2017 Best EMBAs: Brian Estes, Washington University (Olin)

Brian Estes

Washington University, Olin Business School

“Dependable, determined, direct, disciplined, faithful, focused, forward-thinking, generous, grateful, honest, organized, quick-witted, and relentless.”

Age: 49

Hometown: O’Fallon, Illinois

Family Members: Kelly Estes – wife of 23 years, Samantha Estes – 17-year old daughter, Luke Estes – 16-year old son

Fun fact about yourself: I earned my pilot’s license when I was 21 and am still an active pilot and aircraft owner today.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

University of Illinois – BA in Economics

London School of Economics – Institute of Economic & Political Studies

University of Cambridge – Institute of Economic & Political Studies

Where are you currently working? I am a Venture Capital partner at The St. Louis Arch Angels and SixThirty FinTech Accelerator.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • I’m a board member of the Immaculate Conception Foundation for Education, Columbia School District Foundation and Sister Thea Bowman Financial Board.
  • St. Louis Business Journal list for their 40 Under 40 Business Leaders in St. Louis.
  • FAA Instrument-rated, Private Pilot
  • In college at the University of Illinois, my NCAA wheelchair basketball team won the national championships in 1987 and 1988.
  • President of the Immaculate Conception School Father’s Club (ret.)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of being able to share with my classmates the inside stories of the technology companies I was an early investor in during the 1990’s.  We can learn a lot from good and bad decisions that were made during this growth period, and it’s important to apply these lessons to our businesses today.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? At the age of 28, I was promoted to Vice President – Investments at A.G. Edwards & Sons.  The company’s vice-chairman told me that I was the youngest Vice President in the 109- year company history.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Without a doubt, Sam Chun. I liked him from the first day when he came into class like a drill sergeant and started peppering everyone with questions and expecting everyone to be prepared. His disciplined teaching style and his expectation of excellence was right up my alley.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I chose Olin because of its reputation for the highest quality in educational standards. Plus, several friends who are EMBA alumni highly recommended the program.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I enjoy meeting new people and hearing their professional opinions on a wide range of topics the most. I value diverse thought, and the Washington University EMBA program is filled with accomplished leaders in their respective industry.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Our cohort had just finished our Financial Accounting course, and the exam was due directly after my favorite holiday on July 5th.  Since our professor told us that the basic exam would take 12-18 hours to complete, I made sure it was ready to go on Friday July 1st, so I could enjoy the weekend barbequing and going to our traditional Cardinal’s game on the 4th of July. Then, I realized that the high pass option was going to take another 6-8 hours to complete. I had to make a choice, skip the parties and cookouts or go for the high pass. My kids didn’t cut me any slack; they made sure I knew they’d be disappointed in me if I didn’t do as I always ask them to do. They asked me to do more than expected. So, I decided to spend the afternoons on July 2nd & 3rd completing the optional high pass work and skipping the fun.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s executive MBA program?  Make sure you have strong family and work support networks in place before starting the EMBA program.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? I thought it was going to be very difficult to start “cracking the books” again.  However, I found the case studies and course materials to be so interesting that they almost felt like leisure reading.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret was not starting 10 years ago. The program is so interesting and valuable that it’s a shame I did not take advantage of this educational opportunity when I was younger.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire?  Doug Jost. I am very competitive and he is the one person in class who has better grades than I do; I always enjoy good, healthy competition.  Doug deserves to be number one in class, he is a lot smarter than I am.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I discovered that most of the top Venture Capital firms require an MBA (or be a billionaire) to join their partnerships.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…building a cryptocurrency hedge fund that invests in blockchain technology tokens.”

What is your favorite company and what are they doing that makes them so special?  My favorite company is Chubbies.  My 16-year old son is a fan of their unique clothing line.  The founders of this company were students at Stanford University and dropped out when they discovered that there was strong demand for the crazy and unusual shorts they sell. I admire founders who follow their own path and dreams.

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the executive MBA experience? I like to learn from modeling, so I would add more guest speakers who have had a proven track record of success in business.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate goal is to leverage my talents as a professional asset manager, so I can help fund inner city private and parochial schools.  I have a strong desire to offer high quality educational opportunities to the economically disadvantaged.  

Who would you most want to thank for your success? Definitely my wife. When we got married 23 years ago, we agreed she would take care of the family responsibilities, and I would work my hardest so we could be financially independent in 20 years. She accepted this deal despite having a master’s degree and being one the best high school teachers in Illinois. If it was not for Kelly, I would not have had the time to commit to my career to make it a success.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Brian is the one who “thinks different”.

Favorite book: Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Favorite movie or television show: Titanic

Favorite musical performer: Katy Perry

Favorite vacation spot: Yosemite National Park

Hobbies?  I love being a father and spending time with my kids. I also love to fly my single engine Cessna Airplane.

What made Brian such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“Brian brings a wealth of experience, an impressive track record, a no-nonsense approach, and a collegial attitude to his EMBA cohort. He is a natural leader who holds himself and other to the highest standards of excellence without coming across as negative, impatient, or superior. His passion for excellence pushes us as faculty and as a program to greater heights. We are very fortunate to have Brian in our program.”

Stuart Bunderson
Associate Dean & Director of Executive Programs
George & Carol Bauer Professor of Organizational Ethics & Governance
Co-Director of the Bauer Leadership Center