What Next After Graduation?

Now you have completed an important journey of your life! It is truly a milestone and whether you have done it for yourself or for parents’/partner’s sake, the dedication, commitments and challenges have been great and will live with you for a very long time to come. From now on, anything that you wish to set as a target or challenge is within your reach! Some of you will be looking for jobs and others will make a decision whether to set another educational goal. A master’s degree perhaps, a PGCE or professional qualifications? Any and all are within your sight and sky is the limit for you! Whatever you would like to do, you are now the expert to confirm to yourself, yes, I can and I will do it…

Just to let you know that Staffordshire Business School offers a wide range of Masters degrees, just to mention few: MSc Accounting and Finance, MSc Digital Marketing Management, MSc International Business Management, MA Human Resource Management and MA Strategic Human Resource Management. Most of which attract a student finance loan of £10,280 to pay for the fees and your living costs. Because the University wanted to make it easy for those who wish to further their study, it set the Masters fees so low! Therefore, the £10,280 student finance loan is more than enough to pay the fees and goes a long way to cover significant part of your living expenses. For example, the fees for the MSc Accounting and Finance is £6,200 (for Home and EU students). The recipients of £10,280 from student finance will be left with £4,080 after paying the fees which they can use towards their living expenses!

Remember, if you are still finding it difficult to make this strategic decision about your future, your ‘former’ personal tutor, course leader and all other staff who taught you are only too pleased to discuss this with you. Of course the Postgraduate course tutors are there too to provide further details about their particular course.

Being the Connected University, the message is simple, do not hesitate to get in touch!

Arshad Hussain, Senior Lecturer at Staffordshire Business School.

www.staffs.ac.uk

Do not waste your time with useless SWOT analysis

How to conduct a SWOT analysis perfectly to boost your business!

SWOT is a simple and popular tool for businesses – everyone knows it. Therefore you can find it in a lot of books, blogs or trainings – business students learn about it everywhere. Most entrepreneurs conduct at least one before launching their business, most of which are far from perfect. Most of which are far from perfect.

The secret of the perfect SWOT is the analysis. Which means that you have to invest time and effort. It is not an idea-generation tool. SWOT is a strategy development tool – therefore it is not enough to collect some ideas for each area. SWOT may be simple – but not easy.

Why does your business need a SWOT analysis?

SWOT analysis is a strategy development method – it is indispensable for any new business. Specification of the objectives of the enterprise, identification of external and internal factors that have an impact on the success and positioning yourself in the market – these cannot be achieved without SWOT analysis. Even if you do not write down you have (sort of) a SWOT in your mind. With identification of the strengths and weaknesses it determines every marketing decision.

SWOT analysis is a strategic planning tool, therefore it is a must before starting your business planning. It is not just for new businesses, it is a vital part of any marketing plan. The environment, the customers, the competition are constantly changing, therefore you should update your SWOT regularly. SWOT analysis is a perfect tool to assess the effectiveness and determine the future of the organisation.

When you diversify your business or enter new markets – you need a marketing plan for that. One market – one strategy. B2C/B2B, different countries, digital – the markets are different. SWOT is a tool for strategy development, therefore any new market means a new SWOT.

It is also a good feedback for your team (and for you), it can function as a starting point for team discussions about the future in a specific business situation. Though the factors are mostly factual, their evaluation may be subjective.

You may not always conduct SWOT, but when you do, do it right.

Steps of the SWOT
Identification of the factors. Or data collection. Every SWOT analysis begins with the examination of the company and exploration of its environment: you have to identify the strengths and weaknesses and spot the threats and opportunities outside. Most of the students stop here, but this is a mistake. Because there is one more step.

Scrutiny of the factors (aka analysis). You should evaluate and classify your findings. Are you able to answer these questions:
– Why is this factor relevant? What is the impact of this?
– How can we use this factor in our strategy?

Identification of the factors – sources of information for SWOT
1. Customer data and feedback. The number of prospects, contacts, leads, clients and repurchasing clients. The structure and the activity of your customers. Customer value (Do you know it?) as the most important one. The feedback from customers in any channels: from social media to formal complaints.
2. Performance indicators and team feedback. Production rates, growth, market share, RoI. Campaign indicators: reach, activity (e.g. shares), cost per lead, website data (unique visitors, bounce rate, time spent, shopping cart abandonment), mail/advertising response rates. Personal indicators of your team.
3. Your financial performance – sales results, income, value of the company, investment, or any other information about the financial background and resources.
4. Market research – collect customer information (primary/secondary, qualitative/quantitative). Check forums, blogs, social media. Conduct a questionnaire survey. You can also research the supply chain or any other stakeholder group.
5. Information from the competitors. Public information: price lists, homepages, social media sites, stores and web shops, advertisements, publications, financial reports. Request proposals, use their services.
6. Your mission, objectives, marketing and financial plans, previous analyses.

In the SWOT you summarise your findings by grouping them into four areas: strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities. Threats and opportunities are mostly external factors and trends, while strengths and weaknesses focuses on the business itself. The result is something like this:

Click here to download a SWOT template!

Do not stop here. Your SWOT is not ready yet. The SWOT is an analysis, you still have work to do: the analysis itself.

Scrutiny of the strengths and weaknesses
To evaluate them, first you have to answer three questions:
– Is it a competitive advantage?
– Are you really good at this?
– What is the perception of the customers?

High quality products can be a real strength of the company, but if the competitors (or some of them) are producing the same high-quality goods then quality does not differentiate your business. Should you even classify this as a strength? Yes. It is important to understand if you are good at something. Your team also need feedback (Your sales have a 90% closing rate, your customer satisfaction is close to 100% – can you tell your team that they are not a strength for the company?).
However only competitive advantages can give you the upper hand against your rivals. When anyone can achieve this, it becomes a necessity for the market.

Even if you are the best you still can improve. It is essential to understand that you are better than the competitors, but if your customers are not satisfied, you should improve. Can a 40% repurchase rate be a strength? A 4% sales funnel conversion rate? An 85% cart abandonment rate?
You can classify it as a strength – you can be the best with them – at this specific situation. Temporarily. But the decisions should be different in the case of a real strength of the company compared to a competitive-only strength.

It is also vital to examine the perception of customers. An unknown, but existing strength requires different actions than an alleged but non-existent one. Customers can draw conclusions without knowing the facts, for example perceived quality of a product is highly related to its price, country of origin or the retailer. Perceived value (→ satisfaction) of a product is based on customers’ expectations. Cognitive dissonance distorts our perception, customers are not rational.

When you are ready with this, take a look at the whole picture.
Which are the most important strengths of the company? Which are unique? Where to improve, what to communicate? Can the business save money on some strengths?
Can you deal with all the weaknesses at the same time? Is it vital to improve any of them for the survival of the company? Can something compensate the weaknesses?
You can use ABC (Pareto) analysis to classify your factors.

Draw your conclusions for strategy – you can start thinking about the implications here. What are the consequences of these factors to the strategic level of 4Ps? Branding, pricing strategy, communication strategy, product portfolio, partnerships – most of them are determined by the strengths and weaknesses.

Do not forget to communicate / discuss this with your team. It can be important feedback for them, a recognition of their results. You can also set targets with them.

Scrutiny of the threats and the opportunities
As for the opportunities, the most important question is the prerequisites. What should you do to capitalise on them? How can you make full use of all the opportunities? Can you start working on them now? Do you need money, knowledge, licence – or any other resource before you can act? What steps lead the opportunity to become reality?

Threats are more difficult. You should know:
– the odds of their occurrence
– the consequences (potential impact of occurrence)
– ways of prevention / protection

Rank them by importance (multiple the odds and impact): those with high impact or high probability need immediate action (prevention or preparation). The identification of the most vulnerable points will influence your marketing. Focus the company’s resources to the critical factors, and do the easy and obvious only for the rest.
It is also important to examine what you can do. Some threats can be avoided, others certainly become reality sooner or later. The objective of the analysis is to be ready. To understand the options and start acting. Sometimes it is just monitoring the environment and setting up triggers (reacting behaviour) – sometimes it is leading the changes (proactive behaviour).

Do you really need to conduct a quality SWOT analysis?
The real question is this: do you need any marketing for your success? Sometimes business works without marketing or DIY.

But whenever you work with a marketing expert, a consultant or an agency, you have to make sure that they understand your business and goals. SWOT – a quality one – is a good starting point for cooperation.

Andras Kenez, Lecturer in Marketing

Any questions? Email Andras.Kenez@staffs.ac.uk

So you’ve graduated – now what?

5 top tips for new graduates from Senior Lecturer Angela Lawrence

Three years of study have come to an end, exams are over, the university board has sat, results announced and graduation is looming. It can be a worrying and scary time for many graduates as the intensity of those final assessments has been all-consuming for weeks and months. All of a sudden everything is over. There’s quite a gap in your life that you need to fill and you may be floundering and wondering what’s next. If you were smart, you began applying for graduate jobs at the beginning of the year, but even so, you may not yet have bagged the job of your dreams.

Here are a few tips to help you to stay focused on securing the graduate employment that you deserve:

  1. It’s a numbers game

Statistics suggest that 39 graduates apply for every advertised graduate position. So you are up against around 38 ex-students who are applying for the same jobs as you. Don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes a while and you feel like you spend half of every week filling in applications – it’s a numbers game, the more jobs you apply for the better chance you will have of securing the role that’s right for you. Keep believing in yourself and keep on searching through the jobs sites; sooner or later your time will come.

  1. Perseverance is key

Don’t give up – NEVER give up! You have worked hard to earn your degree and you deserve to get a graduate position. Okay, you may have to accept a job that is less than what you want in the first instance, to make ends meet, but do not stop seeking out and applying for graduate positions.  It took three years to get your degree so it may take three months or more to secure that job that you are after.

  1. Keep in work

Work, work, work…and keep working! You may only be working part-time, working to help out a family member’s business or working as a volunteer, but you must keep working. Having that evidence on your CV that you have a strong working ethic speaks volumes to potential employers. Furthermore, you are probably practising a multitude of transferable skills, whatever the role. Skills that employers want to hear about, such as good timekeeping, the ability to work independently or as part of a team, the ability to be trusted, accuracy and attention to detail.

  1. Ask for feedback

If you have applied for a job and had no response within indicated timescales, then ring the company up and ask them if they have shortlisted applications yet. If they have and you are not on the list, ask them if they would mind telling you what the criteria for shortlisting was, so that you know for next time. If you actually got to an assessment board or had an interview, but were not successful in being offered the job, you must ask for feedback. It may simply be that another candidate had more relevant experience, or it may be that you find out it was something that you were lacking, that you could work on before your next interview. It may be the way you interviewed, possibly nerves were showing. So practise makes perfect and you now have that knowledge to help you to prepare yourself better for your next interview.

  1. Network

The saying goes “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. This is never more true than in the game of job hunting. It is stated that ninety-three percent of recruiters use LinkedIn for recruitment. So if you haven’t got a professional LinkedIn profile, you’re missing a trick. Join your alumni LinkedIn group and network with alumni who know only too well how hard it is to find that all-important break in the job hunting market. But offline networking can be equally important. Check out the local networking opportunities with your local Chamber of Commerce, and seek out recruitment fairs in your local area or in the region in which you would like to work.

A final tip for Staffordshire University graduates – don’t forget that you have access to our online careers portal, eCoach following graduation. Our Careers Network services are available to you for as long as you need them. Your lecturers and personal tutors will be happy to provide you with references, so good luck and we know you’ll do us proud!

School of Business, Leadership and Economics Pride Awards Night

On the 30th March, final year Events Management students Josh Lonsdale, Tom Gater and Lorna Wilde organised and hosted the first (and hopefully not the last) Business, Leadership and Economics Pride Awards evening. Staff and students in the School were asked to vote for nominations in various categories and the event was part of their final year project module.

The evening started with a buffet and bucks fizz and Lorna performing a wonderful selection of songs. We were all blown away with her brilliant singing voice and professional delivery. Isabelle Clarke was master of ceremonies and Lorna, Josh and Tom presented the awards.

The event was for both staff and students celebrating their contribution and impact they have on the School and University. It was held in one of the School’s rooms in Ashley
decorated by the students. As Josh said “it was great to see staff and student support each other hand in hand about the great achievements we had within the school” and It has been a pleasure as final year Event Management students to put on an event that gets to showcase how many talented staff and students are in the school. We hope that this event will be continued by the school and we hope that the other schools may take the initiative to host a similar awards ceremony.”

The evening ended with Lorna again singing, this time ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ and ‘On My Own’ from Les Miserables especially for Carol and Angela. There was not a dry eye in the house – at least from Carol, Angela and me!

  

The winners of the awards were:

Exceeding Expectations Award

Given to a student who has gone above and beyond during their time here at the Staffordshire university Business School.

Dee  Rahmat

Commitment to Excellence Award

Awarded to a staff member who consistently and proactively help raise the reputation of not only the Business school but also Staffordshire University.

Karl McCormack

Outstanding Leadership Award

Awarded to staff members who lead students and or staff to achieve improved results across the Business school but also Staffordshire University.

Alison Maguire

Student Honours List

Awarded to students who have had a positive impact on Staffordshire University and the Business School throughout their studies.

The Hult Team, Daniel Griffiths, Danielle Nugent , George Balshaw and Sarah Wright

Future Leader Award

Awarded to a student who encompasses of the Staffordshire Graduate Attributes.

Henry Greentree.

Community Partnership Award 

Awarded to a member of staff who with the community while maintaining a positive image of the Business School at Staffordshire University.

Carol Southall

Exceptional Contribution Award

Awarded to a member of staff who has contributed to not just the business school but Staffordshire university for several amount years

Anni Hollins

Future Leader Award

Awarded to a member of staff who has developed an original and contemporary assessment with positive feedback

Angela Lawerence

Written by Anne Harbisher

Doctor of Business Administration – a way to link industry with academia

Our Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) students are well established and recognised professionals in their fields in high-powered executive level jobs in various industries ranging from retail to corporate banking, from academia to government. One of our DBA students completed Staffordshire University’s Masters in Strategic Human Resource Management (HRM); another one had completed Staffordshire University’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) before joining the DBA programme, which demonstrates the varied progression options. Our DBA students come from diverse backgrounds both cultural and educational. They all have in common one thing though – they want to advance their careers as well as their respective fields, industries or companies through research.

Our DBA candidates use academic literature and rigorous research to develop new marketing metrics that will help firms in different industries predict their sales growth; they develop family business succession plans in countries where no such things exist; they investigate international trade opportunities in education services so that universities in their country can grow; some test existing models in new contexts, others develop new concepts and theories.

Such exciting collaboration enables Staffordshire University to be incredibly close to businesses at the highest level and contribute to their strategic decision making. One such example is a project that has spun out of a DBA research initiated by the HR Director of DFS.  A team of high calibre researchers presented findings directly to the DFS team and the cooperation flourishes. Read this post and this article to learn more.

In May our DBA students presented their research at a DBA symposium organised by the Chartered Association of Business Schools and Aston University Business School, where they worked with their peers from other DBA programmes and discussed their research under supervision of experienced academics, researchers and doctoral supervisors. The event was preceded by the Postgraduate Research Conference at Staffordshire University, to which our DBA students made a valuable contribution. In fact, authors of the very best papers were selected by the conference organisation committee to chair a session, giving students an important experience valued highly in academia. Later this year, our DBA students contributed to a very successful and productive DBA symposium organised by Cranfield School of Management and the British Association of Management in October. DBA candidates met with DBA supervisors, programme directors, and DBA students and graduates from universities all over the UK and abroad. Liaising with them enabled students to set a benchmark against the market standard and gauge their own progress. Debates and discussions about their research helped our students to develop confidence in articulating their research to specialist and non-specialist audiences. This is a key skill DBA candidates need to develop in order to be able to disseminate their research to practitioners as well as academics. This will also help them tremendously when they eventually defend their thesis during a viva voce examination.

     

Networking however doesn’t only happen at symposia or conferences. During the BAM symposium residential week our DBA students enjoyed an evening playing bowling with their peers and the Programme Director (who broke her finger trying to lift the side bars for them!). This was a great opportunity for our DBA candidates to get to know colleagues from other cohorts, who are in different stages of their doctorate, whilst trying something new as most of them had never bowled before. It strengthened the cohesion between and within cohorts and facilitated better teamwork and peer support amongst the DBA candidates, who are from different parts of the world.

To find out more about Staffordshire DBA contact the Programme Director
Dr Jana Fiserova, visit our website or follow us on Twitter #staffsDBA