Are you stressed? Here are 5 ways how to cope with stress

I cannot stress enough (pun intended) that stress is part of everyone’s life, in one way or another: it is the proportion that differs.

We all are different and handle stress in different ways.

I recently moved from one province to another. Trust me, it was more stressful than moving countries as I did almost four years back.  I stopped to think, why? I was venturing out onto an unknown territory in both cases, I knew one or a few friends and family there, and it was a new challenge in my life. Then what was different, I wondered. Upon analysing the situation, I came to an interesting conclusion. There were a few things that were different in the first case: 1. I was more willing/open to change 2. I was mentally better prepared 3. I was young(er). (But does that matter? Check out our blog: Age is just a number) 4. I had greater acceptability for risks 5. The fear of the outcome was significantly less/or none at all. 

By definition, stress is a feeling of physical, psychological, or emotional tension. It can originate from stress-causing factors or stressors; that makes you feel nervous, angry, or frustrated. The feeling of stress that continues even after the stressor (the event or the thought) is gone becomes anxiety. The body, as a result, requires immediate attention. And like I said before, it’s one’s response to stress, and it is stress management that makes a big difference to their well-being. 

Types of stress

There are two types of stress: 

  1. Acute stress: acute stress refers to situational events relating to the present or near future. These can be small everyday situations like meeting a deadline, getting late to work or missing an appointment. Better time management can help you become more resilient towards acute stress. 
  2. Chronic stress: when you are exposed to high-pressure situations for prolonged intervals, it leads to chronic stress. This may lead to other symptoms of stress such as depression and anxiety. 

The stressors can be of three types:

  1. Routine stress such as work-related stress, studies, financial stress, etc.
  2. Unexpected stress like change in location, job 
  3. Traumatic stress that results from an accident, social, economic, or environmental disaster, etc.
Financial stress is a kind of routine stress

And I think that some stresses just fall under all the above three categories. For instance, Covid-19 that started as traumatic stress, has seeped into our lives as routine stress. 

We live in a very dynamic, ever-changing, highly competitive world with an information overload through various media including social-media. In the concrete jungle we live and work in, living in stress has become a new normal, and it’s down to ‘survival of the fittest. Because more than what stress you have, how you manage it is more important. Here are five ways how one can manage stress.

5 strategies to cope with stress

Time Management

Time management is key for successful and efficient life

I believe the key to a successful and efficient life is better time management. Most of our stresses that lead to more tensions can be warded off simply by managing your time more effectively. This is true in any part of our lives. If you are following our #DILO series – A day in the life of an RKC Student, you have noticed that all the RKC students and alumni trust that better time management is essential for work-life balance and successful completion of the master’s programme. Also, check out our blog on time management.

Yoga & Exercise

Set a routine that allows some exercise, a physical activity, going outdoors, or follow a sport. There are several forms of yoga such as hot yoga, power yoga, Iyengar yoga, Bikram yoga, and many more. Exercise and/or yoga relieve your mind and body from mental and muscular stress. It balances hormones and reduces stress. 

Meditate

Quiet your mind from unnecessary thoughts

As I mentioned before, stress is caused by an event or thought – the stressor. It is, therefore, necessary to quiet your mind and free it from unnecessary thoughts. Meditation has proven to be an effective tool in managing stress and leading a stress-free life. 

Eat healthily

Prepare a meal plan and avoid processed foods

Eating healthy should be a lifestyle you choose to live. In today’s world, everyone is rushed and mindlessly following the rat race from morning till night, meeting deadlines, jobs, handling personal responsibilities, relationships. There is no time to eat, let alone eat a healthy meal. Just a quick grab fast food has become a lifestyle for many. Eating a healthy balanced diet helps to develop a strong immune system that helps in dealing with stress. Prepare a meal plan for the week and buy the ingredients. While healthy eating planning can be daunting, it can be easily managed by prepping for a week or few days in advance. Prepare home cooked meals with fresh vegetables and fruits and avoid the processed foods. You may also want to cut down on sugar and artificially flavoured drinks and watch out fo the portion sizes.

Talk and share

Vent off some steam every now and then

If you feel stress symptoms, don’t be wary about sharing your feelings with friends, family, or colleagues. Often we realise that we are not the only ones dealing with stress, Vent off some steam now and then and that helps too.

While it may seem like stress management can be stressful, the above five ways prove to be simple yet effective means to cope with stress. It is essential to take care of your well-being. 

Stressed about which masters programme you should pursue, how online education works, or what the application process is? Don’t worry, we got you. Talk to our advisors today on WhatsApp to get answers to these questions.

Age is just a number! It is never too late to learn.

I went all the way from kindergarten to MBA without a break. I am sure there are a lot of you out there who might have done the same. Looking back, I began to realise that I did not value the education I got. I don’t think it was even the education I wanted.  

Kindergarten to University

On the other hand, I know that a vast majority of people in this world are not as blessed as I was and don’t even have access to basic education. Whatever the reason people miss out on an education – social, cultural, economic, familial responsibility, geographical, political, etc., it is never too late to get an education, especially if you are driven for success.

Human beings have started to live longer lives now than at any time in our history – the miracle of modern technology. We try our best to shorten our lives – global warming, deforestation, polluting the planet, genetically modifying food (there are both pros and cons here), hunting animal species to extension, wars, etc. Still, we find ways to work around these self-created issues and extend our lives. This means gone are the days when you could retire at 60 and hope to live out the rest of your days in peace and happiness. Today, you will most likely run out of money.

Celebrating RKC 2018 Graduates @ York St John University

I have started this blog by listing three points that I feel are relevant to why mature students go back to school:

  1. Got yourself a degree that is not in line with your dreams or career growth path
  2. Did not get the education that you think you deserved (due to reasons out of your control at that time)
  3. Need to stay relevant and competitive in today’s work environment by adding value to yourself

Once you have decided to go back to school, there are several points you have to consider. Ask yourself:

  1. Which programme works for you? Which will add the most value to you?
  2. What certificate do you want to get – bachelor/master’s degree, professional certification, etc.?
  3. Do you want to study full-time, part-time, or online?
  4. From which university do you want your degree and why?
  5. Work-Family-Education balance, can you do it and how?
  6. How much do you want to spend? Can you make space for the programme in your budget?

So, you have decided on your budget, the programme, the university, worked out a study plan and budgeted for the additional expense. But now, there are a few more challenges or fears that have cropped up, and you are not alone. The following are four challenges/fears that most mature students face and suggestions for overcoming them.

  1. Learning to learn again: While it might be a few years since you last studied, you haven’t been wasting your time. You have been learning your job and gaining confidence and proficiency in it. Use this confidence to get back in the groove of learning; it is like riding a bike, you never forget. And the fact that you are back to learning as a mature student speaks volumes for your motivation. Also, you won’t be the only mature student – work together as a group to overcome your fears. 
  2. Fear of assignments: Assignments can be daunting. Researching, referencing, planning, writing, and submitting a 5000-words assignment on time can scare anyone, especially if you have never done it before or if it has been many years since you last had to do it. The fact is, like any skill, assignment writing can be learnt. Maybe do a short course on how to research and write an assignment before joining the programme, or if that is not an option, you can find plenty of “how-to” videos online. Ask your professors for help and pro-tips – that is one reason they are there, to help. Ask your fellow students how they do it. But at the end of the day, the only way to gain proficiency in any skill is to do it.
  3. Work-Family-Education balance: In my opinion, this is the one point that will constantly be a bother. You start with a plan, but like Field Marshal Helmuth Karl Bernhard von Moltke said, “no plan survives first contact with the enemy”. So, keep an eye on the situation and evolve your plans accordingly. Life is change, adapt or get left behind.
  4. Don’t have the skills:  This may or may not be accurate, but if you think like this, then what you don’t have is confidence. Remember, all skills can be learnt, which is why you are here to learn. You have work and life experience, which typical on-campus, fresh-out-of-school students might not have. Use it, you will find you are more skilled than you think. And always remember, this was your choice, you are already more motivated than most to do well.  
Gregory Foster, one of RKC’s mature students who graduated from the University of Cumbria with an MBA in Leadership and Sustainability, received the university’s Postgraduate Student of the Year prize in 2018

Don’t forget your motivation for choosing to learn again. Choosing to become a mature student. 

If you have chosen to learn, then Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on all the management and business law programmes we offer (Bachelor and Master’s degrees) and the application process. I hope to one day be able to feature your story on our blog!

#DILO – A Day in the life of an RKC Student – Ms. Hall 

Through the #DILO series of blog posts, we have been bringing you insights into our master’s students’ lives, sharing their thoughts and opinions, ups and downs, and key learning points during their online studies. The whole idea behind this series is to make you aware of the realities of online studies and help you in decision making.    

Here are a few insights and some words of wisdom that one of our online master’s students had to share from her own experience.  

Who you are, really?  

Nicola Hall, a full-time employed junior manager, with a small family, including a primary school child.  

Which Uni are you studying at?  

University of Salford  

University of Salford

Which programme did you choose and why?  

I chose Procurement, Logistics and Supply Chain Management because of the growth in demand for skills in the field.  

How did you plan to study each module, and what was the reality? How many hours did/do you have to put in each day/or in a week?  

I had planned to devote five to six hours each evening for four days a week to the module, and 8 to 10 hours on the weekends spread conveniently. The reality was that I sometimes barely got 2 hours of work done after getting home from work. I had to get my time covered in patches during the night after resting for 3 or 4 hours. I got no work done most Sundays, so I ended up doing a great deal on Friday and Saturday nights. Coming closer to when my assignment was due, I had to take a few days of study leave away from work and give it 10 to 12 hours a day.  

The best time to study is night time or early mornings before going to work

What part of the day did/do you find most suitable to study? (e.g. early mornings, lunch break, evenings, weekends?)  

My best study time is at nights; the next option is early morning before getting ready for work. Friday nights were very good for me as well, as I didn’t have to get up for work on Saturdays.  

How did travelling impact your ability to study?  

The only travelling I did was my daily commute, which was 2 hours of driving time. After RKC launched their mobile app, I used my travel time to listen to lectures and go over to catch up on anything I may have missed.  

How were you able to interact with peers and/or professors given the time differences?  

Being mindful of the time difference, I would send my email/queries in the evening and check my email early the next morning for a response. I had a few colleagues with whom I worked closely given our cultural background, and I kept a mental note of the time in their region if I needed to call or instant message. It worked out pretty well once the time difference got stuck in my mind.  

How much time did you devote for each assignment?  

I tried to start working on my assignment from the second week. And throughout each day, I may get ideas that contribute to the assignment, and I’ll make a note on my phone.  

What does a typical day as an Online Masters’ student look like for you?  

I get up at about 3 am and get some theory covered by 5:30 am. Then I will get an hour’s rest and begin getting ready for work. While I’m making breakfast, I may have Microsoft Edge read an article in PDF to me. Once at work, I don’t usually have any downtime; I’ll use my lunch break to really have a break and not rush my meal. But when work ends, I’ll spend the rush hour at my desk doing some schoolwork instead of sitting in traffic. After getting home and attending to any home affairs and kids homework, I would settle into my own studies at about 10 pm. I will go online, read through the forums, research for any weekly assignments given, then make my own contribution. I go to bed at about 1 am and go at it again the next day. On the weekend I’ll make sure to get time with the family and go to my schoolwork when they are asleep.  

Any advice you have for students to better plan their studies.  

It would be ideal to go on study leave to pursue your masters, but if that isn’t possible, the Robert Kennedy College online master’s degree program is such a flexible program. There is usually a break in-between modules, and this time should be utilized to get up to speed on theory ahead of classes beginning and assignments being posted. Always seek to defer a module if you feel pressured but do use the free weeks in between to focus on covering as much theory as possible.  

If you have been dreaming of joining a master’s programme or have had this personal goal to gain a higher degree, now is the time! Take the valuable advice from our current students, gain from their experience, add your own unique study strategies, and make your own success stories! I would love to feature you one day on our college blog.  

Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, application process, and for information on discounts we might be offering at this time. 

Zoom fatigue – It’s a thing, and here’s how to fight it

The world’s new “staff meeting room”

The challenges of working from home are many, from trying to keep yourself motivated to the many distractions around you. We have covered some of these challenges and how to overcome them in an earlier post. And now that you have figured out how to overcome some of these challenges, you are hit with something new – Zoom fatigue.  

A recent study by global staffing firm Robert Half shows that:

  • 44% of workers say they’ve experienced video call fatigue since the start of the pandemic
  • 22% noted that the practicality and novelty of video conferencing has worn off over the past eight months
  • 15% confirmed they find virtual meetings inefficient and exhausting and prefer to communicate via other channels, like email or phone

This apathy towards video conferencing has led many researchers to name this phenomenon “Zoom fatigue”. Though I must say that this is unfair to Zoom, as Zoom is just one of the tools used for video conferencing. So, when I say Zoom meetings, I mean all the video conferencing tools and applications. 

Fatigue/stress can manifest from many different sources

So, why is Zoom fatiguing?

To answer this question, let us first understand fatigue. I hope I won’t lose any of you here as this part will get a bit technical (I kind of dozed off researching this bit as well). According to Doctor Jena Lee, MD, a psychiatrist with UCLA Health, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center – a basic understanding of fatigue, neurologically, is through our Reward Pathway, otherwise known as mesolimbic pathway, a dopaminergic pathway in the brain. This is the part of the brain that is concerned with activating our body to counteract fatigue.

Mesolimbic Pathway, otherwise known as Reward Pathway

In our brain, rewards increase alertness, energy, and motivation, which reduces fatigue. Every decision we make, even unconsciously, tries to maximise rewards over cost. For example, if you are deciding on a book to read, the cost is the time and effort you spend reading, and the reward is the enjoyment of the book. So, our brain ensures we pick something good to read. 

What is the difference between reading a book all day or binge-watching a show and Zoom meetings? Why do you feel fatigued after a day of Zoom meetings and not from the others? The simple answer is, most often than not, our mind does not perceive a reward at the end of a Zoom meeting. Our minds are not made that way. When there is a personal social interaction, our mind perceives it as a reward, but not in the case of a Zoom social interaction. 

Personal social interaction is perceived as a reward

In the case of personal social interaction, the reward is not from what is being said but from the body language, energy, environment, and other non-verbal cues. We don’t see much of these cues on video, hence putting in more effort. If you look at a video conference, most of the time, each individual will be doing his/her thing, just put the call on mute and only respond when prompted, and not to mention the number of technical difficulties and slow internet connections. No wonder that people lose interest. And after all this, there is still no reward at the end of it; you just have to attend more meetings and get more work to be done. It can all get so tiring!  

Another drawback of working from home is that you are glued to the chair (bed) all day. There is very minimal movement, no circulation. Our body is basically asleep. 

How do we fix this?

  • Make our interactions more personal, not just work, work, work. Ask how the other person is? Share what is stressing you out. The thing about Zoom calls is they end immediately after the meeting. We have stopped building relations with our co-workers. Remember how life was when there used to be a personal meeting; people used to break for lunch or coffee or even just a smoke break and talk to each other. 
  • If you have a day full of meetings, do something physical and non-work-related between Zoom calls. Just walk around your neighbourhood and see what is happening.
  • Change the environment. If you are just in one room making calls and going from one Zoom meeting to another, it might start feeling like you are in prison. So, move around the house, go to the garden or a nearby park (as long as it doesn’t distract from your call).

While these three points might sound simple, they may be challenging for you and might not be what you require. You know your stress points and judge for yourself if you need professional help. Don’t forget; this past year has been stressful for almost everyone in many different ways, and stress has manifested itself in several different ways. 

Stay safe. Stay healthy. 

4 ways in which International Business Law affects trade

In the global economy that we live in today, everything and everyone is connected and inter-dependent. The demand for companies to grow multi-nationally has grown exponentially since the pandemic started last year. Internet boom in the late ’90s and 2000s had been instrumental in the dramatic rise in international business. Now, it seems to have exploded manifold.  

The scale and scope of business operations are not limited to one country. While the raw material is procured in one country, it is manufactured or assembled in a different country and marketed and sold in yet another. Businesses have crossed boundaries set by a country’s borders. They operate and thrive on foreign land. It is however not the same as operating in the homeland. Before setting foot on the foreign land and expanding, a business must familiarise itself with the land’s laws, legal system, social and economic conditions, political system, and culture. All these factors have a significant impact on the running of the business and its bottom-line.  

Laws affect every business, whether it is being operated as a ‘brick and mortar store or selling goods/services online. Different countries have different legal systems established to protect the country’s economy and trade and preserve their social, economic, cultural, political environment.

National governments have an important relationship with global businesses. Governments tend to control and manage their trade relationships with an array of policies like taxation laws, tariffs, subsidies, currency controls, import-export policies, free-trade zones, and so on. For instance, China is a Communists government, and the government formulates and strictly controls all business sector laws.

On the other hand, India has a democratic government, and business laws are made to protect small businesses and consumers.

There are three types of legal systems: 1. Civil law, 2. Common law and 3. Religious law. Countries like the United States, India, and Australia use common law systems; Germany, France, and Russia use civil law systems and countries like Pakistan, Middle Eastern countries, Saudi Arabia and Iran operate on Islamic laws. Therefore, it is imperative for any business to fully understand the legal system that it is going to operate in and abide by its rules and regulations for conducting a business.  

Here are four ways in which international business law affects trade and things every business must research well before venturing into the country or region to avoid any failures:  

1.   Taxes  

Taxes take a major cut out of a company’s profits. When it comes to taxes, companies should do their homework well. From how much taxes are levied on the goods and services, manufacturing or selling, to how the taxes should be charged, i.e., either include taxes in the sale price or charge extra tax, the businesses must follow the standards set by the law. Companies like to operate in countries that offer attractive tax regimes with low tax rates on income, capital gains, and dividend income. Singapore, for these reasons, has been one of the most popular locations for companies to set up offices in the country and enjoy its lowest corporate tax rates.  

2.   Intellectual property  

Legalities around intellectual property can be complicated and expensive. Trademarks, copyright, and patents are intellectual properties that every business needs to guard and protect. Countries take extra measures to attract international business by establishing stringent IP protection laws and reducing piracy. Governments across the world have established several acts and international conventions to protect international businesses and resolve issues if any arise. The Paris Convention for the protection of Industrial property, the United Nations Convention on contracts for International Sale of Goods, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Madrid Protocol, the Singapore Treaty, the Nice Agreement, the Patent Law Treaty and the Hague agreement are a few of the many international treaties formed to protect international business and trade.  

3.   Supply Chain and Infrastructure  

Establishing an effective and efficient infrastructure is the backbone of any successful business. Cheap sources of raw material can help companies to have huge profit margins. International business laws exist that regulate international shipping, export and import duties.  

4.   Labour Laws  

While cheap labour attracts foreign investment into a country, labour laws exist to protect human resources from any exploitation. The textile and footwear industry are among the many industries that have shifted their manufacturing operations to Asian countries that offer cheap labour. The Rana Plaza collapse, an incident in a Bangladeshi factory, happened in 2013 but is still fresh in the memory of many who lost their near and dear ones in this event. The plaza collapsed, killing thousands of its workers due to large structural cracks and poor labour protection laws. The incident stirred up an international movement and led to the establishment of International Labour Law (ILO). The ILO is the source of international labour law that is embodied in its Conventions, recommendations and the documents that emanate from the supervisory mechanism responsible for applying those international labour standards.  

These are a few of the things that any organization should take into account before venturing out into international business. If these legalities are correctly taken care of, legal counsels suggest that companies can maximise their bottom lines and enjoy huge revenues and profits. If International business law interests you or you would like to understand it better, join our one-year Online Master of Laws programme specialising in International Business Law. 

Celebrating Women’s Day 2021 – Overcoming challenges women face in today’s online workforce and how men can help!

There are so many internationally recognised “day’s” – Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Children’s Day, even Groundhog Day. But of all the “day’s” that we celebrate, Women’s Day is probably the most important!

It is 2021, and women still have to fight to be recognised, respected and, in many cases, to be paid the same as men. It is really sad! And this at a time that we consider ourselves educated and enlightened, i.e., more than any previous times in human history. Please comment below (especially our gentlemen readers) why you think this gender inequality still exists, especially in a professional work environment.

A female, holding up a sign protesting that she earns less than a “him”, for the same work

It doesn’t bode well when we consider that the United States of America, considered by some to be the epitome of Western civilisation, modern sensibility, and equality for all, only now has elected her first female vice-president. While it is something for all women to celebrate, one must consider that the US is approximately 245 years old, a democracy since its founding, and they still haven’t elected a woman president.

Kamala Devi Harris, 49th Vice President of the United States

2020 has been a challenging year for everyone. COVID-19 has turned the way we live and work on its head. While most people have adapted and embraced the work-from-home reality, the one group of people this has been a real challenge for is the working mothers. Let’s face it, in a vast majority of household globally, the mother is the one on whose shoulders the home rests.

While this post is dedicated to all women, it is specially dedicated to the tireless working mothers of the world. While all of us have faced challenges during the COVID-19 lockdowns, this is especially true for working mothers. With the lockdown forcing us into isolation, shutting down schools and day-care, and other entertainment outlets, working mothers had to meet their professional commitments and deadlines while having to do most of the household work, childcare, homeschooling the children and cooking. A 2020 survey by Women in the Workplace states that in America, during the COVID-19 crisis, women—and mothers in particular—are taking on an even heavier load. Mothers are more than three times as likely as fathers to be responsible for most of the housework and caregiving. In fact, they’re 1.5 times more likely than fathers to be spending an extra three or more hours a day on housework and childcare—equivalent to 20 hours a week, or half a full-time job (Source: WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE: THE IMPACT OF COVID-19).

A working mother

All of this added pressure inevitably leads to underperformance, stress, and job insecurity, leading to early burnout. And that is just the professional toll, there is also a personal toll, a feeling of being a bad mother, a bad wife, a bad provider. Shockingly the same survey also found that one in four working mothers are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce altogether just to cope with the additional stress COVID-19 has added. 

So, what can we (men) do to help? How can we (men) empower the hard-working women around us, especially working mothers, so that we don’t lose their talent from the workforce, thereby regressing humanity to the dark ages and demoralising our daughters? The following are just my thoughts; please feel free to add to them in the comments.

  • Be inclusive Let’s face it, most of the workforce is still male-dominated and male-centric. It was hard enough for a woman to be heard over all the machismo during an in-person meeting, but it is now even harder to be heard during a virtual meeting. So, make sure you encourage your female colleague and make sure she participates and her voice is heard.
  • Be encouraging Most working mothers have the additional challenge of looking after the kids while attending a virtual meeting. This could result in background noise or participating in a video call without turning on the video (I do that all the time) because either she or the house or the kids are a mess, just to list a couple. All this could irritate some of your other colleagues. Play defence for her, explain to your colleagues the additional challenges of being a working mother and ask for their understanding. At the same time, explain to her that it is alright and that you understand the challenges she is facing. Sometimes all it takes is a little understanding.   
  • Share information Make sure you share all the information she needs to get her job done. With all the data sharing that happens in today’s virtual work environment, there may be times when your female colleague might not have access to all the data she needs to complete her work, or she might have just forgotten where to retrieve the data. Whatever the reason, you don’t lose anything by being a little more helpful. Be approachable and encourage her to ask for help too if needed. 
  • Be fair All these points might make it sound like the working mother is incapable of dealing with the additional pressures at home and hence you should not give her much work. Do not insult her intelligence or work ethic, and do not assume. Distribute work as you usually do but encourage her to say no if it is too much. Talk to her about her career path and what she needs to do to progress on it. 

These are challenging times for all of us, and we should ensure that we keep moving forward. Be inclusive. Work towards equality for all.

We at Robert Kennedy College are proud of our female colleagues and working mothers. Wishing everyone a Happy Women’s Day 2021!

Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on all the management and business law programmes we offer, the application process, and details on discounts we might offer at this time. 

Business Strategy – The art of corporate war

From the title of this blog, I am sure some of you might be wondering why I am channelling Sun Tzu.

Statue of Sun Tzu in Yurihama, Tottori, in Japan

Let’s start with the origins of the word ‘strategy’. ‘Strategy’ is originally derived from the Greek word ‘strategos’, which means the art of the general. In other words, the origin of strategy comes from the art of war, and specifically the role of the General in war. In the 2nd century B.C., when Sun Tzu wrote the ‘Art of War’, his writing’s message was plain – to win. 

Despite ‘strategy’ becoming an often-used buzz word in management, there still seems to be a lot of confusion between ‘goals’ and ‘strategy’. To explain this and in keeping with the war theme, let us consider Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia. Imagine a time long ago, Alexander has decided to strive for immortality by creating a true world empire. He calls his generals together and states that his strategy is to build this empire. 

Statue of Alexander the Great in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, Greece

I am not saying that he said that in those exact words because there is no way of knowing what he thought or who he consulted. Hypothetically, if he said that this was his strategy, then that is the wrong use of the term strategy. That was his ‘goal’ – to conquer the world. How he went about conquering the world was the strategy he used.

Now that we have established that ‘strategy’ directly correlates to a general’s role, let us understand what the role of a general is?

A general’s role is not to fight the war but to tell others how to fight the war. It is the general’s vision of how the battles are to take place that is to be carried out, and his orchestration of all the different pieces that will result in the failure or success of his vision. His role is to see the big picture, see what the unit commanders cannot, see the whole, and orchestrate all the units’ positioning to achieve his vision.

Business is also a kind of war, and the casualty of this war is the shareholder’s investment. The Chief Executives’ challenges are similar to that of the generals – to develop strategies that will lead to victory. 

So, how do executives develop strategies that will lead to victory?

In my opinion, four key questions need to be answered by your strategy to be classified as a good strategy.

Where is our market?

You must identify the battlefield that will provide you with the best advantage, like Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, recognised a field near Waterloo in Belgium to defeat the might of Napoléon Bonaparte. It is essential that an executive correctly identifies the markets that will maximise the profits or reduce costs for his goods and services. 

Field Marshal His Grace The Duke of Wellington

What is our unique selling proposition (USP)? 

During the Napoleonic Wars, Napoléon Bonaparte, for the most part, was the undisputed ruler of Europe. Logically, he should have strangled and run England into the ground. But England had correctly identified two of its biggest strengths – trade and the Royal Navy and used them to not only stay afloat but to ultimately win the war. So, identify the unique value(s) your product or service offers and how it will best benefit the identified market.

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, by Jacques-Louis David, 1812

What are our resources and capabilities?

Resources refer to the things we have in our toolbox that can be brought to bear for our benefit. It may be capital – either human or monetary, superior technology, something intangible like brand equity, or tangible, like a diamond mine. How well you utilise what is in your toolbox for maximum benefit depends on your capability. During the Napoleonic Wars, England had a mighty naval fleet (resources), but that by itself is of no benefit as France also had a mighty fleet. What England had were great sailors and leaders like Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, among others, capable of wielding the resource (Royal Navy) more effectively.

Vice-Admiral The Right Honourable The Viscount Nelson

Sustainability

Once you have identified your USP and identified your capabilities and resources, how can you sustain in the markets you have identified – to continue to win over time. Even after Admiral Nelson’s death during the Battle of Trafalgar, England did not fall apart; they continued to martial their resources and continued to develop their capabilities to hold France across the Channel.

While the above points give us an idea of what strategy we should employ, they also indicate what we should not be doing. We should not operate in markets where we add no value or do not have the resources or capabilities to maintain sustainable growth. 

A good strategy, while letting us know what we should be doing and why, should also inform us where our boundaries are and what we should not be doing.

I am sure I don’t have to tell you all that this blog is in no way comprehensive and barely scratches the surface on business strategy or strategy in general. Please feel free to add value to it by sharing your thoughts and experiences on developing ‘strategy’. Happy to hear from you!

Please watch this space for similar posts. Strategy forms an integral part of most of our online master’s degree programmes. You can chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, the application process, and for details on discounts we might be offering at this time.

Is your company competitive? Here are 4 strategies to make it one! 

“No competition, no progress”

Bela Karolyi 

I could not agree more with the world-renowned Hungarian-born Romanian American gymnastics coach, who transformed gymnastics coaching in the US and was responsible for bringing home numerous international laurels. His words are not only applicable in sports but are equally fitting in the business world as well.  

Businesses do not operate in isolation. Gone are the days of monopoly where companies could dominate a market or industry. Today, in the fast-moving-digital-world, every business, big or small, faces stiff competition to hold a fair share of the market.  

Carefully analyze company’s competitive environment when formulating a business plan

When formulating a business plan, it is essential to analyse the company’s competitive environment. The competitive environment is the intricate external system in which the business operates and comprises of several factors or elements that affect and shape the industry. These elements include, and are not limited to:  

1. Competitors – Direct and Indirect  

2. Government regulations and laws  

3. Suppliers  

4.  Substitutes  

5. Technological trends  

6. Demographic Composition  

7. Network of Distribution  

8. Corporate culture  

Industrialists, innovators, and entrepreneurs need to think critically about these factors that affect the company’s profitability and success. (Also, check out our blog on 7 ways to improve critical thinking). It is imperative to understand the competition landscape and scope. This is necessary to prepare the kind of resources, investment, and technology required to build a sustainable and profitable business. In the good ol’ days, companies could thrive with little or no competition. In comparison, companies now must adopt new and innovative means to compete with other firms in the business environment and to have a competitive advantage over them. Strategic forecasting, planning, and implementation can lead to success in competition. Various strategies can help businesses build undefeatable and sustainable products and services.  

Caption – PESTEL model (reference)

Here are 4 strategies that can help build competitive advantages for your business:  

1. Cost Leadership  

Businesses run for profit. By definition, profit is a financial gain realised due to the difference between the amount earned and the amount spent on buying, operating, or producing a product or a service. It is one of the oldest tricks in the (business) book to be a cost-leader. When a business decides to pursue the cost-leadership strategy, it vows to provide the goods or services at a competitively lower price than any of its rivals can ever offer.

Such firms operate on the lowest cost structure, have reasonable control over the entire supply chain, suppliers, and raw materials, and have tight controls on the whole value chain activities. Walmart, IKEA, McDonald’s, Primark, and RyanAir are a few examples of firms that attribute their business success to a cost-leadership strategy.  

2.  Differentiation  

“You can’t look at the competition and say you’re going to do it better. You have to look at the competition and say you’re going to do it  differently”.

Steve Jobs  
Why HERMES?

Offering a low-cost product is not always an option in a competitive environment. Different consumers have different demands. Companies, by providing high-end quality products, also influence many customers’ buying decisions, who would otherwise choose the cheaper alternative. Even though companies always intend to keep their costs low, they are willing to spend on research and development costs, marketing, customer service, or innovation to develop a niche product or service, for which consumers are willing to pay a premium price. Apple, Starbucks, Tesla, Tiffany & Co., Emirates, and Hermes are examples of companies whose thoughtful approach to differentiation and compelling storytelling strategy makes millions of consumers spend premium prices for their products and services.  

3. Focus  

This strategy is quite different from the above two strategies. Business here focuses its primary strategy, i.e., operating at a lower cost or adding value but on a limited market, much narrower in scope than the broader cost leader or differentiator. The company intends to make concentrated efforts based on either a particular buyer group, geographic uniqueness, a unique product line, or a special attribute appealing to a niche customer class to cater to the specific demand of a limited number of customers. Gucci, Rolls Royce, Diet Coke, NetJets, and DC Design are a few examples of companies that have successfully adopted the focus strategy.  

4. Strategic group  

“Anytime you find someone more successful than you, especially when you’re both in the same business, you know they are doing something that you aren’t”. 

Malcom X  
The Cosmetics Industry has close knit competition and companies follow similar strategies to build competitive advantage

Groups of businesses of comparable size and range that operate in the same industry and follow the same strategies to build competitive advantages are termed strategic groups. The competition is so closely knit in such environments that even a small movement by the competitor affects the others’ market position. It helps build a strategic group map to identify businesses’ closest competitors and evaluate how your company is positioned in the industry. Common examples of strategic groups are the restaurants, retailers, cosmetic brands, and the aviation industry.  

These are four strategies, more commonly known as Michael Porter’s ‘generic’ business-level strategies as these can be applied to any business, by any firm in any industry.  

Which strategy do you think is the most powerful in building a competitive business advantage in your own context? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.  

Can entrepreneurship and innovation be taught? 

Can you think ‘out of the box’?

When I was in school, let’s just say a decade ago.. okay two decades ago, I remember being taught the principles of economics – theory of demand and supply, demand and supply curve, market equilibrium, price ceilings and floors, so on and so forth. Later as a business student at university, I learned about economic models and even more complex financial terms about running a business, such as behavioural economics, macro and microeconomic policies, government policies, international trade and its impact. I have no recollection of ever being asked to or being taught to ‘think out of the box’ (the economics book in this case).  

The businesses, usually large traditional corporations, family-owned companies big and small, ran on the business theories and principles established many years ago.  

Fast forward to the 21st century; I see a new world around me. The businesses are no longer just large corporations run on an old-school of thought. There has been a paradigm shift in the way the companies are run and how they are conceptualized in the first place. I am sure everyone remembers the time of late 90s and early 00s – ‘the infamous dot com/bubble era’ that vowed to change the world and as a matter of fact, it did change the world! 

The bubble burst vowed to change the world

The bubble era engendered a trend of entrepreneurship of a scope like never before. The entrepreneurs – the new gurus of the business world – worked on very different business principles and business plans. Business plans were mainly driven by the strategy of growing big fast, being ubiquitous, insanely high stock market valuations, and focusing on branding and marketing to gain market share. And to establish a new trend, the essential ingredient was innovation.  

Hence, the birth and rise of entrepreneurship and innovation.  

In today’s evolving business environment, entrepreneurship and innovation have become increasingly popular. There has been a notable rise in the entrepreneurial activities around the globe in the last decade. Even the corporations are paying heed to the increasing value of innovation and the entrepreneurial mindset in the workplace. It is now believed to correlate to organisation’s profitability and growth directly.  

There are several forms of entrepreneurship, such as Innovative entrepreneurship, social, scalable start-up business entrepreneurship, big and small entrepreneurship. To give some real-life examples, Tesla aimed to innovate the automobile industry by introducing luxurious yet affordable and efficient electric cars. On the hand, Uber, a scalable start-up business entrepreneurship, started with an idea to disrupt the taxi industry and attracted various capitalists’ interest and bagged millions of dollars in investment, scaling the business to an otherwise inconceivable level, growing the company worldwide.  

All entrepreneurs have one thing in common – Innovation

And all the entrepreneurs (and their companies) like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jack Ma, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Walt Disney, J.K Rowling, Jeff Bezos (the list cannot be exhaustive), have one thing in common – Innovation. Microsoft, Apple, Alibaba, Tesla, Facebook, and Amazon witnessed tremendous business success through innovation by triggering a paradigm shift or evolving an old product with new technology.  

The benefits and increasing importance of innovation and entrepreneurship are manifold. As mentioned earlier, corporations are also realising their impact on their success. A study by Microsoft and McKinsey states that organisations show a direct correlation between employee retention and innovation, and innovative firms are more likely to retain employees. The study also reveals that companies that were assessed as having ‘innovative cultures’ were twice as likely to expect double-digit growth.  

So, the question remains if someone is a born Entrepreneur, is naturally innovative, or such attributes can be learnt, and whether individuals can be  adequately trained to be innovative entrepreneurs.  

The question remains if someone is a born Entrepreneur

“Profound growth requires innovation and, to foster innovation, you need people to feel trusted and supported to experiment and learn. There can be real returns for leaders who learn to let go and coach teams to constantly improve.”

Dr. Parke.  

To answer the question, yes, entrepreneurship and innovation can be taught, and with proper education, these skills can be mastered. By studying entrepreneurship and innovation, you can learn the underlying principles of starting a business, how to avoid common pitfalls, pitch ideas effectively, validate your product, develop a solid business model, and how to set yourself up for success in a field where failure is common. A good entrepreneurship and innovation programme will expose you to the challenges, contexts, and implications of entrepreneurship and provide you with a sense of the difficulties inherent in starting up and running a new enterprise. You will develop a critical understanding of contemporary discourses surrounding entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship as they are found in a range of national cultures and organisational contexts. The programme brings together relevant contemporary academic theory and research with a practical understanding of activities.  

We offer an online MBA Entrepreneurship and Innovation programme specifically designed to foster entrepreneurial and innovation skills to enable you to have a career managing innovation in existing firms and found new ventures. You will learn how organisations build value by applying entrepreneurial practices, the challenges and opportunities typically facing new and existing businesses, and the ability to design and implement creative strategies. Talk to one of advisors to find out more about the programme. 

#DILO (A day in the life of) a master’s student – Andy W

Continuing with our blog series bringing you answers to some of the questions we at Robert Kennedy College (RKC) get frequently from students who are looking to join one of our online programmes. We asked some of our past and current students to share their thoughts and opinions, to give their feedback on how they handled online learning challenges. Hopefully, this will in turn help you make an informed decision.

Blog series on ‘a day in the life of an online master’s degree student

Let us learn from those who came before and see if what worked for them will also help you become a better student! 

Andy is from the United Kingdom and has completed our 100% Online Master of Business Administration that we offer through an exclusive partnership with the University of Cumbria, U.K., and this is what he had to say about what worked for him. 

An Introduction

Who are you, really? 

Andy W

Which Uni are you studying with? 

University of Cumbria

Which programme did you choose and why? 

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

The Study Plan

Plan the best way to study

How did you plan to study each module, and what was the reality? How many hours did/do you have to put in each day/or in a week?

I planned to allocate a certain number of hours per week on fixed evenings and the occasional weekend, but it didn’t work out that way. I’m definitely a “deadlines” person, so the regular modular structure of the course helped keep things ticking along nicely, with draft essays and other assignments keeping me focused on making good progress. It became more of a challenge with the dissertation as there was a) a hiatus after finishing the last essay and then being allowed to start the dissertation, so I completely lost momentum and, b) there were no intermediate milestones/deadlines to keep me ticking along. As a result, I had to be much more disciplined and ended up taking blocks of time off work to complete the dissertation. I clearly needed to get up a head of steam and tackle sections in a block rather than do a little often with stop-start not working for me.

What part of the day did/do you find most suitable to study? (e.g. early mornings, lunch break, evenings, weekends?)

As above, longer blocks of time suited me best, rather than a particular time of day. That said, because I was also doing a full-time job and other activities, I was mostly restricted to evenings and weekends.

How much time did you devote to each assignment? 

Unknown, sorry – I didn’t keep a log. 

Travelling and Communication 

Travel and staying connected

How did travelling impact your ability to study? 

Work travel tends to be occasional long-haul flights for me, which helped as I could download relevant readings and could then take notes, etc. on the flight. Most of my study time, however, was spent at home. Travelling was not applicable in my case.

How were you able to interact with peers and/or professors given the time differences? 

The forums were okay, but this is the biggest issue with remote courses in my experience. You simply don’t get the same level of interaction, shared learning, and general camaraderie/shared experience as you do with face-to-face learning. This was particularly noticeable with the excellent week-long sustainability residential in Cumbria, especially when juxtaposed against the comparative isolation (even loneliness) of the dissertation. The benefits of remote learning definitely outweigh the restrictions, however. 

A typical day as a master’s student 

What does a typical day as an Online Masters’ student look like for you? 

Lots of evening reading during the modules, getting the interim assignments complete and then a bigger burst of effort in two or three day block for the final assessment submissions. The dissertation was a whole new ball game with longer blocks of time needed to really focus on getting the job done. 

Any advice? 

Listen to advice, but figure out what works for you
Any advice you have for students to better plan their studies. 

I can only suggest people find their own rhythm – if you’re very disciplined, then a little often may work for you, but I’m not like that so had to adapt to fit my own way of working within the wider context of work and MBA deadlines. 


I hope this blog has answered some of your questions, and please watch this space for similar posts. You can also chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, the application process, and for details on discounts we might be offering at this time.