Originally posted by Jordan Fujiwara.
It’s September now, the last corporate residencies are winding down now as both the second year and first year MBA students here at Dalhousie get ready to tackle the fall semester. Nick Ksiezopolski finishes up his residency with Innovacorp tomorrow. Originally from Toronto, Nick received a Bachelor of Science and Business from Murray State University (Kentucky). What brought him to the East Coast of Canada to further his business pursuits?
“I think that most of my life I’ve always been taking the riskier choice,” he explains, “the ‘non-status quo’ choice. I bought in to this program because it was new and unproven. Also the paid corporate residency fit well and it appealed to aspects of my entrepreneurial background.” Nick is certainly taking advantage of the flexibility in the last eight months of the program and shaping them to suit his entrepreneurial appetite. He is doing a self-directed course with Innovacorp (supervised by Scott Comber, the program’s Director) and will be exploring the minimum viable product strategy. “The concept is that of a ‘lean’ start-up. Basically you validate the ‘pain’ in an industry before actually developing the product,” says Nick. “I’m taking the New Venture Creation class too, and plan to implement my findings. Ideally, at the end of this I’d like to be able to execute my business plan and launch my product.” So yeah, he’s pretty much planning to build a business while in school. And get school credit for it. No big deal. Nick’s future aspirations? Venture capital.
So, coming back to Nick’s residency: what did he do at Innovacorp? Nicks starts by going over what Innovacorp does: “We work with early stage, high growth potential start-up companies and help them commercialize their technology. There’s the Mentoring Team, which acts sort of like the client’s ‘advisory board’ and helps them navigate the ‘start-up valley of death’. There’s the Investment Team, which is kind of like Dragon’s Den where we hear a pitch, ask questions and push back, do an assessment after and decide whether or not to invest.” Nick was a Business Advisor for both the Mentoring Team and the Investment Team, but he also got to take part in other aspects of the business such as the Incubation facilities (physical buildings where the clients work and meet) and Internal Corporate Strategy.
His job often involved due diligence (e.g. confirming the facts presented in an investment pitch), but he has also tackled other tasks, including helping with the company’s business plan and facilitating a very successful brainstorming meeting. He used some techniques we learned in the first months of the Corporate Residency MBA: as part of our Personal & Professional Development (PPE) stream, we took part in an assessment called ‘One Smart World.’ You answer some questions and it breaks your management style into colour-coded groups and you learn about how they all interact. Under the umbrella of One Smart World lies something called Smarter Meetings, which uses the same colours and concepts to help design effective meetings. Nick tells us how he brought this classroom lesson into the real world with enormous success: “I helped hold a cross-functional meeting that was very inefficient and lacked a true sense of direction. We got nothing done, there was confusion over who was quarter-backing the deliverables and what was the plan moving forward , and I was very frustrated with it. Then I remembered the Smarter Meetings from class. So I got in touch with the founder, Bob Wiele. He was very receptive and helpful and within 48 hours I had built and organized a meeting agenda around the Smarter Meeting process. I facilitated the meeting and it was a resounding success. We got more done in those 80 minutes than I could have ever imagined.” Nick’s CEO wasn’t supposed to attend the meeting but as word began to spread around the office, he made time to drop in for 15 minutes to get a flavour of the Smarter Meetings process. It was such an engaging experience that the CEO stayed the entire time! “It was a huge success, and I still get compliments to this day on it.”
That is very impressive, Nick. No other way to describe it. I’ll give everyone a minute to absorb how awesome that is.
Done? Okay. Nick’s other adventures during these initial 14 months of the Corporate Residency MBA includes managing a Tennis Camp, co-owning the student consulting firm Atlantic Business Consultants and being on the MBA Society as the Athletic Director. “Intramurals start soon!” is the bulletin for the 80-some-odd students (hopefully) reading this.
In closing, Nick wants to stress the importance of keeping this MBA program special: “It’s crucial that we don’t let this program be just for getting those three letters after your name. The first class has done a great job so far embracing the flexibility of the program and showing what we can do with it. We’ve pushed the rock partway up a steep hill, but it is so easy for that rock to come crashing down. The next class needs to continue to push that rock further and higher up the hill.”
Great point, Nick. As usual, I totally agree. See everybody next Thursday, which marks the beginning of classes!