Francisco Ochagavia arrived at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management from a family business in his home country of Chile. The 30-year-old, who graduated with his MBA in June, says that one of his more memorable courses focused on the growth challenges of mid-sized companies. It helped to prepare him for the CEO role at his family’s fruit-growing export company that he is looking to scale into a more global operation.
“Normally,” he says, “business school doesn’t cover these kinds of companies. Yet, our family business is a mid-sized company like the ones we studied in class. During the class we really got to understand the challenges you face when industry marketshare is shrinking and the competition is increasing.”
The course he took, Strategies for Growth, is one of seven new offerings at the Kellogg School that attempt to train students on how to successfully scale a business. Arguably the ultimate general management challenge, achieving growth has certainly been a part of every business school’s core and elective MBA curriculum. But Kellogg has carved out an unusual niche in the growth and scaling space from both a curricular and thought leadership perspective. The school has rolled out seven different courses on the topic since the spring of 2014. The school also is considering a capstone course or experience to what it calls a “pathway,” or set of cohesive courses that help students develop a specific set of skills.
Developing the initiative has turned the more typical way courses are developed at a business school on its head. For years, academics in narrow disciplines largely constructed theories of business education in the abstract, hoping that their outcomes would eventually line up with market needs. In crafting a curriculum around growth, Kellogg went to the market first, asked business leaders what challenges they faced, and came up with a series of courses to teach the required skills.