Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship


Dr Bharati Singh, Course Leader, Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship


The Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship course is not only about being an entrepreneur or setting up your own business but it is actually understanding how innovation and entrepreneurship should really be at the heart of any business decision. Successful businesses today are the ones who have been really innovative, they have fresh thinking with an entrepreneurial mindset. In today’s dynamic business setting, both small and large companies harness entrepreneurial streaks.  

Business photo created by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com

Entrepreneurship and innovation play a very important role within businesses of all shapes and sizes. Employees are expected to think outside the box which can only happen if employees can think innovatively. Today’s world is rather dynamic with the speed of innovation becoming faster, a shorter product life cycle, ever-changing consumer taste, technological advancement, competitor threat, changing government and legal landscape and other external factors not in the control of businesses.

In the face of the current pandemic, it becomes ever so important to be aware of the surrounding economic conditions and the political climate. To explore the ethical and unethical anomalies in the contemporary global political and global economic systems. Such systems can provide both challenges and opportunities.  

Sustainability has become a buzz word today. It is not only about shareholders and profitability anymore. Consumers, suppliers, governments and many other stakeholders now question the practices of businesses. Companies are expected to run their businesses with a social responsibility. The triple bottom line (Elkington 2018); which translates to people, profit and planet, need to be considered.  

Social vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com

Creative Destruction (Schumpeter, 1942) has taken a different meaning altogether in todays business environment. We are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution and ‘disruption’ is at the heart of it. Companies go through continuous organisational change and hence, have to assess how to leverage innovative business models to remain competitive.   

Of course, to innovate or have an entrepreneurial streak and to sustain a competitive edge, it is imperative for individuals and companies to have a strategy. Strategy is key in business planning and entrepreneurial success. 

Thus, to gauge global challenges and opportunities, understand about the social enterprise, develop an entrepreneurial mindset, to be creative and innovative, develop sustainable business practices, leverage change management and have a strategy to maintain competitive advantage, reading for a degree in Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship will enable students to hit the ground running. 


References: 

Elkington, J. (2018). 25 Years Ago I Coined the Phrase “Triple Bottom Line.” Here’s Why It’s Time to Rethink It. Harvard Business Review, June 25, 2018  

Schumpeter, J. 1942. Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. New York: Harper & Bros.  

Marketing Campaigns that hit the mark


Angela Lawrence, Chartered Marketer, Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and Associate Dean in Staffordshire Business School


I’ve always been a lover of clever marketing campaigns and frequently pondered on what makes a campaign so successful. Having identified some really smart campaigns over the years, I decided that four things matter and I developed my own model. There are already a couple of well-known marketing models with four-letter acronyms, to support marketing communications planning – Chris Fill’s DRIP model and Elmo Lewis’ classic, long-established AIDA model. I’d like to propose a third, MIMI. Here’s how it goes:


The first M stands for MEMORABLE. If you remember a marketing campaign then you probably talk to your friends and family about it. Word of mouth is like a bush fire – it spreads! Getting people to talk about your marketing campaign is a sure way to drive engagement and acquisition.

One of the most memorable campaigns of my lifetime was probably the 1971 Coca Cola advert which was absolute genius in its time and one of my first early memories of colour TV. “It’s the Real Thing”, the famous Coca Cola tagline will forever ring out to the tune of “I’d like to teach the world to sing” for me – most definitely memorable!


The I is for IMPACTFUL. If a campaign doesn’t make an impact, doesn’t drive a call to action, doesn’t change anything, then its probably a wasted investment. We invest in marketing campaigns because we want something to happen, whether that be purchase of a product or service, driving awareness or encouragement to sign up for further communications.

My favourite campaign in terms of the impact that it had, was the 2004 Dove Real Beauty campaign by the then Ogilvy and Mather. In terms of impact, this campaign

  • displaced 171 million banners with negative impact
  • reached 5.5 million unique women
  • drove 50% of the women who visited the Dove Ad Makeover site to create a message

The campaign extended beyond promoting a vision for beauty equality, by increasing sales of Dove from $2.5 to $4 billion in the campaigns’ first ten years. Dove soap bars became Unilever’s best-selling product company wide. That’s what I call impact!

The second M of my model stands for MEASUREABLE. Marketing costs money and every good finance officer will demand to know what the ROI will be before agreeing to your budget request. In todays world of digital marketing this is so much easier, with metrics such as Cost Per Click (CPC), Cost per Impression (CPI), Click Through Rate (CTR), conversion rate, number of visitors, post engagement, interactions, page views and many, many more. The hashtag has become a strong indicator of success – #MeToo, #BeKind, #LikeaGirl, #BlackLivesMatter and #NeverAgain resonate with me and illustrate the power of the online environment.

A truly measurable campaign that I think was just brilliant in its time was the EPICA award-winning Mini Getaway campaign in 2010. iPhones had only been around for 3 years, so a campaign developed around an app, to engage and encourage involvement was truly genius. I would hazard a guess that not many readers of this blog have ever seen this campaign, watch the video at the link above and I think you’ll agree that it’s Memorable, Impactful and Measurable without a doubt.


Finally, there is another I, this time for IDENTIFIABLE. It’s imperative that receivers of any campaign messaging need to be able to identify the product or brand. Some brands are identifiable purely by their colour – did you know that RAC orange is a unique colour? What colour are the McDonald arches? If I mention Cadburys, what colour would you associate with the brand?

Other brands are identifiable by a tune containing the tag line or even the brand name – think of Go Compare and you will no doubt sing it. The monotone, single note tune for We Buy Any Car still ring in my head, and as I’ve already said, Coca Cola is the Real Thing in the song from the 70’s ad. Other brands are identifiable by a character, such as the Compare the Market meercats, the Michelin Man, the Jolly Green Giant providing your sweetcorn, the Pillsbury Doughboy and my personal favourite, Captain Birdseye.

Memorable, Impactful, Measurable and Identifiable – I challenge you to apply my MIMI model to your favourite marketing campaign. In fact, why not come and study a marketing qualification with us at Staffordshire Business School, to learn for yourself how to develop and deliver marketing campaigns that truly hit the mark.

BA (Hons) Digital and Social Media Marketing

Masters in Digital Marketing Management

CIM Certificate or Diploma in Professional Digital Marketing

The ‘Fantabulous’ Francis Jackson

Deon Wong, Visitor Attraction and Resort Management Student


On Wednesday 24th March 2021, Year 1 & 2 Fda Visitor Attraction and Resort Management Students (VARM) attended a virtual Q&A with extra special guest Francis Jackson (Alton Towers Resorts Operations Director). The meeting enabled students to ask Francis on all things Alton Towers, specifically his journey, COVID impacts, new role and advice on how to be successful within the industry. I (Deon Wong), one of the VARM students, was given the opportunity to become the master of ceremonies and lead the Q&A.

Francis Jackson began the Q&A by giving us a brief background history into his experience, from working at Australia’s Falls Creek Ski Lifts as the Director of Snowsports to being the beloved Operations Director at Alton Towers. He has a solid belief in transferring his knowledge gained and sharing them with his team to make them bigger and better. Francis expressed his huge heart towards Alton Towers and how he enjoys the customer focus moments, where he has built relationships to improve the customer journey. He regrets not having time to be out there with the customers and staff due to his administrative role.

Moving into the 2021 season, ATR aims to deliver a ‘thrilliant’ season of celebrations and fun. With an increase in footfall, new safety regulations are introduced to adhere to the safety guidelines. Francis mentioned various new additions to accompany guests’ safety and capacity, from utilising the lawn space, new ride openings, temporary flat rides, and monorail adjustments. Maintaining a ‘fantabulous’ presentation and customer journey is a massive priority for Francis. From ensuring cigarettes and chewing gum are picked up to repainting areas. Francis states it’s all about the “pursuit of guest excellence for the guest journey “- (Francis Jackson, 2021).

Francis Jackson discussed his new role as general manager. With over 30 years of experience in the leisure industry, he’s driven to make the customer journey and experience better. He understands change is always good, as businesses can’t stay static. They have to adapt, change and constantly move forwards to progress. He’s a firm believer in achieving an outstanding organisation by refocusing on corporate social responsibility, diversity and inclusion. Within his new role as general manager, he’s accountable for all things COVID related, capacity and having the final say in difficult decisions.

Lastly, Francis Jackson passed on specific advice on how to be successful within the leisure industry. From knowing your product, listening to guest feedback and continuously pushing the product your offering to entice guests. One advice he advises is for people to be authentic and be true to themselves; once you divert and create a fake facade, issues will arise. It’s important to feel confident and ensure you have questions to ask, as It’s constantly a lesson of growth and development.

#ProudtToBeStaffs
#VARM
#LifelongLearning
#SeekingOpportunities
#FantabulousFrancisJackson
#Inspirational
#StayVARM
#VARMtastic

Research on SME innovation especially in traditional manufacturing regions Part 2

By Prof Geoff Pugh and Prof Jon Fairburn

Part 1 of this article can be found here

  • Radicic, D., Pugh, G. and Douglas, D. (2018). Promoting cooperation in innovation ecosystems: Evidence from European traditional manufacturing SMEs, Small Business Economics. Accepted 01-08-2018. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-018-0088-3

Abstract

We investigate whether public support for innovation increases the propensity of SMEs in traditional manufacturing industries to cooperate for innovation—in particular, for incremental innovation—with other firms and external knowledge providers. Using data from seven EU regions, we find that support programmes do not promote cooperation with competitors, marginally promote cooperation with customers and suppliers and strongly promote cooperation with knowledge providers. These findings suggest that, in this case, the role of public policy is systems conforming rather than systems creating. Innovation support programmes can assist SMEs in traditional manufacturing industry to consolidate and/or extend their innovation ecosystems beyond familiar business partners by promoting cooperation with both private and public sector knowledge providers. Finally, our findings suggest that evaluation studies of innovation support programmes should be designed to capture not only input and/or output additionality but also behavioural and systemic effects.

Keywords

SMEs; Traditional manufacturing industry; Innovation ecosystems; Innovation policy; Cooperation for innovation; Behavioural additionality 

  • Radicic, D., Douglas, D., Pugh, G. and Jackson, I. (2018). Cooperation for innovation and its impact on technological and non-technological innovations: empirical evidence for European SMEs in traditional manufacturing industries, International Journal of Innovation Management. Accepted 07-09-2018. https://doi.org/10.1142/S1363919619500464

Abstract.

Drawing on a sample of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in traditional manufacturing industries from seven EU regions, this study investigates how cooperation with external organisations affects technological (product and process) innovations and non-technological (organisational and marketing) innovations as well as the commercial success of product and process innovations (i.e., innovative sales). Our empirical strategy takes into account that all four types of innovation are potentially complementary. Empirical results suggest that cooperation increases firms’ innovativeness and yields substantial commercial benefits. In particular, increasing the number of cooperation partnerships has a positive impact on all measures of innovation performance. We conclude that a portfolio approach to cooperation enhances innovation performance and that innovation support programs should be demand-led.

From the MAPEER project:

  • Radicic, D. and Pugh, G (2016).  R&D programmes, policy mix, and the “European Paradox”: evidence from European SMEs, Science and Public Policy, 44 ( 4 ) ( 2017 ), pp. 497 – 512. doi: 10.1093/scipol/scw077. First published online: October 2, 2016.

Abstract

Using a sample of small and medium-sized enterprises from twenty-eight European countries, this study evaluates the input and output additionality of national and European Union (EU) R&D programmes both separately and in combination. Accordingly, we contribute to understanding the effectiveness of innovation policy from the perspective of policy mix. Empirical results are different for innovation inputs and outputs. For innovation inputs, we found positive treatment effects from national and EU programmes separately as well as complementary effects for firms supported from both sources relative to firms supported only by national programmes. For innovation outputs, we report no evidence of additionality from national programmes and cannot reject crowding out from EU programmes. However, crowding out from EU support is eliminated by combination with national support. These findings have policy implications for the governance of R&D policy and suggest that the European paradox—success in promoting R&D inputs but not commercialisation—is not yet mitigated.

Key words: R&D support; SMEs; policy mix; input and output additionality; European paradox

  • Radicic, D. and Pugh, G. (2017). Performance Effects of External Search Strategies in European Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises. Journal of Small Business Management, 55, 76-114. First published on-line: Feb.15th 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jsbm.12328                                      

Abstract.

There is little evidence regarding the performance impact of open innovation on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), especially across different firm-size categories and sectors. Using new survey data from 28 European countries, we specify ordered logit and generalized proportional odds models to explore how seven individual external search strategies (knowledge sources) affect SME innovation performance across different size categories and sectors. While we find some consistently positive effects, in particular from using customers as an external knowledge source, we also find that some search strategies may not be beneficial. These findings suggest managerial and policy implications.

  • Radicic, D. (2020). National and international R&D support programmes and technology scouting in European small and medium enterprises. Journal of Science and Technology Policy Management 11(4), 455-482.  https://doi.org/10.1108/JSTPM-10-2019-0091

Abstract

Purpose. This study aims to evaluate the effectiveness of national and international R&D support programmes on firms’ technology scouting, defined as firms’ use of external knowledge sources.

Design/methodology/approach. Drawing on a unique data set on R&D support programmes for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in both manufacturing and service sectors across 28 European countries, this study reports treatment effects estimated by the copula-based endogenous switching model, which takes into account unobserved firm heterogeneity.

Findings. Empirical results indicate that R&D support programmes have heterogeneous effects on technology scouting. In particular, a crowding-out effect arises in the case of informal sources of external knowledge, whereas additional effects are reported for formal, strategic sources.

Practical implications. For informal sources of external knowledge, a random distribution of R&D measures would have a substantially larger effect rather than using current selection criteria.

Originality/value. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study to explore the policy effects on technology scouting applying a copula-based endogenous switching model. Most cross-sectional empirical studies use matching estimators, although their main disadvantage is the selection on observables.

Key words External knowledge search; Behavioural additionality; Copula-based endogenous switching model; European SMEs; Technology

Email g.t.pugh@staffs.ac.uk or jon.fairburn@staffs.ac.uk

Part 1 of this article can be found here

Research on SME innovation especially in traditional manufacturing regions Part 1

By Prof Geoff Pugh and Prof Jon Fairburn

Introduction

About the projects

The two projects are the following.

  • GPrix project (November 2009 – February 2012) commissioned by the European Commission’s DG-Research. Full title: Good Practices in Innovation Support Measures for SMEs: facilitating transition from the traditional to the knowledge economy; Instrument: SP4-Capacities—CSA—Support Action; Call: FP7-SME-2009-1; Grant agreement Number: 245459. The website for this project, including aa very large number of deliverables etc., is currently available at http://business.staffs.ac.uk/gprix/en/index.htm
  • MAPEER project commissioned by the European Commission’s DG-Research. Full title: Making Progress and Economic Enhancement a Reality for SMEs. Funded under FP7-SME. Grant agreement ID: 245419. The MAPEER project website is no longer available but the results are reported in summary form on CORDIS: https://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/93511/factsheet/en

The two projects coordinated their questionnaire surveys to facilitate analysis and eventual publication. Together, participants at Staffordshire University contributed to seven publications arising from these datasets.

The GPrix project focused on evaluating innovation support measures for SMEs in traditional manufacturing industries. In brief, three published articles and a UNI-MERIT Working Paper arising from the project reported that:

  • the estimated effects of innovation support programs are positive, typically increasing the probability of innovation and of its commercial success;
  • although innovation support measures in the EU are mostly designed to support product innovation in R&D intensive sectors, for firms in traditional manufacturing industries a broader innovation (policy) mix is more appropriate, including support for product innovation, process innovation, marketing and organizational innovations (of particular importance), together with internationalization, design and cooperation;
  • innovation support programmes can assist SMEs in traditional manufacturing industry to consolidate and/or extend their innovation ecosystems by promoting cooperation with both private and public sector knowledge providers, suggesting that initial input and/or output additionality from public support may be propagated and amplified by behavioural and systemic effects; and
  • increasing the number of cooperation partnerships has a positive impact on all measures of innovation performance.

The MAPEER project focused on innovation support for SMEs more generally. Three articles arising from this project reported:

  • that the “European paradox” regarding SME support — i.e. success in promoting R&D inputs but not commercialisation — is not yet mitigated;
  • new evidence on “open innovation” strategies, suggesting not only some consistently positive effects, in particular from using customers as an external knowledge source, but also that some search strategies may not be beneficial;  and
  • evidence that R&D support programmes have heterogeneous effects on technology scouting – defined as firms’ use of external knowledge sources – including a crowding-out effect on informal sources of external knowledge but additionality with respect to  formal, strategic sources.

For convenience, the abstracts of all seven contributions are reproduced below

From the GPrix project:

  • Radicic, D., Pugh, G., Hollanders, H., Wintjes, J., and Fairburn, J. (2016). The impact of innovation support programs on small and medium enterprises innovation in traditional manufacturing industries: An evaluation for seven European Union regions. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 34(8) (December): 1425-1452. First published online December 18, 2015. doi:10.1177/0263774X15621759 

Abstract

We evaluate the effect of innovation support programs on output innovation by small and medium enterprises in traditional manufacturing industry. This focus is motivated by a definition of traditional manufacturing industry that includes capacity for innovation, and by evidence of its continued importance in European Union employment. We conducted a survey in seven European Union regions to generate the data needed to estimate pre-published switching models by means of the copula approach, from which we derived treatment effects on a wide range of innovation outputs. We find that for participants the estimated effects of innovation support programs are positive, typically increasing the probability of innovation and of its commercial success by around 15%. Yet, we also find that a greater return on public investment could have been secured by supporting firms chosen at random from the population of innovating traditional sector small and medium enterprises. These findings indicate the effectiveness of innovation support programs while suggesting reform of their selection procedures.

Keywords

Small and medium enterprises, evaluation, traditional manufacturing, innovation support, innovation outputs

Abstract

Innovation support measures in the EU are mostly designed to support product innovation in R&D intensive sectors. To increase the still considerable contribution to regional employment and competitiveness from SMEs in traditional manufacturing industries a broader innovation (policy) mix is more appropriate. This paper draws data from a survey of more than 300 SMEs from seven regions within the European Union, as well as case studies, to address the question: How can innovation policy interventions be improved to support SMEs in traditional manufacturing industries more effectively? We claim that innovation support should be sensitive to the way SMEs in traditional manufacturing sectors innovate and grow. We find that product innovation (and support used for product innovation) is less likely to generate growth, than (support used for) process innovation. Also (support used for) marketing innovations and organizational innovations are of particular importance – together with internationalization, design and cooperation. The increasingly selective application procedures applied are not the most efficient to generate impact, since those who are supported (and those who are supported more frequently), are the ones who are most likely to take the same innovative steps anyhow, irrespective of policy support.

Keywords

Innovation; SMEs; traditional sectors; low-tech; policy evaluation; manufacturing; process innovation

Part 2 of this article can be found here

Email g.t.pugh@staffs.ac.uk or jon.fairburn@staffs.ac.uk

Trust – an important ingredient towards work/life balance

Dr Bharati Singh, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School


This is my 3rd blog and I will continue with the theme of sharing my thoughts from previous corporate employment. So, this one is dedicated to work-life balance.


While teaching on a level 6 module ‘Change and Transformation’ we watched a video where the HR Manager for sales in Google was talking about creating trust and people management (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRsJbpppvEU). She stated that she does not check on how much time her team spends in office or how many sick days they take. She further said that there was no rule on specific office timings. It was all about performance which was evaluated quarterly and an individual could decide how they met their targets as they were adults and could work out their own schedules and holidays; thus, managing their work/life balance.

This reminded me of one of my favourite bosses in the corporate world. I had to travel home which was in another city on a personal emergency and in my request did mention that all work will be taken care of – his reply – I don’t care if you work out of Timbuktu, till the work is done. That was the trust my boss had in me and that trust helped in creating the best work/life balance I had in my corporate life.

A checklist by CMI, confirms that the employers need to provide the control to employees to manage their working arrangements taking into consideration their social aspects  and also achieve organisational objectives.

If organisations offer flexitime, the communication should be clear and the corporate culture should support it. Creating a culture of respect and trust (Grimes, 2011) is the first step towards successful flexitime policies supporting work/life balance. This is not easy and has its challenges; however, with correct implementation, this can lead to employer/employee satisfaction, thriving organisations and increased employee retention.

In the face of the pandemic, when working from home has become the ‘new normal,’ the need for trust between employer and employee has further heightened. Many companies like Unilever have gone on record about increased productivity and increased employee engagement as an outcome of remote working.

In a study conducted on ethical behaviours by managers, trust shown by senior management and supervisors and their support for work/life balance was perceived to be ethical (Cowart, et al., 2014).

The Mental Health Foundation, UK has also confirmed that 1 in 6 people will experience mental health issues emanating from a negative work/life balance. Thus, it is imperative that organisations support work/life balance. This can be achieved by:

  1. Clear guidelines by the organisation
  2. Transparent dialogue between employer and employee
  3. Expectations management
  4. Trust across the ranks and not only limited to a few employees
  5. Taking personal responsibility
  6. Conducive work environment
  7. Clear demarcation between work and life

Where will we work post-Covid?

by Vanessa Oakes,Course Director

As we move through the Government’s Roadmap to ‘normality’ over the next few months, employers will be starting to consider what this may mean for staff returning to office environments. Many staff who have been able to work from home throughout the pandemic have reported increased productivity, better work life balance, saving time and money through the elimination of the commute, as well as many other benefits.

There have been some drawbacks, particularly where staff have had to juggle home-schooling and caring responsibilities, but as these staff become able to return to a normal working routine, it is likely that they will start to experience some of the same benefits as their colleagues

A recent YouGov survey showed that 91% of respondents surveyed who have been able to work from home during the pandemic, want to continue to do so at least some of the time. This pressure from employees (who have proved that they can successfully work from home), should be a catalyst for most organisations to make changes to the levels of flexibility they will allow. If organisations choose not to offer greater levels of flexibility in WHERE staff work, they may see their employees move to a competitor who IS willing this. More and more frequently ‘working from home’ can be found on job advertisements for professionals, allowing these organisations to take advantage of the changing demands of employees, and  opening their vacancies to a much wider talent pool, giving them more choice in their chosen candidate.

Of course, organisations in some sectors have always been prepared to offer high levels of flexibility of working hours and location and have found the transition to working from home a case of ‘business as usual’. At least a third of the workforce pre-Covid had some access to homeworking, but anecdotes suggest remote working was reserved for management, those who were highly valued or those who had sympathetic managers.

What the ‘mass working from home experiment’ over the last year has taught us is that everyone in our organisations can benefit from a level of flexibility, and the organisation will benefit in return through higher levels of engagement and commitment. Consider another benefit to increasing flexibility, the ability to truly open vacancies to more diverse candidates, from those with disabilities for whom homeworking would be much easier, to increasing the number of women in the workforce (and in senior roles) through allowing more flexibility around WHEN the work can be done.

Vanessa Oakes
Vanessa Oakes

One of the main challenges to remote working has been around managing (or monitoring) performance. This link between presence and performance has been prevalent in sectors where a judgement about performance is not based on measurable KPIs, rather about the complexity of work and behaviours demonstrated in performing it. This could provide challenges to organisations who are willing to improve the flexibility which they offer. This raises a series of questions for managers and leaders:

  • What does ‘good’ work look like? This will be a question that needs to be answered by each manager as they attempt to define what their performance expectations are within the new parameters of work.
  • Are managers communicating their expectations clearly enough?
  • Are they making themselves available, but not inserting themselves unnecessarily into the working day of their teams?
  • And most importantly, are they developing relationships built on trust with each of their team members? It is these relationships that will determine the success of the flexible working strategy and will allow the organisation to take advantage of the many financial and intangible benefits of a flexible workforce for the foreseeable future.

We are now recruiting for cohort 5 of the Small Business Leadership Programme (free and starting 30th March) and Vanessa will be covering this topic in more depth on this course.

Vanessa Oakes on linkedin,Email Vanessa.Oakes@staffs.ac.uk

20 years’ smart city research marching on – what’s next?

Professor Fang Zhao, Associate Dean Research and Enterprise, Staffordshire Business School


By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in towns and cities, resulting in the consumption of over 70% of energy, and the emission of an equal amount of greenhouse gases (European Commission, 2019). The Covid-19 pandemic is exacerbating the challenges that cities have already been facing from multiple fronts such as rapid urbanisation, digital disruptions, demographic, climate and environmental changes, economic restructuring and reforms. Covid-19 is changing how urban residents live, work and commute and reshaping economic structures and business models. In the current global battle against Covid-19, smart cities have a pivotal role to play in responding to the crisis in terms of track-and-trace of coronavirus cases using smart technologies, enforcing social distancing rules, getting homeless people off the streets, and special emergency measures for care homes, to give just a few examples.

The concept of a smart city has been seen as a strategy to tackle the grand challenges facing urban planning and development. Smart city is a fuzzy word with various terms being used – intelligent city, digital city, green city, knowledge city, and smart sustainable city. Research on smart city can be traced back to the 1990s, taking on many perspectives, mostly in four aspects: the technological aspect including the technological infrastructure and support network for building smart cities, the socio-cultural aspect, or citizen engagement, the political-institutional aspect, such as government support and policies, and the economic-business aspect, namely business models and profitability.

A team of researchers (Prof Zhao, Dr Olushola Fashola, Dr Tolulope Olarewaju and Dr Ijeoma Onwumere) at Staffordshire Business School have been investigating what has been done in smart city research over the past 20 years. After a systematic and comprehensive literature review, the research team found that smart city research tends to revolve around six key areas: digital technology diffusion, smart city strategy and implementation, supply chains and logistics, urban planning and governance, smart city entrepreneurship and innovation, and Smart city evaluation and measurement. The team also identified four major challenges for small city research: (a) smart city research is often fragmented and technology-driven; (b) many studies are on perceived benefits of smart cities and fewer on the downsides of the effect of technologies and failure projects; (c) there is a need to build new theories for smart city research; and (d) there is a lack of empirical testing of the conceptual frameworks developed in smart city research. Furthermore, the team found that there was very limited research on crisis management in smart city before 2020. However, the research landscape is changing with emerging literature investigating how smart cities respond to crises and pandemics, and exploring strategies that can be used to tackle swiftly the crisis effectively at both strategic and operational levels.

Directions for future research and practice in smart cities are proposed.  If you want to know more and/or seeking for collaboration, please contact Prof Fang Zhao – Associate Dean Research and Enterprise at fang.zhao@staffs.ac.uk.

Which to use: Quick Ratio or Current Ratio for Liquidity Measurement in business

Status

Mayowa AKINBOTE

Just as businesses are adapting to the shock of Brexit, the global pandemic presents another disruption to businesses. These two events have created huge uncertainty for most small businesses while some have benefited . The striving small businesses are revaluating their strengths with financial metrics to enhance their sustainability as the new markets are emerging. Financial metrics present small businesses with the opportunities to increase efficiency in their operations, liquidity, profitability and stability during uncertainty period. Some commentators argue that inadequate liquidity is the major reason small businesses collapse during the uncertainty period.

The quick ratio helps the business managers to evaluate their businesses financial liquidity. This informs the business managers of how current assets excluding inventories can be quickly converted to cash to meet their current liabilities. This ignores inventory because it is not easily converted to cash. Unlike the current ratio which considers inventory value, the quick ratio is generally viewed as the conservative evaluation of business liquidity as it’s based on the business most liquid assets. For instance, a business has current assets worth £40,000 of which inventory is £10,000, and £15,000 worth of current liabilities thus the business has a 2:1 quick ratio. This indicates that the business can afford to meet the short-term liabilities twice with the short-term assets.

Money

Businesses with a 1:1 or lower quick ratio could be at risk of becoming a going concern. Thus, small businesses with limited access to funds might fire sale their non-current assets to meet the current liabilities.

Many businesses have already closed due to Brexit and the global pandemic and it has been estimated that a further approximately, 98,000 small businesses might not survive the current pandemic. Thus, small business managers that are currently struggling to survive should pay attention to their financial metrics especially the quick ratio.

Unlike the quick ratio, many commentators argue that the current ratio cannot accurately evaluate some businesses short-term liquidity power. For instance, a retail business that targets seasonal customers will stock up inventory for the season. Thus, toward this period the current ratio rises and fall after the seasonal sales. Hence, the quick ratio would be best to evaluation the liquidity ability of such businesses as it ignores the inventory value.

However, other commentators argue that excluding the inventory value from the current assets could be an inefficient way of evaluating liquidity ability for some businesses. For instance, small business such as corner shops that a large percentage of their current assets are fast-moving inventory. Thus, excluding the inventory from the current asset would relatively inflate the current liability. Hence, the quick ratio will present an inaccurate picture of the business to cover their current liability with their most liquid assets.

In conclusion, business managers need to consider both the quick ratio and current ratio, especially during the uncertainty period. This would provide a more accurate measurement of their business ability to pay their short-term liabilities without being forced to fire sale their non-current asset.

Business managers need to ensure that the quick ratio and current ratio is not too excessive compared to other competitors in their sector as this could indicate poor control of working capital. This might suggest that the business is not turning over its inventory quickly enough or is carrying slow-moving or obsolete inventory and has poor credit control practices resulting in their customers delaying payments beyond the agreed terms.

STOP PRESS: We are now recruiting for cohort 5 of the Small Business Leadership Programme (free starts 30th March).

Mayowa Akinbote FCCA
Lecturer in Accounting and Finance
Staffordshire Business School
Staff Page: https://www.staffs.ac.uk/people/mayowa-akinbote
LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/mayowa-akinbote-33448895

Awareness and Corporate Social Responsibility

Storm Barratt, Course Director, Staffordshire Business School


Almost never a day goes by, when we aren’t reminded that “today” is National, International or even Global “something” awareness day or week or month. From the ever-popular Christmas Jumper day to my own particular favourite – National Squirrel Appreciation Day (!), from National Allotment week to Fairtrade fortnight to National Bed month.

All of these campaigns are designed to raise awareness and/or funds for some serious and not so serious issues. So, why as a business, would you want to know this?

Firstly, all businesses have basic ethical and legal responsibilities; however, the most successful businesses establish a strong foundation of corporate citizenship, showing a commitment to ethical behaviour by creating a balance between the needs of shareholders and the needs of the community and environment in the surrounding area. These practices help bring in consumers and establish brand and company loyalty.

It is considered normal for businesses to balance the other stakeholders’ needs with those of the shareholders during the decision-making process. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) goes even further, making the general public a stakeholder and shows that the business wishes to actively improve things for everyone.

Image Source: www.growthbusiness.co.uk

For any business making a profit is still key and, of course, the needs of employees, customers and suppliers must be satisfied if the business is to survive. However, Corporate Social Responsibility has become far more important over the last few decades with consumers worrying about how the products they buy were made and how companies that they buy from are run. On many company websites there will be narratives of how they look after the environment and all the CSR initiatives of which they are a part.

Corporate social responsibility comes in many forms. Even the smallest company impacts social change by making a simple donation to a local food bank. Some of the most common examples of CSR include:

  • Reducing carbon footprints
  • Improving labour policies
  • Participating in Fairtrade
  • Charitable giving
  • Volunteering in the community
  • Corporate policies that benefit the environment
  • Socially and environmentally conscious investments

The growing popularity of National Awareness Days can tap into these initiatives helping a company both internally and externally.


One internal perspective is if your employees can see that the business is taking a caring approach, by raising funds for charity for instance, involving the staff may mean that they become more motivated to engage with each other working towards a common goal. In fact, whilst “Wear a Christmas Jumper to Work” day seems an opportunity to raise a smile amongst colleagues as we approach the long dark winter months, the serious aspect is that the jumper wearers are raising money for a great cause.

Another perspective is using “Awareness Days” to help a business promote their product or service (all the better if this can also highlight the CSR approach taken by the company). The issues can make an ideal marketing tool for a business, providing inspiration for marketing content.

By adding context to an awareness day, a business can plan their content by linking a day to their product or service, so for example an artisan baker could showcase their expertise and knowledge during Real Bread Week, or a nutritionist could use National Allotment Week to encourage healthy and organic eating whilst promoting their own healthy eating programme.

It’s not just about direct promotion though. Awareness days can provide a great opportunity for a business to engage in conversation with future consumers via social media using hashtags associated with the cause, on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. This will allow people to find and contact you, consequently building your audience.

From engaging with employees to good PR to corporate social responsibility, supporting a national awareness day is a great way to show which values are important to you and your business. It can differentiate you from your competitors and allow you to build partnerships with charities and organisations that share your beliefs. With the potential to build trust as well as give a little back, it’s a win-win situation for all.


Become a responsible leader of global business.

Do you want to be at the forefront of modern enterprise? Our BA (Hons) Business Management and Sustainability course challenges the traditional interpretations of enterprise and will open your mind to a broad range of contemporary themes in business.

Our emphasis on ethical business and sustainability will position you to create long-lasting value for your organisation and you will learn the practical skills needed to become a responsible business leader.