Author: Federico Presicci, MSc Innovation and Technology Management (ITM). ITM is delivered jointly between the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Management.
The Future Business Challenge is a week-long competition for MSc students organised by the School of Management. The week also includes visits to companies in the UK.
We had been told about this week-long business project organised by the School of Management multiple times during the first semester and it was also recommended to me by some former MSc students. For these reasons, it drew my attention, and I was very keen to participate. Since I had no relevant work experience, this was a great opportunity to get more in contact with the real business world.
The Future Business Challenge consisted of a mix of guest talks, workshops and company visits to help students enhance their business knowledge. It also involved us working in teams to present at the end of the week. The aim? Answering an apparently simple question: ‘What makes a business resilient?’
The event involved companies such as BMW, Divine Chocolate, Wimbledon Tennis Club, Tad Baker, OVO Energy, Dyson, EY, PwC, and Mars. We were asked to express our preference for three companies we would later visit and the event organisers tried to accommodate at least one of our choices. My first choice was Dyson, and eventually, I got assigned Dyson, Wimbledon Tennis Club and Wessex Water.
The first guest talk was led by international entrepreneur Margaret Heffernan. I was inspired listening to her discuss major issues we are facing worldwide, such as resource depletion, global warming and cyber attacks. It was interesting to know what global leaders currently consider the greatest challenges we will face in the near future. I did not expect we would deal with such a significant and important topic and the idea of analysing a global context brought me into a mental state of high responsibility towards the future of our planet. This felt really good!
Sarah Gillard, Insight Director at John Lewis Partnership gave the second guest talk. This was an insightful speech. John Lewis Partnership features a very unique business model where each employee has part-ownership of the company and a share of its annual profit. It was interesting to hear how they run their business and how they are trying to respond to significant threats such as Amazon’s expansion across the entire retail space.
Joanna Crosse, director at MetaMedia presented next, and discussed how to improve and hone our presentation skills.
My company Visits: Wimbledon, Wessex Water and Dyson
The visit at Wimbledon Tennis Club involved a guided tour and a talk from a senior manager. The weather was quite decent, but despite this, we were not able to fully appreciate the view of the central court due to important structural work as part of a broader improvement construction project. Overall, the tour was pretty good, but to me, the talk was the best bit. I had never really thought of Wimbledon Tennis Club as a business. The talk was mainly a two-way conversation during which the manager elicited responses from us. We got to know how Wimbledon’s business model is structured and from where most profits come. Surprisingly, most profits were not coming from ticket sales but from the issue of debentures. And interestingly, the company leverages typical English stereotypes in their marketing campaigns.
Initially, I was not very enthusiastic to visit Wessex Water. The company was not among my favourites; however, once there my perspective began to change. Their headquarters were neat and spacious and the two presenters that welcomed us were engaging and provided us with many insights regarding their daily operations. One of the two professionals was involved in the company’s innovation pursuits, and I could ask him quite a few questions based on what I had just finished studying in the first semester. Sure enough, the financial part was less interesting to me, but it allowed me to understand the way in which the company manages to capitalise on waste recycling and re-utilisation (e.g. biogas, energy production etc.).
I was looking forward to visiting Dyson’s headquarters most. Being my first preference, my expectations were quite high. As soon as we passed through the main entrance, Dyson’s most recent products as well as a series of Dyson’s vacuum cleaner models - from the very first to the last - were displayed. We moved directly on from the central hall to the second floor where all the offices were located. It was very spacious and characterised by open-space offices. We listened to four different talks. The most interesting ones dealt with the product development process in the company, why marketing at Dyson is different from that of its competitors and what Dyson is doing to prevent the shortage of engineers in the UK that is likely to occur in the near future. We had complete freedom to ask questions, and there were also opportunities to talk with some Bath graduates that embarked on the Graduate Programme in 2017 and 2016. On the whole, it was a great experience that lived up to my expectations.
The final presentation took place on Friday at Bristol Zoo. The location was amazing. We were welcomed with coffee and pastries in the central hall of the building. There were ten presentations in total: five in the morning, and five in the early afternoon. Following that, we were given the time to visit the zoo for a couple of hours before heading back to Bath.
It was an incredible week during which I met lots of students, made new friends and further improved my teamwork and presentation skills. I also volunteered to take part in the promotional video for the event. I had never been filmed before, and that was a great experience too.