They basically ignored every best practice. There is a time to follow best practice and a time to ignore them and create your own best practice.

Business school teaches you best practices across many different disciplines. But business school also exposes you to stories of companies that succeed because they ignore best practices.

If you are excellent at navigating this juxtaposition you will likely be a billionaire (Jeff Bezos is a great example).

How to Stay Focused When You Get Bored Working Toward Your Goals
What separates great performers from good performers? When you are competing in a top tier of talent how do you differentiate yourself from equally talented peers? There is an awesome line in this article. It talks about everything that makes Olympic athletes great. You hear the same old, talent, genes, luck…blah blah blah. But then it talks about how these athletes are excellent at “handling the boredom.” They are willing to do the same lifts, the same movements, over and over again to be great.

This extends to top performing professionals, they feel the same boredom we all do. They just have an ability to handle it. In business school, you are surrounded by talented peers. You read countless stories about how individuals achieved incredible career success. What sticks out about top performers is their tenacity. Work is not always exciting, success comes with grinding. Top performers are tenacious enough to consistently fight through boredom to produce tremendous results.

How Design Thinking Transformed Airbnb from a Failing Startup to a Billion Dollar Business
Airbnb, now a start-up darling story, was on the verge of failure. The company was making a couple hundred dollars a month. They needed a structured approach to creative problem solving. Spoiler alert – they figured it out.

Business school teaches students to put structure around ambiguity. You learn thinking processes designed to structure and solve any problem.

Why Your Network is your Networth
Everyone talks about the value of a business school “network.” It always comes up as a top benefit of business school. Before I went to school it always felt so “squishy.” I hated things that were impossible to quantify. Running 10Thoughts I appreciate the value of a strong network. The ability to have a warm lead into basically any company is invaluable in the B2B sales process.

Turning Your Complex Career Path into a story
Everyone has a collection of experiences, talents and goals. In business school you learn to package it all into a cohesive story. You learn to strongly communicate your value proposition and how all your previous experiences perfectly position you for where you want to go next. In my first year I experienced drastic improvement in my own story. Then in my second year, I witnessed first years I coached drastically improve their stories.

Is Business School a Good Place to Start a Company?
This is cheating a little because I wrote this article. But this blog talks about starting a company in business school and fleshes out why business school is a great place to be an entrepreneur!

If this collection of articles appeals to you, I highly encourage you to check out 10Thoughts and read content recommended by top MBA students across the country. And, if you’d like to become a “top MBA” yourself, then I encourage you to start the process with a free evaluation of your candidacy from The MBA Exchange.