OPM – Harvard Business School’s Most Exclusive Program No One Has Heard Of

Harvard Business School is the most famous name in Business Education. Most equate the school to its MBA (Master of Business Administration) Program. But the MBA is not the only program offered at the vaunted HBS.

The typical profile of an MBA student is 22-28 years old, an extremely high academic achiever with a top GPA and GMAT score, and is very good at taking tests. Harvard likes candidates to have some work experience as well, with many coming from Finance, Banking and Consulting. Most participants will return to these same fields, hopefully with a better understanding of management and decision making, once they are done with this two year stint.

Then there is OPM.

OPM is much different. OPM (Owner/President Management) is specifically designed for CEO’s, COO’s who are actively involved in day to day running of the business, with revenues of $10 million dollars or more. The focus is on leadership, assessing strengths and weaknesses, and identifying emerging opportunities both in the company and across the entire industry.


From the MBA Website: “We are looking for evidence of your potential.” Most MBA’s go back to work in the same industry they came from (many to the same company). In 2013 only 7% of MBA graduates went into entrepreneurship.

OPM is much more geared toward real world achievement than academic concentrations. OPM’ers (as they are known) are not asked about their high school GPA’s or their SAT scores, they are instead grilled on what they have accomplished in the business world. Imagine if every MBA, in order to get in their program, had to found/run/or own a $10m a year company the program would simply not exist. That is why Harvard developed OPM.

From the OPM Website:

“OPM is ideal for CEOs, COOs, presidents, and managing directors of companies with annual sales of at least $10 million. In addition to being actively involved in running the business, candidates must hold a significant equity stake in their firms. While the program emphasizes entrepreneurial leadership, participants from companies that are bootstrapped, venture funded, or long established also are welcome.”

A recent article from Mariana Zanetti for “Business Insider” stated: “…there are a lot of anonymous rich men and women who have never sat in a college classroom to learn how to be corporate slaves. Today these people hire the ones who have degrees. Consider the cases of Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook, Bill Gates with Microsoft, Steve Jobs with Apple, Amancio Ortega with Zara–Inditex, Richard Branson with Virgin, or Ingvar Kamprad with Ikea.”

Add to that Walt Disney, Michael Dell, Henry Ford, Ted Turner, Giorgio Armani, and Thomas Edison. None of which would even qualify for entry into the MBA Program (none have Undergraduate Degrees) but all are exactly what is found in OPM programs every spring. 

OPM has is regarded by those in the know as one of if not the premier program of its type anywhere. This has as much to do with the make-up of the student body as with the University and Professors. 

“MBA’s focus on spreadsheets and management, OPM focuses on strategy in an environment where everyone else knows what you are going through” says one OPM’er that already had an MBA. “Once you put your nose in the books too long, you lose all perspective about the world around you.”


CEO’s often feel very alone. OPM participants represent a broad range of industries and organizations that hail from countries around the world. This global diversity not only empowers participants to negotiate, compete, and conduct business across borders; but also maximizes the exposure to successful business practices and enables the expansion of professional networks with accomplished business leaders worldwide.

Most participants agree that real value is from the relationships that are made. Life-long friendships are formed that often translate into business opportunities.

“Every year partnerships are created at coffee breaks” tells one of the program coordinators, “it is amazing that when you get such a smart, successful group of people in the same room, how much magic occurs.”

And it isn’t just about magic. “We get everyone from start up wiz-kids in their 20’s to heads of family businesses in the developing world in the twilight of their career who control hundreds of thousands of jobs” says the same coordinator, “Many already have charities and give back greatly to their communities, it is incredible what we see every year.”


One thing makes OPM special results from simple supply and demand. There are simply a whole lot more people who are good at taking tests than there are who have proven success at the executive level of the business world. OMP does not estimate what someone might do, it measures what they have already done.  

One of the more interesting traditions is a mixer between the two programs which often results in OPM’ers contracting MBA’s for everything from one time jobs to full time employment. “There are a lot of ways that MBA’s can help” quips one OPM’er that already employees 3 Harvard MBA’s, “I feel very comfortable employing other HBS people to help run my companies.”

But it is by no means all business.

“My company has already made me very rich” says the oldest participant in one recent term, “my goal now is to improve the lives of my fellow humans. OPM has brought me into contact with like minded men and women who share this outlook and work with me to achieve it.”

More info on HBS and their programs can be found on their websites:



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