Universal Business School Sydney (UBSS) MBA founder Alan Manly doesn’t hesitate when asked what his one-time school mates would think of the fact he is now the visionary behind an award-winning education provider.
“They would probably wonder if it’s the same ‘Alan Manly’,” laughed the founding director and chief executive of Group Colleges Australia (GCA) and CEO and Chair of its flagship Universal Business School Sydney (UBSS).
“I was never the boy most likely to succeed. I came from very modest beginnings and left school in Year Nine to be a postman and, truth be told, my mother thought I had won the lottery because it was not only a stable government job but they gave me a nice, new uniform.
“I started a long way behind the eight ball but entrepreneurship is all about finding your passion, cultivating your knowledge and working hard – and that’s why I’m so proud of what we do at UBSS because we provide our students with the opportunity, environment and support to do all of those things.”
Based in the Sydney CBD, UBSS is a top-ranked independent executive education provider that currently has more than 800 students enrolled in its MBA program, which was first accredited in 2014, along with another 815 undertaking its Bachelor of Business and Business of Accounting.
Alan’s journey to becoming ‘The Unlikely Entrepreneur’ – the title of one of his two books – began when he walked away from being a postman, much to his mother’s displeasure, to become an apprentice computer engineer.
While he would go on to graduate as a computer engineer, it was his time working for a large, US-based company at a programming college that opened his eyes to education services and, in particular, instilled a passion in him for improving the customer experience.
That passion not only led to the birth of GCA and UBSS but continues to be the foundation for the ongoing success of both the education providers and their students.
“While many public universities are overly large and bureaucratic, we thrive because we have the size and agility to treat our students as people, not numbers,” Alan explained.
“Being a smaller, private education institution means we are run by people who have actually experienced business success and one of our key mantras is that we are a customer service business for students.
“Our students are paying for a service and we do everything in our power to ensure they receive quality. We are independent, we are founded on entrepreneurial spirit and we are proud of that.”
Alan is also a huge advocate of “blended learning”, with GCA and UBSS promoting a mix of online and face-to-face courses.
“Our commitment to ‘blending learning’ programs is what sets us apart from other institutions,” he said.
“I strongly believe ‘lonely learning’ is a key reason many people drop out of online courses. It sounds great in theory to study where and when it suits but if there’s one thing I’ve learned as an entrepreneur, it’s that most people crave social connection and that’s what our workshops provide.”
And it’s those real-world insights forged during his remarkable rise from postman to education authority that Alan believes stands UBSS in great stead for a bright future.
“While some MBA courses are delivered by government-owned entities and unwieldy institutions, UBSS was founded and continues to be overseen by an entrepreneur,” he said.
“I have walked in our students’ shoes, I’ve had their dreams, and I get no greater joy than helping them turn them into reality.”