Currently: EMBA participant and real estate professional
Your MBA was company sponsored. Why is an MBA relevant for the real estate sector?
In my experience it is invaluable if can understand the business of your client. The EMBA gives good insights into the impact of real estate decisions on the balance sheet and p&l-statements of clients, but also on aspects like corporate identity and human resource management. When you have that knowledge, you have that extra credibility with clients.
The MBA has also helped with my own managerial skills. I used to work for a commercial real estate developer - first as a developer, later as director of office developments. They encouraged me to join the MBA programme. I am now becoming a partner at Fakton, a real estate consultancy firm, and they are happy to take over the sponsorship, because they know value of an MBA. It is knowledge that really helps in the field in which Fakton operates - strategic real estate consultancy.
Why not an MBA with a real-estate specialisation?
What I really wanted was managerial skills and a broader overview of business. There was no added value in getting more specialised knowledge. I have that knowledge, so I was looking for managerial and business knowledge at an MBA level.
In light of the current economic climate, is an MBA more or less valuable today for those in the real estate sector?
I think more so. The real estate market in the Netherlands is rapidly professionalising. Developers, investors and real estate companies are demanding more in terms of professional services. The skills an MBA offers clearly help you deliver a more professional level of service.
Another thing – and this is something that was happening even before the crisis – the sector has reached the maturity stage and the rapid growth of the past years is quickly decreasing. I think there will be a shake out in the real estate sector over the next five or ten years. It will be quality that counts. Quality of real estate companies and the quality of the people in those companies – which is where the value of an MBA comes in.
Why did you choose an international EMBA, when you work in a Dutch business environment?
I didn't specifically choose the EMBA for the international factor, I just knew that Erasmus University set a high standard in the MBA world. And as turns out, I have found it one of the most enlightening aspects of the programme. The cultural differences between the students give you an entirely different perspective on business. From a behavioural point of view, you realise the impact culture can have on communication. For instance, the Dutch are really direct. But this level of directness is perceived as impolite outside of the Netherlands. If you want to do business with other cultures, you need to be aware of this. It's interesting because, while you're exposed to so many different cultures, what you learn the most about is yourself: it's like a mirror is being held up to your own behaviour and cultural traits. Our company is not international, but our clients are increasingly international, so this will become extremely important.
What aspect of the programme has made the greatest impression on you so far?
I think it has been the team work – you work in a team with people from different companies, and you must work effectively in this team and under considerable time pressure. This requires specific skills and techniques in order to be successful, skills that you can learn, which has been really insightful. Also the content of the programme is extremely good. It is inspiring in many ways.
In what way has it been inspiring for you?
For me, particularly the focus on sustainable development. It is really good that this perspective is integrated into the programme because it's an extremely important topic – for all sectors, not just real estate. It's been inspiring in the sense that it makes you aware of your responsibility as professionals working in this sector. We are the people who can do something about this, and if we don't do something, who will?
Does the sustainability component have added value for you in terms of addressing your clients needs?
Very much so. All our clients nowadays ask for sustainable development and require it in all their processes. To have knowledge of this gives a certain competitive advantage.
Do you feel the MBA will meet your expectations in terms of return on investment?
Yes, and in many ways it already has. The benefits are manifold, but one of them is confidence. You feel more confident when you're in a meeting with a CEO of a company, for instance. I now have a solid overview of business. So you learn to speak his language, in a sense. And that's really invaluable.