Q. Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
A. MBA House is a consulting firm that prepares candidates to graduate degree programs that have a series of pre-requisites such as: competitive GMAT and GRE test scores; English Proficiency tests such as TOEFL and IELTS for non-native speakers and, most importantly, identify the best universities and programs for application, always in a personalized manner, taking into consideration the personal analysis of the candidate and an integrated approach to preparation that enables candidates to achieve a better performance on tests and application items such as essays, recommendation letters and interviews. Such integrated approach also allows the candidate to obtain a better picture of his future goals as this will not only determine school choice but also influence their career and personal lives. Our in-house team is constantly evaluated and we are able to deliver classes and consulting both on premises and online. Making sure the graduate program is financially viable option for our candidates is also a key point for MBA House, and we make sure of that by pricing our services at very competitive rates and helping our candidates secure significant scholarships that minimize the financial burden involved.
Q. Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
A. Vivianne Wright comes from a Scottish family where her grandfather became President to several multinational companies in South America, and founded the first MBA Admissions consulting firm of Brazil upon his retirement from corporate life. As his apprentice, Vivianne got in touch with MBA admissions processes at a very young age. Vivianne’s father was also involved with Business Schools, and after completing his Doctorate Degree at Vanderbilt University’s Owen School of Business, he taught Entrepreneurship at the most important Univeristy of South America (University of São Paulo) and became the Dean of FIA Business School. Thus, Vivianne has always been in midst of Executive Education, and this led her to pursue a Master’s Degree in Educational Management at the prestigious Harvard University.
In 2006 Vivianne founded MBA House, and together with her husband Marcelo they have enabled more than 5000 latin American candidates to be accepted at top Business Schools worldwide, distributing over 10 million Dollars worth in Scholarships. With teams and offices in 4 cities in Brazil, New York, Lisbon and now in Miami, Vivianne and Marcelo intend to grow
MBA House’s presence to 40 cities in the World, where candidates can be assisted on premises with a local team of experts who apply MBA House’s integrated solution at competitive service rates. “This year we will be opening four new schools including in African countries, as we have assessed a growing demand for MBA preparation in this region”, says Mrs. Wright. Vivianne is also certified in Career Coaching by New York University (NYU) and a prized show jumper. “Horses have changed the way I address my work life because show jumping is a sport that requires a synchrony between rapport and the unexpected, so it requires wit and emotional intelligence, just like working with candidates at MBA House. They need a coach that recognizes a subliminal communication that goes beyond written or spoken language. Affinity is needed in order to achieve the best results and show them off at the best possible light”.
Marcelo, MBA House’s co-founder is the specialist of the quantitative department at MBA House. He is also a trained Opera Singer who graduated from the prestigious Juilliard School in New York. Marcelo has taught students for over 20 years and produces materials that students can relate to. “In general, candidates fear the math part of the test because they wrongly believe that it requires some special talent to do well, but that is not true. The math part of these tests is exactly where there is no margin of doubt, therefore a technical training leads you to not only ace the quant part but also enter the verbal part with more energy. This is possible even if you do not come from a quantitative background, because our method is based on technical training, thus you will not rely on “tricks” but rather in recognizing basic math patterns. It is like singing to an audience at an enormous theater: you only have to apply the techniques that you have practiced in studio with your maestro. It may be a small space without an audience, but nothing changes if you seek your techniques on the day of your test!”
Q. What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
A. MBA House started in 2006, but at the time it was very expensive to open new schools and maintain the cutting-edge structure. Thus it required a considerable number of enrollments per month to be lucrative, since our rates have always been very competitive and our team well paid. The problem really was with the physical structure costs. That changed when we discovered that both our students and team preferred the more collaborative environment of co-working spaces such as Regus and WeWork. This has allowed us to open more schools, especially at locations where our potential clients have, on average, lower pay rates. We thus decided to move our schools in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Curitiba, New York and Lisbon to Regus and this change has been a huge success. Here in Miami we are at WeWork which allows a more convenient access to students. They can study in the common areas and constantly access the local team members who stay at our permanent office here. And of course, students count with full online support as well. With this new concept, we have more time slots for private tutoring and admissions consulting so we can have even more competitive rates for our students. Our next target market will be Africa, which is very deficient in terms of test prep and test centers. With this new business model, MBA House itends to have a record 10 thousand students enrolled per year, and distribute over10 million dollars worth in scholarships per intake. Miami will be the hub of this network of collaborative schools given its strategic global location, diversity and number of local business schools.
Q. What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
A. 1)The financial resources required to start, run and develop your projects should always be much less than you project for each step of the process.
2)You should always be available to talk with your clients, anytime, anywhere. Today there is no excuse to inaccessibility.
3)Your success will never be enough depending on the size of your passion and ambition, so be mindful that this may (and probably will) impact your social life and, more importantly, your family life.
Q. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
A. 1) Efficient Communication with expert and timely counsel.
2) Efficient cash flow control. So it is important to be a good manager aside from a good entrepreneur.
3) Control your nerves. Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster ride, and you have to remain cool under pressure to make the best decisions.
Q. How many hours do you work a day on average?
A. It depends on the ideas and the moment. If the economy is at a downward trend, I work less hours but focus on keeping my bases. If the economy is going well, I typically work 14 or 15 hours in a day. There is no rule because new goals remain chaotic until you familiarize yourself on how to operate them efficiently.
Q. To what do you most attribute your success?
A. To the desire I have of transforming the lives of people that go from relying exclusively on a restricted employment network to having a plethora of choices to pick once they graduate from a Top MBA Program. This not only transforms their lives individually, but of their entire family.
Q. How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Q. Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
A. I have always financed my company’s working capital. I do not see how investment capital would help me advance at a faster pace. What I need are competent and visionary suppliers especially in digital marketing. I also want to develop philanthropic partnerships that provide the necessary infra-structure to provide itinerant test centers that can be hauled throughout Africa. This does require philanthropic investment.
Q. What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
A. Looking back and seeing how many people have benefitted from my work. Even counting the Nay-Sayers.
Q. Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
A. With over 50 schools across the World and more than 10 thousand candidates serviced per year.
Q. Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
A. Harvard, Stanford, Insead, Google, Amazon, IKEA, Johns Hopkins
Q. How important have good employees been to your success?
A. Fundamental. The culture they instill is crucial for the company success. MBA House is extremely people-oriented. Processes are in place, but it’s the human interaction that allows for the success of students. Besides this, as an international company we have to adapt to the different regulations such as labor laws that help or hinder the evolution of employees in the company, so we always hire people that are in line with the culture of the company.
Q. How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
A. I have had a very rough patch with a series of losses between 2015 and 2018. This has made me much more flexible. Before this I would engage in more of a “hard-sell” to make people change their minds. Today I know when to end a partnership for the good of the company.
Q. What motivates you?
A. My daughter
Q. What are your ideals?
A. Be responsible for over10% of all accepted MBA candidates worldwide and thus be the largest distributor of scholarships globally.
Q. How do you generate new ideas?
A. The most important idea generators are failure, anxiety and communication. But you have to filter ideas very well, and keep in mind the timing involved. Ideas and reality certainly are not the same thing, and in order to put ideas into practice one has to verify the time it will take to implement and which model should be adopted, as well as the partnerships the idea entails.
Q. How do you define success?
A. Clients are the winners. Even those that make bad reviews.
Q. How do you build a successful customer base?
A. Telling the truth and predicting the future, A consultancy service based on case studies and the adaptation of these cases to each client’s reality, with the additional challenge of making this a financially viable endeavor.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
A. Be able to change what needs to be changed with solid partnerships, control of each stage, anxiety, frustration, learning, reading, networking and client satisfaction.
Q. What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
A. Clearly see that we offer opportunities to people who never imagined they would be able to achieve their dreams. Our clients have done a lot in their professional and personal lives so it is truly an pleasure being there for them with coaching, technical training, counseling and motivation, allowing them to take a massive leap in their lives.
Q. What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
A. Fear. In general, employees only fear unemployment. The entrepreneur, on the other hand, experiments with fear all the time, in many fronts.
Q. What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
A. Help. Collaborate. Service. Be available. Show empathy. Notice that we are the vectors of the success of thousands of people and our profession is a noble one. Also, that we depend on our team to male it all happen.
When we first started hiring employees ten years ago, these were values we believed in but it wasn’t the company culture, so as a result we had a series of arrogant and individualistic collaborators that preyed upon the independence we offered. But with time we were able to weed out these employees – new types of people joined the team and these employees became agents of change as they understood their role towards our clientele. Who are at a tipping point in their lives, filled with fear and anxiety. Most of MBA House’s clients are underdogs: they are not the star employee with a perfect academic record. Even still, they are accepted to the best MBA programs in the World, with impressive scholarships.
Q. In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
Q. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
A. Nada. I use my past as a learning experience. Life happens randomly and we have little control over the future. It is not possible to think about the past only in terms of what went wrong, because that would completely change the outcome, so results would remain random and chaotic. I look forward and am thankful for my successes and mistakes that I did in the past.
Q. How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
A. A lot. We are a family business and Vivianne is the pondered, academic part of the company whereas Marcelo is the explosive communicator. We have worked together since 2005 and been married since 2007. We are partners in everything.
Q. What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
A. I do not have professional fears anymore. My biggest fear is that something might happen to my daughter.
Q. How did you decide on the location for your business?
A. We decided to move to Miami for a period of time because of the vast number of latinos we can service here and that we already have a lot of experience with. Also, Florida is one of the fastest growing places of the World and it concentrates many excellent MBA programs as well as employers.
Q. Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
A. I do – adaptation. One deals with several formulas at the same time and must get to know them to adapt them to the business model and transform them when the time is right.
Q. If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
A. My mother. But since she is not a part of our collective history, I would choose Steve Jobs to ask him how come he was so dissatisfied with people, considering that all he ever worked for was the people (as it should always be)
Q. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
A. My wife and partner
Q. What book has inspired you the most? (OR what is your favorite book?)
A. Charles Bukowski – Women 1978 for the utter lack of commitment and conversely for its utter passion for life itself.
Q. What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
A. Believing I was a multimillionaire when I became a millionaire. Now I know that in order to be a billionaire I must be careful with ostentation and finances.
Q. How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
A. An entrepreneur hardly predicts catastrophe even though they fear it all the time. Looking to the past is the best bet. To control them actually depends of keeping your cool, spending sleepless nights and being persistent at finding a way out.
Q. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
A. Marcelo – Futebol and Vivianne – horses
Q. What makes you happy?
A. Violetta, my daughter
Q. What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
A. All of them. And I will keep on making them. And I would make all of them all over again.
Q. If you were conducting this interview, what question would you ask?
A. Can we wrap up? I have to work.