Wisdom//

Education, Never Not Learning

How a Harvard Business School program gave one entrepreneur a fresh perspective.

When I heard about the Business of Entertainment, Media, and Sports (BEMS) and the entertainment industry legend, professor Anita Elberse at Harvard Business School, I was immediately captivated by the program. It took me a year of deliberating to have the courage to apply. I asked myself if I could find the time to check out of my daily life as an entrepreneur, and check into the business of myself, Tammy Brook.

I ultimately made the move, knowing that in this world we live in, with constantly evolving approaches to business based on innovation and technology, it would be a win-win to brush up my skillset. I take so much pride in my company mission statement, “We stay on the pulse of pop culture,” with new apps, memes and information discovery platforms launching every hour by millennials and Gen Z proteges. I knew I could no longer champion that motto without continuing to educate myself and my staff, beyond reading compelling articles on marketing, branding and innovation.

It was time to roll up my sleeves, get scrappy and head to Cambridge. I spent nearly 2 months of my free time reading 10 case studies thoroughly in preparation for the intense course ranging from Jay-Z. Dwayne Johnson and The Met Opera to Futbol Barcelona and Netflix’s “House of Cards.” There was no Cliffs Note path to this. If I didn’t prepare I would not be getting the full course experience.

As I started packing, I experienced the anxiety of what I should wear to “be beige” when my personality is glitzy gold fashionista. I was trying to blend into Ivy League campus culture, looking for corduroy blazers and loafers that did not exist in my closet. I finally settled on staying true to myself and walked into each class with 4-inch stilettos on. I was surprisingly accepted by my peers. And yes, we all slept in beautiful dorms so we could fully experience all the perks of Harvard. Being a city college student, I had never experienced a college form environment until Harvard.

I was fortunate to have been prepped by BEMS alumni peers in the industry. They prepared me for Anita’s approach to teaching: no cell phones, no speaking unless you are called on, and no nonsense. From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., it’s BEMS go time; all else would need to wait.

I also left this course yearning for more than the two amazing case studies Anita sent us as a parting gift. I have now established a squad of peers who have given me their verbal commitment to join me once a year on a quest to be greater. We are pledging to go back to Harvard and other Ivy leagues each year.

Here are a few BEMS top line concepts I learned that crystallized my approach not only to my business, but also to my investment in myself. I am BEMS obsessed! I met 60 compelling innovators who inspired me daily, and I, for the first time in my life, am consciously applying simple top-line tools I learned to my daily personal and professional life.

8 BLOCKBUSTER APPROACH TO BUSINESS TIPS I LEARNED FROM BEMS

  1. Bet on myself.

  2. Bet big. Big risk brings big returns.

  3. Don’t be afraid to innovate.

  4. Stay focused on the end game. This includes the uniform model. Anita wore the chicest black uniform every day.

  5. Disconnect to connect! No phones, no technology, so you can fully engage in the environment you are in.

  6. Lean in to the concept that we are never not learning.

  7. Multi-hyphenates win every time—superstar talent that has multiple brand extensions

  8. Loss leaders make sense when you bet big.

Tammy Brook is an American businesswoman, entertainment, social impact, fashion and sports brand strategist, philanthropist and founder of FYI Brand Communications. You can follow her on Instagram @tammyfyi.

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