Balance is key: between operations and innovation; staff satisfaction and productivity; and family and business
Aaron Etingen, December 20, 2011
Education is not just a public good, but also our business. The Government’s intention to encourage a market in higher education has prompted debate, but as a private institution, the London School of Business and Finance (LSBF) is market-driven – we have always had to be.
Innovation in response to changing needs of students and employers is a core value. It has driven growth since I founded the school in 2003.
Education is a creative process and for this reason I take a lot of inspiration from Paul Smith, the British designer. We have to design and develop programmes that are relevant, so to feed this pipeline we work closely with other companies to understand how our students think and what they need, both during their studies and once they graduate. This is a creative process, including how we take technology into education and how we reflect themes and issues that are relevant today.
Paul Smith has a hugely successful business. The secret is constantly designing innovative products while managing a huge and constantly evolving business. That's a real challenge for any successful CEO - to keep the balance between innovation and management.
We have 20 campuses and offices worldwide, so two key challenges we face daily are managing and engaging remote teams around the world. I spend a significant amount of my time on strategy, though I do like to take an active role in deciding how and where we will distribute £2.4 million each year in scholarships to students.
In his book, Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?, Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM, explains how he managed to drive IBM back to the position of a successful, profitable business. He looked at IBM from a global perspective, understanding its culture, how processes happen and transformation can take place. He refers, particularly, to the running of his HR department, and how he managed to keep and develop its talents, which, for IBM, was crucial.
As a CEO in a dynamic environment, I understand the importance of being able to build on strengths while working to eliminate weakness and bottlenecks.
A lot of my time has been focused on developing our expansion strategy around the world. Earlier this year, we launched our campus in Singapore, and we are now in negotiations with a large educational marketing company, from Korea. Europe, too, is still very important for our business: we are busy working on expanding our existing partnership with Grenoble Graduate School of Business to offer additional programmes of study, and I have an event coming up in Berlin to meet prospective students, agents and partners. In the UK, we have been planning the announcement of our partnership with University of Northampton and nine new courses we will be delivering with it.
Balance is key - between operations and innovation; different parts of the business that need growth; staff satisfaction and productivity; and between family and business. We reflect this in the way we teach our students. It is not just about business strategy and marketing, but understanding a wider picture.
Aaron Etingen (pictured) is founder and chief executive officer of the London School of Business and Finance