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Deciding Together

Family made joint commitment to EMBA investment

Ryan White
Senior Vice President, Pinnacle Financial Partners

Vanderbilt Executive MBA 2023

For Ryan White, the decision to go back to school for an Executive MBA was never his alone to make. As he explains it, his close-knit relationships with his wife and two daughters “are what I cherish most in life, and everything else is a distant second.” Ryan and his wife, Mandy, were already busy juggling the schedules of their girls, who are active in cheerleading and a variety of sports. 

So the Whites made the decision together. “This program involves not only an individual goal,” Ryan says, “but also a family commitment with sacrifices by all family members along the way. It may be missing a kid’s event or spending less time with your spouse in the pursuit of case studies and C-team meetings, but it’s important to remember that the student is not the only person sacrificing things over the two-year period.”

They agreed that the commitment would be worth the investment of time. Ryan has spent 20 years in banking—primarily in the middle-market space, providing senior debt to support growth capital, acquisitions, management buyouts, leveraged buyouts, and dividend recapitalizations to private companies. A lifelong learner, part of Ryan’s motivation in enhancing his business education was to position himself to deliver an even more “meaningful impact in the success of the stakeholders in private companies and my firm.”

The commitment was as intense as Ryan expected—“lots of night and weekend work,” he says. At one point during his C-team’s Launching the Venture project, the group discovered during their financial due diligence that their initial business concept would not lead to profitability. “We chose to pivot mid-term to a separate project and scrap many weeks of work,” he says. “But that was a terrific part of the experience. The LTV process taught us how to conduct deep due diligence on a business concept across the spectrum, constantly test the model, improve it, and test and improve it again. Iterative work is the key to creating a successful business model. I definitely have a good foundation now as I consider investing in, or advising on, a startup in the future.”

Meanwhile, Ryan says he found himself utilizing skills from valuation and corporate finance classes on the job to dive deeper into analyzing clients’ potential acquisition targets. “The program, through both my growth in knowledge and expansion of my network, has given me a vast toolkit to propel my professional career on any trajectory I choose.” The experience, he says, was “transformational.”

Meanwhile, as Ryan neared graduation, the Whites prepared for another transformation—the arrival of a third daughter in June 2023.

Fun Fact: Ryan helps coach his youngest daughter’s softball team.

“This program is a family commitment with sacrifices by all family members along the way.”