MBA fuels a passion for entrepreneurship

By AGSM  Wednesday, 1 July 2020  @Business School

Emma Ruefli is the Founder and Managing Director of Fileroom, an online platform that makes content creation easier for businesses of all sizes. She is also the Director of Marketfever, a boutique business strategy and content marketing agency.

Emma is an AGSM alumna and graduate of the 2010 MBA Executive program. She used the insight she gained in her MBA program to launch two Australian start-ups.

Tell us about your career path before your MBA at AGSM?

I worked in marketing, market research and financial management. My career started with a Bachelor of Business, majoring in Marketing, at Edith Cowan University in Perth in 1988. I then joined a start-up engineering and technology training company called IDC Technologies as a marketing and training coordinator, progressing to Global Marketing Director in six years.

In 1998 I moved to the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) as the Market Entry Manager for the Austrade Eurolink Centre, before holding roles in event management, strategic marketing and export development. After investing in and growing a civil and remedial construction business called Central Systems (Centrals) with my husband, I decided to refocus on marketing and finance when we had new business partners join us. This led me to studying an MBAE with AGSM.

Why did you choose the AGSM MBA and what did you hope to get out of it?

I selected the AGSM MBAE because it is the most prestigious Executive MBA program in Australia. The structure of the program also worked for me. I had a young family and needed it to fit my schedule. I also liked that it was a national program and had a broad network of colleagues with many years of professional experience to learn from. I wanted to broaden my knowledge across all organisational functions - this would later help our start-up businesses achieve better results.

How was your MBA experience – what made the most impact on you?

 It was so positive! I found all the AGSM faculty and staff professional and supportive. There was so much value in the way lecturers use real-life experience and examples. That perspective helped me learn the material and then apply it in my own business. The

Executive Agenda Year (EAY) was undoubtedly my favourite part of the MBA, and I enjoyed the intensive residentials immensely.

What was it like to study as an interstate student?

I completed my MBA in Perth, and did four residentials at UNSW AGSM Campus in Sydney for the final EAY. The units I studied in Perth were face to face, initially at the AGSM venue located inside Barrington's in Wembley, and then later out of training rooms in Perth's CBD. I also attended some interstate classes when travelling in Sydney and Melbourne.

 Another benefit of being an interstate student was that I was able to live and breathe the content while working in Perth at Central Systems, which was going through a major transformation during my EAY. Putting the work into practice was so valuable.

What advice would you give those considering studying an MBA?

I would definitely recommend AGSM for an MBA. The network I developed and learning from different people's diverse career experiences added so much value. It's a good idea to compare the other programs they're considering with AGSM in these areas:

  • Work experience entry requirements
  • Program framework and delivery format
  • Experience and profile of educators
  • Typical profile and demographic of student cohort
  • Career track of alumni and number of graduates
  • Ranking performance for MBA school.

Tell us about the businesses you started after completing your MBA.

After completing my MBA in 2010, I started Marketfever, a small boutique management and marketing consulting agency. We work in the private and public sectors with clients including Buggles and Nido Childcare, Pioneer Credit, Australian Red Cross Blood Service, Austrade, City of Bunbury, and Central Regional TAFE.

Because we help clients with strategy and project delivery, I realise people often don't know where to start when it comes to creating the communications and content that are central to these projects. Friends and colleagues were coming to me for help – so this led to the idea for my second start-up, Fileroom.

After the WA resources sector took a downturn a few years back, I focused more on developing Fileroom. It provides streamlined content creation services that makes it easy for our clients. Our simple, collaborative online platform incorporates strategic advice, brand asset management, feedback, approvals and more in one place. We officially launched the business in February 2020 in Perth and aim to scale across Australia over the next 12 to 18 months and then expand internationally.

Recent events with Coronavirus over the past few months, have seen us explore our business model further and expand into digital growth agency services. During the lockdown we became a HubSpot certified partner, an now we provide a 'done for you' service for our clients when it comes to strategic content marketing, content creation, marketing automation and digital sales enablement.  An exciting step for us.

How did your MBA influence the way you built your start-ups?

The technical skills I developed during my MBA definitely shaped these entrepreneurial businesses. I used the MBAE tools and frameworks to develop business models and strategies. It also helped me develop a better decision-making framework – especially when other people are involved. One of the most interesting things I learnt and can see in my own businesses is that, if you don't have the right people, you will limit your business' possibilities. Using the MBAE framework helped identify and fix any misalignments.

What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

I knew that was my calling in my first role out of uni at IDC Technologies. Working in a start-up to launch my career, getting things off the ground became my 'normal'.

I believe creativity and perseverance have enabled my success so far. I can think outside the box and start things from scratch, while remaining agile and fluid along the way. These are important skills when it comes to entrepreneurial start-ups. Growing up, my grandad used to always tell me to, "Aim for the stars, as you can always afford to come down." I guess that's our philosophy – we only live to regret the things we don't do.

What were your biggest challenges prior to attending AGSM?

Being kept in the 'marketing' box and not being taken seriously despite my broader experience. With the MBAE qualification, there is a different level of respect when it comes to strategy, idea generation and execution.

Was there a shift in your outlook while completing the MBA? Has this impacted how you take a concept to market?

Not so much a shift, but a realisation of my strengths and weaknesses and how I needed to develop as a person. My listening skills have improved, and I'm more objective in how I make decisions. That impacts how you take a concept to market. When you execute your own vision, there is a big risk in being subjective. You need to learn to make decisions without any emotional bias – as hard as that can be!

How have you grown both professionally and personally since completing your MBAE?

I am more confident and resilient when working with different people. Through my consulting business, I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with all kinds of business leaders and owners to solve issues and execute strategic projects. This valuable experience has reinforced the importance of good leadership and team collaboration.

Steve Jobs said: "Great things in business are never done by one person; they're done by a team of people." Before I started my MBAE, I often felt I could do things better myself and held things too close. This has really changed since completing my studies and I love nothing more than leading and working with a team focused on the same end goal.

What are your aspirations, and how will your MBA help you to achieve these?

It has been a long-term career goal of mine to become a Founder/Managing Director of an organisation that uses technology as an enabler. Particularly one with a bright, vibrant, creative and professional, customer-centric culture. Where people are genuinely valued for their skills, performance and contribution.

The MBA gave me a solid foundation to do this, especially in the EAY residentials. Applying these frameworks and tools to my career has broadened my ability to understand the inner workings of an entire business or organisation – and the importance of alignment and focus to successfully execute a strategy.

To learn more about the AGSM MBA (Executive) program, click here.

 


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