2018 Best EMBAs: Jim Fox, University of Oxford (Saïd)

 

Jim Fox

Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

“Experienced, trustworthy, decisive, pragmatic, mature, aware, attentive and candid.”

Age: 48

Hometown: Foam Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada

Family Members: Married to GayLynn for 28 years and have a daughter, Jordyn, who is 22 years-old. I also have three sisters. Everyone in my family lives in Canada. 

Fun fact about yourself: I love motorcycles and take my Indian motorcycle out every chance I get.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Postgraduate Diploma – Oxford Diploma in Global Business

Harvard – General Management Program

Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology – Business Administration

Where are you currently working? I am the President of Ethos Angel Investment Inc. (Ethos). Our intent is to participate in 10-12 start-up opportunities over the next year. We’ve already had an opportunity to participate in two Oxford alumni start-ups and had I not attended Oxford, Ethos would not have been afforded the opportunity as both were classmates from my Executive MBA.

As President, I take the lead on vetting the opportunities before sharing with the other four Directors to review. After our due diligence, we decide on what to invest and the level of exposure for Ethos. The remaining 23 investors have entrusted us to do right by them.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Three leadership roles that I am most proud of are as follows: Foundation Board for Telemiracle, Chair of the Saskatchewan Summer Games for Special Olympics, and the President of Kinsmen Club.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of our final Entrepreneurship Project mark. Our team had done a lot of work to prepare for the presentation and our mark was lower than expected. The team reacted by rolling up their sleeves and we spent a further 100 hours on our financial model alone (special thanks to Will Shingler). Most groups would have done the minimal amount knowing a distinction was almost out of reach. However, our team did not quit and secured a distinction on our paper, which was a testament to our hard work. In the process I strengthened a relationship with a couple of classmates that will last a lifetime.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In my professional career, my proudest moment was when I was Vice President of Sales for the Downhole Division of National Oilwell Varco, where I led a sales team in ten countries and oversaw a +$1.4bn P&L. It was special because my operations partner was diagnosed with cancer which he continues to fight today. I made the decision to remain in the role while he fought as a single dad. What he taught me about loyalty, patience, candor and teamwork will stay with me for a lifetime. I would not have been afforded the opportunity to study at Oxford had it not been from him (Wade Dannhaus), which makes my Executive MBA even more special.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I simply can’t pick a favorite professor as several have left a lasting impression that will change the lens on how I lead. I will be a much better negotiator as a result of Professor Owen Darbishire’s class on negotiation. Professor Marc Ventresca’s class on strategy and innovation was memorable and I have a foundation in accounting thanks to Professor Amir Amel-Zadeh.

I will use this as an opportunity to say a special thank you to my mentor, Professor Eric Thun, who was extremely helpful. I am indebted to Professor Mari Sako for encouraging me to apply for the Executive MBA at Oxford and writing a personal recommendation.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favourite part of the course was the Entrepreneur Finance module, which takes place over a week in the heart of Silicon Valley. Taught by Professor Tim Jenkinson and Allen Morgan (a Silicon Valley-based early-stage investor and retired lawyer), the module explores the Silicon Valley ecosystem.

The line-up of guest speakers included top entrepreneurs such as Max Levchin, who was the Founder of PayPal. We also had Brook Byers, a Partner in the Venture Capitalist (VC) Firm of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Buyers (KPCB), which is the most well-known VC in the Valley having backed hundreds of entrepreneurs which have changed our lives (Facebook, Google, etc.). We rounded off the last day with a 90-minute visit with Reid Hoffman, the Founder of LinkedIn and Partner of Greylock. I used the week in Silicon Valley to make another investment for Ethos in another Y-Combinator start-up.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program?I honestly thought that Harvard would complete my education but it was simply a ‘stop gap.’ One of my Harvard classmates, Richard Woodfine, attended Oxford to captain the rugby team and attain a Ph.D. in Engineering. It was because of him I sought out Oxford and he has been extremely supportive.

The Oxford Executive MBA network is deep and extremely exclusive in Canada and Oxford’s ranking is very well-known. It has already afforded me the opportunity to pursue an Angel Fund, which has allowed me to work alongside my longtime business partner, George Sereggela. I am extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity to attend Oxford and promise to be a good steward of the opportunity.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I really valued having access to world leading Professors as well as the lifelong exclusive network that Oxford affords its graduates. It truly changes you and I am a better person coming out the other side of my masters.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Through group work, I quickly learnt to truly appreciate the diversity of the team and was fortunate to have had the opportunity to work alongside some incredible classmates whom I will not soon forget.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I agreed to partner with four other individuals and start-up an Angel Investment Fund called Ethos with five months still left to complete on the Executive MBA program. I assumed the role of President and it ended up being a much bigger commitment than any of us originally anticipated. I have always been extremely intentional with my time to ensure I find a balance between family, education and work.

We were oversubscribed in a couple of days and have a waiting list for our next Fund. While I was attending classes on Private Equity, Corporate Valuation and Entrepreneurial Finance, I was using the skills real-time reviewing Term Sheets, Limited Partnership agreements and a General Partnership structure. When we read about term sheets, subscription agreements and partnership agreements, I was drafting them alongside my partners in tandem. The timing of studying the Executive MBA simply could not have been better.

I was fortunate to have the support of four amazing partners who all stepped up and ensured I could find the balance between working on Ethos and studying at Oxford. I have a saying with my wife that I will make the living and she will make it worthwhile and she certainly has held up her end.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? I would give the same advice a classmate (Joe Hooper) gave to me which was that the Executive MBA isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. I would advise that they be extremely intentional and carve out a portion of their day to focus on their studies. If they do that, they’ll be just fine.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth about going back to school was that it will all come back! It was a lot more work than I could have imagined. If I could give one suggestion it would be to complete Wall Street Prep prior to attending Oxford to ensure you get a refresher in finance, accounting, statistics, economics and excel. The only other advice would be to be honest with yourself and those around you about what time you have available and when you need help – ask!

What was your biggest regret in business school? I’m not one for regrets, but I do wish the stars had aligned earlier in my life so that I could have attended Oxford in my late 20s so I had more time to leverage the incredible network.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I just always knew. I felt business school was the path to provide me an edge to having financial independence to ensure I could look after my family.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a teacher. I was accepted by the University of Regina for elementary education, but I went to College to play hockey. I never made the hockey team but I married the captain of the volleyball team.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My goal is to resurface in Private Equity in an Executive role and ultimately I would like to teach at a College someday. The Professors at Oxford had a profound impact on me.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As a ‘decent’ man whom they respect, remembering me as someone who attempted to leverage any relationship, past or present, to lend a hand from the sidelines.

Favorite book: Good to Great – Jim Collins

Favorite movie or television show: Silicon Valley

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Return to Machu Pichu and visit Galapagos for my 30th wedding anniversary

What made Jim such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“From the start, Jim has dedicated himself to making sure that his fellow students had the best possible opportunities to learn from each other. He is a natural connecter, keen to mentor when he had subject knowledge and eager to learn from others in areas where he saw a gap he needed to fill. He has brought his own valuable network to the group and his curiosity and respect for the expertise of others has been clear from the start. He is also a wonderful ambassador for Oxford, stepping forward to represent us to prospective students around the world. His enthusiasm and enquiring mind mark him out as a great example of what Oxford expects of its Executive students.”

Kathy Harvey
Associate Dean, MBA and Executive Degrees 

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF 100 BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBA GRADS OF 2018