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It is a Tuesday morning and there was a penetrating heavy drizzle as I parked in the University of Bath’s car park. Not an auspicious start to a morning spent sitting in a famous sports hall, where a large poster announces that Premier League Southampton’s highly rated soccer academy trains. No sport today though. I'm invigilating a marketing exam.
There are about five hundred nervous students in here today, and most of them I have been teaching for the last five months. I imagine they are cursing me for asking them complex questions about subjects like SnapChat, the future of publishing and how to sell diamonds to young lovers that prefer to spend money on apartments or experiences.
As I watch them frantically scribbling and shaking blood back into weary hands not used to essay writing, I am hopeful that some at least are uncovering a small delight from being able to apply new knowledge to a variety of real contemporary business issues, where their considered opinion is likely to be as good as that of any other so-called expert. Bath School of Management is highly rated in the U.K. and its marketing courses have just been named number one in the Complete University Guide and number two, after Oxford, in the Guardian rankings. This suggests that this international mix of students is amongst the brightest to be found these days.
With the dearth of Generation X managers, and the rapid loss of Boomers into retirement these students enter a western world of work looking to fill about 25% more senior positions a year than we have been used to. They can expect rapid promotion. Those returning to Asia will be expected to progress just as fast in those growing economies.
Leather means longevity of the business, not just the product
A lot of the Bath teaching, apart from mine, is about preparing these students for Fortune 500 jobs but, in reality, many would do better looking elsewhere for opportunity.
The average life of an S&P 500 business these days is just 17 years. It was 60 when I set out in business, and even that felt short compared to the tanneries I knew. Muirhead's in Glasgow, where my father worked, celebrated 175 years just a couple of years ago and, coincidentally, the Clayton Leather Group where I am currently a director is exactly the same venerable age. Two hugely different businesses but responsive to changing consumer needs. Even the Italian Group in S.Croce and ADOC SA of El Salvador where I worked have swept past that 60 year mark.
Not so many years ago the leather industry largely did not realise that it needed strategic marketing rather than just brochure producers. Given the fast changing times perhaps it is time for both sides to have a rethink.
30th May 2017
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