Make America Great Again: The Excellence Project 35 Years on

By David Collins, Suffolk Business School

On the evening of Thursday 16 February I will offer what my children term ‘a quote-unquote master-class’. This event is one of a series of lectures designed to show-case Suffolk Business School’s unique three location, triple internationally accredited EMBA that is offered in partnership with the University of Maastricht. Since my parenting skills are, patently, nothing to blog about and because you are probably becoming just a little bored of my childhood reminiscences it might be useful to offer a little taste of what I will speak about on Thursday.

In my (ahem) master-class I will talk about Donald Trump. I will use words to talk about Donald Trump. It will be great. I have great words. You will be so proud of my words. My words are great (that’s enough now – editor). In my talk I will discuss Trump’s election; his promises and, more generally, our prospects. And I do mean all of our prospects!

But my presentation is not really about Trump. In truth – if we are still allowed to call upon such quaint things as truth – my talk is really a vehicle prepared to allow me to offer reflections on managerial storytelling. Why do I keep coming back to this? I always find myself back at storytelling because managerial work is essentially about talk. That’s why, as Head of Suffolk Business School, I now spend so much time in meetings!

Why must I spend so much time in meetings? Trust me, I do often ask myself this question! Yet while I grumble about the quantity of meetings I must attend (my calendar has just pinged to remind me to attend another in 15 minutes) the plain truth is that managers need to spend a lot of time talking to colleagues because work requires social co-operation within and across the boundaries that define our organizational arrangements. Talk – orders, commands, requests and exhortations – shape and define the activities that constitute managerial work. But if you really want to do something useful you will need to find a form of talk that goes beyond simply telling people what to do.

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University of Suffolk Waterfront Building, photograph (C) of the University of Suffolk

If you really want people to change; to commit; to do something extraordinary you will need a special form of purposeful talk that a) frames the activities that need to be undertaken and b) explains why these actions are actually useful and commendable. I call this special form of talk, ‘storytelling’.

Keen to learn more about the nature and – crucially- the limits of storytelling within a managerial context? Interested in a postgraduate degree that will prepare you for future leadership and executive roles?

Come along to the University of Suffolk Atrium on Thursday 16 February at 5:30pm and participate in my quote-unquote masterclass.


Shared Value as a Winning Business Strategy

In the third Executive MBA Mini Masterclass, we were thrilled to welcome Oliver W. Olson, Director Global Education Programs and Senior Lecturer of Marketing and Strategy at Maastricht School of Management. Previously, we have seen ‘Leadership in an Uncertain World‘, and a three-part panel event on ‘The Post-Referendum World’ (part I, part II, part III). Oliver gave a fantastic presentation on ‘Shared Value’, and how it should be embedded in organisations to transform business strategy.


“This isn’t exactly true. Michael Porter is like the Godfather of Strategy, and he tells us that strategy is all about making choices, understanding trade-offs, and deliberately choosing to be different. We know from business that it’s not always the big company that wins – it’s the company that understands its own strength and weaknesses. Strategy is about knowing what your competitive advantage is, and how to exploit it.


Value means developing a winning strategy, and is about balancing the perceived benefit of a product (perceived by the customer) and the cost (again, to the customer). If customers perceive the benefit of a product as higher, then the cost can also increase and there be a balance in the value. But the delivery of value in today’s world is changing – increasingly customers would rather ‘do good’ with their purchases than give donations to charity.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is about ‘doing good’. It is measured by social impact – it is nominally about sustainability, impact on the community and environment, reputation, and compliance. But CSR is all about external pressures on a business – it is not embedded within the very fabric of the organisation. It’s about the whims of the Director or CEO – they enjoy sports, so fund after-school clubs; they like animals, so donate to conservation charities. The act of giving, however, can stop, or be directed away from the original recipient.

Whose winning? They both have advantages!

Shared value is about embedding CSR into a business at a fundamental level, within the value chain itself. The value chain is everything in business that leads to selling a product. CSR is everything after the value chain. The company has made an extra million pounds in profit this year? Give it to charity. Shared values means that the profit margin is dependent on ‘doing good’.

I’ll give you an example. Here is TOMS SHOES:

TOMS expanded into one-for-one sunglasses (buy a pair of sunglasses, and Toms will pay for an eye surgery in a developing country) and one-for-one coffee (buy a pack of coffee, and Toms will ensure clean drinking water for someone for a week).

This is CSR. Toms realised that this was not shared value, and eventually did something about it. Rather than paying UPS to deliver their shoes, they paid local people to collect them from the port and distribute them. This lowered their costs. This increased their perceived value from customers. Which, in turned, increased the overall value of the company. They called is CSR 2.0.

Shared value is about thinking through the value chain and finding something that increases the competitive advantage of an organisation and lowers costs. In terms of our equation – perceived befits need to go up while costs needs to go down.

So, think about your business: Where can you do to improve social issues that also improves competitiveness?”

The Executive MBA Mini Masterclass is part of an ongoing series of events for business professionals. It precedes the start of the new triple accredited EMBA programme at the University of Suffolk in February 2017.

To register interest in attending a free Executive MBA Mini Masterclass please contact Laura Messer (, EMBA Coordinator.

Dr Tom Vine leads a suite of MBA programmes at Suffolk Business School. He can be contacted at

The Post-Referendum World: The View From Maastricht, Boston, and Suffolk (Part 3/3)

On Wednesday 6 July, Suffolk Business School and University Campus Suffolk welcomed our partners from Europe and the USA to our Ipswich Campus. Dr Stuart Dixon, Academic Coordinator Global MBA Programs at the Maastricht School of Management, and Mike Barretti, International Marketing at Suffolk University, Boston US, joined our very own Dr Tom Vine, Course Leader EMBA and MBA, to deliver an Executive MBA Mini-Masterclass on:  The Post-Referendum World: The View From Boston, Maastricht and Suffolk.

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From left to right: Mike Barretti (Boston), Dr Stuart Dixon (Maastricht), Dr Tom Vine (Suffolk) and Stuart Bannerman (Director of International, UCS).

In this, the third in a three part blog series, Dr Tom Vine discusses the reaction of ‘Brexit’ in Suffolk and UCS:

Offering a view of Suffolk on the EU Referendum is tricky. There is a lot of conjecture in understanding the results. Having worked in psephology (the study of elections and electoral behaviour), I know that people rarely vote in accordance with linear logic. There is a perceived disconnect in voting trends – areas of the UK that recieve a high level of EU funding mostly voted ‘Leave.’

Just four days after the EU Referendum, Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock, died. This best selling book explored changed and the ramifications of change, and argued that change itself was not the problem – it was the rate of change that caused issues for the general population. In politics, change can happen at a rapid pace, and many voters in the EU referendum may have been looking for some continuity. The electoral process is a way for the population to slow things down.

The Referendum also highlighted the notion of identity, and it was explored a great deal in the media. When it was formed, and throughout its history, the EU has been reluctant to engineer a sense of collective identity because it felt such a thing would be inauthentic. People find it easier to form identities on a more local level – in particular on the basis of ‘what you are not.’ For the UK, people can say they are ‘not French’ or ‘not Portuguese.’ There is, however, no corresponding ‘other’ for the EU, and therefore it is difficult to tap into a shared belonging for it.

In terms of Suffolk, I think it is safe to say that staff and students of UCS are left with a feeling of deflation. UK Higher Education institutions have, on average, around 20% non-British EU staff and students, and the ambiguity of what will happen now is a real challenge for our community. International collaborations, research projects, and funding applications are already feeling the effects of Brexit. Within our own team here at UCS, members of the academic staff have had research projects pulled because of their involvement – the UK is too high risk to collaborate with. There is definitely a sense of needing to weather this storm over a considerable amount of time.


For more information on the Suffolk Business School MBA and Maastricht-Suffolk Executive MBA, email us at

The Executive MBA is a new programme for the University of Suffolk in partnership with the Maastricht School of Management (MSM). This is a part-time flexible, modular course designed for professionals with 8 weeks of teaching across two years shared between Maastricht and Suffolk with an option for one placement in Boston (US). At the end of 24 months graduates receive their EMBA from the prestigious Maastricht School of Management.

The next EMBA Mini Masterclass will be discussing Leadership in an Uncertain World and will be held on 1 August 2016 6pm to 7:30pm at the Waterfront Building Boardroom, University of Suffolk. All are welcome, and to register interest please do not hesitate to email Laura Messer: or call on 01473 338616.