The Business Mastery Project on the Cass MBA
The BMP, less known as the Business Mastery Project, is the final puzzle piece of our Cass Full-time MBA and simultaneously the biggest one.
What is the Business Mastery Project?
The name itself is puzzling. If you are wondering ‘What on earth is a BMP?’ let me make things clear for you. It’s our version of a dissertation or thesis.
So why can’t it just be called that?
The thing about the BMP is that apart from being worth 50 of your 230 credits and therefore clearly a defining part of your MBA experience, there are so many variations to it and no two BMPs are ever the same.
The BMP can be broadly divided into three types: a desk-study project that is closest to an academic research paper, a company-sponsored BMP that is set as an internship, or a business plan that may be used as a basis to kick-start your start-up.
If that’s not wide enough in scope, I heard one of my MBA classmates, Ross Kelly, who was researching on LP Fundraising for early stage Venture Capital firms, say “I think mine is a bit of all three.”
Our course director, Dr Paolo Aversa, told us that the BMP should be a work of passion, since for many of us, it might be one of the last opportunities to really dig our teeth into a project outside of work.
I took those words to heart and truly believe that this was the most important thought in my decision-making process.
Starting on a project idea
Throughout my MBA, I have learnt to flexibly apply concepts to a variety of situations. While many want to silo situations, as MBA students we learn to keep an open-mind.
Thinking about digitalisation and evolving business models have been constant topics throughout our MBA and it seemed perfect to link these to my area of interest: creative writing, the subject of my other master’s degree.
After several iterations talking to classmates from both my MBA and MA, I had managed to distil my thoughts into a BMP title: “The impact of digitalisation on the publishing industry: How is digitalisation changing the publishing industry’s revenue model for authors?” It was putting a business spin on a creative product.
I chose Dr Alessandro Giudici as my supervisor; he had co-authored a paper on digitalisation in the publishing industry. He helped me in the early stages with suggestions of academic research to start my literature review (I’d have fallen into all sorts of rabbit holes otherwise, like reading an 18-page research paper just on the definition of e-books).
Although I got to this point rather quickly, it took me months to tackle initiating it. Only once I had done some preliminary research, did I start to get a sense of where I was going with it.
It took a few back and forth discussions between myself and Alessandro to finalise the project. In the end, my BMP developed into a qualitative study with semi-structured interviews of recently published authors and a case study on the London-based alternative publisher Unbound.
Unlikeliest outcomes during my research
I had come across Unbound through one of my favourite books, “The Good Immigrant”, and was intrigued by their model. I was lucky that the London Writer’s Club–a newsletter I’m signed up to–was organising an event with one of their editors which allowed me to hear their thoughts.
After having secured the publisher’s side of the story, I wanted to interview authors who published with Unbound as well.
Following a few cold emails, the ones who replied were the unlikeliest candidates: Andrew Grumbridge and Vincent Raison, the two men behind the Deserter blog and podcast, “an aspirational lifestyle website for those with a predilection for doing f*** all.” (Their words, not mine!).
I had supported their crowdfunding campaign on Unbound and their book was now in the typesetting stage. Not only did they reply to me in detail and provided me with all that I needed for my case study but they ended up inviting me to join them for drinks at Brick Brewery in Peckham Rye to the opening of a free photo exhibition on the Dulwich Hamlet’s 2017/18 season.
So, despite neither liking beer nor football much (yes, I’m a complete failure as a German), I found myself exploring a brewpub in Peckham Rye to have a beer with some authors I cold emailed for my BMP.
And it’s become one of the best most memorable nights of this summer.
That’s possibly the most unexpected outcome of my BMP.
I used my network from my MA to find a few other authors willing to volunteer some time for this project. I was surprised at how forthcoming everyone was. They weren’t just being nice to me; my research resonated with them. It wasn’t a theoretical concept but a real-life issue that was at the heart of the writing profession.
In early August, I handed in my first draft and thought I was pretty much done. I was wrong.
Submitting my BMP
After a week of peace (burning up in the heat that was the 2018 European heatwave), I received the feedback. Alessandro’s comments were practical and to the point, guiding me in the right direction but leaving the interpretation and execution to me. After the second iteration, I knew my work was done. And thanks to a late-night open printing shop near my house, I got it printed and bounded, ready for submission on Aug 27th.
…and now we wait!
It’s been over a month now since I submitted my BMP and I don’t know the final outcome yet. But whatever it is, I rest secure in the knowledge that I’ve done something meaningful that will stay with me forever as a tangible outcome of my MBA.
Whenever anyone asks me about writing and the publishing industry, you will see a fire light up in my eyes. This is the fire that people want to see, the fire that makes you interesting to others.
My advice when choosing a BMP topic is to not get too caught up with having it directly relate to your job or expecting it to open doors for you. If it does, great! But if not, don’t worry, just make sure it’s something meaningful to you. The rest will follow.
Akane Vallery Uchida
Full-time MBA (2018)