Author Archives: Jon Reast

About Jon Reast

Jon  is a Professor in Marketing at Bradford School of Management, Research Cluster Head for Marketing and Co-Editor of the Corporate Social Responsibility Section of Journal of Business Ethics. Jon primarily teaches Marketing Strategy, Relationship Marketing and Marketing Communications and specializes in research relating to marketing ethics, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and relationship marketing. Professor Reast has professional marketing experience in the healthcare, toiletries, food and beverage sectors, working for companies such as Reckitt & Colman and Kraft General Foods, and has consulted widely. A graduate of Leeds University (BA Econ) and Leicester University (MBA), with a PhD from Leeds University. His research work has previously been published in journals such as Journal of Business Ethics, Psychology and Marketing, Long Range Planning, Journal of Marketing Management, Industrial Marketing Management, Journal of Advertising Research and International Journal of Advertising.

Specialties

+        Marketing ethics
+        Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
+        Relationship marketing

Top 10 blog topics for business and academics – from our own Bradford Thinking blog (part one)

Jon Reast

Jon Reast

Our Management Thinking blog now attracts a considerable number of visitors – our thanks to all those reading, contributing and sharing.

I thought it might be interesting to look at the most popular 2013 posts and see why we think these topics are appealing and to which audiences.

1. 10 factors creating job satisfaction:  what motivates now?

Written by Dr David Spicer in 2010, this continues to be our star performing blog!  We could put this down to Dave’s popularity as an academic, with both students and alumni.  But it is perhaps also down to the challenge that has faced every type of organisation in tough economic times – how do we motivate employees when we can’t necessarily pay them what we would like?

Dave wrote this blog based on his research into employee motivation.  What is interesting is that pay is not the top motivating factor – a subject much debated when looking at bankers’ pay and bonuses and backed up in research by the Institute of Leadership and Management.

Pay actually became less important as the recession hit, moving from second most important factor to fourth.  It is a good reminder that interesting work is what really motivates people – and appreciation of the work they have done.

What motivates staff

What motivates staff

2. Men make better leaders than women – really?

In this day and age, it is perhaps shocking to hear that a significant number of people from around the world actually believe that men make better leaders than women.  Or is it?

This blog was based on a mini-survey of Dr Rob Perrett’s Masters in Human Resource Management students – we should stress the sample size was small and it was not formal academic research.

However, it gave an insight into different international cultural attitudes to leadership.  Of those taking part, 20% were men, generally in their late 20s and early 30s and geographically, they were 52% from Africa; 21% UK; 12% Middle East; 6% Far East; 6% Europe;  3% USA.

I wonder with so much discussion at the moment on the new emerging MINT economies (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey), how important these different cultural attitudes to leadership are?

3. Organisational transformation:  3 key stages for managing change

Written by my predecessor, Prof Sarah Dixon (then Dr Dixon) in 2011, this topic attracted interest as soon as it went up – and it now appears globally top of Google searches on the subject.

Organisational transformation is the buzzword of the moment, particularly in the public sector and especially in the NHS.  It has been critical to every business – the world is a very different place now from five years ago and the survivors have been those who re-thought their markets, how they deliver their services and the leadership needed to inspire and manage that change.

This blog highlights the three key stages to manage change.

Mastering your business dissertation

Mastering your business dissertation

4. Choosing a business dissertation question:  how can you manage the expectation of all parties involved?

Dr Robert Lomas is a bestselling author on Mastering your Business Dissertation.  In this blog he shared his insights into how you choose the question for your dissertation to ensure you meet the  expectations of what he calls the ménage à trois, between you, your potential – or existing employer – and your business school.

I completely agree with his comment that you should ask yourself a critical question:  is your Masters topic interesting enough to maintain your enthusiasm over six months and 15,000 words!

5. Transformational leadership – why your business can’t grow without it

Transformational Leadership

Transformational Leadership

If organisational transformation is such a hot topic, it is not surprising that our blog on the transformational leadership needed to achieve this, was also in the top ten blogs.

This blog looked at the change from transformational leadership into transactional leadership; turnaround intervention  – examining the case studies of Marks and Spencer and Sir Stuart Rose; and the Russian oil company, Yukos which brought in non-oil people to lead it; and renewal intervention, ‘to secure strategic supremacy’.

So those are the top five for visitors to our blog.  I thought it worth mentioning a few of my own favourites which narrowly missed the top ten but are popular and thought provoking.  They are definitely worth a read!

Look out for part two of this blog which will cover the other top 10 blogs. Do leave a comment below and share your thoughts as to what blogs you would like to see this year and which were your own favourites.  And why!

Can money run out? Why we need to re:think world finances

Courtesy of Yale BooksStephen King – the economist thriller of HSBC, the bank, rather than the thriller writer – has caused quite a stir.  His new book When the Money Runs Out looks at the failures of Western economic policies of the last ten years and warns that this failure has led to a collapse of trust, which goes beyond financial services.

This loss of trust was a theme at a dinner I recently hosted with Tony Reeves, to ask businesses how we should celebrate our 50th anniversary.  John Huddleston from the CBI stressed the importance of trust in business today – and was in many ways confirming what Stephen King is saying – and that there is a major cost to businesses and the economy when trust is broken.

Hamish McCrae of the Independent says of Stephen King’s book, ‘He shows how we assumed the good times would continue forever, and how policy-makers made matters worse. He notes how their failure has led to a collapse of trust not only in financial services, but in economic policy. Politicians in the West have promised services they cannot deliver. King argues that unless we learn from the past, the West is doomed to a long period of very low growth and rising mistrust. Globalisation goes into reverse.’

However, Ryan Bourne, Head of Economic Research at CPS says that the book is perhaps not as doom-and-gloom as the title suggests, ‘Yet it is a warning. The central thesis suggests that the premise from which we have based all of our projections (and our ability to keep funding entitlements), that we will return to fairly robust trend growth, may well prove to be false. If so, we won’t be able to fulfil the promises we have made to ourselves.’

All of this has great resonance in terms of what Bradford University School of Management is looking at with the circular economy.

The School has recently launched our Innovation, Enterprise and Circular Economy MBA.  Created in partnership with the Ellen McArthur Foundation, the first cohort of 30 business participants – from companies such as Ricoh, BT, CISCO, National Grid, IfixIT and B&Q – has just concluded.

The course is designed to help businesses change their perspectives.  Today’s economic conditions, characterised by increased price volatility and scarcity on energy and resources fronts, means we have to do business differently.  We have designed this circular economy MBA to give the next generation of leaders a first-mover advantage, by tackling subjects including regenerative product design, new business models, reverse logistics and enabling communication technologies

Ellen MacArthur set up her foundation in 2010. When sailing round the world, she thought about the scarcity of the world’s resources – and related that to how she was using resources differently and carefully on her yacht, because she had no choice.  The foundation’s challenge is to help our society find new ways of doing business that looks after scarce resources better.  But it is not about ‘sustainability’.

She says that a circular economy ‘seeks to rebuild capital, whether this is financial, manufactured, human, social or natural. This ensures enhanced flows of goods and services. The system diagram illustrates the continuous flow of technical and biological materials through the ‘value circle.’

courtesy of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

courtesy of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

And it is this kind of new thinking and approach that we need for Western financial services and our economies.

Amazon’s summary of Stephen King’s sums up what he thinks we need to learn and do, “The Western world has experienced extraordinary economic progress throughout the last six decades, a prosperous period so extended that continuous economic growth has come to seem normal. But such an era of continuously rising living standards is an historical anomaly and the current stagnation of Western economies threatens to reach crisis proportions in the not-so-distant future.

“It’s not just the end of an age of affluence. We have made promises to ourselves that are only achievable through ongoing economic expansion. The future benefits we expect – pensions, healthcare, and social security, for example – may be larger than tomorrow’s resources. And if we reach that point, which promises will be broken and who will lose out? The lessons of history offer compelling evidence that political and social upheaval are often born of economic stagnation.”

King says we have to take painful but necessary steps towards a stable and just economy.   What are these steps and have we yet learned the lessons of our past?  Is he right in his thinking and could we run out of money?  (for King’s own answer to this last question, click on the video of his interview!)

How should a top business school celebrate its 50th anniversary?

50-YearsFounded in 1963, later this year the School of Management will start our 50th anniversary celebrations.

In times of austerity, it has been an interesting challenge to identify events and activities that both celebrate but add value to our alumni, academics and the global business community that we support.

As one of the UK’s first university-based business schools, and now holding the prestigious triple crown accreditation, a 50th anniversary is a significant event for our School.

We have been working with Tony Reeves Bradford City CouncilTony Reeves, chief executive of Bradford  City Council and who sits on our board, to see how the School can partner with some of their initiatives, particularly the City’s focus on ‘Design, Create, Make, Trade’.

Ellen_Macarthur_Foundation_LogoBradford was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution and now, partnering with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and launching our new Innovation, Enterprise and Circular Economy MBA, we are at the heart of the New Industrial Revolution.

We were delighted that a number of businesses joined us recently to discuss our plans for the next year.

John Huddleston from the CBI was at the dinner, and he stressed the importance of trust in business today – and the cost to businesses and the economy when trust is broken.  Many businesses talked about how a university business school is an organisation that can be trusted.  We have a neutral role and should pick up the baton of trusted facilitator.  This is particularly important in areas such as innovation where businesses need to feel they can talk openly about both their challenges and ideas.

Professor Peter Hopkinson gave a presentation about the Circular Economy – of course name-dropping again that this was on the agenda at Davos this year, when McKinsey presented their positive and supportive report, provided a clear economic rationale for a circular economy!

There was a great deal of interest in the principles of the circular economy –we are still working on neat definitions – and would welcome your thoughts on this.

One business woman came back after the dinner to suggest

sustainability

Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

‘Sustainability is the process of using and reusing resources to minimise waste.  The circular economy is creating the business models to do this efficiently and profitably.’

Is this a good start?

The other areas where businesses voiced their views were

–          Businesses would like to see the School and the wider university facilitating innovation – our neutral role can provide the trust needed for this

–          Businesses have asked us to define our ‘assets’ and skills and make them easy to access

–          Research which we are looking to carry out with our alumni around the world, should be focused on innovation

Of course, innovation and the circular economy go hand in hand.  Businesses want to rethink how they use energy and resources, have different relationships with their customers and use technology innovatively.  All of this is innovative and requires innovative thinking.Innovation

One of the questions we had asked businesses was about the changes they expected their business to face over the next ten to 50 years.  While larger corporates are looking very long term, smaller businesses say that in the current economy they struggle to plan six months ahead, let alone six years.  This recession has had a major impact on the process of business planning – but equally businesses that have survived are extremely flexible in their plans.  And that is something for us to think about in the School, when talking about the business planning process.

We are now developing a detailed plan for our 50th anniversary celebrations which will include

–          A two day event at the School on Thursday 19 and Friday 20 June 2014 to showcase best practice in the circular economy

–          At this event we will have an international debate around innovation of the future

–          An alumni weekend of activities following straight on from this

–          Global alumni events

–          An alumni piece of research around innovation

–          Online circular economy modules which we hope to offer to businesses at significant discounts

Because of the interest in the circular economy and our new

Re: centre (Re: manufacture, Re: design, Re: think – get the idea?), a number of businesses have asked to preview the centre before it opens this September.

If you are an alumnus of the School, what would you like to see us doing?  And if you are a business working with us – or who would like to work with us – what should we do to support you?

Is it worth doing an MBA any more?

Bradford UniversityTo celebrate the university’s 50th anniversary next year, Bradford University School of Management is offering six MBA scholarships – worth over £17000 each – for just £2000, including both full time and part time courses. If you’re interested in applying for one of the scholarships, you can find out more information here.

But for those who aren’t lucky enough to snap up a scholarship, is an MBA still a valuable and worthwhile investment?

Barriers for international MBA students

In my recent blog on how business schools could adapt to the challenges of declining MBA numbers, I looked at some of the key challenges facing the MBA market. The immigration cap and stringent student visa policy have certainly had an impact on the number of international students able to undertake an MBA in the UK. Add to that, the prolonged global recession, which has made everyone much more frugal with investments in training and development.

Barriers for UK MBA students

For UK candidates, the squeeze on company training budgets, and indeed on household budgets too, has led many to put their plans for an MBA on hold. While in previous recessions, those who had been made redundant or taken a career break may have used their savings to do an MBA, many are delaying the decision while they save a little more, get a little more experience.

But when is the perfect time? Leave it too long and you become too settled into a career path and other responsibilities take over: very few business owners or senior executives will be able to take a career break for an MBA then step straight back into the same role but with greater earning potential.

When is the right time to do an MBA?

According to career strategy consultant, Korina Karampela, “the majority nowadays do an MBA relatively early in their career (after having three-four years of experience).” She advises undertaking an MBA SWOT analysis and having clear SMART career goals in mind when going through the decision making process. Strengths include knowledge, confidence and networking opportunities, while weaknesses include it not training you to be an expert in anything. I believe this latter point is a really important one, but not as a weakness – as a strength.

Moving from operational to strategic management with an MBA

One of the key benefits of MBAs is helping high performing operational managers take that leap to becoming a strategic senior manager/director. When I meet new MBAs they often talk about needing credibility to make that step up – and many need additional skills, particularly finance, so that they can talk the language of boardrooms.

Ms-Areej-Nassar

Areej Nassar, a Brand Manager at Johnson & Johnson in Dubai, highlighted the benefits of this bigger picture in her blog about choosing an MBA that doesn’t interfere with short-term career progression:

 

“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. …. Bradford is very good at organising group work and encouraging collaboration … which made me a more versatile and forward thinking candidate when I went for my new job.”

This broad strategic overview is not only important from a knowledge and confidence perspective, but also from an internal perception point of view. Moving from a specific business area such as HR or FM into a senior management role can bring all sorts of issues, not least the perception of credibility (and therefore influence) among your colleagues.

Tom Hulme

Image courtesy of enabledbydesign.org

In a recent FT debate about the value of MBAs, consultant Tom Hulme describes how his MBA opened up new networks and how not everyone knows where their passion lies and business school can be a way to discover new opportunities and possibilities.”


The value of an MBA for those working internationally

In the same FT article, headhunter Edward Speed also raises some important points about the value of an MBA for those wishing to work internationally in emerging markets: “MBA graduates are more likely to bring value in certain sectors and countries, and should target these. In some, an MBA remains a baseline requirement; in emerging markets, where a high value is placed on education and overseas experience, it remains an important differentiator.”

 

Image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Much has also been made recently of whether entrepreneurialism is inherent or can be taught, and indeed there are many examples of highly successful business people who rejected an academic path to pursue their business dreams with great success, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs to name just two.

For those who don’t have that fully-fledged business idea, or the confidence to throw themselves behind their idea without the strategic knowledge to do so, an MBA is the perfect stepping stone and can open many doors in terms of useful contacts and networks to accelerate your business success.

In a previous blog, Christos Kalantaridis discusses taught entrepreneurialism and asks “Can an MBA enhance your entrepreneurial skills?” He concludes that while we can’t ensure that a new Alan Sugar will emerge among MBA graduates of Bradford University School of Management, we can “guarantee that MBA graduates from our School are creative, enterprising, trying to identify opportunities, and possess the skills needed to exploit these opportunities.”

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the value of MBAs. It is clear from the comments on my recent blog that our alumni highly value their qualification from Bradford and the opportunities it has given them.

But what about MBA students from less established business schools – is the value of an MBA in the name of the awarding institution? Or is it more a case of you get out what you put in as a student?

mba

If you’d like to find out more about our MBA scholarships, please visit the scholarships page.

This is a fantastic one-off opportunity to make that leap without many of the usual barrier concerns over cost. Is this for you? Or for someone you know?

Can business schools adapt to the challenges of declining MBA numbers?

Earlier this week, the FT came out with dramatic headlines about the UK’s top business schools seeing their MBA numbers fall dramatically.   The graph below demonstrates the point.

MBA-STUDENTS-TOP-18UK-BUS-S

The cause is down to a ‘perfect storm’ of different factors converging.  The UK has had a concerted campaign to reduce the number of immigrants. To do this it has tightened border controls and visa applications.  It has had the unintended consequence of making this country less welcoming to overseas students.  Theresa May may have announced that 1,000 extra places will be added to UK net migration caps for MBA graduates who plan to start a business in the country, but it will have little effect on visas for the 2013 MBA recruitment market.

We are of course in a global recession – and this recession has been longer and deeper than any other in decades.  In the past, MBAs have been counter-cyclical.  Managers have used their savings to study for an MBA while the economy was flat and they may have lost their job, poised ready to take advantage of the upswing.

This recession has been different.  One of the biggest issues has been lack of loans and funding and people are reluctant to spend what savings they have.

Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org/

Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org/

And of course, new business schools are springing up in India and China – attracting a market that would once have gone to the UK and America.

Our own business school has seen numbers decline along with our competitors – ironically, just as we achieved the AACSB accreditation, giving us the ‘Triple Crown’ and putting us into the world’s top 58 of business schools.

But businesses across the world have faced similar challenges to ours and our teaching helps them to apply transformational strategies, despite recessions and increased competition.  So we are now applying our own teaching to ourselves.

Here is just a snapshot of what we are doing to ensure we retain our position among the world’s top business schools and deliver for our students and alumni.

1. Flexible learning modules

Many of our students are concerned about the long term commitment of an MBA when they can’t be certain of the economy or their plans.

Our distance learning MBA has grown significantly and we expect that to continue.  We have worked hard over the last two years to ensure that anyone studying an MBA at Bradford can move seamlessly between full time, part time and distance learning MBA.

Our modules are also run simultaneously across the world – so students could study strategy in Singapore, finance in UK and HR in Dubai.

2. MBAs for the future

Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Perhaps our greatest innovation has been to create an MBA with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to reflect business and business models of the future.  The circular economy has become a hot topic, recently mentioned in EU policy documents, and is seen as a way of gaining competitive advantage for organisations and economies.  The circular economy MBA has been designed with the likes of Renault, B&Q and National Grid and will appeal to those working in large corporates as much as those wanting innovative digital businesses of the future

3. Specialist Masters

Trading-room

The MBA may not be growing at the same pace as before, but the specialist Masters field definitely is.  Earlier this year we launched a trading room for students on specialist finance MScs – where they can practise trading on Thomson Reuters Eikon software as well as gain insights into ethical dilemmas.

4. Working with professional institutes

Last year we launched a new employee relations postgraduate programme designed with the help of international companies including BP and HSBC.

Employee-Relations-Institute

The new course is designed in partnership with the Employee Relations Institute (ERI) and businesses and trade unions such as UNITE have all contributed ideas to make the programme practical and relevant to employers.

5. New overseas partnerships

Of course, many businesses have a strategy based on ‘if you can’t beat them, join them (but do it better)’.  We are exploring new partnerships for delivering Bradford degree programmes in high growth markets such as China.

This is a business school that is practising what it preaches – finding new avenues for new futures.

If you were in our seats, where would you focus your efforts for the future – and where do you see the MBA market going?

Where do you see future opportunities for our School?

Five winning tips to keep your customers in a recession

Courtesy of FT.com

Chrissie Rucker, founder of the White Company, this month told the Financial Times “It only takes a couple of bad experiences, of being disappointed in the quality of products, for you to lose your customers in the future”.

For Ms Rucker this means she will not cut corners in her linens company.  So she won’t lower the thread count on cotton towels or substitute a cuff for a simple hem on a blouse.

This principle of understanding your customer, what matters to them and giving them what they want consistently is all part of relationship marketing.

Marketing researcher, Berry (1983, page 25), defines relationship marketing as ‘attracting, maintaining and …. enhancing customer relationships’ while Morgan and Hunt (1994) say it is ‘establishing, developing and maintaining successful relational exchanges’.

1. Why does relationship marketing matter?

The obvious starting point is to look at the cost and effort you put into getting new customers.   If you are then leaking customers from your business because they come, don’t like the experience and leave – well what a waste of your marketing budget!  This is known as the leaky bucket theory.

Arthur Middleton Hughes looks at the financial impact of a 5-percentage-point increase in retention rate of customers in terms of the profit from that customer over their lifetime with your business.  Based on the arguments made by Reicheld in the Loyalty Effect, he works out that the lifetime value of a customer can increase by 75% if retention rate is increased by 5%.

2. Create a customer value proposition

James C Anderson, James A Narus and Wouter van Rossum argue that ‘under pressure to keep costs down, customers may only look at price and not listen to your sales pitch.  Help them understand -and believe in – the superior value of your offerings.’

To do this, you want to look at the customer satisfaction quadrant.

Satisfied customers generate more revenue than dissatisfied customers – and are more likely to return to your business.  So you need to understand what customers see as really special and added value about products and services.  Make sure everyone in the business understands what customers value and that they focus on these strengths.

And also find out what customers see as weaknesses and don’t value.  Improve the products where you can and maybe drop parts of the product or service if customers don’t see the value in those areas.

3. Loyalty ladder

The concept of the loyalty ladder is to retain customers through different levels of relationship, moving from the bottom where they are just a prospect, but intend to buy, although they have not done so yet – through to customers  who are intensely loyal brand champions and become advocates for your business and products.

4. Customer retention strategies

The key to retaining customers is to understand why they leave you for your competitors.When a customer leaves there is loss of revenue and the loss from the investment you made when acquiring them.

If you understand the patterns of why customers leave, you can use this information to predict which ones might leave next – and then put plans in place to keep them.

5. The building blocks of relationship marketing

As you will by now gather, relationship marketing is all about understanding your customer, data analysis and feeding this information into your whole business – it is not just about marketing.

I was recently teaching on our executive MBA and we outlined the process for this as

·Define target segment(s)

·Understand customer needs

·Define customer purchase decision making unit

·Understand customer purchase processes

·Analyse competitor offerings

·Articulate competitive advantage

·Promote the added value

·Define relationship effectiveness measures

When starting your analysis, Ford (1980) proposed that there are five stages to a relationship as follows, which can help to define the customer journey and help with research and understanding

·Pre relationship stage

·The early stage

·The development stage

·The long term stage

·The final stage

6. Who are the key stakeholders in relationship management?

relationshipmarketingWhile I have said your whole business should be involved in retaining customers, others give specific definitions as to who you should focus on.

Kotler (1992) suggests: suppliers, employees, distributors and end-user (consumers) in the micro-environment, with other key players such as government and investors in the macro-environment.

Reichheld (1996) points to: the right investors, the right customers and the right employees.

Morgan and Hunt (1994) point to 10 key groups spread across buyer, supplier, internal and lateral partnerships.

It seems to me that relationship management becomes even more important in difficult economic times.It is so hard to find any customers at all, that it must make sense to keep the ones you have got, rather than just focus on more marketing spend. But is it harder or easier to retain them in a recession?And what has been your most effective strategy to keep your customers?