In our “What I Learned at…” series, MBAs discuss the tools and skills their business schools provided as they launched their careers.
Paul Watson is the co-founder and COO of Ledbury, a producer of high-quality menswear created in response to a simple problem: the difficulty of finding a great-fitting shirt. In Part 3 of this four-part series, Paul discusses the variety of electives offered at Said, which helped introduce him to areas of business with which he was previously unfamiliar.
The Said Business School at Oxford made available a wide range of elective courses that allowed me to explore a number of different industries and specialties that I found interesting. While at the time I had no idea that I would be starting an apparel company, I wanted to explore some of the more entrepreneurial courses, with an eye toward doing something start-up related later in life.
The offerings for electives were broad and varied, everything from “Advanced Finance” to “Political Risk.” It was a great way to get an introduction to unfamiliar areas of business. In the end, the class I attended on retailing became the genesis of Ledbury. This class was a great introduction to the industry of retailing and set the scene for the current structure of the market. Understanding the market structure was key in the founding of Ledbury and in determining the exact methods we used to create our particular business model. Because of this, we decided to focus on a direct-to-consumer model, which was made all the more possible by the growing importance of e-commerce in the retailing industry.
A second very valuable elective course during my studies was the “Entrepreneurial Finance” course, which was an opportunity to learn the basics of start-up financing and the different options available for such endeavors. While much of finance and accounting education is devoted to public markets and large corporate projects (e.g., mergers and acquisitions), this “Entrepreneurial Finance” class was key to early-stage financing decisions, such as equity pools for employees, warrants for investors, preferential shares, etc.
These electives and others provided me with valuable exposure to new industries, ideas and methods that have been helpful during the growth of Ledbury. In addition, the breadth of options in the curriculum was augmented by the diverse class that I was part of during my time at Oxford.