It was love at first sight.
Joseph Leonard had over 10 years of experience in data analysis, working with patient trend data and lab test results for LabCorp, and he wasn't really thinking about pursuing an advanced degree.
His wife Jessica, however, saw something in him that he hadn't quite noticed.
"She knew that I was developing this fascination with day-to-day operations with business and was always looking on Google, YouTube, watching videos," Leonard remembered. "One night, she was looking around for online MBA programs that she thought would help me further develop my learning for business. She happened to run across the new online MBA program at Edwardsville, and the next morning she came to me and said, 'Honey, you should really look into this.'"
And with that, Leonard enrolled in Southern Illinois University Edwardsville's online MBA with a Business Analytics Specialization program with no desire to consider another.
"I always wanted to open my own business, and I mostly taught myself what I needed to do as far as opening a business, maintaining operations and the financial side," he said. "I wanted to learn more about the ways to successfully run a business."
In 2017, Leonard founded JoricGaming, LLC, — a game streaming partner that does promotion and advertising for computer games and computer products.
"I negotiate with companies, and if they have a new video game coming out or a new computer product such as headsets, mice, keyboards, I'll promote their products on live stream and then also will do a YouTube review or write up a product review," he explained.
Leonard made the most of his time at SIUE, learning the best ways to expand his small business in the growing industry of partnered streaming.
"I knew it would be tailored so that I could still run my business day to day while working on the coursework," he said. "I learned so much about what goes into a business's strategic decision-making process."
Taking the Lead
Given his specialization, it is no surprise that Leonard's favorite classes in the program were his business analytics electives.
"I seem to have learned the most in Database Design [CMIS 564]," he said. "When you think database design, you would think that you're going to be on the computer 90% of the time, but there was actually no computer work! It was all designing from scratch, drawing storyboards and concept plans. I found that fascinating."
In the same class Leonard began learning how to turn his coursework into real business growth by finding practical applications for his newfound knowledge of database design.
"I designed my own database right after taking that class," he said. "So much of what I do relies on strong data, and I had been basically keeping bits and pieces of cost analysis in Excel. I now have a database I built in Microsoft Access.
"I am able to track all the clients that I deal with, how much I charge them and product trends. I can immediately go to my database using SQL and pull up all of the data on a company that I am preparing to work with. That class was a godsend."
Leonard could have picked any business to assess when it came time to complete his project for CMIS 567: Business Analytics Capstone, but he decided to put his own company under the microscope.
"I did an analysis of my company to see how much growth I had experienced between January and December of 2018," said Leonard whose efforts to get the word out include promotion and advertising. "People can come watch my channel day to day, and they can support me by subscribing to it. I tracked follower growth, support growth and subscriber growth.
"I was able to go in and identify patterns and trends and growth. I was also able to identify some problem areas that I've been able to fix since doing the analysis report."
While Leonard's passion lies in his small business, he recognizes that it is a very small, niche company that will take some time to develop and make serious revenue. Fortunately, his MBA has attracted the attention of some big-name employers.
"My family has a strong aviation background, so I've been applying for jobs with companies such as American Airlines," he said. "I interviewed with Boeing recently and hope to hear back from them soon. I've also applied to some telecommunication companies and a few companies in the petroleum industry. I'm putting out feelers out there."
The same dedication Leonard brings to building his business powered him through the rigors of an online MBA program.
"If you are not good at time management, it's very, very easy to fall behind when you do an online program," he said. "Online does not mean easy, and it doesn't mean any less work than if you were going to school in person. I felt like the moment I had to deviate from that plan, I started to immediately fall behind."
Balancing work and school can be a challenge, and it can be overwhelming without the right system in place.
"Every week, I would do a week planner, using a calendar on Microsoft or Google, and plot what needed to be done every day," Leonard said. "I knew there was going to be a block of a day where I would have to focus on my own business, and after that, I would take about an hour break to eat and then transition to the schoolwork."
Having completed his MBA in December 2019, Leonard believes that the person who got him into the program is the same person who ultimately got him through it.
"My wife has been a huge motivation," he said. "When you have people like her behind you, supporting you and pushing you forward, it makes something like this very doable."
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