Visiting Harvard Business School in Boston for one day

Through my wife’s friend I had the honor to visit the Harvard Business School (HBS) in Boston for one day. The 44th President Elect of the USA studied there and so did a lot of other famous and and international businessmen. It was a rainy day and the school seemed to be shining as ever, forever.

The atmosphere at HBS is more like at a high-standard social club then it is at a school. Everybody is dressed up and every body seems to speak at least 3 languages. Everybody seems to be very fast.


Thanks to my dear friend Nick I was also able to participate in a class! Now that was a lot of fun, thanks also to Professor Joseph B. Lassiter who gave a lecture on Zoots, a dry-cleaning-company. Nick had printed out the Case-Study the night before and I actually studied the case before I went to bed and also in the morning before the class started. I did not read everything to great detail and I also did not crunch the numbers with and Excel-Sheet but I crunched the “emotional/soft stuff” from the case study.

The class started at this point.

Professor Lassiter was dealing with the class in a very positive way. He never interrupted the students, he _never_ gave negative vibes. He did not lecture the students. He actually opened the class with an applause for the visiting guests and told the students “Today we have guests, today we must perform for them”. I was amazed! This is America to me. Always upbeat, always positive.

As the class went on, Professor Lassiter was interacting with the students and was trying to pitch the students against eachother, at times deviding the class in two halfs one representing the Ventrue Capitalist (VC) / Private Equity (PE) company and the other representing the management of the board.

I remember Pooja arguing against the VC / PE not wanting to give them control of the Management of the Board. Wanting to keep her independence but still wanting the money – of course.

The class was about Entrepreneurial Finance and Professor Lassiter was doing an amazing job, showing off the ways of finance at one point asking “Is this a business for VC or for PE”.

But here comes my personal “but”. As an entrepreneur myself, what I was missing was the aspect of differentiation and quality.

It seemed to me that it was all just about money. How to leverage, how to make money (fast). At the end of the class I challanged Professor Lassiter and asked him why he would not make a point about the Zoots dry-cleaning business, by makeing more money through better quality (charging higher prices) and better product differentiation, ie using “greener chemicals” to clean the clothes and therefore charge higher prices for dry cleaning but also letting the customer know that the usage of “greener chemicals” would cause less allergic reaction for highly stressed managers that wear a new dry cleaned shirt every day. Professor Lassiter admitted to my point, in fact also pointing it out to another student, who also waited in line to talk to the professor.

The class was about entrepreneurial finance so I guess that is why Professor Lassiter did not enter more into the field of quality and differentiation.

Unfortunatly I can not share a copy of the case study with you online because the case study has following footer:

Copyright © 2007, 2008 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-
7685, write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to No part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business School.

Very Harvard-Style.


After the class we had lunch and that was fun as well. Again meeting more HBS students was just entertaining and fun. Actually socialising and meeting all of these interesting people was something I enjoyed most at HBS. Also just watching the people interact and hearing their jokes.

After Lunch we visited Harvard Undergrad, where Nick took his 10 minutes Japanese Exam. He finished it in 6 minutes, very Nick-style, very Harvard-Style. Nick hated the Traffic in Boston because it was not fast enough.

Early Evening Discussion

In the early evening Nick had to participate in some small dicussion with other students. That was his study group. I asked Nick if I can join there as well. Of course that was possible so we headed off to the small discussion room. The first person we met outside of the room was orginally from Lebanon. Nick was teasing him about always being afraid of being prepared right for the class. He was teasing back. The second person we met was a Sikh from India. Once in the Room, Nick starting teasing him, a bit more agressivly, about his Turban. The Sikh was teasing back as well telling Nick to shut up. The third preson in the room was not teased and was probably the smartest person in the room, IQ wise. He was originally from Guatemala.

So instead of letting Nick continue with his teasing I broke off their discussion and started a dicussion about the war in Iraq. Again this was higly interesting not necessarily because of their arguments (of course they where all against the war, except maybe Nick who used to work for the US Navy in a submarine) but of the way how they made their arguments. Their thinking and their arguments where quick, fast-paced and sharp. The arguments where not necessarily very innovative. The discussion was still very stimulating because the poeple where so fast and sharp and open.

At one point the dicussion turned to the future job offers of all of these bright people in the room. All of them seemed to be wanting to go into finance. I was a bit dissapointed by that so I asked them why they, with all their brightness, would not want to go and work for example for the US treasury. My argument was, that the financial industry needs new rules and laws, needs innovation and that probably the treasury would have some great opportunities for them. Once the new laws for the next financial world would be written, they could venture off to the private industry and make their “loads” of money. Obviously they where not interested in that. They wanted to make money right away. But they admitted that the Treasury probably would offer the most interesting job. So I criticized them for just wanting to make money but not wanting to do any serious business. I asked them “why are you so concerned about money and not about doing business”?

But I can answer part of that question as well. If you want to study at Harvard Business School for 2 years for your MBA, you will need about USD 120’000. Tuition is about USD 45’000 per year. The rest will be living and socializing. I guess most of the students have a loan.

Gossip and Sex Life at Harvard Business School

That interested me as well. So I asked my discussion partners in the room “What about sex life at Harvard, what about Gossip”. There where – unfortunately – no girls in the room. The men where agreeing in some part, that some girls and guys where actually looking for their future partner at HBS. To get married. Gossiping was obviously at its best, and the Gossip would also keep them from having Quick-Sex because that could give them a hard time during the daytime. Besides that most guys in the room where married, or had a girlfriend.

Closing Comments

Both presidents of the United States, the current and the president elect, studied at Harvard. Bush, I believe studied at HBS, Obama at the Harvard Law School. Bush is more of an emotional leader, Obama is more of an intellectual “leader”. I put that “leader” in “” because Obama first has to show his leadership qualities in office. His campain was higly effective.

You do not have to study at Harvard Business School to become successful in life. But if you choose to study at Harvard, you will have a great social life and you will have a great Network of fellows that studied with you for two years, for the rest of your life. And if you loose contact, there is still Facebook and your memories or memoirs.

Thanks again to Nick and JayTee for taking me out for one day! With the new president elect and Harvard Business School, the USA seem well prepared for the next 4 years.

Update: JayTee just sent me this link. Interesting because the money they lost gambling on the stock market they could have invested into the education of families with children with an income below USD 60’000.

Update II: Nick just sent me this link: College Students Drop Dreams Amid Wall Street Woes.

3 thoughts on “Visiting Harvard Business School in Boston for one day

  1. Wow, sounds like you had a fantastic day at Harvard. It would be so cool to take that class. I’ve always been more interested in increasing the quality of the service in order to charge more & make larger margins, and it would be great to learn more about the financing aspects of it all.

  2. Dear Karen

    Well in that case – in my opinion – you are a natural born entrepreneur and you should always follow your instincts (even if they may be or seem wrong sometimes). For learning more about finance it sure does make sense to visit such a class but to build up quality and service in any business you have to be innovative in a different, non-financial way. I consider that more challenging these days because everybody is just thinking about money – and look what happened to all the banks 😉 – worldwide. Harvard Business School and Harvard Students are sometimes thinking about money first, where they should be thinking about quality improvement first. Linus Torvalds has some good input on that as well.


    PS: Didn’t you do a video in front of the Apple store in San Francisco waiting for the iPhone with another blogger, sometime last year? I loved that!

    PPS: If you want the case let me know and I will try to get it to you.

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