Taking my Executive MBA learning home to grow our family business

4 minute read
Dr Piotr Szulc and Dmitry Strikelev

In this blog, I reflect on how my studies at Oxford are helping to steer my family business in new directions.

You might imagine that an Executive MBA at Oxford would be far removed from the day-to-day challenges of running a family business in Poland. But the skills and experience I’ve acquired are proving hugely important in navigating our future. Let me tell you a little about my story.

I grew up in a family with an entrepreneurial tradition, and I continued this by co-founding my own family business. I also work for a family-owned company that’s been operating in the property development market for more than 30 years. The firm’s ethos is rooted in family, which is a key part of its success. I believe that, as a rule, family businesses can be very innovative, and this can often inspire and motivate employees.

Many great family businesses enjoy considerable business success today. But to make this happen, the family must agree on what’s important, common goals and approaches and, most importantly, work together for continuity.

So, how can an Executive MBA help family businesses?

An Executive MBA can help identify areas of knowledge and competencies that are crucial for the success of a family business. With this knowledge, family firms can then focus on training and development activities to ensure that employees have the right skills. This includes mentoring and coaching, encouragement to undertake additional postgraduate studies (particularly in project management), and MBAs/Executive MBAs. 

Dr Piotr Szulc

I am fortunate to be studying for an Executive MBA at Saïd Business School, which has a strong focus on management learning but, above all, it’s intellectually stimulating. From the very first day, we embarked on an incredible journey of self-discovery, each day learning how the School helps us grow and evolve. For example, we’ve looked at case studies from other family businesses. You can learn so much from how other families have overcome challenges and learned from their mistakes.

Making the most of what Oxford offers

I’ve taken this learning back home for the benefit of my family and our business. It’s given our family the chance to look at their own skills and see what they can do better. And it's also a great way to inspire other family members to get involved. They begin to share their new skills, and a vision for our company strategy moving forward can start to take shape.

For me personally, it’s been really helpful to go beyond traditional learning activities and take part in all the wonderful events that Oxford offers. This includes the many clubs at Saïd Business School – such as the Family Business and Office Circle. Members of these clubs have been very generous in sharing their experience and knowledge with me.

I’ve taken this learning back home for the benefit of my family and our business.

Sustaining growth in our family business

My experience in academia has taught me to think long-term and pay attention to areas that businesses commonly overlook – environmental, urban and sociological. Saïd Business School’s emphasis on developing leaders who can make a real impact on society, not just business, is inspirational in this sense.

I’ve taken this learning back to Poland to start to build a narrative in which our family business is a lever for social change. Our firm’s emphasis on education and formal training is one part of this. But, also, by investing in real estate, we are building the future for future generations.

In a family business, we take responsibility for the economy but also for our employees and the environment – which we shape through our work. Being able to adapt to change helps us achieve these goals. It's been great to discuss new research and findings in this area with academics from the University of Oxford, including experts in family businesses.

The central issue for any family business is continuity and the way to achieve this is through succession. However, succession cannot be achieved successfully without proper planning. Saïd Business School is a place where you’re encouraged to think carefully about this process. The whole educational experience in Oxford is helping to sustain growth in our family business and continue our family traditions.

 

Main photo: Piotr with his friend and fellow cohort member Dmitry Strikelev, who also lives in Poland.

The whole educational experience in Oxford is helping to sustain growth in our family business and continue our family traditions.