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.

How COVID-19 Exposed The Ethnic Poverty and Enterprise Rift (Participate in Our Research)

Dr Tolu Olarewaju, Lecturer, Staffordshire business School


The British Academy (the United Kingdom’s national academy for the humanities and the social sciences) has tasked us with investigating the specific challenges that UK business owners faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, the strategies that they used to keep their businesses afloat, and how they engaged with financial and regional support.

We are also interested in how best to support members of the Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) business community.

To participate in our study, kindly fill the survey below and/or please share the URL with your networks if you know any other business owners:

URL: http://staffordshire.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_50kNUNYOKJFFQNM

Photograph: benjamin lehman | URL: https://unsplash.com/photos/gkZ-k3xf25w | Unsplash

Ethnic minorities were particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK and US, as in some other countries. In particular, the risk of death for some ethnic minority individuals who contracted COVID-19 in these countries was two to three times more compared to white individuals.

This disparity was a result of the underlying social and economic risk factors that ethnic minorities face, such as living in overcrowded and urban accommodation, being employed in riskier lower-skilled jobs, reduced access to healthcare, and structural racism. In other words, ethnic poverty in developed countries is driving higher infection and consequently death rates for ethnic minorities.

Drivers of Ethnic Poverty

Underlying the drivers of poverty for ethnic minorities in many developed countries are several socio-economic factors which include historical factors, discrimination, educational and entrepreneurial variations, and employment and pay disparities between ethnic groups.

Despite facsimile policies that emphasize equal access to education and employment in many developed countries, discrimination remains a critical barrier to equal employment. Several studies have found that both ethnic minorities are called back for interviews 50% less frequently than comparable whites, hired less often for high-skill jobs, and once hired are paid less. Thus, despite the increasing educational gains made by ethnic minority individuals, many are overqualified for the jobs that they do. Ethnic minority workers also often report not being given pay rises and being passed over for promotion.

Another very important driver for the disproportionately high poverty rates among ethnic minority groups is the concentration of such workers in low-paid work. Ethnic minority workers are more likely to work in low-paid sectors with limited progression opportunities and lower wages. Lack of movement out of low-paid work increases the risk of poverty among ethnic groups. In addition, there is generally a lower percentage of ethnic minority workers who are managers, directors, and senior officials.

Photograph: Maria Oswalt URL: https://unsplash.com/photos/qFkVFe9_d38 | Unsplash

Business Ownership Disparities

Before the pandemic, BAME business owners were less likely than non-BAME business owners to obtain mainstream business support and in the early days of coronavirus, nearly two-thirds of BAME business owners felt unable to access state-backed loans and grants, leaving many on the brink of financial ruin.

BAME-owned businesses are traditionally concentrated in the sectors worst hit by lockdown such as retail, health and social care, education, restaurants and accommodation.

The economic crisis facing these businesses is aggravated by the fact that they are more likely to hire a considerable number of BAME employees and attract more BAME customers. The significantly higher risk among such groups from COVID-19 implies that these businesses would have had to incur considerable costs to protect their staff and customers.

Solutions

Ethnic minorities consistently report reduced access to education, lack of social and financial capital, unemployment, low-pay, and poor progression from low-paid sector work. This suggests similar solutions for all groups, which would lead to better-quality jobs and higher pay. However, given that some of the drivers of poverty, such as higher unemployment and inactivity rates disproportionately affect ethnic groups, specific forms of outreach activity and drawing on local knowledge may be needed in these contexts.

Similarly, government solutions to reduce ethnic poverty in developed country contexts include interventions that ensure that education, training and apprenticeships are provided for ethnic minorities as well as schemes that help tackle low pay among ethnic minority workers. There is a need for policies that focus the on education, skills and training for ethnic groups particularly digital, literacy, and numeracy skills. Moreover, policies should also be encouraged that monitor the workforce in relation to ethnicity, which should include the recruitment, retention and progression phases of jobs.

Authorities need to work with employers to provide better-paid jobs and they should do more to listen to and encourage employers to hire a diverse range of skills and experiences. It is advisable to consider putting targets for ethnic minority representation on boards, something that has proven successful in the case of gender. It is also important to recognise the benefits of positive discrimination in the labour market, rather than view legislation to combat ethnic inequality as red tape or political correctness. Mortgage market discrimination needs to be eliminated as this would allow ethnic minorities to take advantage of the benefits that come with owning a home.

State-backed grants and loans should be made more accessible as an incentive to business owners who have incurred additional costs to protect customers and staff. Crucially, the process to obtain them should not be too onerous and the criteria should be fair. Regional governments should also take care to plug BAME businesses into the supply chains of local projects in response to the pandemic.

Source: Author

All these should reduce ethnic poverty and the economic and health inequalities that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted.

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Notes: Excerpts for this essay was taking from my book chapter: “Ethnic Poverty: Causes, Implications, and Solutions” available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/344725834_Ethnic_Poverty_Causes_Implications_and_Solutions

Financial Crimes – The Vulnerable, The Gullible, and The Culpable

Olushola Fashola, Lecturer, Staffordshire Business SChool


Nuthall (2019) asserted that the United Nations estimates that between 2% and 5% (US$800bn–US$2trillion) of global GDP is laundered. The year 2019 saw global anti-money laundering (AML) penalties going beyond £6billion (actual value was £6.2billion which is equivalent to around $8billion), with the US imposing double the quantum of fines imposed by UK authorities (Sweet, 2020). These facts suggests financial crimes is on the rise, which is a worrying development for societies, governments, organisations, and individuals. It is therefore important that some sort of reflection (collectively or individually) be undertaken by all concerned regarding how things have deteriorated to current level in terms of emerging global narrative on financial crime. Consequently, my own lived experience within a socio-economic and institutional context offers a basis for looking at financial crime through the multiple lens of three actors – “the vulnerable”, “the gullible” and “the culpable”.

THE VULNERABLE

Some years back I was looking through job advertisements on various websites, hoping to find a flexible job that will permit me to spend more time with my young children. I did not search too long before I came across one placed by a supposedly US based company. Though, the role was described as Administrative Assistant, the job description was more of a home-based funds transfer officer. Considering that I have practice experience in banking and finance, I quickly applied and was very optimistic as to my chances of eventually getting the job. Just as I had anticipated, I was offered the job. However, mode of operation triggered some curiosity – the company will pay money into my account which I shall subsequently transfer to various recipients!

THE GULLIBLE

The unusual nature of the responsibilities attached to this job role sent alarm bells ringing. I contacted the website where I found the job to let them know of my suspicion that something was not quite right about this company and the job. The website’s initial response was to dismiss my suspicion, suggesting there was nothing unusual about either the company or the job. Whilst pondering as to the genuineness or otherwise of this job offer, I listened to the BBC money box programme focused on money mules. This made the connection between this job offer and money mule operations vividly clear. I contacted the website again, now aware of the prospect of being used as a money mule based on what I have learnt from the BBC programme. This time, the response was an apology and commitment to bar the company from using the website. Prioritisation of corporate social responsibility can help reduce the chances of financial fraud occurring (Liao et al., 2019).   

THE CULPABLE

Whilst I did not allow this company the opportunity to pay any money into my bank account, I wonder how many people they had successfully persuaded into accepting such payments through their banks. The banking industry is central to economic growth and development, but also remains a vital part of the carefully orchestrated dastardly design of financial crimes’ architecture. The growing evidence against banks with respect to recurring culpability in facilitating financial crimes is a worrying trend that compounds erosion of public trust in them since the financial crisis of 2008/2009. Sanctions imposed on banks (see below) for offences with a bearing on financial crimes bears testimony to banking industry’s culpability.

Feb 2014: Standard Bank PLC fined £7.6m for failures in its anti-money laundering controls (BBC, 2014)

May 2015: Barclays fined $2.4bn for forex rigging (Financial Times, 2015)

June 2015: HSBC pays out £28m “compensation” to Swiss authorities over money-laundering claims (The Guardian, 2015)

November 2015: Barclays Bank (Barclays) was fined £72,069,400 for failing to minimise the risk that it may be used to facilitate financial crime by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) (FCA, 2015)

December 2019: HSBC to pay $192m penalty in US for helping clients hide $1billion dollar worth of assets for tax evasion purpose (Financial Times, 2019).

Financial service regulators may have demonstrated a commitment to ensuring banks do not act as facilitators of financial crimes through these sanctions, but the inherent culpability of the financial regulatory system in certain jurisdictions means that these fines do not address why they have become a magnet for financial crime. The public prosecutor in the HSBC/Swiss regulator case as cited in The Guardian (2015) sums up the real source of financial service industry culpability in financial crime thus:

“When we have a law that doesn’t punish financial intermediaries accepting doubtful funds then we have a problem. This problem dates from long before the HSBC affair.”

REFLECTION ON EVIDENCE

Criminals adept at committing financial crimes often targets the vulnerable. They are also very clever at deciphering individual vulnerabilities. Unemployment was a vulnerability ready to be exploited in this case. However, various other vulnerabilities can be the focus of the ploy of these criminals. For instance, search for acceptance and love (BBC 2020), desire to help others and outright greed, are a mix of vulnerabilities often exploited by advance fee (otherwise called “419”) fraudsters.

Individuals or organisations should not think they are above gullibility when it comes to financial crimes. The website involved in this case is a subsidiary to one of the major global online platforms. Yet their vetting process allowed this job advertisement to be placed; and initial response to contacting them laid bare their gullibility – a failure in their social responsibility obligation to society!

Banking industry and its regulatory framework remains an important defence line in society’s response to combating financial crime (Ryder, 2017). A basic line of defence where banks had in the past dropped their guards is with respect to “Know Your Customer” (KYC). This important anti-money laundering requirement needs full compliance for the global fight against financial crime to be successful. Specifically, a risk-based approach to KYC practice can help operators in the financial services industry balance regulatory compliance with business exigencies. Such an approach can help focus attention on potentially risky clients such as the politically exposed person (popularly referred to as PEP). The need for some sort of global regulatory alignment to ensure that there are no safe havens for illicit wealth (Nance, 2018) will require every nation to review its laws and ensure that loopholes exploited by financial criminals and their intermediaries are plugged.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Fraud triangle comprising of opportunity, incentive/pressure, and rationalization (Cressey, 1953) had received wide scholarly attention, it is perhaps time we switched attention to actors whose moral gap facilitates financial crime. Vulnerability, gullibility, and culpability represents a collection of attributes that helps financial crime to spread like wildfire and the criminals that benefit from them to take the rest of society for granted. Hence, the need for every individual and organization to undertake a self-assessment as to whether they may be tacitly facilitating financial crime as a vulnerable, gullible, or culpable actor in a dark web that leaves society morally and economically bankrupt.


REFERENCES

BBC (2014) Standard Bank fined over lax anti-money laundering controls. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25864499 (Accessed 18/12/2020).

BBC (2020) Covid: Romance fraudsters ‘target lonely’ in lockdown. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-54855321 (Accessed 04/01/2020)

Cressey, D. (1953) Other People’s Money. New York, NY: The Free Press.

Financial Conduct Authority (2015) FCA fines Barclays £72 million for poor handling of financial crime risks. Available at: https://www.fca.org.uk/news/press-releases/fca-fines-barclays-%C2%A372-million-poor-handling-financial-crime-risks (Accessed 18/12/2020)

Financial Times (2015) Barclays fined $2.4bn for forex rigging. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/a255cd2a-fef8-11e4-84b2-00144feabdc0 (Accessed 18/12/2020).

Financial Times (2019) HSBC to pay $192m penalty in US tax evasion case. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/e7d51ec4-1b99-11ea-97df-cc63de1d73f4 (Accessed 18/12/2020)

Liao, L., Chen, G. and Zheng, D. (2019) Corporate social responsibility and financial fraud: evidence from China. Accounting & Finance, 59(5), pp.3133-3169.

Nance, M.T. (2018) The regime that FATF built: an introduction to the Financial Action Task Force. Crime, Law and Social Change, 69(2), pp.109-129.

Nuthall, K. (2019) FATF’s new guidelines on tackling money laundering. Accounting and Business magazine, November (Chinese Edition). Available at: https://www.accaglobal.com/gb/en/member/discover/cpd-articles/governance-risk-control/fatf-cpdnov19.html#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20United%20Nations,of%20global%20GDP%20is%20laundered.&text=Accountants%20assisting%20with%20property%20purchases,been%20laundered%20into%20legitimate%20accounts. (Accessed 18/12/2020).

Ryder, N. (2017) The financial crisis and financial crime in the United Kingdom: A critical analysis of the response by Financial Regulatory Agencies. The Company Lawyer, 38(1), pp.4-14.

Sweet, P. (2020) Global anti-money laundering fines top £6bn. Accountancy Age publication of 17 January 2020. Available at: https://www.accountancydaily.co/global-anti-money-laundering-fines-top-ps6bn (Accessed 18/12/2020).

The Guardian (2015) HSBC pays out £28m over money-laundering claims. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jun/04/hsbc-fined-278m-over-money-laundering-claims (Accessed 18/12/2020)


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