Growing up in Los Angeles, Jonathan F. Macias, WG’18, was surrounded by entrepreneurs. A first-generation American, his parents immigrated from Mexico and his father ran a small construction business. Jonathan majored in entrepreneurial studies in college with the goal of starting his own business. Several years later he launched Macias™, a real estate development, investment, and operations firm, in partnership with his father.
While getting an MBA was a lifelong interest, Jonathan still debated going back to school. After all, he didn’t need the degree to continue to grow his company or raise money for his private investment partnership. However, he knew that growing up in a “scrappy entrepreneurial environment” wasn’t the same as a formal business education. “I wanted to gain knowledge that would benefit my company and expand my social network with equally ambitious classmates,” he said.
Jonathan came to Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives in San Francisco because of its rigor. “It isn’t a watered-down MBA program. You come for class weekends and hunker down to focus only on school. There is nothing comparable to this program in LA. I only applied to Wharton.”
Of course, being away from his company every other weekend is a big challenge for any entrepreneur, but Jonathan says the benefits outweigh the sacrifice. We spoke with Jonathan about some of the key factors that keep him driving forward:
1. Real-Time Learning
After every class weekend, Jonathan applies what he learned to his work. The insights from his EMBA courses impact crucial decisions he makes while running a successful company. “For example, in Business Analytics I took back new tools that we are using for advanced modeling and project management. In Strategy, after a module on human capital management, I restructured the entire way we hire, compensate, and reward employees. In Advanced Corporate Finance, I learned about using financial structures to measure performance, which I implemented at my company. In Operations Strategy, we learned about tools to increase return on investment capital, which I am now using. I take something back to my business from every single class.”
2. A Trusted Brand
Jonathan recognizes the Wharton brand as a key value for entrepreneurs seeking to establish themselves within an industry such as real estate. “There is a different perception about your abilities when the Wharton brand is attached and that goes for people you work with, clients, and even banks. There is a ripple effect in how people view you,” he said.
3. Building a Network in LA
Joining the Wharton network has been a major benefit for Jonathan in some unexpected ways. He explains, “One of my classmates turned out to be my neighbor, but we had never met before coming to Wharton. He is now one of my best friends who I talk to about business issues from a different perspective or advice. I also met a Wharton EMBA alumnus at a Wharton event in LA who has become a close friend. I’ve discovered that there is a very tight-knit Wharton alumni community in Southern California.”
4. Learning from Classmates
“Being an entrepreneur can be lonely because you are always working and making all the decisions at your company. At Wharton, I’ve greatly expanded my network and am connecting with classmates from many different backgrounds and industries. They share their insights, which has helped broaden my perspective. It is changing how I look at the world, how I react to it, and how I engage in it,” said Jonathan.
5. A Different Mindset
“The biggest reward is that I am becoming a better analytical thinker in how I solve business problems, which drives performance. And by performance, I am talking about the bottom line. The value can easily be measured. This program is paying for itself,” said Jonathan.
As for managing the time away from his company and family, Jonathan stresses the importance of having support in place to make it work.
Setting Boundaries at Work
Jonathan quickly learned that it was important to immerse himself in school on class weekends and set up ground rules in order to focus. “I have a rule that my office can’t message, email or call unless it’s an emergency when I’m in class. Once you hear that ping, you start thinking about what is happening in the office and it is very distracting,” he says. “I have someone on my team who I trust to take care of what needs to be done when I am away.”
Making Time for Family
For students with families, it’s important to have their full support in this program. “They need to know this is a very demanding program and you will be away a lot,” Jonathan said. “You learn to be incredibly efficient with your time and set boundaries like making Sundays an exclusive day for the family.”
A Productive Commute
Jonathan points out that his commute from Los Angeles to San Francisco can be a great time to catch up on work or prepare for the upcoming class weekend. “Commuting from LA is like having a long bus ride. It’s a 45-minute flight, but I use that time to read or prepare for class.”
He adds, “I sometimes feel guilty when I’m not working because I spend so much time at school, but then I see the effects of what I bring back to my company and that eases the guilt. I am here to get as much as I can out of this program because I can already see what a difference it makes.”
— Meghan Laska
Posted: November 16, 2017