Author Archives: Guest Blogger

Careers advice for ambitious women

Heather-McGregor-for-webHeather McGregor, headhunter, FT columnist under the name Mrs Moneypenny and Bradford University School of Management alumnus, has published a book called Careers Advice for Ambitious Women. Here are her top tips to help more women become boardroom directors.

Get qualifications to stand out

Mrs Moneypenny recommends getting an MBA from a leading business school and a financial qualification as well as learning a language to increase your confidence.

Don’t try and ‘have it all’

She believes it is a myth that women can ‘have it all’ and that successful females will sometimes have to make tough choices and ‘outsource’ family and home support.  She also believes it is never too late, whether to become qualified, make a career change or take up new pursuits.  McGregor herself achieved her private pilot’s licence in her 40s.

Learn how to say ‘No’

There is a whole chapter in the book on saying ‘No’.  McGregor says:  “Saying no is a life skill and women are notoriously bad at it when it counts. It may seem odd to mention this, but when saying no, do please remember to include the actual word ‘No’. Don’t use some other word that you hope does the job. It usually doesn’t.”

Network in the right circles

Other advice includes the need for women to network and promote themselves as well as taking on voluntary roles to broaden experience and become a ‘more interesting person’.  McGregor says women generally have to work harder at maintaining their networks than men and this is where ‘thought leadership’ becomes important – involvement with industry associations which allows a woman’s thoughts to be heard while building her profile.

Learn how to control your finances

In the book, McGregor says:  “On your way to achieving your goals, you may need to take a career break, or retrain, or obtain experience of a particular industry to add to your CV. Some or all of this may require you to earn less money – and sometimes you may have to work for no money at all. People with low financial literacy are more likely to be in debt, and are less likely to participate in the stock market, accumulate and manage wealth effectively and plan for retirement.”

Sarah Dixon, dean of Bradford University School of Management, said about the book:  “Heather does not focus on barriers or see glass ceilings, but recognises the world as it is and sets out very practical advice. Our students are ambitious – whether undergraduates, Masters or MBAs – and most see themselves becoming a director in their career.  Following the advice in this book will add value to your qualifications to help you achieve your ambitions.”

Careers Advice for Ambitious Women by Mrs Moneypenny with Heather McGregor, is published by Penguin £16.99

Heather is also the author of Mrs Moneypenny: Survival in the City (2003), and Mrs Moneypenny: Email from Tokyo, (2006). Her column appears every week in the FT Weekend Magazine.

What can business schools do for creating community social mobilisation?

bradford-new_logo_blackDelroy Beverley, Director of Propertysolutions at Bradford-based housing association Incommunities Group, recently joined Bradford University School of Management’s Advisory Board. He holds a number of board level positions, advises many businesses on diversity and inclusion and was a trustee of one of the world’s largest and most influential charities. He is also a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute and recently sat on the judging panel for the British Libraries in association with Chartered Management Institute management book of the year. In 2010, Delroy was elected to the National Apprenticeship Ambassadors Task Force in recognition of his contribution to addressing worklessness through diversity. He is also an Ambassador for Constructionskills the Sector Skills Council and Industry Training Board for the construction industry.

I would be the first to acknowledge that have I been incredibly fortunate and humbled to have met and worked with some of the UK’s brightest business leaders. I am also privileged to have studied at some of the world’s best universities and business schools. I have done so because I believe passionately in knowledge and the wisdom of “knowledge empowerment”. Stepping out of the workplace into a learning environment provides a rare opportunity for reflection, which is hugely valuable in business and in life.

But what about those that aren’t fortunate enough to be able to study at world class business schools? How can we create “social entrepreneurs” in hard to reach communities to those less fortunate? How can we ensure that the business leaders of tomorrow and the work they do helps boost social mobility for the many and not just economic mobility for the few?

Through my work within Incommunities, we try to create an environment that fosters those types of successes. Five years ago, I took a personal decision which was endorsed through Incommunities executive team that it would make societal sense to forge closer links with Bradford University School of Management – a world class business school with an international reputation right on our doorstep. It is a place that creates leaders and inspires people, which is what we need in many communities throughout the country.

Here are some ways that I think business schools can ‘share their knowledge wealth’ with local communities.

Make business education have a real life impact

Business school students need to have the opportunity to have a real life impact through their studies if they are going to have a real life impact when they graduate.

Over the past five years, Incommunities have offered a number of projects to the School of Management’s MBA students. The projects, which are formally advertised and recruited for, are real pieces of work that are critical to the business – things that we would have had commissioned such as a strategic marketing review, performance management framework and a customer relationships strategy. The students are given office space and become part of the organisation during their time with us. They have routine one-on-one time with me, attend senior management team meetings and make real business decisions.  We don’t pay them in cash terms but what we give them in life terms is priceless – the chance to put their MBA skills into practice and have a real impact. They experience what it is like to part of a business team that makes a difference on the ground and get to see the results of their work.

Use business skills to facilitate long term social change

Business schools and their graduates are perfectly placed to facilitate long term social change because they are all about thinking outside the box.

As Director of Incommunities, Propertysolutions one of the UK’s largest social housing providers, I see it as my role not just to provide leadership to a fantastic team, but to help Incommunities create legacies within the communities in which we work – not just to deliver short term construction solutions. We ensure that we have a much wider influence on our estates than just housing.

A key part of this is helping people to get back in to work and then they become role models and ambassadors in their communities who inspire future generations.

Young people on our award winning apprenticeship scheme now get additional recognition for doing social good. More importantly, they are representative of the people in our communities. As we sit here today we can proudly say that over 30% of our apprentices are women, 25% are black astonishing when you consider the challenges within construction. In addition, Incommunities 2 years ago recruited the first ever Asian female apprentice gas plumber, again a remarkable achievement all round.

The real impact of all this may not be seen for a generation but we are in the business of not just creating sustainable communities but creating a better future for our grandchildren. I am clear in my mind that business schools can become a fostering ground for community business leaders for the future. It’s a mindset thing!

Give business school students greater ‘life experience’

Many people that go to and teach at business schools are already privileged and in most cases well educated. This means that the business school experience may lack a ‘real life’ perspective. Take for example my personal life experiences, which mean that I am well placed to say what the solutions are for supporting and mobilising deprived communities. I am passionate about social mobility and social engineering because I have lived it. I used education to lift me out of poverty – and now I am helping others do the same through our apprenticeship scheme.

Business school students need to have the opportunity to step out of the classroom and see what is happening on the ground and hear from those who have ‘lived’ what they are learning about.

I am excited about joining Bradford University School of Management’s Advisory Board. From the first meeting, I can see that there is a real enthusiasm amongst the group and they will be a fantastic bunch of people to work with. I hope to bring my life experience and professional experience to bring both some quick wins and long term impact for the school, its staff and more importantly the local community stakeholder’s.

Inspirations that drive me forward

It would be difficult not to share with you and acknowledge the people who have influenced my life. They are the creator (known by many names) for blessing me with a loving and supportive family, inspirational friends/colleagues and positive community and global role models, my ancestors whose courage, strength and survival under extremely difficult, in some cases oppressive situations and environments, enabled my existence. To the inspirational leaders, authors and visionary leaders whose work I have read and who shine the torch for humanity, justice and equality for all. Fortunately, during the most difficult times in my life, their words, actions and example, has inspired and empowered me to believe in myself and my ability to value life in all it‘s physical forms and manifestations.

Martin Luther King said — “You cannot teach people anything, you can only help them discover it within themselves”

How much is that doggy in the window? A reflection on the Crash of 2007

Chris-Bentley_MBA-2006Chris Bentley graduated from his MBA at Bradford University School of Management in 2006 and joined Holidaybreak plc, where he is now Head of Corporate Development. He has supported the company’s strategic development, leading the Group’s merger and acquisition activities. He also chairs the company’s Adventure Travel Division, and works with business units on the evolution and redesign of their business models. Here, he shares his views on a recent guest lecture by fellow alumnus Terry Carroll.

I’ve started to make a point of attending the Guest Lecture series at Bradford University School of Management whenever my schedule permits.  The latest, Terry Caroll’s ‘2007: How did it happen?’ was a brilliant and relentless exposition of the myriad factors that combined to make the ‘credit crunch’ such a perfect financial storm: the housing market factors, the financial market factors, the regulatory factors, and so on.  There was one issue though which Terry hinted at and then veered away from.  Understandably, as we’ll get to in a minute.  But, to me at least, it’s a point which may be at the heart not just of why there was a crash, but of why it came so close to annihilating the global financial system altogether.  It offers hope, but it also points to some unpalatable questions about the future of capital markets.

At the end of Terry’s lecture, Dr Peter Prowse made the point that we seemed not to have learned from a long history of bubbles and crashes.  And he was right.  Bubbles will always be with us as long as there are feedback loops.  Heck, all it really takes to stoke a property bubble is a plentiful mortgage market and a bit of exuberance.  But bubbles have burst before without causing anything like this amount of mayhem.  As one audience member asked, what was it that was different this time?

By way of answer, Terry pointed to the massive growth in derivatives, dubbed ‘financial weapons of mass destruction’ by Warren Buffet.  True, I think, but specifically why?

Another audience member asked whether there were any ‘red flags’ that could have warned us in advance.  Terry pointed to several, including the now famous economist Nouriel Robini, ‘Dr Doom’, who was predicting a housing market crash and global recession as early as 2005.

There was another prophet though.  And his red flag was in the air almost half a century ago.

How much is that doggy in the window…

The gasoline that fuelled the crisis combined global financial imbalances, lax monetary policy, the bubble in the US sub-prime property/mortgage markets and, what was it…?  Oh yes, of course, ‘greed’.   But the spark that ignited it was buried in the derivative securities into which mortgages were bundled and sliced into tranches.  Each tranche was designed to exhibit a specific profile of risk.  Putting a price on a tranche was basically about pricing that risk.

…the one with the waggly tail?

Which is tricky.  What is the most likely level of loss within a given tranche, and what is the ‘tail risk’ that losses may be significantly higher than this?

It turns out that everyone was pricing risk in the same way, using a statistical model with origins in the actuarial sector, called a Gauss copula.  The model attempts to take account of simple correlations between variables, but at heart it is still a ‘normal’ distribution, a bell curve, with events clustered fairly tightly around an average and tail risk falling away sharply either side of the mean.

In 1962, a deeply eccentric mathematician called Benoit Mandelbrot showed that fluctuations in the cotton market were anything but normally distributed.  His ideas caused some excitement through the 1960’s, but had fallen out of fashion by the seventies.  In 2004 he published an exposition of his earlier and more recent work and a summary of research by others, including Fama, Schoutens and De Vries, all of which pointed to massively higher tail risk than would be implied by Gaussian models, in markets as diverse as blue-chip US stocks, the S&P 500, the sterling-gilder exchange rate from 1609 to 2000, 19th Century railroad shares, US Treasury bills, call money (interest rates on loans from banks to brokers), gold prices and foreign exchange.  To put these waggly tails into context: one study by Citigroup in 2002 found gyrations in dollar-yen rates as high as almost eleven ‘standard deviations’ – something that should not have happened even once  if they’d traded dollars and yen every day since the Big Bang[1].

The Gauss copula models being used by everyone, including the credit rating agencies, were massively underestimating the degree of systemic risk in the sub-prime property market.  In one of life’s great ironies, the Gauss copula model itself, and especially its universal adoption, was probably no small contributor to the systemic risk that invalidated it.  The sub-prime dogs would turn out to have very fat tails indeed.

As the sub-prime market started to come off, even the ‘safe’, AAA-rated tranches began to take losses, a near impossibility according to the financial models.  And because everyone was using the same model, which clearly didn’t work, no one had a clue anymore how much their portfolios were worth or, more to the point, how much trouble other people’s portfolios might be in.  And in conditions of such near blindness, banks simply stopped lending to each other.  The vital interbank funding market, the beating heart of the global financial system, ceased to function overnight.  And civilisation found itself staring into the abyss.

I suppose that it’s too much to ask of our politicians that they try to understand and explain this stuff.  It’s hard to imagine even David Cameron’s oratorical skills stretching to a passionate advocacy of the Lévy stable distribution as the solution to our ills.  But the alternative is that banking reform is sold to us without a complete understanding of what went wrong in the first place.  Worse, as an expedient substitute for a proper explanation, an entire class of people (not just culpable individuals) has been vilified.

Why didn’t the rocket scientists in the middle of all this realise what was going on?  There were competing theories, and there were some exceptions to Mandelbrot’s findings.  The financial economics of asset and derivative pricing wasn’t (and still isn’t) black and white.  And then there is the funny thing about risk – being prudent can be very costly.   If you’d taken the Mandelbrot view in 2002, while everyone else was going gangbusters, your shareholders would have fired you for incompetence by 2007, as your investment returns trailed in the dust.

Benoit Mandelbrot died on the 14th of October 2010, aged 85.  His views offer hope – it is hard to see that puppies will be quite so mispriced in future.  But they also raise big questions – not least that of how capital should be allocated in a world where tail risk dominates.

[1] The (Mis)Behaviour of Markets: a Fractal View of Risk, Ruin and Reward, Benoit B. Mandelbrot (2004)

Click here to view a video of Terry Carroll’s recent guest lecture on ‘2007: How did it happen?

Click here to read Terry Carroll’s blog on careers advice for ambitious undergraduates

Careers advice for ambitious undergraduates – step out of your comfort zone and give it your all

terry-carrollTerry Carroll did his BSc Business Studies at Bradford School of Management between 1967 and 1970. He went on to have an eclectic career including becoming Treasurer of the Halifax and CEO of National & Provincial. He has stayed in the region for 25 years, chairing a major regeneration initiative in Bradford and standing as an Independent in Council elections. Last week, he gave a guest lecture on the credit crisis at the School. Here, he offers his advice to today’s ambitious undergraduates.

1. Have a clear career plan

I always need to have a plan and at 16 I wanted to know what I was going to do with my career. I saw a careers officer who suggested accountancy – my mother was an accountant and I had done a bit of work experience so it made sense. I did some research and found that 55% of chartered accountants ended up as MDs – I was going to be one of them!

I looked at what qualifications and skills I needed to be a chief exec. I searched for business degrees that gave me a part qualification in accountancy and the opportunity to get experience in

  • strategic planning
  • marketing
  • finance
  • IT
  • HR

I hear a lot of young people nowadays saying: “I don’t want an ordinary job, I want to do what I enjoy.” My first love is football and I now do sports journalism, which is fantastic. However, the A Levels, degree and career you choose should be about probability management – what is going to give you the least probability of failing. You can use your passions and interests to make yourself a more interesting person in any field of work.

2. Step out of your comfort zone

I came to Bradford from the South in the late 1960s and had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that it was a smoggy industrial Northern town. I had grown up in a small village and in those days as a teenager you were part of a family unit – you didn’t really have your own identity. I was also painfully shy. I knew that to get the most out of university I had to force myself to step out of my comfort zone so that I could grow as a person – both personally and professionally. I looked at universities in big cities that did the course I wanted to do – and chose the one that had the most professional football clubs within a 25 mile radius. Bradford came out on top!

Bradford was so vibrant and cosmopolitan, which was incredibly exciting. But it was also on the cusp of the Yorkshire Dales and the School of Management campus was like a leafy Oxford college. I felt like I’d arrived in heaven. By getting involved in the students’ union and playing hard as well as working hard, I went from being an introvert to an extrovert. It was a life changing experience.

3. Take an enterprising approach to everything you do

The best piece of advice I can give to any ambitious undergraduate is that you get out what you put in to university, your job, your career and your life. You will not be given anything on a plate – you have to be enterprising and make your own opportunities.

Theo Paphitis said that he had never been as excited about being in business as he was at the height of the recession. There are limitless opportunities to set up your own business or do something innovative.

4. Until you are established in a career be as flexible and adaptable as possible

Being enterprising is about thinking outside the box. Even if your end goal is to be an accountant or a chief exec, you may have to work in a café or a shop for a while. By showing initiative and putting your all into everything you do, you will be surprised what opportunities and experience you will gain that is relevant to what you want to do.

5. Fill the gaps in your CV and never stop learning

During my career, I have appointed almost 2000 people and have seen 10s of 1000s of CVs. If there is an unexplained gap, I will dismiss a candidate immediately. Employers want to see that you have done everything you can to get ahead and keep learning and developing, especially in such a tough jobs market. Gap years used to be highly regarded because they suggested that you were adventurous and fearless. They are now too often an excuse for an extended holiday. If you do go travelling or take a career break, do something worthwhile with it that shows you have made a difference and learnt something new.

I am now retired but still push myself to constantly learn new things. Throughout my career I trained as an accountant, a stockbroker and a banker and also developed hobbies including golf, horse racing and football journalism.

Going to Bradford University School of Management was the cleverest thing I ever did. I didn’t get the best grades (largely down to my active social life!) but my degree taught me to think, act and behave in a completely different way that has helped me throughout my career. I now want to give something back to my former business school. Ask me your career questions and I will do my best to help – but I can’t promise the answer will be easy!

Part-time Executive MBA – keeping it in the family

Max-HopkinsonMax Hopkinson is Head of Online Marketing for his family business Mark Two Distributors Ltd, one of the country’s leading distributors of kitchen and bathroom products and kitchen design services. He is currently doing a Part-time Executive MBA at Bradford University School of Management.

I always regretted not making the most of my time at university first time around and when I went on a leadership course in Chicago in the summer of 2010, I got a second chance. We had a taster MBA module at Kellogg School of Management and I was so inspired I decided to look at how doing an MBA could help me achieve my career aspirations. Just that one lecture made me think differently about business.

1. MBAs aren’t just for those who want to work for someone else

After getting a variety of experience travelling and teaching skiing abroad, working in advertising in London and as a buyer for an online retailer, I felt ready to make a valuable contribution to my family business. From a very young age, I have been surrounded by entrepreneurship and it has really rubbed off on me. I have never had aspirations to work for a big corporate. The Kellogg School of Management experience made me realise that an MBA could give me the confidence, framework, tools and contacts to help grow and run my own family business.

2. SMEs can benefit as much as global companies from being part of an international business school

If anything, it is more difficult for SMEs than big corporates to break into new international markets because they don’t already have people on the ground in different countries. Some of my fellow MBA students from India and other countries are valuable contacts who can not only help me grow our business internationally, but give me a real insight into different business cultures. These relationships and insights also give us kudos when trying to win new business with multinational companies.

3. You get out what you put in to an MBA

I firmly believe that my career is in my hands. Going to a business school to get an MBA will not automatically get you a top job or grow your business. Whether you want to be a successful entrepreneur, get a management position in the public sector, or work for a multinational company, you need self drive and determination to get the most out of an MBA and make it happen. Inspirational lectures, group projects and career advice don’t make you successful on their own.

It’s a year since I started my MBA and I’ve already started implementing what I’ve learnt about marketing and strategy into the business. We’ve already grown one client from a £2m to £15m account and are looking at £30m turnover for this year. I’m also using some of the international contacts I’ve made to scope out new markets.

Despite tough economic times Mark Two Distributors is doing well and, being at the forefront of making it a success, I have struggled to fit my studies around my work. The School of Management has been very helpful and given me the flexibility to take some time out to ensure that the business doesn’t suffer. I’m now looking forward to getting back into the classroom.

Choosing a Business Dissertation Question: How can you manage the expectation of all parties involved?

Dr Robert Lomas Lecturer in Technological ManagementGuest blog by Dr Robert Lomas: Lecturer in Technological Management; member of the Operations and Information Management group and author of Mastering Your Business Dissertation (2011) Routledge, Oxford.

Twitter @Dr_Robert_Lomas   Amazon Author Central Page:

Choosing the dissertation topic for your MBA, Masters or undergraduate business degree is potentially the most empowering step you can take towards mastering a new business skill. But which business skill? With only three months and 15,000 words available you will be unable to solve the questions of life, the universe, and everything, or even tackle the fundamental truths of  business and management. But don’t despair,  simply focus on something achievable.

When you pick a direction for your business dissertation research, you can either embark on a self-development process that will transform your managerial life, or condemn yourself to a tedious chore that will have little business value and which you might never complete. Your choice of topic is never easy because it involves an academic Ménage à trois which you may be about to experience for the first time.

Who are the main stakeholders in a business dissertation topic?

There are three stakeholders involved in the success of a business dissertation. These are

1. The university, who must accept and judge its academic merit.

2. You, the student, who must write it.

3. Your current or prospective employer, who will use the dissertation to judge your potential.

A successful dissertation is important for all stakeholders – but remember your employer is a wild card, particularly if you are doing an Executive MBA or other company-sponsored degree. They can dominate the whole choice process for good or bad, often without you realising what is happening.

You may be self or family funded (in which case the role of the employer may be filled by the bank manager who lends the money, the spouse who agrees to the use of family savings, the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ who sponsor your adventure, or your financial conscience as you risk the contents of your own pocket). But if you are sponsored to undertake your business degree by your employer, their business needs will have to be central to your dissertation. And even if you have an altruistic family sponsor, you will still feel a pressure to show that you are worthy of their trust and may set yourself unachievable targets.

Your choice of dissertation topic must deliver to all the stakeholders, so how do you achieve this balancing act?  To have any chance of success you need to be clear about the motives of each of the three parties.

1. What are the university’s motives for the choice of  business dissertation topic?

Academic motives include

To be able to award an appropriate degree to a successful candidate

To ensure that students develop and demonstrate useful business skills

To maintain academic standards and pass on accumulated knowledge to the next generation of managers

To help students learn how to learn, so that they can successfully adapt to new circumstances

To help students gain a passport that opens doors to new areas of employment or promotion, so that they become respected alumni

2. What are the student’s motives for the choice of business dissertation topic?

Possible motivations I have observed in business students include

To obtain an MBA or business Masters/undergraduate degree

To gain a passport that can open doors to new areas of business

To increase earnings

To get the best possible mark for the least possible work

To demonstrate knowledge and understanding, and so become respected in the business world

To learn about a chosen business problem

To learn to successfully adapt to new circumstances and business problems

To learn about themselves as business people/managers

3. What are the employer’s motives for the choice of business dissertation topic?

Employer motives include

To create staff with appropriate business qualifications

To improve their staff’s management skills

To use the incentive of sponsorship to retain and motivate staff who might otherwise move on – which can work in two ways

through golden handcuffs (you agree to stay with the employer for a fixed number of years after graduating)

through increasing job satisfaction and providing skilled candidates for internal promotion

To create a pool of staff who know how to learn, and can adapt to new circumstances rapidly and effectively

To obtain cheap, yet knowledgeable, management consultancy, by means of supervised and guided research conducted by an individual with an in-depth knowledge of the firm

To increase the long-term profitability of the company by ensuring it is well managed

To tap into academic sources of information which would be extremely expensive to procure commercially.

To improve the knowledge base of the firm

How can you avoid conflict when choosing your business dissertation topic?

With so many different motives at play, your choice of business dissertation topic can easily cause conflict.  Think tactically about specific research questions to avoid zones of incompatibility rather than pitching yourself  right into them.  Conflict is possible when one stakeholder’s motives are not shared by any of the others, or when the interests of two stakeholders coincide but are not shared by the third.

For instance:

●      The university may be keen to network with a local employer and therefore be keen to meet their research interests – but the student may not be interested in the problem that engages the employer and the university

Or

●      The university may encourage a student who would like to research a particular problem of business theory that is currently fashionable in academic journals but has no practical interest for the employer

Or

●      The employer and the student, for sound commercial reasons, may want to research a problem that the university regards as academically trivial and of insufficient intellectual content to be worthy of a degree dissertation

In order to avoid these conflicts, you need to focus on areas of agreement between all stakeholders, such as

●      To obtain a degree

●      To improve the student’s skill level

●      To make the student a more attractive candidate for promotion (though the employer will naturally consider internal promotion more desirable than external advancement)

Staying within this zone of comfort ensures that you don’t choose a rapid route to failure by your choice of  business dissertation topic. Think carefully before choosing your business problem and consider all your stakeholders before you commit.

What do you think is the most difficult aspect of managing the expectations of your university and employer, whilst still satisfying your own interests and desire to learn?

Choosing an MBA programme that doesn’t interfere with short term career progression

Ms-Areej-NassarMs. Areej Nassar is a Brand Manager at Johnson & Johnson in Dubai. She recently joined the company from Reckitt Benckiser where she progressed quickly to become one of the company’s youngest Brand Managers. She is due to graduate from Bradford University School of Management’s Executive MBA in Dubai in September 2011.

Doing an MBA is a fantastic way of boosting your career but it is a big commitment which could interfere with your short term progression at work.

I had always considered doing an MBA after gaining a few years experience in business but was progressing quickly in my role at Reckitt Benckiser and needed to find a programme that wouldn’t get in the way of my hectic professional lifestyle. Distance learning was an option but I wanted the benefits of a prestigious qualification from a well-established academic institution – and also the opportunity to be taught by world-class professors and work with other successful business people from different industries. I was funding myself so it was a huge commitment financially, mentally and on my time which made it even more important that I chose the right programme.

After much consideration I chose to embark on Bradford University School of Management’s Executive MBA based in Dubai where I live and work. Here’s why

1. Academic credentials of the MBA

I’m from a very academic family – both my parents have PhDs. So it was particularly important for me to choose a programme with excellent academic credentials. Bradford University School of Management is part of a well-established, major university which offers a range of highly acclaimed degree programmes delivered by world-class academics. The Executive MBA programme is ranked in the top 100 globally by the Financial Times.

2. Focused MBA study

The fact that classes were an intense three day period every five weeks meant that the MBA wouldn’t interfere with my day-to-day job and I could use vacation days and weekends to focus exclusively on my studies. Also, the executive programme was structured around the traditional academic calendar with a summer vacation which allowed for some down time and the opportunity to travel. Most importantly, the timetable was communicated at the beginning and rarely changed which meant that I could plan ahead and manage my time effectively.

3. Flexibility of the Executive MBA

Bradford’s Executive MBA programme is designed for working professionals and, apart from the contact time, you can easily manage your time around your job. I enjoyed the good balance of independent learning and classroom contact with excellent professors and fellow classmates. When I interviewed for my new job, I was able to demonstrate that I was flexible, could multi-task and was able to excel in both my education and work life simultaneously.

4. International perspective on the MBA

Because Bradford University School of Management has a global reach and professors are flown in for lectures, students can gain an international perspective on business issues. This was particularly useful for me as someone who works in a global industry for a multi-national company. The programme is also AMBA and EQUIS accredited giving it additional credibility.

5. Collaborative working with MBA colleagues

Doing an MBA gives you time to step back and think more deeply about business problems but also learn from others in different industries that you wouldn’t otherwise come across. My fellow classmates on the programme were professionals from range of different industries. Bradford is very good at organising group work and encouraging collaboration – you are not just lectured at. This meant that we could share knowledge and expertise from different perspectives, which made me a more versatile and forward thinking candidate when I went for my new job. I was the only one in my class from an FMCG background so I like to think I brought something new to the table from a market that anyone can relate to.

Before embarking on an MBA do your research and ensure that you are choosing a programme that meets your needs and will give you the best possible opportunity to boost your career.

10 ways managers can improve trust in the workplace

adi_gaskellGuest blog by Adi Gaskell, editor of The Management Blog for the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

Trust at work has been in the news recently. It has also been exercising the Good Work Commission which has just released a report on modern work, Good Work and our Times, highlighting the importance of trust in building workplaces that engage and motivate people. CMI research revealed similar findings but found that nearly a quarter of employees had lost faith in their manager.

High levels of trust are widely regarded as essential when motivating your team and improving job satisfaction. Alas during the recession levels of trust have fallen. So here are 10 ways you can improve trust levels in your workplace.

10 ways managers can improve trust in the workplace

1.       Take your time – Trust is something that by its very nature takes time to build up. It isn’t something that you can do via a grand gesture or short-term initiative

2.       Empathise – It’s difficult for someone ever to trust you if they don’t feel like you understand them and their situation

3.       Treat all ideas as equal – Despite many texts to the contrary, many organisations still silo innovation. If the idea doesn’t come from the right source it won’t get listened to. Taking ideas on their merits rather than based upon their source is a key facet of developing trust

4.       Be open and honest – A part of any manager’s role is sometimes to make unpopular decisions. You won’t be able to escape this, but you can be open and transparent about why you’re doing something. Even better is involving your team before the decision is made. Exclusivity is essential if you want to be trusted

5.       Don’t bury bad news – If you’ve got to deliver bad news, don’t sugar-coat it, certainly don’t attempt to lie about things. If you’ve got bad news to deliver do so honestly and candidly. People need to believe what you’re saying is the truth if they’re to trust you

6.       Don’t horde information – It wasn’t that long ago that people felt compelled to keep all of their knowledge and information to themselves in the belief it would propel them up the career ladder. Modern organisations however demand that knowledge is shared for mutual benefit

7.       Know your limits – You might be a manager but you’re not superman, and no one expects you to be, so if you don’t know the answer, admit it

8.       Admit your mistakes – We all make mistakes, and managers are no different. Of course you should always try and do what you say you will. If you can’t do that however, own up and admit your mistakes. Admitting to being human goes a long way to building trust in you

9.       Don’t abuse your status – As a manager you have certain perks that can come with the position.  You might get freebies tossed your way or greater clout attached to your opinion. If you abuse this then you will destroy any trust your team has in you. Run a strict meritocracy where your opinions are judged on their merits, not on your status as the boss

10.   Be accountable – Just as you should own up to your own mistakes, you should also be accountable for those of your team. They need to know that you expect high standards of behaviour from them, so if they’re doing things wrong, say. You’re not just a manager.  Remember, you’re a leader too

Once your staff lose faith, productivity goes down – how can management training contribute to ensuring this doesn’t happen?

How children learn to become consumers

'Living-and-working-at-EureThis blog by Ben Kerrane, Lecturer in Marketing, Bradford University School of Management also appears on the Eureka! Experts blog (from the experts in play and learning at Eureka! The National Children’s Museum)

Parents in the UK are concerned about marketing to children and advertisements specifically targeted towards children. Key debates here surround “pester power” – children nagging parents until they submit/give in to the demands of their child (often for products that they don’t really need, or even want – and have asked for only because it appeared during commercial breaks).

Why are children such an important audience for marketers?

Children represent a key and profitable market for marketing practitioners. Given recent changes in family composition (eg an increase in the number of dual income and single parent families) children are taking on a greater role in family life and in family decision making. Children collectively spend $300 billion of their own income (from pocket money/allowances) each year – as well as influencing a further $1.88 trillion per year of family expenditure.

Should we protect children from the power of adverts?

The problem, then, lies in debates around whether to protect children as consumers (who may not have developed appropriate skill sets to understand the purpose of advertisements) or help them learn about consumption and commercialisation in the early stages of their development (skill sets that they will need later in their adult life).

Certain countries such as Sweden have taken a tough stance on advertising to children (Sweden banned TV adverts targeting children in 1991). But advertisers can overcome such problems eg by advertising on the internet – with a growing number of children online, and perhaps beyond their parent’s reach/protection. So, what are parents to do?

What influences children’s consumption habits?

Children primarily learn about consumption by the actions of their parents. Parents take their children on accompanied shopping trips, they teach them about saving, they introduce them to products and brands – many of which the children will retain and use throughout their lives. As such parents have a crucial role to play in teaching their children about products, values, consumption etc.

Other agents (eg friends, teachers, the media) also influence children in a consumption context. What we see is, perhaps unsurprisingly, that as children age and move into adolescence the emphasis on their parent’s advice/approval shifts somewhat (and where the opinions/advice/input from parents was once key for the child, the opinions/advice/input from peers now takes precedence). This does not mean that the input from parents is replaced – it just takes a back seat for a while. Again, this represents a challenge for parents who do not have up-to-the minute knowledge about what products are “cool” or “acceptable” for their child to own/consume.

What can parents do to educate their children about commercialised messages?

Parents need to take an interest in and discuss consumption with their children, even when their opinions start to take a back seat. What parents also need to do is encourage their children to be involved in family decision-making in order for them to be responsible adult consumers. Many parents dismiss the input that their children can have in consumption decisions, but sometimes (and particularly for high-technology products) children are all knowledgeable market-mavens. Take them shopping with you; show them your till receipts; discuss why you may have reservations with some of the products that your children may want (and, in a best case scenario, negotiate to see if some common ground can be found – skills which children will need as adult consumers).

However, it is also important to remember what your children can teach you. What many people assume is that consumer socialisation is one way. In reality children can also teach their parents (eg how to use a mobile phone/PC/programme the Sky Plus box). The problem in some families is managing the balance between parents knowing best and recognising the input of the child consumer.

If the HR role is to survive, it has to link up with marketing

SimonK2-Leeds-07-232x300Simon Kingsnorth of Optimal HR, did his executive MBA at Bradford.  Here he challenges HR teams to understand their role as part of brand value – or find they will be taken over by the marketing function

Long ago I noticed similarities between marketing and HR – I have also been part of the organisational debate about internal communications and internal marketing – and about employer branding, brand values and organisational values…these all clearly have their roots in the marketing discipline.
Today, brands and leadership in businesses that care about their customers and their employees are focused on authenticity – and the enlightened ones are thinking about customer and employee propositions and value.

The disciplines and the thinking are similar – why would a customer want to buy from us?…why would a talented individual want to work for us?…see the similarity?
It goes further too – which businesses don’t segment their customers? – but how many think about the segments in their employee population. Some go as far as thinking about talent and defining that segment – there may even be a different employee experience for them…different approach to career and job moves – a different approach to reward for example.

Some large organisations have put in place roles that focus on customer experience, however relatively few have the equivalent “people experience” role – once again the enlightened see the link between employee engagement, productivity and advocacy and the impact that this has on the customer experience. I am fortunate to have worked in a business that truly understand this link – first direct.

As regular readers of my blog and those who know me will be aware – I fear for the future of HR – the days of personnel, tea and sympathy, and the days of rules and compliance are over – it’s just that some have not moved into the value add arena yet…these roles are (or should be!) managed by line managers with online or telephone support…the true role of HR is in leading change and articulating and delivering the capabilities that will deliver the business strategy.

Beware change is coming – there are a number of organisation putting non HR people into leadership roles over the HR function – Shell have done it, Sainsbury’s have done it too and there are others…will it be marketing that ultimately drives people experience?

HR people – make friends with your marketing colleagues – discuss culture and branding with them, talk attraction strategy and retention strategy – you have lots in common!

Have a read of this…Marketing vs HR and HBR article on HR Leadership