On the 20th anniversary of Des Bourne being celebrated as The Open University Business School’s 10,000th MBA graduate in July 2001, he outlines in his own words how his studies have helped him in the intervening two decades.
After graduating as the OU’s ‘10,000th MBA’ in 2001, the qualification broadened my horizons and changed the course of my career. An MBA transformed how employers viewed my potential and put me on an equal footing in a business world that was dominated by executives and managers who had formal academic qualifications.
Looking back, I always had a burning desire and ambition to succeed and prove people wrong. A manager at the time told me that I would never get to be the boss – that was one of the driving forces for my study journey with OUBS.
I was very much on a journey from supervision to junior operational management when I graduated. I had done very well to get this far but always felt I wanted a bigger stage and that there was a bigger purpose for me.
Moving into business development, I was more than willing to accept the challenges of winning work via strategic relationships and business management. My success in this area meant I went from Bid Manager to Business Development Director through to Managing Director within 10 years.
The learning, knowledge and discipline from my MBA supported this change in the direction of my career. It helped me test this drive and determination on bigger stages, shaping my success and achievements and influencing career milestones and leadership successes.
Many managers and executives get promoted in the construction industry because of a technical specialism or technical qualification, rather than an ability to lead people and organisations through change, for example. Managers and leaders had to comply with a fixed stereotypical profile. I did not fit this mould.
My background, focused drive and determination, practical hands-on experience, and formal MBA learning has continued to differentiate me from those around me.
What we see today are construction businesses desperate to harness the power of diversity and inclusion. Construction is an industry that needs to change and transform the way that it works. Many construction businesses benefit from the added value that different thinking offers and the value-added innovation created for their clients. The construction industry has evolved a lot in these last 20 years. I hope I have influenced some of these changes.
The continuing value of my MBA studies
The MBA’s focus on strategy and planning ignited a passion and enthusiasm for a long term, big picture way of thinking with me. My professional and modern management understanding gave me insight and knowledge into people, organisations and processes.
Part of my MBA studies was about creativity, innovation and change. I have thrived upon transformational change, challenging conventions and looking for ways to do things better and differently.
I also chose to study knowledge management as part of my MBA, which I often use to help with sensemaking and problem-solving. I get to the issue or the problem quickly. Many people only see the consequence; I also know the causality.
How this has led to starting my own business
I have been privileged to work with some fantastic businesses and worked with some great people in the construction sector. The only unrealised ambition left for me was to be bold and brave enough to fulfil my entrepreneurial desire to go it alone.
I created Ariaconsult Limited in October 2020, a small West Midlands-based business start-up offering strategic business development, competitive advantage and business management consultancy for construction leaders. I work as a helping hand for my clients to plan growth, create value and improve leadership skills, using focused, driven and different change agent ideas.
My business creates an outlet for me to continue my passion and enthusiasm for providing ideas, insight, tips, viewpoints and knowledge. My consultancy advice helps people deal effectively with business management and competitive advantage issues and problems.
The learning and knowledge from my OU MBA and the practical experiences gained over my exciting career all helped me reach this point in my business life – to offer simple, practical ideas to make your business plan better and your business life easier.