Some of our alumni are harder to catch up with than others, and Andrew Maloney (AM) is one of the prior! While you can have a read of the transcript from a recent interview IE’s Director for Europe and Central Joël McConnell (JM) had with Andrew in London, it’s worth noting that not only is Andrew an exemplary alumni in a general sense but he has been especially impactful with regards to helping build our alumni community in the UK, and he was also one of our first members of the IE Alumni Advisory Board – an international grouping of IE’s most senior alumni.  The IE Alumni Advisory Board works closely with the Global Alumni Relations Department in Madrid to, among other things, proactively manage the experience of our more than 65.000 alumni worldwide who today are based in some 165 countries.

Alumni looking to connect should feel free to reach out to Andrew via LinkedIn (see here).

JM: Andrew you have had quite the “Choose Your Own Adventure” so far. How did that hop-skip-and-jump from Australia to Spain (via the UK) go?  

AM: I’ve spent most of my life in Australia. Initially I was a rugby player – I graduated from high school and really focused on my rugby, but studied at the same time. One of my early roles was with a property development group that built resorts and hotels. I later moved into the family business which managed mining communities, where I established our development and construction division.

The opportunity to come to Spain was via the IE International MBA (IMBA). I’d spent 10 years building a business that the family had just sold, and the sale turned out to be just the catalyst I needed to travel abroad and do something different.

After my program at IE I didn’t really want to leave because it was such an amazing place with amazing people, but alas work awaited! I initially returned to work with the family investment firm, Tulla. Given my international experience, thought it would be good for the group and myself to build our presence outside of Australia, and London seemed like a good place for us to have an office and start to develop our international business. Since establishing London as the base for our non-Australian operations, I’ve spent a lot of time developing the business in the North America, Southern Europe, China, all without losing touch with our operations back in Australia. And, as of 2Q18 I’ll be back in Madrid for a few months working on my new venture Akora, which is new type of living space for a changing world, and I’m really looking forward to building this new business.

JM: Now that you have attained a C-level position, what are some of the toughest lessons you have learned? 

AM: I remember one time when I was a much less-experienced manager I received a bad 360 review from some of my peers and direct reports, which at the time I was pretty disappointed about. But in some respects the tough feedback was good because some of it was actually quite useful. We were a relatively young company in a period of significant growth, and our systems and policies needed to catch up. I also focused on ensuring that my objectives were clear and well communicated, and that it was the same for all members of my team. This improved organization, which in part was due to that tough feedback I got, resulted in greater alignment for the team and clarified the most important things we needed to do to get the job done.

Currently I’m the CEO of two separate businesses that are at different stages in the business growth cycle, and also a board member of several companies. One of my executive roles is a publicly listed company, THEMAC Resources – which is developing a copper mine in North America – and the other is an earlier-stage wellness focused co-living company. The diversity of having the two quite different roles keeps things interesting, however it requires me to be very efficient with time. The last thing I want to be doing is spending too much time in the office sacrificing relations with family and also my health! In addition to managing my time well, it is very important to make sure that the right people are working in the businesses, and that they have freedom to perform in their roles.

JM: How did the IMBA help you in your post-IE Business School professional life? 

AM: The program was a chance to broaden my horizons, get out of Australia (which is a long way from the rest of the world!), and meet a lot of interesting people from around the globe. On top of that, it was an opportunity to move outside of my existing skill sets, which were very much industry focused, and gain a deeper exposure to different industries and functions within the broader business environment.

I also think the IMBA has really helped me to better my analytical skills for a variety of situations, rather than simply jumping in and reacting. In a general sense, the MBA experience helps you to take a look and think, to do your research and prepare a plan. There was quite a lot of group work during the program which encouraged co-creating projects and making decisions by consensus, all skills which have proven very useful after the program – and I have tried to apply these techniques in my teams post-MBA. One of the things I really took from the program is that there were a lot of bright people who were highly motivated, who as individuals and in groups did amazing work. They really enjoyed the learning, the people, their work and life in Madrid. In the right environment, people excel and this is something I’m trying to create in my businesses. I look for people who are passionate about the business, and really want to make a difference through their work.

JM: It takes real guts to become an entrepreneur after completing a top MBA program, and more than just guts to make a go of a new venture. You’ve been particularly successful, what’s the secret? 

AM: Working with businesses that are already up and running – getting things in order, setting up a plan to optimize the use of resources, and then making sure we’re moving forward with that plan – is not easy, but it’s easier to do than starting from zero.  That is to say, having your product, your customer, your revenue streams, etc all in place does make it easier, and you can make a big leap forward once you’ve got things moving if you manage the going concern effectively. This isn’t always so with new ventures.

With my new venture, Akora, we’re starting completely from scratch. We’re building a new business, but also an new type of product to some extent. Tapping into trends surrounding travel, wellness, co-living and remote work, we’re creating an entirely new type of space for people to connect and live well. It’s one thing to go out there and create, say, student accommodation, or a hotel, or co-working – but what we’re trying to do is less straightforward. We want to be a bit visionary, and this involves thinking about the future, how technology is changing human interaction, and what potential customers there might be in these new markets.

Being an entrepreneur takes guts, and you have to believe in your project. I have friends today who are in senior roles, earning good wages, who say they’d love to do something entrepreneurial – but they have kids and houses and commitments. There’s a lot of risk involved, and for someone like that it’s a very hard decision to make to go out there and start a business. If you’re lucky you may start generating revenue quickly, but it could be 2 years of really hard work and burning cash with the possibility of walking away with nothing. It’s tough – building something from scratch is hard. We’ve got a way to go yet with Akora, but I believe we can make a success of it!

JM: You also have experience in family business, what did you learn from the dynamics of mixing work and family life? 

AM: The funny thing is, it came very naturally to me. I started to work in the family business in my early twenties, so sitting down at the dinner table and talking about business, it constantly being around you all the time, was something I grew up with in my working life.

The key thing with family business – like any business – is that everyone has the same vision, and is more or less pushing in the same direction for where they want to take the group. And I think that’s something you have to work really hard at – it’s not something that comes naturally or easily. One of the things I’ve learnt is that everyone is an individual and has their own ideas and passions. This is something you need to keep in mind and be open to, because if you think there’s only one way, you’re not going to get anywhere. It also important to remember that all family members have unique skills and can contribute in different ways. We need to harness each individuals abilities so that the family benefits as a whole.

JM: As graduates go on to be successful professionals after their programs at IE, the challenge for the institution is to continue to engage over time. You are a member of the Alumni Advisory Board at IE, can you tell me a bit more about your work and how you continue to engage with fellow graduates? 

AM: I’ve enjoyed the role – it’s helped me get a really good understanding of the alumni community and how vast it is. >There are over 65,000 alumni around the world – and communicating with them officially is not easy! The Alumni Advisory Board was a new initiative established by Global Alumni Relations, so we initially worked with the alumni team in Madrid on refining their plans and working on the key areas that they believed were the priorities. One key area was the major IE clubs around the world, those that represent more than 1000+ graduates, in markets such as the UK. We looked at the structure within that group, setting up the right team there, reporting, targets and KPIs. That was one of the key areas I focused on.

So, to wrap up, I would say I’ve learnt a lot! I’ve enjoyed the experience and I guess it really made me aware of where IE is heading, and the great alums out there around the world. The alumni network is a fantastic resource we can all tap into but it’s also one we – and that includes the institution – must invest in as well. IE has some great people out there it can leverage, and I’m sure there’s a lot of people worldwide who want to get involved, so I encourage alumni worldwide to check out the new alumni web page for ideas on how to engage at www.ie.edu/alumni/.

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