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Shedding light on the Hawthorne Effect

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

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If you’ve been looking at motivation in the workplace this year, chances are you’ve talked about Elton Mayo, who is best remembered for writing about experiments done in a telephone parts factory in the 1920s and 30s.  The results of the Hawthorne study lead to an extremely influential idea: that the very act of being experimented upon changes subjects’ behaviour.  However, new analysis of the experimental data suggests this may be the wrong conclusion.

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Exam Boards for GSCE Business - All Change

Some interesting changes seem to be taking place in the “market” for GCSE Business courses…

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Budget Hotel Chain Now Feeling the Squeeze

There are some excellent examples of businesses that are significantly exposed to a downturn in demand from business travellers - British Airways is perhaps the best.  However, you can now add Whitbread to that list…

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MySpace Makes Space to Change

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This story is a must to use with A2 students looking for a relevant, topical strategy case…

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BUS6 - Method in Our Madness

Students who attended the BUS6 business strategy workshop in April spent an hour or so looking at the strategy of EMI, in the “Taking a Boardroom Approach” opening session.  We looked at the strategic rationale for Guy Hands and Terra Firma deciding to buy EMI and at some of the cultural and commercial issues he faced when trying to turn the business around.

When students turned their BUS6 papers over today the chosen case study was…

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Work For Free?  Or Pie In The Sky?

How many students would go to work for free?

Well bosses of British Airways will be hoping that non-financial motivation exists, as they have asked staff to volunteer to work for free (or take unpaid leave) for up to a month, in an attempt to ensure that the firm can win the fight for survival.

This BBC article could be tied in with two topics on the new Edexcel Specifications:

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Children’s parties defy the downturn

Monday, June 15, 2009

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I don’t know.  In my day you were happy with a bit of fizzy pop, some charging about, a tantrum and being sent home with a piece of cake wrapped up in a tissue.  As with weddings, part of modern life is the raised expectations – and spending on - social get-togethers.  A BBC article explains how the children’s party business shows little sign of the impact of the recession.

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The Biz Quiz - 13 June 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A somewhat quiet week for business news…but the Biz Quiz features all the big stories (and a couple of minor ones too!)

Launch interactive version of The Biz Quiz - 13 June 2009

Download printable version (including answers at the back)

Building a tourist facility on the top of a mountain

Friday, June 12, 2009

A fascinating case study of how to invest in a popular tourist destination.  The new visitor centre at the summit of Snowdon has been built at a cost of £8.4m, but not without a huge effort by the people involved and despite opposition from some stakeholder groups…

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Battle Of The Bunnies

There’s a battle going on in the chocolate rabbit world which could provide an interesting example of how businesses try to protect their products and ideas.

The products in question are shown in the picture below which is on the Guardian website.

Could consumers be confused?

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Current Affairs Quiz - 11th June

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Some current affairs questions from the last seven days for Business and/or Economics students around the world…

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A Razor Sharp Way To Add Value

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Realistic data to illustrate how firms add value is not always easy to come across.  After all many firms don’t want us to know how much mark-up they place on their products.

This data from the Daily Mail perhaps explains why manufacturers are so keen for us not to find out! 

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Advertising is Failure….

Jeff Jarvis provides an excellent insight into the new paradigm in promotion. The growth of user-generated content and viral marketing is overtaking more traditional promotional methods. Read his article here

Sponsorship – obviously works for some…

Manchester United Football Club has secured a new shirts sponsor for the 2010-2011 season.  Why would a sponsor pay £80 million over four years to have their name on MUFC football shirts?  Does sponsorship really work?

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A stunning example of how wage costs can differ for the same job

A very interesting and potentially explosive article in The Times today highlights the problems faced by British Airways as it seeks to reduce its operating costs…

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Post exam activity - Sixth Formers do The Apprentice

Many thanks to Phil Wheeler from Thomas Alleyne School for letting me know about his post-AS exam project for business students.

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Situations Vacant - Apprentice Supervisor

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Margaret Mountford’s announcement that she will not be part of the next series of The Apprentice is getting a far higher profile than Siralan’s choice of Yasmina rather than Katie on Sunday night. Some of Margaret’s memorable lines from this series:
“Never before in the history of car washing have so few cars been washed by so many people in such a long time”
“Alex, you stepped so far back from it you were practically out of the room”
“One’s enough, thank you” on tasting one team’s chocolates

What would be the main features of a person specification and job description for her successor?

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Porter’s Five Forces hits the fish counter

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Sustainability, ethics and corporate social responsibility all feature heavily in the news about bluefin tuna this week, as does the theory of Porter’s Five Forces in shaping business strategy. The bluefin is the victim of consumer trends – the explosion in the demand for sushi and for fresh tuna steaks to barbecue, as well as successful campaigns to persuade us to eat a more omega 3-rich diet to protect us from heart disease (and even to prevent eye disease, according to this report on Monday). But it is being over-fished to a critical point at which stocks are becoming completely unsustainable. A film which premiered in the UK on Monday makes the point very clearly - The End of the Line, a documentary based on a book by journalist Charles Clover, examines the mismanagement of bluefin fisheries as a microcosm of how we are hoovering the seas of their fish to the point at which species cannot be sustained and risk dying out altogether. It is generating much publicity for the issue, such as this article from the Times, in order to give it a higher profile.

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Mary Queen of Charity Shops

A big hat tip to Keir Williams (Wrotham School) for highlighting the excellent new series featuring retail guru Mary Portas.  In her new programme, Mary attempts to bring the charity shop sector kicking and screaming into the 21st century.  Some superb materals in each episode on retailing skills, and plenty of stimulus material on management styles and motivation too:

The series is available to download using BBC iPlayer

Setanta football gamble turns into spectacular own-goal.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Setanta have failed to attract enough customers to justify their huge outlay on securing the rights to broadcast a number of Premier League games over the course of the past two seasons and the forthcoming one. Their experience allows us to consider concepts such as break-even analysis, income elasticity of demand and the impact of the recession.

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Green Shoots in Garden Centres

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According to figures in The Economist, from a high point of £5 billion in 2001, spending on plants, tools and garden furniture has fallen every year since then, to around £3 billion in 2008. The arrival of recession only deepened the gloom, yet the latest figures from the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) suggest a bumper year for garden-related expenditure is in the making.

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Thinking Outside The Smaller Box

It can be a challenge to think of examples for the topic of “Thinking in Opposites”, or “What if…?” once the obvious ones of Marmite, Muller and Yorkie have been used.

However, Kleenex’s decision to rebrand it’s “Kleenex For Men” to “Kleenex Mansize” was coupled with a decision to change the size of the box.  What motivated this move?

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10 Million Page Views and Counting…

Friday, June 05, 2009

Some time later tonight or early tomorrow morning (Saturday 6 June), we’ll hit the 10 million page visit mark on the new tutor2u subject blogs.  That’s a testament to the tremendous support that tutor2u has from the teaching community, and to our ever-increasing group of blog authors.  I’d like to record a big thanks to everyone who has supported the subject blogs - either by writing, reading or recommending these pages to colleagues.

You will notice some further developments on the subject blogs over the next few days and weeks. Six new blog authors have kindly agreed to get involved today alone.  We’re launching a dedicated blog for Cambridge Pre-U to sit alongside the excellent new blogs recently launched for IB Diploma, Sociology, RS, Law and GCSE Economics.  Over 12,000 colleagues now get the regular resource updates from the subject blogs.  Fingers crossed that we can continue to build these resources and make our contribution to the teaching community in our featured subjects.

Sir Alan hired by Gordon Brown

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April 2007: Gordon Brown offers ‘new seriousness’ and an end of celebrity culture in politics
June 2009: Gordon Brown appoints Alan Sugar as ‘enterprise czar’

What do you make of it all?!  Multimillionaire businessman Sir Alan Sugar has been made ‘enterprise czar’ in Gordon Brown’s cabinet reshuffle.  According to the BBC, Sir Alan is set to be nominated for a seat in the House of Lords in order for him to join the government. Having made his fortune through television set-top box maker Amstrad, his profile has rocketed through his starring role in BBC’s The Apprentice.

Expect to read more on the blog about his performance in this new role!

Football’s Finances

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A great BBC article and videoclip for those following the finances of English football. The Premier League saw its revenues soar by 26% in the 2007/08 season to nearly £2bn with the revenues of Premier league English sides were £1.93bn.  Despite the downturn, 11 of the 20 top league clubs made an operating profit in 2007/08, from eight a year before.  Astonishingly, salary costs topped £1bn for the first time, and the clubs’ total net debt was £3.1bn.

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The Biz Quiz - 4 June 2009

The Biz Quiz returns from its exam-break with the first of six more weekly quizzes until the end of the summer term!

Launch interactive version of The Biz Quiz

Download printable version (including answers)

Apprentice Stars Lack Entrepreneurial Spirit

Sir Alan Sugar may be about to choose his next apprentice - but he is unlikely to be impressed with the owners of the Bridge Cafe.  It is the cafe used by the losing team to lick their wounds before doing battle in the board room, but according to…

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Mike Southon at the Business Teacher National Conference - Friday 19 June 2009

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Business Teacher National Conference on Friday 19 June 2009 provides a great opportunity to meet and listen to some of the best speakers on enterprise and entrepreneurship around….

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A personal look at the man behind the label - Sir Stuart Rose

A fascinating, in-depth and intensely personal interview with Sir Stuart Rose - highly recommended.

Milk co-operative turns sour

A rare example of a form of business organisation that used to feature regularly in business textbooks has entered insolvency…

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How to improve a profit margin through a hidden price increase - the Snickers way

Now this is sneeky!  The retail price of Mars and Snickers bars has stayed the same.  But the weight of the bars has been reduced!

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Just for fun - don’t honk your horn at a granny

I’m struggling to come up with a strong business studies angle to this video, but there must be one in there somewhere

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Patent Pending

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

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A nice short article here about how to get your invention noticed.

“To qualify for a patent, your idea has to be new and it has to be innovative - that is, not obvious,” explains Graham Jones OBE, Vice President of the Institute of Patentees and Inventors.

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Success with AQA Unit 3 - Market Analysis

Michelle and I are putting the final touches to some new teaching resources for the AQA A2 Business Unit 3 INSET days in London and Manchester next week.  One of the areas of focus will be Marketing analysis where the BUSS3 specification poses some new teaching challenges…

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The Life Of Big Brother

Whatever your views on Big Brother, whether you’re glued to it or can’t stand it, your students are likely to be talking about it.

That makes it a useful tool to get students talking about product life-cycles.

As Channel 4 release pictures of the inside of the house it’s clear that once again they are looking to prevent the show going into decline with a number of twists.

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Q&A - Explain “delayering”

Monday, June 01, 2009

The traditional way to achieve a flatter organisational structure is through de-layering.  De-layering involves removing one or more levels of hierarchy from the organisational structure.

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Video case study - Rebranding acquisitions

This video clip is a great way of highlighting one way in which a strategy of growth through acquisition can lead to some significant changes in a product portfolio...

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Britain’s Got Talent - Extending the Brand

I’m still bemused about how the Great British Public didnt proclaim Stavros Flatley as the winner of Britain’s Got Talent…

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Recession puts pressure on business ethics

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During the good years – up to 2008 – firms were making more and more of their ethical stance.  Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) got taken more seriously, but there were always doubts: businesses were keen to be seen as well behaved, but would this last when times got tougher?

Now, deep into a worldwide recession, it’s been a good time to revisit an old blog and see if firms are shedding some of their goodness in these chillier times.

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Do The Dragons Get It Right?

You don’t need me to tell you that Dragon’s Den is a great teaching resource for the new specifications.  It covers risk, potential rewards, potential failure,aspects of finance, marketing and any number of other topics.  Have you ever wondered where you can find out more about some of the products that have been featured?

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New product development for the ladies - a licence to chill

Looking for a suitable product extension for the humble ice-cream, Del Monte have come up with something that will probably appeal mainly to female customers…

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A six minute tour round the Dell Factory

Sunday, May 31, 2009

We used this video on our AQA AS Unit 2 resource day a few months ago.  A super little video of a guided tour around a Dell factory, that also explains key aspects of the supply chain.

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How not to run a business - the Gordon Ramsay way

This might be well worth adding to your scheme of work as an up-to-date, celebrity-fuelled example of how a business can run into cash flow and other problems from over-expansion.

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From crisps to vodka - what else can you make from potatoes?

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Will Chase, founder of Tyrrells Crisps, has found a new use for the potatoes grown on his farm in Herefordsire – distilling vodka. An article in yesterday’s Times Magazine makes interesting reading. Having successfully managed an exit strategy of selling 75 per cent of his stake in the upmarket crisp company to venture capitalists in March this year, he found that he couldn’t just sit back and enjoy the money but needed another entrepreneurial challenge and is ploughing some of the £40 million he pocketed into a traditional micro-distillery.

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Analysing the data - whatever happened to industrial action?

The data chart below shows the annual number of working days lost (to businesses) as a result of industrial action.  Using the chart as a stimulus material, answer the following questions:

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Q&A - Describe the main qualitative methods of sales forecasting

Qualitative methods of sales forecasting rely less on data, and much more on the opinions and experiences of the people involved in the forecasting process.

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Q&A - What factors influence the choice of a sales forecasting method?

The choice of forecasting method is influenced by key issues such as:

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Q&A - What is a sales forecast?

A sales forecast is an attempt by management to estimate the likely revenues of a product, business unit or market over a future period.

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AQA A2 Business (BUSS3) - Introduction to BUSS3

Saturday, May 30, 2009

AQA Business students who probably breezed through AS Unit 1 (a relaxing step down from legacy GCSE) and put in a more sustained effort to pass Unit 2 will need to raise their game for the two A2 units. The true challenge comes with BUSS4.  But let’s look briefly here at BUSS3.

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Analysing the data - business failures

In the first of a regular series of business data resources, here is some information about the rate of business failures in the UK which will provide A2 students with practice at analysing and intepreting data.

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