This course has caught my eye from the very beginning, as it offers an alternative to the usual Computer Science courses. I believe that every programmer can benefit from some management training. As Peter Drucker stated “The purpose of business is to create a customer.[…] Mind the customer and the store will take care of itself”, I believe that we come across “customers” every day in our life and, as long as we try to keep them happy and make the best impression possible, life will reward us accordingly. From this course, I hope to achieve some managerial skills, what makes a good business. I enjoyed the lectures because I found them easy to understand and because they can be applied in everyday situations. Also, I found the workshops to be really interesting because we apply some theoretical frameworks in our day to day lives as well, which helps us understand better what makes a good business and what is taken into consideration while running it.
For the first workshop, we had to prepare the PESTEL Case Study. The topic of the workshop was the online poker industry. Unfortunately, I did not attend the workshop, which was a shame because I used to gamble occasionally and I knew this world pretty well. However, I enjoyed making research on the topic and doing it at home.
The first concept used at this workshop was “Environmental scan”. After analysing the online poker market, I found out that it is continuously growing, with a revenue of almost 14 billion pounds per year. I believe that environmental scanning is important for businesses because you can learn from others' actions and apply it to your own case in order to succeed in the industry.
In my opinion, information literacy can be used in most of the projects that come across. Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to “recognise when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.”(American Library Association, 1989). Besides environmental scanning other parts of information literacy used in the first workshop were the PESTEL Analysis and Porter's Five Forces.
The PESTEL Analysis displays the external factors that you have to take into consideration a business which can be either positive or negative. This kind of analysis can be performed in any domain, even each one of us personal life. Take for example applying for a University. A PESTEL Analysis can be made in order to find out all the external factors and how they can influence the next years of your life. The same analysis can be used when thinking about starting a new job or moving to another region. For example, if thinking about the possibility of leaving the UK and moving back home, a PESTEL Analysis can take place. Looking at the political side, moving back home would be more profitable for me as the programmer's wages are not taxable in Romania. However, the local government is corrupt and the country is moving backwards in time. Economically wise, it would be a disadvantage for me to work in Romania as most of the goods are just as expensive as in the United Kingdom, even though the salaries are considerably smaller. When taking into consideration the social and environmental factors, I would feel more comfortable working back home. However, the technological factors are showing that the United Kingdom is developing way quicker than Romania and new technologies and opportunities are more likely to be launched and used in the United Kingdom. Also, when analysing the legal factors, working in the United Kingdom is more favourable as the label and consumer laws are more advantageous to the employees here than in Romania.
Porter's Five Forces identifies the competition, the threats of a business, the trends and how the industry evolves and how the customers would adapt to any situation. I believe that this analysis is a good way of knowing the “competitive rivalry”. This way, knowing how many other competitors there are, how big the industry is, the cost base considering the sales and other seasonal promotions and the product range of the industry. By applying these forces it is more facile to start a new business and adapt to the industry's demands.
From this workshop, I have learned a better way of making research by taking a lot more factors into consideration than I would have taken. Also, I learned what makes a good business and how important is to look up the “competitive rivalry” so you can learn from their mistakes, learn the trends of the industry, but also the threats and the customer's behaviour and needs. Because as I cited earlier, “mind the customer and the store will take care of itself”(Peter Drucker).
Reflecting at what could have gone better, there is an obvious issue that comes to my mind and that is my attendance to the workshops. Even though I have done the workshops home and I have asked my course mates about what has been discussed, I believe that I would have picked up more useful information if I would have been present. Nevertheless, I have learned that it will be easier for me from now on if I will attend the workshops and take more notes during lectures.
For the second workshop, the topic was about the Innocent smoothies. Personally, I am a fan of Innocent Smoothies and I enjoyed them since I came here in the UK to study. I was really impressed when I read in the BBC News article by Laura Cummings that Innocent was launched by three graduates with no experience and no financial backing. This makes you realise that if you have enough will, you can succeed no matter the circumstances. I did not attend this workshop either, but like in the first case study, I have done it at home. I found the subject really interesting because this group of three youngsters knew how to sell their brand. It may have been prone to failure because of short life term and expensive. And let's not forget about the lack of experience of the founders. Still, I was impressed with the approach they used.
I believe adding value is very important in business because that is the way your company can stand out in the crowd. It is a commonly used technique in industry. Brands like Apple, Mercedes or Nike have been doing this for years and even though their products are more expensive than the rest of the competition's, they add a certain value to the product with the attention to details, the quality and the feeling a customer gets when using them. I personally prefer buying less high-quality products than a bunch of mediocre products that are cheaper but last for a shorter period of time. It's about choosing quality over quantity. By adding value to your products you will make the customer happier because you are offering a better product. However, people prefer some goods only because they are expensive. And it is not only about the quality but also about the reputation of the brand itself and about the branded identity which people adopt in their lives. There are obvious brands that only make a profit based on the snobbery of their customers, without adding a certain amount of value to their products, or at least not enough value to explain the over exaggerated prices.
When talking about Innocent smoothies, we are talking about a business that did not seem to have enough to offer to their customers and that is why they had so many issues with the financial backing of their organisation. However, here we can see the importance of adding value to your brand: the people who drink Innocent smoothies do not just drink it because they like the taste. Some might, but it is more than that. It is about all the small details they added through the years to their product, such as the off-beat messages founded on the labels: “We're not saying that there's anything wrong with having a gym workout, it's just, you know, all a bit of an effort really, isn't it? If I were you, I'd just have an innocent smoothie instead. They're 100% pure fruit, they're made with fresh rather than concentrated juice and they contain no additives whatsoever. As a result, they taste good and do you good. And you don't need to take a communal shower afterwards.”(Brown, R. and Grayson, D., 2008). Moreover, in order to grow their business, they started promotional activities that would include charity events people would respond to. They started by recruiting forty grannies that would knit woollen hats on the top of the bottles in return of 20p per bottle sent to their favourite charity. And by every woollen hat bottle sold, 50p was sent to Age Concern, a charity which funded programmes that provided hot food, blankets and even advice on how to handle energy cost (Brown, R. and Grayson, D., 2008). This is the publicity the brand needed to grow and it happened as they expected. As they stated, their brand is not only innocent by name, but also by the actions and campaigns they involve into. I personally find this approach to be the golden ticket idea that the company needed to expand. Put a price tag of £2 on a plain bottle of smoothie and almost nobody would pay any attention to it. Add a colourful label with a fun message and the feeling that you are doing something good for society and everybody will get some. After this first campaign, the Innocent did not stop and continued to get involved in numerous charity events, donating to NGO, giving people free lifts in town with their bus or giving out their smoothies as freebies.
In my opinion, it is very important to add value to your business because you will make a reputation for the business and this results in people buying it for the identity, not just exclusively for its quality. This is what the founders of Innocent did, and besides helping others in need, they helped themselves.
At the end of this assignment, I developed a large skillset which included being more attentive to the details and building up a personal opinion about a given topic. It was an interesting and interactive exercise, which gave me an insight in marketing, helping me find out that all the theoretical frameworks can really be used in our day to day lives. Furthermore, the Innocent smoothies case study gave me a little more confidence in myself when thinking about opening a future start-up business.
Concluding, this assignment was challenging, yet fun. Moreover, it made me realise that it would have been easier for me if I would have attended the workshops.
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