Setting up an interview with Sergiu Neguț isn’t easy. In between growing businesses, investing in start-ups, being a lecturer, a board member and an adviser for others and his passions of hiking and travelling, there’s not a lot of time left.
So what better time to talk than a lunch break while he teaches the 11th cohort of the Executive MBA at BISM about growing strategies? Sergiu talked about why he chooses to teach, what is the value of an MBA in business and why BISM has started undergraduate programs.
You are involved in multiple businesses now, including FintechOS. What makes you spend weekends teaching instead of relaxing?
(laughs) A sort of craziness that doesn’t let me relax by doing nothing, but lets me relax by being active and doing things that are cool for me and others. But of course, this is a very generic answer. There is something very special about teaching. Teaching is probably the most efficient form of learning. So, by structuring information, by structuring examples of different business concepts, of different business strategies, of different approaches to growth, I also learn.
You end up understanding them well enough and the dialogue with the participants, with the students in the courses is something that enriches that knowledge for the lecturer at a level where it can be even better applied in my businesses. At the same time, I think this is an endeavour that leads ultimately to creating more value in the society.
I think that none of us can be rich in isolation, or if they are rich in isolation, surrounded by people that are poor that becomes something that is wrong from an ethical point of view.
So, it is our duty and it is my pleasure to share as much as possible of the business knowledge that I have accumulated from the businesses I’ve been part of and I am part of. I share that with a larger audience, with the aim of creating a ripple effect where the ability to create successful businesses is disseminated to more individuals. They, in turn, preach it further and that take it forward, such that the entire society evolves in being more successful from both economic and social point of view.
Adrian Stanciu, Radu Atanasiu and Sergiu Neguț from left to right, BISM’s Deans on holiday
Information is all around us now and know-how is now in the form of video. Books have summaries easily accessible online. Why go through formal education?
I think the benefit of education if you’re in business is you’re not learning something precise. You’re learning something that is changing, that is more about how you apply concepts rather than the concepts themselves.
I think there is a great value in dialogue, in getting a cohort of people that have the same goals as you, maybe with different experiences, in different companies, in different industries, in different functions. They then go together through a structured learning process that includes reading, watching videos but is a lot about debating and identifying examples, solutions, businesses that have been done successfully or could have been done successfully in Romania, in Central Eastern Europe.
If you take that approach, a structured learning, with a right curated curricula, delivered by well immersed in business lecturers, it is probably the fastest way and the most efficient way to realise your business creation potential in a way that is not specialised to your current business, but prepares you for life.
This is especially relevant for the undergrad students because they don’t have any businesses, but they can prepare for life. It is also valuable for managers that have accumulated a lot of practical knowledge, but need this formal wrap up to bring their business knowledge to the next level for their career and for the business value that they can bring in the society.
Plus, the projects that each course (from the Executive MBA) includes makes them work together and develop both soft skills and closer relations between each other. And it was not seldom that those projects also developed into real life partnerships and even start-ups.
Sergiu with RO8 at their graduation in Maastricht
In Romania, we tend to look up to the international world for performance benchmarks. What do you think are the pluses and minuses of a local MBA compared to an international one?
I think an MBA is a journey of learning from lecturers, colleagues and business concepts. The business concepts are more or less the same, they are part of the standard MBA curriculum, with a bit more focus in some programs on local vs international. But the experience of the colleagues and the experience of the lecturers are what makes a difference between a good MBA and a not so good MBA.
I believe it’s important for everyone who considers an MBA to get relevant references about what is the true business knowledge experience and ability to extract value of the lecturers, how relevant is that for their next business career. Also, students should consider where they are going to work and to which extent the typical experience pool and knowledge pool of future colleagues will be supportive of the same envisaged career path.
During a class in 2019
This means that if my most likely career is going to be in Romania, I may benefit more from a local program and if my most likely career journey is going to be in a different area, perhaps go for a program that has a strong alumni network in that area.
I believe that the Romanian business ecosystem is growing at an amazing pace and official statistics show that the growth of the Romanian economy is one of the highest in Europe. This means that we should be able as professionals to extract a lot of that value creation and to bring up more value creation in this dynamic environment. Professional opportunities emerge from that value creation and make Romania extremely attractive.
What is the best way to prepare as a professional for this environment that is on one hand highly sophisticated and on the other hand still lacking so many things that need to be developed? I think the best answer is mixing international validated knowledge with local pragmatic business understanding into one concept.
That is flexible enough such that you can still leave the country and develop a career in any geography you want, if that is your choice, but be fully prepared to take advantage of the local opportunities and ride the wave of business growth in a familiar environment with friends and families together.
BISM embraces the local experiences with the international ones, by bringing together Romanian lecturers, but also international lecturers, such as Joy Chan, Istvan Kocsolade, Khaled M.A. Wahba, Aaron Johnson, Steven van Groningen and many more. They all have in common the passion for teaching and finding innovative ways to do that, so the students stay actively involved in class and actively interested in the business field. By having lecturers with experience in different markets from different continents, from all over the US to Europe and Asia makes the BISM student life experience special.
Thus, BISM enters a new school area, the one of high school graduates. Why did it make the choice of launching these programs?
I think that business is a craft, not a science and there is a great economic value in putting together the necessary academic knowledge for a bachelor’s degree by using a well-known methodology from countries where the economic education is rated better than in Romania. Because of this, we believe in the value of offering a British license.
At the same time, we are connecting this with the experience from the locally built businesses by Romanians for the Romanian market. There is a difference between learning business to be able to write an essay for a subject and learning to create a successful business that is ours or the employers’ that hire us, they are two complementary paradigms. I think that bringing our experience from the postgraduate and graduate programs (destined to those who have already graduated university) is useful and relevant in offering more practicability to the economic studies for our graduates, now at a bachelor level.
Our purpose is to create changing agents that build successful local businesses, where there are many working people who are happy with their roles, who care for the environment and for the society. We are glad to be able to start our mission even earlier, by helping the youngsters have a jump start in their careers.
If you want to find out more about our programs and meet our faculty and school representatives, check out our future events.