Why is so much of the world managed by arseholes? When workaholic business school hot shot Ben Stillman is fired, he has the chance to find out. Not a guy to sit still, Ben jumps head first into turning his former business school into a world-class madrassa of capitalism.
Ben has ten days to rescue the launch of its spectacular glass tower, and his own career – ten days during which he will have to confront terrorist plots, undercover police, the extravagant demands of the super-rich, and the only woman who can save him from this madness.
A satirical thriller, a love story, and a wry look at modern management ideology all rolled into one – MBA is a piercing yet hopeful enquiry into the mea
“MBA” by Douglas Board
Why is so much of the world managed by arseholes? ‘MBA’ – the abbreviation for a master’s degree in business administration – is a farce set at an English business school run by globe-trotting American professor William C Gyro. When Ben, a high-flying graduate of the college, is suddenly fired for no reason, Gyro asks him to rescue the very imminent, star-studded opening of a spectacular all-glass tower.
As the opening approaches, Ben’s frustration at not understanding why he was fired increases, until the morning of the opening when he gets his answer. Alex Bakhtin, business fat-cat and Ben’s former boss, turns up at the college – he’s a guest for the big event. Alex has made a big thing about looking after his people and taking a ‘selfless’ approach to business. Tom leads a technical crew doing snagging on the tower.
After breakfast Ben headed off towards his office with a detour to walk past the tower, which was ringed by security hired by the college. Tom and his engineers were making final checks. Tom’s BMW and another white van were parked at the base of the tower. The photograph on the flyers had not exaggerated: Luscious’ waves of psychedelically-coloured hair resembled a missing Beatles album cover. She was in jeans and a busty long-sleeved polo neck while a security guard helped wheel her sound system into the lift. Tom waved and gave a thumb’s up sign. Not looking where he was going, Ben walked into someone who had been on his mind a lot in the past week.
‘Alex! I mean, Lord Bakhtin.’
‘My goodness, Ben.’ The visitor ran his eyes over Ben from the satin interior of a £5,000 hand-made suit. ‘I had heard you were here. How is it all going?’
‘Very well up to a point.’
‘What point is that?’
‘This point. The point of bumping into you.’
Alex’s expression shifted slightly. ‘But you are expecting me, I think. Certainly your security people had me on their list. They gave me a lovely pink lapel pin.’
Different coloured pins would admit to different areas; Ben had not yet picked up his. ‘You fired me, you scheming coward. And you lied. You told me I was the best thing since sliced bread but you were lining up Charlie Driesman behind my back.’
Alex assessed the situation silently.
For Ben, nearly two weeks of suppressed anger was erupting. ‘Come out with it, you bastard. What didn’t I do that you wanted, you selfless git?’
‘Be careful whom you accuse of lying, Ben. When I said you were the best, I wasn’t lying. Some days Charlie hasn’t got a clue and I could string him up; I never had a day like that with you.’
‘Commitment, then? I didn’t give you enough hours in the day? Eighteen hours a day, seven days a week, for how many years?’
‘Oh, commitment. You were committed, Ben. Though these days everybody is committed – everybody who matters. It’s a sine qua non, not a competitive advantage. We’re at a business school, aren’t we, so let’s put some of their expensively taught concepts to use.’
‘You really don’t know, do you?’
‘I fucking don’t!’ The singer and the tower security guards looked over. A woman came out from the college building behind Ben and began to approach.
‘You’re not ruthless enough, Ben. I can only have one apprentice. You will probably be the best apprentice I ever have ‒ the best at being the apprentice. But I have an apprentice so that in ten years’ time there will be two or three senior people around the group, people whom I have trained and trust through and through, one of whom will have the potential to seize the business out of my hands and run it brilliantly after me. You would never be ruthless enough. So, onwards and upwards.’
About the author
Douglas Board is the author of the campus satire MBA (Lightning Books, 2015), which asked why so much of the business world is Managed By Arseholes. Time of Lies, his second novel, is a timely exploration of the collapse of democracy.
Born in Hong Kong, he has degrees from Cambridge and Harvard and worked for the UK Treasury and then as a headhunter. He has also had a distinguished career in public life, serving as treasurer of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and chairing the British Refugee Council.
As well as writing fiction, he is the author of two applied research books on leadership, which was the subject of his doctorate. He is currently a senior visiting fellow at the Cass Business School in London. He and his wife Tricia Sibbons live in London and Johannesburg.