Ernesto Magnani is passionate about the potential of solar power to transform the energy sector. Working from his hometown of Parma, Italy, he runs Stern Energy, a thriving business which develops, constructs, manages and invests in solar parks across the country.
But to compete in such a cutting-edge and competitive sector, Magnani says he needs to ensure his own skills remain relevant and dynamic.
“I’m proud of what I’ve achieved as an entrepreneur, but in business it’s important to believe that the sky’s the limit,” says Magnani. “So I think education should never end – I’m always trying to add new areas of expertise that I couldn’t get on the job.”
In 2012, for example, Magnani decided that as his company expanded, he needed to improve his knowledge of finance.
Not having the time in his busy work schedule for a Master’s degree, Magnani looked for shorter courses in finance that he could comfortably fit around his business and family commitments.
And after researching courses locally and globally, he enrolled on an Executive Education programme – Financing the Entrepreneurial Business – at London Business School (LBS).
Since that point, Magnani has travelled from Parma to London annually. He has completed two week-long LBS finance programmes (Valuation and Mergers and Acquisitions), and supplemented his finance knowledge with leadership and strategy skills by taking the Essentials of Leadership and Developing Strategy for Value Creation programmes.
Why does Magnani keep coming back to LBS?
“Because LBS offers so many finance courses for business leaders like me, I’ve been able to build up the type of skills I’d get from a Master’s degree, while studying at my own pace and tailoring my learning to meet my needs as an entrepreneur,” he says.
Magnani also chose LBS because of the school’s international reputation.
“I’ve done courses in Italy and the US, but my classmates at LBS are much more international in comparison. I’m studying at the heart of the world’s leading financial centre and working closely with people from Japan, the Middle East, South Africa – all over the world,” says Magnani.
Another “big differentiator” for LBS Executive Education programmes is the “amazing calibre” of the participants, many of whom are C-level leaders, he adds.
“We did a lot of group work, and the brainstorming sessions opened my mind and got me thinking about new ways to approach challenges in my business. I was receiving high quality ideas from senior people who I wouldn’t otherwise have access to,” says Magnani.
LBS Executive Education classes are made up of participants from around the globe, representing a wide variety of sectors. This allows peer-to-peer learning from an exceptional group of diverse professionals and encourages a new way of thinking.
“Entrepreneurs shouldn’t only spend their time with people from their own sector. At LBS I had to explain my business in clear language to people who weren’t familiar with it, which is a good exercise in pitching and presenting,” says Magnani.
Magnani says the Executive Education programmes all gave him new skills that are now benefiting him on the job.
“I took the financing the entrepreneurial business course when my company was just starting to grow and I wanted to get in-depth insights into the best ways to finance it. For example, I now understand the logic behind what venture capital funds do – the timing of their investments and their expectations,” says Magnani.
“I’m using the skills I learnt from the valuation course when I’m purchasing assets for my company, while the leadership course has improved the way I communicate, motivate people, and speak in public,” he adds. “And because they’re intensive programmes, I’ve been able to see the benefits at work straight away.”
All the Executive Education programmes Magnani has taken are led by world-class LBS professors some of whom are consultants to large organisations globally. They bring both their latest academic research and their consultancy expertise into the classroom, he says.
“They have experience of various industries, so they’re up to date with the latest trends in their area. They encourage interaction and they’re very approachable, so you can discuss issues with them one-on-one,” he says.
“Guest speakers – from senior bankers to the CEO of a VC fund – also came to my courses. This gave us additional perspectives on the topics we were studying and the chance to put questions to and debate ideas with very senior people, who we wouldn’t otherwise have access to,” adds Magnani.
After completing three Executive Education programmes, Magnani became part of the 16,000-strong LBS alumni network, which is spread across more than 150 countries.
“The networking opportunities at LBS are fantastic, both during the courses – with the faculty, guest speakers and participants – and when you’ve finished,” he says. “I got to know my classmates socially over lunch and dinner, and we still exchange emails. If I need to get a fresh perspective on an issue affecting my business I can always ask them or reach out to the wider LBS network.”
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