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The Machine that Changed the World is not immune to the recession

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Tough times for Japan’s flagship corporate giant, Toyota.  This is the firm that gave the world lean production, an approach that was so revolutionary in its time that it prompted a five year study by MIT academics who wrote the famous book with the title ‘Machine that Changed the World’.

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AQA AS Business Unit 1 (Planning & Financing a Business) Key Term Sheet Revision

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Here is a key term sheet for AQA AS Business Unit 1 (Planning & Financing a Business) which might be helpful for students going through their final revision for the Unit 1 exam.

Download key terms sheet for AQA AS Business Unit 1 (Planning & Financing a Business):

Video resource: Panorama on the Coal Industry

This full-length (30 minute) Panorama programme on the comeback of coal mining in the UK is well worth using as a more detailed example of the conflicts that arise between an industry and its secondary stakeholders.  Excellent material covering the viability of coal mining + a strong focus on the environmental issues raised by the renewed interest and investment in UK coal mining.

View the video on Comeback Coal

A booming rental market – for car parking spaces

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It’s enterprising, practical and meeting a need for both buyers and sellers: increasing numbers of homeowners are renting out their driveways and garages to commuters who are fed up with overpriced and crowded car parks.  There’s an interesting article and video clip about firms springing up to link frustrated drivers with parking landlords.

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Eddie Stobart Keeps on Trucking

The haulage sector is going through a tought time.  Some good clips online describe the rising redundancies being experienced by haulage firms around the UK.  However, one of the largest firms, Stobart Group, seems to be bucking the trend. Partly it is because the business has diversified into other transport activities (e.g. running airports).  But mainly it is holding up well because of a shift in its roduct mix towards serving UK producers, mainly in the food and drink sectors.  A good article here provides excellent background reading - perhaps as a starter resource.

What has happened to previous contestants on The Apprentice

Fans of The Apprentice might be interested in what has happened to all those contestants who appeared in previous series (albeit very briefly in some cases).  The Mirror has provided this summary - some interesting follow-ups!  Community service orders, pyramid savings schemes and multiple drink-driving feature amongst the varied post-Apprentice achievements.

Business Strategy - Exploiting the Opportunities from Carbon Capture

CCS could become a market we learn a lot more about over the next few years.  It stands for carbon capture & storage.  A fascinating article in the Guardian outlines how British firms may be well-placed to grab a large market share of CCS.  It is also a good, although more complex, example of adding value…

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Ansoff helps with the school lunches

In a great example of market development, Wittersham Primary School dinner ladies have found a new market for their product by selling school lunches to local residents, not just the school pupils.

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Customer service classic - the upside-down pizza

Monday, May 11, 2009

A classic call into a customer service call centre. The ASDA customer is unhappy that his supermarket has sent a pizza with no toppings.  There’s just one, tiny thing that the customer has forgotten to check…

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Sources of finance: PLCs turn to their shareholders

What do large, quoted companies do when they encounter problems raising bank finance and when they realise that their balance sheets are over-geared?  Have a rights issue...

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Starter activity - A piece of cake (limited companies)

Friday, May 08, 2009

Here is a great activity to use when teaching Ltd’s.

Before the students enter the room, I put a £1 monopoly note on each students desk. This immediately makes them curious about what is to follow. I then introduce the basic concept of limited companies and I relate limited companies to a cake, that can be cut up into ‘slices’ or shares. I then bring out a cake and cut it up into a number of different ‘shares’. I keep 3 back for myself and I then invite the students to come up and ‘buy’ a share of my cake or ‘company’ for £1. I then start quizzing them as to who owns the cake, why I kept back 3 slices etc.

I then ask the students, ‘why would I want to sell you a piece of my company’ whilst holding all the £1 notes in the air.

Need I say more.

We then eat the cake…and remember…you have 3 slices!

Enjoy (the cake)

Motivation in Action - Is this the Worlds Best Job?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

A classic piece of public relations from the tourist authorities in Queensland provides us with some rich material with which to teach motivation at work.

It is described as “the world’s best job” - looking after a beautiful island on the Great Barrier Reef, being paid well, with a wonderful house and a host of other non-financial benefits.  So what is it about that job that attracts over 34,000 applicants?  Could it also have been the reality TV show that accompanied the recruitment and selection process?

Take a look at this BBC vide which tells us about the “Pom” who won the competition.

Students might also want to compare and contrast the Australian “Best job in the world” with this job…described in the same glowing way.  Which would you choose - given the chance?

Video case study - Swine flu boosts demand

The media frenzy over swine flu has provided some good examples of businesses and organisations that suffer or benefit from an external shock such as a health scare.

Here is a short video that describes how a healthcare supplier has experienced a sudden increase in demand for its product range as a result of corporate concern over the swine flu outbreak.  A great example to use when it comes to explaining how demand can be affected by external factors.  Some good shots of sales orders in process and the warehouse too.

Download student worksheet (including video link)

Shareholder strategy at M&S

Have M&S managers made a boob here? They have introduced a policy of price discrimination in the lingerie department; they charge an extra £2 for bras sized over a DD cup, and a pressure group ‘Busts 4 Justice’ has been set up on Facebook and now has over 8,000 members who are campaigning for this surcharge to be removed. The group’s founder, Beckie Williams, has bought a £3.40 share in the company to allow her to confront chairman Sir Stuart Rose at the next annual meeting in July. This story neatly links the issues of publicity, external pressure groups, stakeholders and use of ICT as a number of topics on the A2 syllabus for Business Studies.

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Tesco Ireland and the impact of exchange rates

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


A frequent trivia question: which is the nearest foreign country to Britain?  The answer of course is the Republic of Ireland, which is quite literally walking distance from the UK.  Ireland uses the Euro as its currency, which is a big deal for businesses on either side of the border.  Shoppers can readily shop in either Britain or spend five minutes in the car to be in Ireland, or vice versa.

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11 Great Ways to Resource the Business Department for Free (and Improve Exam Results Too)

I was looking for a punchy title for my session at the Business Teacher National Conference at the wonderful British Library (St Pancras) on Friday 19 June.  I’m not sure whether this title is quite what I had in mind:

“11 Great Ways to Resource the Business Department for Free (and Improve Exam Results Too)”

...but at least the session will do exactly what is says on the tin!

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Starter activity - Talkabout


Quiz shows are always a massive source of inspiration when it comes to starters and plenaries. Here’s one I ‘devised’ which was based on a popular quiz show circa 1990 – 1993.

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AQA AS Business Studies Unit 1 - Key Term Glossary


Our interactive glossary of key terms for AQA AS Business Studies Unit 1 is now available to access online…

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Product life cycle and factory closures

Monday, May 04, 2009

What is the link between a piano factory in Bletchley and the Toshiba television factory in Plymouth?

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Tegestologists in mourning - recession and product life cycle blamed

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Are you a tegestologist?  If so, you may be alarmed to here about the financial problems faced by the dominant market leader in the sector - Katz Group…

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Green shoots or un-SPICED business?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Some suggestions that businesses are proving resistant to the recession have emerged this week. Firstly the BBC website, which is following the progress of ten small businesses, finds that they are continuing to prove their resilience. While computer shop Fusion Systems has taken on more staff as it expands the business,  dental products manufacturer Dentanurse has had to work at full speed to meet orders and St Maur Hotel is enjoying more visitors than the same time last year. This matches a report in The Times today which looks ahead to the summer holidays and predicts a bumper year for the British tourism industry as people choose to holiday in the UK rather than travel abroad to the Mediterranean and beyond.

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Q&A -  What is share capital

Share capital is the money invested in a company by the shareholders. Share capital is a long-term source of finance.

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Q&A - Explain what a bank overdraft is

A bank overdraft is flexible borrowing facility on a bank current account which is repayable on demand.

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Q&A - What is training?

Training can be defined as:

The process of increasing the knowledge and skills of the workforce to enable them to perform their jobs effectively

Training is, therefore, a process whereby an individual acquires job-related skills and knowledge.

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Video case study - German Car Industry

Friday, May 01, 2009

This video would be really useful when teaching the importance of the supply chain (working with suppliers) and when considering the knock-on effects on demand of the economic downturn.  It describes how three major suppliers to the German car industry have been affected by the significant global reduction in demand for new cars experienced by the likes of Volkswagen, BMW and Audi.

Download student worksheet (including video link)

Swine Flu Vaccine - An Interesting Example of Batch Production in Action

A fascinating video here from the BBC news site which explains the start of the production process that will lead to the mass production of a vaccine to combat H1N1.  The production process starts with a small batch of hens eggs.  Four weeks later the vaccine is ready; industrial strength capacity can be achieved some 5-6 months later (too late you might fear?).  Still, a different and alternative way of explainin batch production…

Q&A - Where does packaging fit into the marketing mix?

Packaging is sometimes known as the “fifth P” in the marketing mix.  It is closely associated with product because it is in what most goods are delivered to the customer.

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Q&A - What are the main stages of new product development?

To grow fast, businesses need to develop new products.  But before a business can launch a new product, it needs to go through several stages before it appears in the market place.

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Q&A - What is the link between product differentiation and a USP?

An important part of the marketing of the product is through product differentiation.  This means making the product different from its competitors.  Product differentiation can be achieved through…

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Q&A - What are the benefits of business planning to a start-up?

The main reasons why a start-up should produce a business plan are:

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Q&A - What questions should a start-up business plan answer?

A business plan needs to address the issues of interest to the reader and user.  Assuming that the plan is meant to be read by potential finance providers (e.g. a bank, business angel or venture capitalist) then it ought to provide convincing and realistic answers to questions such as:

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Q&A - What is profit-sharing?

Profit sharing refers to any system whereby employees receive a proportion of business profits.

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Q&A - What is performance-related pay?

Performance-related pay is a financial reward to employees whose work is considered to have reached a required standard, and/or above average

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Q&A - How do changes in commodity prices affect businesses?

A change in commodity prices has too main possible effects on a business:

(1) An effect on sales revenue
(2) A change in raw material and other operating costs

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Q&A - What are the main legal areas that a start-up business needs to consider?

A start-up soon finds that it needs to consider a variety of legal issues, both before and after it has started to trade. The key legal areas it must cover include:

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Q&A - What is commission and when should it be used in a pay package?

Commission is a payment made to employees based on the value of sales achieved. It can form all or (more often) part of a pay package.  Commission is, therefore, a form of “incentive pay” (see also profit-related pay, bonuses).

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Q&A - What is “piece-rate” pay?

Piece-rate pay gives a payment for each item produced – it is therefore the easiest way for a business to ensure that employees are paid for the amount of work they do. Piece-rate pay is also sometimes referred to as a “payment by results system”.

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Q&A - Explain “time-rate” pay

Time rates are used when employees are paid for the amount of time they spend at work.  This is the most common method of payment in the UK.

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Q&A - What factors should a business consider when deciding what to pay employees?

With so many methods of pay available, how should a business decide to structure the pay package it offers to employees, and what rate of pay should it use?

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Q&A - Explain job rotation

Job rotation involves the movement of employees through a range of jobs in order to increase interest and motivation.

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Q&A - What is the business cycle?

Looking at the chart of economic activity in the UK, you may be able to spot that there is a regular pattern in the rate of economic growth. This is known as the business cycle.

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Q&A - What is economic growth?

Economic growth measures the percentage change in the value of economic activity in a year.

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Q&A - What is the economy?

The economy describes the total of economic activity taking place each day

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Q&A - Compare the advantages of trading as a sole trader versus a private limited company

The main differences between private limited companies and sole traders can be summarised as follows:

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Q&A - What taxes will a start-up pay?

The main taxes that a start-up needs to consider are summarised below:

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Q&A - What is job enlargement?

Job enlargement involves the addition of extra, similar, tasks to a job.

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Q&A - What are commodities and how are their prices determined?

A commodity is a product for which there is demand and which is supplied without any clear difference in product quality or standard. 

An important feature of a commodity is that its price is determined as a function of its market as a whole – by the interaction of market demand and market supply.

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Q&A - What are retained profits?

Retained profit is the profit kept in the company rather than paid out to shareholders as a dividend.  Retained profit is widely regarded as the most important long-term source of finance for a business.

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Q&A - What is market supply

Supply is defined as the quantity of a product that a producer is willing and able to supply onto the market at a given price in a given time period.

Market supply is the total quantity that all producers in a market are prepared to supply at each price level.

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Q&A - What is market demand?

Demand is the quantity of a good or service that consumers and businesses are willing and able to buy at a given price in a given time period.

Market demand is the sum of the individual demand for a product from buyers in the market.  If more buyers enter the market and they have the ability to pay for items on sale, then market demand at each price level will rise.

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