Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Holidays are Finally Here !!

View to Founders, Royal Holloway


It's roasting hot on campus this week, after a successful and fun graduation last week (also hot, hot, hot !)   I've recently upgraded  my phone (of course, so that I can do more quick, clever things for this blog - a bit sad - but true !!)  & here is my first photo.  Somehow it  popped up on dropbox on my home PC.  This is called the knot bed (the green box hedging using an old French style) packed out with really bright annuals - the red being particularly striking. 

I'm off on holidays with the family for a bit over August and may not be that active here - but rest assured I am storing up stories, images and anything I think you might find interesting for later in the summer - wait for a deludge at the end of August....

Monday, 22 July 2013

Segmentation and motivation of young UAE tourists

My research mentor Sameer Hosany periodically pushes across the corridor papers he has recently published and asks me if I can use my fast-and-furious-blog-publishing-style to shoot out a short summary piece on the paper.  This works for us in several ways, not least is the trend to attempt to measure an academics true impact via a variety of web metrics. 
Sameer Hosany in front of our Founders office space
 
The latest one is called
"When Middle East meets West: Understanding the motives
and perceptions of young tourists from United Arab Emirates"
Sameer has co-authored with Girish Prayag who is based in New Zealand.  If you have a university login you should be able to access the paper here using the DOI linkage process (if you don't, the journal website will invite you to cross its palm with a piece of gold via your credit card) http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tourman.2013.05.003
 
Thanks to an extended group of airline related friends, I have been lucky enough to visit UAE (Dubai particularly), Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain and have close friends work in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Over nearly twenty years we have seen enormous changes in this region, nowhere less noticeably than the oil-less trading hub of Dubai.   Whilst many states have populations inflated by up to three times by expatriate migrant workers, it is important to note their particular habits e.g. South and South East Asian workers would have an annual return flight home contracted into their working arrangements and European families would temporarily return north during the hottest summer months and often follow Christian school related holiday travel patterns. It is also interesting to understand the tourism needs of the indigenous populations, particularly as many benefit from the highest per capita incomes in the world in a cultural context that has seen significant change. 
 
I think this paper makes for an interesting read, particularly if you are thinking about studying for a masters degree programme that requires a dissertation, or are just about to embark on writing a dissertation.  Essentially Prayag and Hosany (2014) identified limited research had taken place amongst young tourists from the Middle East and used the popular push/pull motivation theory framework and  market segmentation to generate some interesting findings that are particular to these outbound tourists.  I have seen a number of related studies that look at Chinese tourists and this work has helped identify the particular unsatisfied needs the worlds most populous and fast growing economy.  They aim to provide tourism entities with useful customer insights on how they can change their offering to better match the requirements of growing tourism markets.  So much for Ivory Tower academic research !
 
In our bit of academia (travel related) the peer reviewed journal Tourism Management is one of the two specialist journals that carries the top ranking, thus Girish and Sameer's publication is to be commended.  But please don't ask me how you can be published in the future - as I write we are mid-way through 2013.  And no, - to the best of my knowledge they are not time travellers either !!  I guess American car manufacturers will have been marketing the 2014 Beetle for a while now and my favourite monthly magazine VW Campers and Bus (like many monthly titles) often goes on sale a full six weeks ahead of the stated month, hence giving the product an extended shelf life.  I am hoping to feature in a peer-reviewed publication or two in 2014 myself, along with colleagues Hosany and Brown.  (About island tourism and VW camper vans.)  Watch this space. 
 
Please note spelling bees out there - future football world cup and natural gas rich state Qatar, the Sunderland manufactured Nissan cross-over car Qashqai and Australian Airline QANTAS are rare examples of Q spellings that are not followed with a U.  That's all I have to say on the matter. 
 
 
 
 

Egham Plenary 2013 - Distance Learning Summer School

Another highly successful plenary (week long summer school) saw MSc and MBA International Management students join together from around the world for an informative and fun, week long event which took place at the School of Management Moore building. 
 
Fun Learning - week 1 students   Foto: Doby Manasieva
 
With a larger number of 'new' and recently enrolled students attending the introductory plenary at the beginning of their studies, the ingredients were nigh on perfect for a packed week of lectures, work shops, guest speakers and more serious social networking events in the evenings.  Unusually for Britain (& after an awfully cold and wet spring) the weather was kind with hot sunshine on the menu for most of the week. 
 
Cleveland Stanley said "The plenary session was awesome !  It was great to meet face-to-face with so many people (staff & students) who I connected with online.  The master class sessions were vital.  I also got lots of feedback from week 2 students - an unexpected benefit."  
Arijana & Cleveland in the Moore Lecture Theatre

Foto: Cleveland Stanley

 
Innovations this year saw students undertake an interactive team building session on the first day led by Alex Turner our professional drama resident, an approach that was trialled earlier in the year with the full time MBA group, with some considerable success.  Elective lecturer Prof. Chris Hackley introduced his Advertising and Promotions module and Dr Adrian Coronado (programme deputy director) ran a logistics exercise for the first time.   Alumnus Vik Pant hosted a session sharing his experience of leveraging his MBA in the work place combined with practical tips on how to get to grips with the dissertation. 
 
Hermant Sharma said "I like the idea of extending invitations to alumni students for sharing their experience, I firmly believe this definitely helps all the students whether new student or student who have already cleared a few modules."  
 
With over 110 attendees at the formal dinner event, which took place in the stunning picture gallery in Founders pictured below, Head of School of Management Jeffrey Unerman said "It was a really good atmosphere at the dinner, which reflects a really engaging plenary week."  Whilst Dean of the Faculty Bob O'Keefe stated "A great dinner with a great atmosphere. It was good to be reminded how good our DL students are."
Founders imposing Picture Gallery formal dinner with the Dean and Head of School     Foto: Doby Manasieva

Reflecting on a high energy week that certainly brought a buzz to the School of Management, Raoul Trentini wrote "This week was amazing, I could finally meet the teachers and know my classmates.   The stay on the campus and everything that was organised for us was fantastic."  and
Doby Manasieva stated "It was an invaluable blend of lectures, passionate case studies, presentations, good time of networking and exchange of experience with colleagues from various industries and from many nationalities and cultures. And all that was topped by surprising social events and great fun !"

Hearty English breakfast food - Programme Director Justin O'Brien knows how important getting the food right is ! 

Foto: Cleveland Stanley
 
Hermant Sharma noted "Whether it’s a day session or offsite activities, everything was very well planned from lodging to food to activities till the very end. Many thanks for making my week 1 plenary session experience full of wonderful memories including making new social network." 
 
First day of plenary  Foto: Doby Manasieva



The plenary week combines two different student groups, as mentioned above the first week, or introductory plenary is geared at introducing students to their distance learning studies and to help them build  a strong social network to help carry them through.  The other part of the week sees students who have nearly finished the programme, most just have a module or two outstanding, with usually just the dissertation to complete.  A new anonymised corporate partner set a very real case study for the seven student groups to consider in the B2B telecoms sector.  It was particularly challenging as there were a full range of topics involved from HR to competition regulation, Strategy to change management and detailed deck of financial data were provided that enabled detailed analysis to take place, with students required to put forward a three year business plan and present a strong argument to support their recommendations. 
 
Antoine Dalli reflected "Although Week 2 is a lot more challenging than Week 1, with the benefit of hindsight I can safely say that I have learnt & networked a lot more this time around than I did last year."
 
BBQ in the South Quad of Founders   Foto: Doby Manasieva
 
 
Opal Lu, full time MBA 2012/13 was invited to join one of the consultancy groups and found the experience very rewarding " I had lots of fun. It was a great experience."  Other members of Opals cohort joined in a number of the social events held during the week and the interaction across programmes was seen as a strong positive by all concerned. 
 
Cleveland Stanley "Sitting in on the week 2  live consultancy presentation was extremely valuable and should be highly recommended for introductory week 1 attendees." 
 
Much of the success of the plenary weeks comes down to the participants, however, the excellent support provided by the Distance Learning admin team of Sonia, Inga and Daniel was crucial in making this event as effective and enjoyable as was.  I would like to sign off this blog entry using the words of Antoine Dalli who said "thank you for your positive feedback & support & for the excellent organisation of the plenary."
 
Social Networking on the infamous Thames River Cruise     Foto: Doby Manasieva
 
 
 

 
 
 

Friday, 12 July 2013

Entrepreneurship Guest Blog: Is Persistence Really the Key to Success ?

 

The phrase ‘cut your losses’ is commonly used in everyday conversation, but how easy is this in business practice ?

Entrepreneurs commonly state that starting up a business is more time consuming than the average full-time job of 36-40 hours a week. So how much time should you be prepared to invest in starting up a business and what will you be spending that time on ? 
Dr Harveen Chugh


A number of things may start to occupy your time – writing a business plan, developing the product, making contacts, or trying to sell the product, to name just a few. It is not surprising therefore, that entrepreneurs often refer to their business venture as their ‘baby’ and hope that it will be a big success. But what if things don’t quite go to plan ?

Difficulties or challenges can occur along the way – product failure, lack of funds, difficulties in finding customers or difficulties in raising funds. If it’s not easily solvable, how hard should you try to overcome any of these when more time, money and effort are required to do so? Would you try once, twice, three times perhaps, or many more ?

The term ‘escalation of commitment’ (1, 2) describes the behaviour of investing more resources into a course of action that is not working. As an entrepreneur, you will be keen to do as much as you can to make your business successful. But could you go too far ?

What if you continue to invest time, money and effort into a course of action that continues to fail ? For example, investing further funds into product development or continuing to knock at investors’ doors. You may just be squandering away precious resources on a course of action that is seemingly less likely to result in a positive outcome. So, should you take no for an answer and cease your escalation of commitment ? And if so, when ?

What you can do
  • Try to take a step back and see things objectively. Think about the course of action that is failing – how many times have you tried and how much have you invested in it ? If you’ve tried just a couple of times, then perhaps you can try again, but if it’s been several attempts, try to think about why it’s not working – is there a message there ? What advice would you give to a friend if they were in the same situation ?
  • Seek feedback and learn from it. There may be members of your team that are thinking but not saying something. Ask them for their honest opinion about why they think the course of action may not be working. Also ask those involved in the task such as investors, product developers or customers for their thoughts on what you could do differently.
  • Keep a record. Keeping a written record like a journal or a log could be helpful in identifying your activities over the last few weeks or months. You may not realise what is happening while you go through it, but seeing it written down could help you to see the bigger picture, reflect on it and then think about how best to move forward.
Of course, many may argue that persistence is indeed the key to success. However, questioning that persistence and trying to ensure you are pursuing the best course of action at the time might just bring you that success much sooner than you thought!

Dr Harveen Chugh is a Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Strategy at the School of Management, Royal Holloway University of London.
Email: harveen.chugh@rhul.ac.uk
Twitter: @HarveenC

Notes:
  1. Staw, B. M. 1976. Knee-deep in the Big Muddy: A study of Escalating Commitment to a Chosen Course of Action. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 16(1): 27-44.198
  2. Staw, B. M. 1981. The Escalation of Commitment to a Course of Action. Academy of Management Review, 6(4): 577-587.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Royal Holloways entrepreneurial students: Fabian Hansen

Fabian Hansen is a final year BSc (Hons) Management student with a flair for entrepreneurship.  Earlier in the year he emailed me with the following request:

"I was wondering if it would be possible to come to your office on Monday at 10am to ask you advice for a business idea that I have ?"

Fabian had noticed a gap in the market and sought was convinced that it had huge potential. He was keen to garner my opinion as a professional marketer. Now, I have lots of these kinds of ideas, which generally are either enormously flawed (relying on suicidal investment strategies) or just too difficult.  I'm convinced everyone has a few pet 'get rich quick' concepts up their sleeves, but in reality it is rare to hear even a half decent proposition.  

I recommended that Fabian look to participate in the BBC sexed up business venture capital raising show "The Dragons Den".  Several Royal Holloway students have featured, the best known of these being Jess Ratcliffe with an interesting software peer-to-peer trading marketplace.  It appears (perhaps smacking of sour grapes) that several failed pitches said their motivation for being part of the show was the free promotion afforded by a national TV series.  (see camper loo as seen on TV or dooh in a bag on a stool as I like to explain it )  http://www.rhul.ac.uk/aboutus/newsandevents/news/newsarticles/dragonsden.aspx

This particular branded merchandising idea benefits from a mature and considered pitch.  Fabian had spotted that in his wide European travels the market for tourist souvenirs was highly competitive, but lacked any copyrighted concepts.  (e.g. city name, I heart city name)  A pretty decent market analysis that drew on Asian production of lowish cost, lowish quality souvenirs by overlaying his creatives on this existing business model.

Whilst this would have been pretty good (but odds not looking great) as a business concept, Fabian had taken things quite a lot further.  He had tangibilised his concept (an owl like cartoon character with a back drop of city skyline icons) which looked pretty good on paper and with the samples.  Not the functional output, as I'd expected, of a professional artist, but created by Fabian himself, using software he'd learnt specifically for this purpose.  The words of Dragon Dens' Deborah Meaden "I'm not sure about the product, but I'd like to invest in you !" came to my mind. 


Permission for image use granted by originator Fabian Hansen


As a fairly typical, bright and engaged Royal Holloway student, Fabian was a member of both the Royal Marketing and Royal Holloway Entrepreneurs Societies. He had also looked at SIFE.  The Royal Entrepreneurs, thanks to sponsorship from the Arora family, run a version of Dragons Den in the students union early each academic year.  http://youtu.be/OUVADNThOPo  Many of the ideas are pretty strong, some even launch following the event.  However, I've yet to see a patented concept with a commercial deal to licence across the UK with the number one player.  This is how far the business concept had been developed (alongside studying for a demanding management undergraduate programme) in around a year.  

In fact, we were so delighted with Fabian's confident businesslike demeanour and impressive business concept that we invited him to share his concept with the MSc Entrepreneurship group.  You can imagine how sceptical the masters group were with the idea of an undergraduate presenting to them.  However, it didn't take long for them to be won over, lots of cracking Q&A exchange ensued, and quite a strong feeling of respect was present at the end of the session. 

Fabian, the last time we spoke, was pondering whether to follow this concept further, or to sign up for a masters degree or look for another business venture to get behind.  

I've a feeling that this is someone with enormous potential and whose career is going to be worth tracking.