TBBLE - The Best Business Studies CPD - Ever!

Four final chances to join us for TBBLE 2014! Resource-packed CPD for Business!!

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Organisational Culture: Tony Hsieh on Zappos, Core Values, Culture and Organisational Structure

Sunday, May 25, 2014

If students are looking for a research example of a business that is truly built around a deliberate attempt to create and nurture a strong organisational culture, they need look no further than online shoe retailer Zappos.

Tony Hsieh - the founder of Zappos (bought by Amazon in 2009) wanted to build a business based around a simple idea. That it - if you get the organisational culture right - then everything else that you need to be successful will fall into place.

Is he right?

read more...»

The surprising effects of Barclays retrenchment and Dixons merger

Friday, May 16, 2014

2 perfectly contrasting and counter-intuitive articles that show how “the markets” can favour retrenchment over growth.

Barclays announced it was slashing 19,000 jobs and reducing the size of its Investment bank. The immediate result? Share price surged 8%.

Carphone Warehouse announce a £3.8bn merger with Dixons that will “create a seamless experience” for their customers. The result? Dixons share price closed 10% down and Carphone Warehouse’s dropped by 8%.

By comparing and contrasting the 2 strategies (and the reasons for the resultant change in share price) students can show good analysis of the benefits of retrenchment.

Anthony Jenkins, in an interview in the Sunday Times, said it best by echoing/paraphrasing/plagiarising Howard Schultz after he closed almost 1000 Starbucks stores in the US - “Growth is not a strategy, it’s the by-product of good strategy”.

I hope the revision is going well!

Women make better shoppers

Thursday, May 15, 2014

It's official - women are better at shopping than men. I have just finished listening to a brilliant edition of Peter Day's 'In Business' called Price Conscious, and one of the revelations was that men can be fooled into thinking they are getting a bargain simply by using red price stickers, whereas women are much more analytical about pricing and can look beyond the colour used on a label. Far be it from me to comment on this any further.....

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Is China’s slowdown good news?

There is plenty of concern about the slowdown in China's growth, and what this might mean for businesses looking at expansion via China. To what extent should those businesses be worried about slower growth? The issues here are very relevant to the external environment in China, and could be useful for bullet points 1 and 6:

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Annual Sales revenue for major global businesses - ‘Higher or Lower’ resource

Monday, May 12, 2014

In true tutor2u style, here we have an adapted resource that asks students to decide whether the annual sales ($bn, 2013) of one major global brand is 'higher' or 'lower' than another.  The original resource was an economics activity comparing the GDP growth of different countries (available from this link).   

This resource has been compiled by Paul Hoang, using data from Fortunes Top 100 companies.  It is an interactive Powerpoint game that asks students to string together as long a sequence of correct answers as possible (the highest possible score is 36).  The screen shows one business and its annual sales revenue for last year and then shows the name of a second business.  The student has to say whether they think the annual sales revenue of the second company is higher or lower then that of the first business.  Answer correctly they are offered another business to compare.  Answer incorrectly, the student is 'out' and someone else can be invited to play.

This is a fun, interactive resource that gives students an insight into the relative sales figures of some of the world's major companies.

Click this link to download the resource.

Revision Quiz - Retrenchment

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The strategy of retrenchment is covered in this revision quiz

Launch Revision Quiz - Retrenchment

To update your knowledge and understanding of retrenchment, have a look through this revision presentation

Revision Quiz - Porter’s Five Forces Model

Test your knowledge and understanding of Porter's Five Forces model with this ten-question revision quiz:

Launch Revision Quiz - Porter's Five Forces Model

You can update your studies of this important model by looking through these support resources:

Revision presentation on Porter's Five Forces Model

Study note on Porter's Five Forces Model

Revision Quiz - Strategy Models

Here are 15 multiple-choice questions that test your knowledge and understanding of the key strategy models used in A2 business

Launch Revision Quiz - Strategy Models

Revision Quiz - Business & the Environment

Try these revision questions on the environmental issues facing business

Launch Revision Quiz - Environmental Issues

Revision Quiz - Business Ethics

This revision quiz provides 10 questions on Business Ethics.

Launch Revision Quiz - Business Ethics

Revision Quiz - Globalisation

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Try these ten MCQs on the topic of globalisation.

Launch Revision Quiz - Globalisation

JLR, Lady Gaga and Abu Dhabi go Galactic!

Monday, May 05, 2014

Virgin Galactic is Richard Branson's dream to provide suborbital space flights to space tourists by 2015, and it provides a wealth of Business Studies concepts for AS and A2.

Firstly, the premium price of £150,000 to £250,000 (the cost of decent Rolls Royce to you or me) means it has a very specific target market; over 700 space tourists have signed up, with one third from America (the other two thirds come from over 50 different countries), most are millionaire men in their 50s and are definitely not risk-averse. Akin to Branson, many stated the moon landing of 1969 as the reason for their purchase.

Lady Gaga

In her quest for a new USP, Lady Gaga will be swapping her meat suit for a space one and be first earthling to sing live from space, ensuring that she maintains her outlandish, cutting edge image.

JLR & Virgin

These 2 iconic British brands are expanding the empire, and for BUSS4 students, the long-term partnership between JLR and Virgin, with their “shared vision of pioneering spirit, technological innovation and sense of adventure”, provides information for almost every section of the specification.

The CNBC article focuses on the technological innovations in JLRs new concept SUV.

In this short video, Richard Branson discusses his dream and vision, how JLR will aid Virgin in creating a completely new market and, to show that it’s not all about profit and pride, he hopes it will inspire future generations to pursue careers in engineering and science.

Abu Dhabi and beyond

Finally, Abu Dhabi state-controlled investment fund paid $280 million for a 32% stake in the business, in return for "regional rights to launch Virgin Galactic tourism and scientific research space flights from the United Arab Emirates capital". It sees this as an Investment opportunity to progress from an international tourism hub, to an inter-galactic one, with this article suggesting Virgin space hotels in galaxies far far away!

Factors influencing price… for grotty garages

Friday, May 02, 2014

A quickie but a goodie for the revision of price, supply and demand.

  1. Get students to guess the price paid for the garages in the picture above (click here for mind blowing answer). I suggest you offer a big prize for the right answer as none will guess correctly!
  2. Ask them to rank the many factors that influenced it (quality, location, competition, PED and economic environment all come into play),
  3. Get students to read the Metro Article and get them to decide on best method to ensure that the investment is a profitable one.

Hope it helps!

China’s exports losing low-cost advantages

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Boston Consulting Group have produced a fascinating new report which investigates the competitiveness of the world's top 25 goods exporting nations. Their press release highlights significant changes in the world order over the last decade. The newly-minted BCG Global Manufacturing Cost-Competitiveness Index incorporates four factors: energy costs, productivity, wages and exchange rates. That analysis shows that Mexico now has lower manufacturing costs than China, while Brazil is now one of the highest-cost countries, and the UK is the cheapest location in western Europe.


read more...»

Musings on Moyes - leadership, culture and change management.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

So it seems two great passions - football and Business Studies - can be combined for Unit 4...at least something good came out of Moyes' reign!

 

read more...»

China V India - Who will “emerge” victorious?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Hostile government, the threat of a financial meltdown, slowing growth, higher wages and an ageing population. Is China still the best option for foreign investment? 

Compare this to India's younger, cheaper workforce, more welcoming government and forecasted largest middle-class population by 2030.

To allow students to analyse and evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of investment in China , I've attached a research task based on India that gives key economic and demographic information, and looks at the "Indian strategies" for the following Tutor2u BUSS4 Top Ten businesses: JLR, Starbucks, KFC, Apple, Samsung and Ikea.

Good luck with the revision this term!

The value of failure

Thursday, April 24, 2014

An item on the BBC website looks like a good source of revision about entrepreneurs and what drives them, and how they respond to failure. Eight high profile entrepreneurs, including Richard Branson, Richard Reed, Liz Earle and angel investor Dale Murray, talk about their biggest failures, and what they have learned from those - so offer plenty of opportunities for the vital Application which students can add to their exam answers. This could be useful for students sitting all four of the BUSS papers, as the examples cover a wide range of business topics, from dealing with suppliers to the risks of entering new markets, and from aspects of leadership to the best way of exiting a business.

The written article uses extracts from an edition of 'On the Money' which was broadcast on Radio 5 on Sunday - and available to listen to on i-player until Sunday 27th April.

Breaking Bad Performance through Strategic Alliance

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

No doubt like many of you, the bulk of this week (and last) has been spent attempting to get on top of my workload and capitalise upon the opportunity the Easter break has presented. Having said that, work and revision for the June papers is only optimised when effectively combined with an appropriate amount of rest and relaxation. For me that has mainly consisted of over-dosing on the hit TV series Breaking Bad.

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Breakeven Analysis - Quick Quiz

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Here is a Zondle-powered topic which tests knowledge and understanding of the basics of breakeven analysis. The topic quiz keeps setting you the questions until you get them all right! Give it a go!

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Meet Britain’s Best Business Leader - Harriet Green

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Students attending our BUSS4 exam coaching workshops will know that I'm a big fan of Harriet Green, the CEO who has done so much to lead the turnaround of Thomas Cook. In fact, I'd almost go as far as to say that Harriet Green is my favourite CEO. Except, of course, that there is Howard Schultz of Starbucks who has long held that position in my mind!

Nevertheless I highly recommend that business students take some time to learn more about the leadership and management style of Harriet Green who was awarded the Leader of the Year accolade at the 2013 National Business Awards.

Here are two articles which I think are pretty accessible to students wanting to undertake this research.

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Is Arrogance the Biggest Threat to Western Multinationals Succeeding in China?

What does it take for businesses outside China to now succeed in China given the substantial changes that have taken place in recent years in the competitive environment there?

This short opinion piece from Dr Edward Tse in the South China Morning Post suggests that arrogance (on behalf of Western multinationals) might be one of the most significant impediments to success.

read more...»

Xiaomi - An Essential Student Research Update from Bloomberg

This article on Bloomberg Business about Xiaomi is perfectly timed for teachers and students wanting to update and extend their research on one of the fastest-growing consumer electronics brands in the world.

Back in September 2013 we wrote at some length about the growth strategy at Xiaomi which many in the media have labelled the "Apple" of China (and its founder and CEO Lei Jun the "Steve Jobs of China"). That's a label he rejects, by the way

Earlier this year we reported on how Lei Jun had set quite a challenging new corporate objective for Xiaomi - to sell 40 million smartphones during 2014.

The Bloomberg article suggests that Xiaomi may already be well on the way to achieving and possibly exceeding the 40 million phone objective, particularly as it has started to sell very well outside of China (a recent launch in Singapore sold out in just minutes). There is talk of trying to sell 100 million phones in 2015! Now Lei Jun's sights are set on nearby emerging markets such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Why is Xiaomi succeeding against strong competition?

The article argues that the attraction of the Xiaomi product is both from a design AND price perspective:

"Xiaomi’s appeal: It offers the technology and style of Apple or Samsung at less than half the cost." it claims, and this is supported by some comments from Xiaomi customers.

The article also provides some important background information on Lei Jun who is described as being "a world-class entrepreneur with vision, leadership and ambition to really build up a global company".

The comparison towards the end of the article between Xiaomi and Apple is also well worth a read - top evidence for a compare and contrast point for BUSS4 students.

China’s focus on Innovation, not Imitation

Monday, April 07, 2014

A great BBC article and video highlighting why China’s domestic mobile phone companies are now the greatest threat to Apple and Samsung’s success.

The extracts below will add weight to any argument that foreign mobile companies will struggle to succeed in the Chinese market.

  • Shenzhen, once a fishing village is now referred to as China’s Silicon Valley. It is home to Huawei, Lenovo and ZTE (three of the five largest mobile handset companies in the world) and a further 6000 handset manufacturers.
  • China produces more than half of the 2.5 billion phones sold around the world annually.
  • China now spends around $300bn (£182bn) a year on R&D, compared with a US spend of $450bn, and it is estimated to surpass Europe by 2018 and the US by 2022.

In the interview with Shi Lirong, Global President of ZTE (now the most innovative company in the world, filing 50,000 international patents last year), he lays out his three-pronged strategy of customer-focused innovation, recruitment of the best staff from around the world and the development of business partnerships.

Very impressive stuff!

read more...»

Starbucks – Technology to order your Coffee… but Never to Serve it

Following on from Jim's blog updating us on Starbucks strategy, here is another great 4 minute CNN video interview with Howard Schultz in which he talks about his app that allows customers to order on-line. The factors leading to this are the rise in internet shopping and subsequent reduction in footfall in shopping centres, but will online-ordering reduce the impact of this? Schultz talks about the need for all retail businesses to completely transform the way they do business, and as always, Starbucks seem to be ahead of the curve.

He explains the benefit of technology and data to help him better meet the needs of the customers (and ultimately shareholders), but is adamant that robots will never serve the coffee as this will detract from the customer experience instead of enhance it.

Another gem of a video that covers strategic planning, innovation, technology and customer service.

Starbucks Update from Howard Schultz

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Starbucks - always one of the best BUSS4 research examples - continues to be a source of inspiration for business teachers and students. I picked up on this excellent Q&A interview between CEO Howard Schultz and Bloomberg Businessweek which is packed with useful research insights. 

Here is the article - well worth a read.

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Technological Change and the Watchmakers

The global watch business is estimated to be worth around $22bn per year. It is still a big market, but the market leaders face some significant competitive threats from substitute products.

Can mechanical watchmakers compete effectively with the big smartphone brands? They need to find a way to do this soon unless their products are to be consigned to targeting a niche segment of older, wealthy customers.

read more...»

Google Glass, Geeks and Loons – Overcoming Barriers for Product and Market Development

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Two very interesting stories regarding Google’s intentions of world domination (in a nice way) via innovation, product and market development.

Firstly, in an effort to “de-dorkify” the Google-Glass and appeal to a wider audience, Google have struck a deal with Luxottica (the makers of Ray-Bans and Oakley sunglasses) to design the wearable device. The deal looks promising and Luxottica’s share price increased 4% after the deal. At the same time, Google founder Sergey Brin has been denigrating mobile phones saying that they are socially isolating, with “people walking around hunched up, looking down, rubbing a featureless piece of glass”. This is a great example of how Google are trying to push what they hope is their next rising star by challenging accepted norms about how we currently interact.

Secondly, to “connect the two-thirds of the world's population which does not have affordable net connections”, Google has launched Project Loons, which consists of floating balloons laden with 3G equipment into the skies over lesser developed countries. The driving force behind this is of course altruistic, with an ancillary benefit being that billions more people will use Google services. Moved by this act of philanthropy, Facebook intend to do the same, but using solar-powered drones instead!

Perfect stimulus for discussions for Ansoff’s Matrix, Boston Matrix, Innovation, Competition, Overcoming barriers, CSR and Strategic planning.

Retrenchment and the Rope-a-dope

Monday, March 31, 2014

A topic that is yet to be examined in the BUSS4 paper and one of the sections in the fantastic BUSS4 Revision Workshops is Retrenchment.

This 9 minute clip show the highlights of Ali and Foreman’s Rumble in the Jungle, and demonstrates the risks of over expansion, the necessity of retrenchment and the benefits of focus. It serves as a potential introduction to Retrenchment strategy and can be followed by research on Thomas Cook’s Harriot Green or Royal Mail’s Moya Green (two ladies who demonstrate Ali-esque strategic thinking). In the video, Muhammad Ali shows:

Aggressive Attack

Ali believed that he could beat the market leader with an aggressive attack in the first 2 round. He was wrong! It led only to him expending lots of energy (money) and aggrevating his more powerful opponent.

Retrenchment (the rope-a-dope)

Ali went against the rope for the subsequent 5 rounds. Whilst this was a risky strategy, it allowed him to refocus and conserve vital energy (whilst Foreman went on the attack and expended most of his energy/funds). Despite being on the defensive, Ali still used his marketing/mind games to get the crowd on side and frustrate Foreman.

Focus and Success

In the 8th round, having regained his stregth and knowing that his opponent had lost his, Ali invested in a short, focused but powerful attack that floored Foreman and allowed him to achieve his objective of Champion of the world/market leader!

Macroeconomic moves in China

Friday, March 28, 2014

I am cross-posting this from the Economics blog as I think it should be useful for BUSS4 students; in a rather low key report on the BBC website this week, I found the shock news that China had a trade deficit of $23bn in February. This is alongside the HSBC Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) which focuses on small privately owned businesses, and which gave a reading of 48.1 for March, compared to 48.5 in February - with any figure below 50 indicating a contraction in manufacturing activity. And today there is a forecast of the ‘official’ PMI, which looks at the larger state-owned factories; although this is slightly over the ‘expansion’ measure of 50, it is only predicted to come in at 50.3 - and is subject to a 0.3 downwards correction to allow for seasonal patterns, according to Louis Kuijs, chief China economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland.


read more...»

Market Segmentation for Politicians

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Are you optimistically content or in long-term despair? This BBC article is a must for any students taking both Business Studies and Politics.

Pollsters Populous have created a test to tap into the mindset of voters, understanding that the traditional demographics such as age and postcode are too vague.

It segments the electorate into 6 categories and demonstrates the percentage of voters for each political party, stating that this will enable them to “craft TV ads, speeches and photo ops that appeal to the groups they need to win over."

Students can take the 3 minute test and evaluate the usefulness of this method of psychological market segmentation and suggest the messages that leaders must use to expand their voter/customer base.

Alibaba - Ali you need know!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A combination of excellent news articles from last week have helped my students and I to fully understand the size and scope of Alibaba. Former teacher (and self-confessed technophobe) Jack Ma’s online company has experienced exponential growth and led to fear and envy from some of China’s (and the world’s) biggest companies. However, in his modesty he has described himself as “a blind man riding on a blind tiger”, giving him instant legend-status in our eyes!

The attached presentation has videos, hyperlinks and infographics that allow students to focus on the various elements that have led to Alibaba’s potential $150bn valuation. Each slide focuses on a different section from the BUSS4 specification thus giving information on leadership, strategy, competition, diversification and the economic (electronic) environment.

Hope it helps.

Samsung target the selfie segment

Friday, March 21, 2014

Here’s a nice little example of Samsung’s customer-focus (no pun intended) and technological innovation.

Possibly inspired by 2013’s Word of the Year, Ellen DeGeneres’ most re-tweeted tweet, or just our general obsession with ourselves, the new Samsung NX mini camera has a rotating screen and is wink-activated, meaning the best selfie since the last selfie!

The Telegraph article

Entrepreneurs by Google Chrome

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Attached is a research task with videos based on three diverse entrepreneurs, two of whom are now millionaires. The Google Chrome adverts show the inception of the businesses (SBTV, The Cambridge Satchel Company and Frontside Skatepark), and additional articles allow students to see where they are now. The final task encourages students to analyse the determinants of success for an entrepreneur and assess which are the most important.

The Big Top is Big Business

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The people running this business are a bunch of clowns.

We'll, actually, that's not fair. But, it's almost right!

This video from CNN provides an insight into the operational complexity behind a historic travelling circus that rolls around the USA throughout the year. Each year, the three versions of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus perform in 120 cities, with 1,200 performances.

The family-owned business has a clear marketing orientation, as demonstrated by the interviews with Nicole and Alana Feld - the two leaders of the business.

read more...»

Foxconn: Life away from the Factories in China

Sometimes it helps to understand a little more about the human dimension behind the products we take for granted.

So here, for a slightly different perspective to offer students, is a short insight from the NYT into the lives of Foxconn factory workers in China.  What happens when they clock off from the production lines churning out iPads, iPhones and other consumer electronic goods? Take a look.

read more...»

Small is Beautiful in the Fast-Changing Solar Power Industry

We perhaps assume that the concept of economies of scale apply when it comes to the generation of "green" energy from solar panels. However, as this excellent video from The Economist explains, the fastest growth in solar panel generating capacity does not come from large solar farms in the desert. 

Instead, the utility industry is struggling to come to terms with the competitive threat from tens of thousands of small, individual installations which are able to sell their solar power into the energy grid. A great profile of a fast-growing industry and market that is making hay whilst the sun shines!

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Does the UK Steel Industry Have a Future?

The FT produce some superb videos that are ideal for use in the Business & Economics classroom - and this new one on the UK steel industry is yet another ideal teaching resource. 

While global steel output has accelerated over the past four decades, the UK has been left behind. Tanya Powley, the FT's manufacturing correspondent, visits Celsa's plant in Cardiff to find out if UK steelmakers still have a future.

There is so much in the four minutes of the video. A good idea is to ask students to consider, as they watch, what is the most significant point made about the UK steel industry. 

They might mention:

The substantial reduction in scale of the industry over recent decades (from 200K workers to around 20k)

The significant overcapacity in the global steel industry

The lack of competitiveness of UK steel plants despite heavy investment (capital intensive!)

The changing relationship between employers and employees (the steel industry at its height had a pretty awful record of industrial relations)

read more...»

If you can’t think of anything inspirational to say, let Google do the work for you

Monday, March 17, 2014

I talk way too much in lessons, I can’t help it. So, to reduce my word emissions, my students and I collated a handful of concise quotes from artist, sportsman, writers, leaders and businessmen on the topics below. Some are great, many are cheesy, but they make for a good display and help students find links between business studies, entrepreneurship and the other subjects they are studying.

Risk Taking

Creative Thinking

Motivation

Planning & Preparation

Hard Work

Change of strategy at Morrisons

Thursday, March 13, 2014

How can it be that the announcement from Morrisons today that they have made a £176m pre-tax loss for the year to February 2, has caused Tesco's share value to fall to its lowest level in almost a decade? 

There are a couple of articles here which give students a good opportunity to analyse the internal and external influences which are forcing Morrisons to change their strategy, and the effect of that change on their competitors. As this article in the Daily Telegraph explains, the problem for Tesco, and for Sainsbury as well, is in the change of strategy that Chief Executive Dalton Philips announced in order to try to turn this around. Morrisons intend to cut their costs aggressively, by £1bn, and to use those savings to cut their prices.

read more...»

China – has the “domino effect” begun?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Speaking at his annual address to parliament, premier Li Keqiang said “we are at a critical juncture where our path upwards is very steep… deep-seated problems are surfacing; painful structural adjustments need to be made”.

This comes at a time when there are reports of a potential sub-prime debt crisis in the “shadow banking” sector (worth between $604bn - $3.7 trillion, depending on the source).

Also, according to the Ministry of Human Resources, the number of job openings fell, with city jobs in Q4 falling 13.7% from the preceding quarter.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the first domestic corporate bond default happened last week. Energy company Shanghai Chaori Solar failed on a £9m interest payment. The state has previously bailed out Chaori and other such businesses, but chose not to this time, generating much speculation from analysts.

Many say it was a necessary move from the government to install a better risk culture, tackle China’s credit problems and starting with the “painful adjustments” necessary to decelerate growth.

However, Bank of America Merrill Lynch stated “We doubt that the financial system in China will experience a liquidity crunch immediately because of this default, but we think the chain reaction will probably start.”

This was echoed by Philip Li of China’s International Credit Rating, calling it “a domino effect”, and coupled with Robert Peston’s recent BBC article (and other sources below), should help students construct a strong case that the risks of operating in China now outweigh the rewards.

The Sunday Times - China faces it's Shadow Banks

Business Week - How Chaori will deal with the default

Forbes - Trouble for China?

The Telegraph - The value of the shadow banks

BBC - Is the shadow banking sector due to fall?

BBC - Robert Peston's How China fooled the world

Even St Anthony can’t change the culture at Barclays

Monday, March 10, 2014

In 2012 Anthony Jenkins (nicknamed “Saint Anthony”) succeeded Bob Diamond and promised to clean up Barclays and eradicate the worst excesses of the banking industry. Speaking to those who received huge bonuses for unscrupulous behaviour, he said “my message is simple: Barclays is not the place for you. The rules have changed. You won’t feel comfortable at Barclays and, to be frank, we won’t feel comfortable with you as colleagues”.

Despite this, profit dropping 32% to £5.2bn, and making 3,700 jobs cuts last year:

  • Jenkin’s himself pocketed just under £5m in shares
  • Staff paid over £1m increased from 428 to 481.
  • The bonus pool increased 10% to 2.4b

The justification for this? Many senior traders have left, or threatened to do so, and to keep hold of the top earners, he had to offer top pay. Had he not, the investment wing of Barclays would have plunged into a “death spiral”, with staff and high-value customers going elsewhere.

This is part of the bigger issue regarding European Commission’s rule to reduce banking bonuses, how George Osborne is fighting the decision and why, it would seem, he really didn’t need to as bosses of RBS (81% owned by tax payers) and HSBC also side-stepped the rule by giving large “fixed pay allowances” in the form of shares.

This story always provides great impetus for emotive debate on BUSS4 topics such as government intervention, culture, pay and leadership.

China as the woman of your dreams… but is the feeling mutual?

Friday, March 07, 2014

“students never really cognitively understand something until they can create a personal metaphor or model”

To help students understand how a business can overcome the many barriers to success in China, we used the metaphor of trying to gain the affections of a beautiful, foreign (but very high-maintenance) woman… called China! The analogy worked surprisingly well and we compiled the pros and cons on the attached PowerPoint.

To summarise, everybody loves China because…

  • She’s beautiful
  • She’s popular
  • She’s rich (14% of global GDP in 2010)
  • She has over 1 billion “things” to offer you

However, the problems are that…

  • She’s very picky and discerning (48% of foreign businesses have failed within 2 years - WeberShandwick)
  • She likes designer goods (“will purchase 20% of world’s luxury goods by 2015” - McKinsey)
  • You don’t speak her language or know what she wants
  • There are a lot of locals who do (35% of businesses feel comp from local is the 2nd biggest threat - The Economist )
  • Her parents are strict and probably won’t like you (Hostile government - 32% see the Chinese government as the 3rd biggest threat)
  • Her parents seem to prefer the locals (Protectionist approach – local businesses nurtured with fiscal and financial help)

So what do you do to succeed? The answer seems simple; learn why so many have failed, make sure you’re better than the rest, learn the language, culture and habits, give her what she wants and keep the parents happy!

This then led to application to businesses such as JLR, LinkedIn, KFC and Starbucks and what they did to build strong long-term relationships with the beautiful China.

Football Finance

This lesson worked as a nice way to consolidate students’ understanding of finance (and engaged the lads in the class more than ever). The Deloitte Football Money League ranks football’s top earning clubs and gives various infographics, reports and videos about their financial success. Very interesting in itself, but coupled with the fact that most of the teams listed are racking up millions in debt, it made for an interesting discussion about profit, loss, short term investment and long term success.

The PowerPoint (Football_finance_2013.ppt) is a research task and can be used as a lesson or homework. There are various extension questions and then a discussion about UEFAs Financial Fair Play (FFP) rule, which will supposedly "level the playing field" and stop the big clubs running up the kind of debts in the table below.

Maverick gets shot down

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Does the inclusion of the image below breach copyright laws? Paramount Studios think so.

A young man (obviously with time on his hands) has had his Twitter account closed for tweeting individual frames of the film Top Gun, along with captions, every 20 minutes.

The BBC article explains that whilst it seems heavy-handed and mean-spirited, in terms of the law, even the frames are classed as the film. However, it does ask how the tweets could affect Paramount financially, and why YouTube accounts don’t face a similar fate.

In a previous blog I listed some other contentious copyright courtroom quarrels, could this be seen as the most absurd, as far from detracting from the studio finances, it potentially advertises and promotes the films further?

Government (or governing body) Intervention: Man City, Benefits Streets & Universities

Sunday, March 02, 2014

The attached PowerPoint (In_the_news_last_week_Gov_Int.ppt) links three current stories from sport, media and education and asks “should governing bodies intervene or should the invisible hand of free markets be left unchecked?”. In each case, students can discuss the merits and shortcomings of regulation in the respective industries, and explore the reasons for intervention in the first place.

The lesson works as a nice starting point and leads naturally to further research on Adam Smith and Milton Friedman.

Hope it helps!

What’s gone wrong at Mothercare?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

This article about Mothercare asks whether it can be reborn, following a series of errors and decisions which have gone wrong. So it makes a very good case study from which students can identify decisions which were made, and turned out to be mistakes, and also actions which were not taken, and probably should have been. Their sales have been falling for years, they have restructured and reduced staffing, they issued a profits warning in January which led to £112mn being knocked off their share value, and now their Chief Executive has resigned - and yet they have a well-respected brand and the nature of their market means that their products are in constant demand.

read more...»

Can WhatsApp help Facebook get into China? No! But LinkedIn seems to have found a way.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My students were particularly interested in Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp for the ridiculously high $19billion. We used the previous blog, then delved deeper and found a few great related articles; one explaining why it was a good price ($42 dollars for each of the 450m customers) but bad strategy and the other predicting that WhatsApp will not help them succeed in China. To summarise the two:

  • WhatsApp is pro-privacy and data-free
  • WhatsApp CEO Jan Kuom is sticking to his “ad-ban”
  • WeChat – China’s domestic messenger service already has 300m customers and better functionality
  • WeChat helps China’s economy and is subject to Chinese law (meaning “they” can keep tabs on the content).
  • Chinese government banned Facebook, linked them with an act of terrorism and state media claimed that “80 percent of China’s net users felt Facebook should be punished”
  • The government don’t want Facebook siphoning money and talent away from China’s domestic social media industry, most notably Weibo (China’s Twitter), whose profits have just jumped from $2.4m to $44.5m!

Segueing seamlessly to a social networking firm that seems to have secured a way into China; LinkedIn is trialing it’s Chinese language site via joint ventures with Sequoia China, China Broadband Capital and the aforementioned Weibo and WeChat!

Chief Executive Jeff Weiner said the deal has raised “difficult questions” for him, and has been forced to make various concessions in order to adhere to the Chinese Government’s censorship requirements, but believes that “LinkedIn's absence in China would deny Chinese professionals a means to connect with others on our global platform,"

Overall, these combined articles give students relevant ammunition for each of the research “bullets” as it covers success, failure, methods of operation and ethical implications of entering the Chinese market.

It would appear that social network firms need to network with Chinese social network firms if they want to become social network firms that operate in China. Simple really.



BUSS4 China - Cathay Pacific China Business awards

The airline Cathay Pacific has just announced their 9th annual business awards competition, for" British businesses which have successfully capitalised on opportunities to operate in China and Hong Kong". The scheme is run with the China-Britain Business Council and sponsored by HSBC and The Daily Telegraph - and is valuable for BUSS4 students as the Telegraph's information about it has a number of case studies and stories of businesses which are former winners of the awards. 

You can find out a little about 2012 winners Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), the business standards company BSI and the fair-trade Chinese tea producer Herbal Health, see why the CEO of Fired Up says that entering the Chinese market is essential for British business, and why the chief executive of the China-Britain Business Council says that he has his work cut out breaking down the misconceptions that surround doing business in the country, and bringing the real opportunities into the spotlight.

Why buy a business with $20mil revenue for $19 BILLION?!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

After Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp, I thought this made an interesting exam question. I've compiled a PowerPoint (Facebook_Whats_app.ppt) with graphs and hyper-links and asked students to research the facts behind the purchase. The main reasons seem to be:

  • WhatsApp exponential growth was becoming a threat
  • Facebook’s “determination to be the 'next' Facebook”!
  • WhatsApp's comparative success in Europe
  • Messaging companies becoming the social networks of choice for the young
  • Google tried and failed

Whilst Facebook's share price fell and then recovered after the purchase, analyst Ian Maude stated "expensively buying every competitor does not feel like a long term strategy". Are Facebook, like Apple, losing their competitive edge?

Hope it helps.

Customer service in the rail industry

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Did you know that most train operating companies will refund 50% of your ticket for a delay of 30 minutes or more, and will double that if the delay is for an hour or longer? And that, if you are travelling by tube, Transport for London offers refunds if your journey is delayed by 15 minutes or more (although you won’t get a refund if the delay is caused by a security alert, “third party action” such as a strike or bad weather)? Most probably you didn’t, as a survey by the Office of Rail Regulation has found that more than 75% of rail passengers know “not very much” or “nothing at all” about what they are entitled to when services are disrupted.

The report also found that 74% of passengers felt that train companies do “not very much” or “nothing at all” to proactively provide information about compensation when there are delays. As Simon Gompertz found in this video report, there are plenty of ways in which the train operating companies could make the information available, whether through instructions on the back of the tickets and announcements on trains to use of technology through their websites or apps.

This poor standard of information for customers is now to be improved. The ORR will now oversee the development of a code of practice on provision of ticket retail information, which will be in place by the end of 2014 and will provide clarity on what information passengers can expect from their train companies, including information on the different types of fares, restriction, and key terms and conditions, such as compensation and refund rights.

The government are also making compliance with these requirements part of their new franchising arrangements, to add to the regulation of the industry.

In the meantime, if you have had a journey delayed recently and want to claim compensation, here’s some guidance on what you might be entitled to.

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