Invitation: Family Business Australia event on ‘Adapting to Change

The University of Adelaide Business School’s Family Business Education & Research Group (FBERG) is hosting a Family Business Australia event on ‘Adapting to Change’ on Tuesday the 17th of June @ 6pm.

Chaired by Dr. Jill Thomas (Research Fellow of FBERG), this session provides a great opportunity to learn from Toby Bensimon of Shiels Jewellers and David Snoad of Pinz on how family firms can adapt and thrive in today’s changing economic environment through product diversification and / or utilising one’s core capabilities in totally new industries. The session will finish around 7:15pm, to be followed by delicious finger food and great wine from a 5th generation South Australian family business.
The event will held @ the University of Adelaide (basement of the Nexus 10 building – 10 Pulteney Street, cnr Pulteney & North Tce).

For more information on how to register for this event, please go to the Family Business Australia website.

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Greetings from EBS

Week 1 – Bohdan Wojewidka

The first week of the EBS summer program has resulted in us entering into a long weekend.  Many of the attendees are taking advantage of this and have embarked on travel within Germany and Europe.

The EBS summer program comprises students from Argentina, Canada, Hungary, the United States and, of course, Australia.  In total there are 23 attending, the majority being from the US and Australia. Attendee backgrounds are varied and include an all-American basketball player.  He’s not that difficult to pick out.

The First Day
On our first day, we were met by Ursula Haque, the program coordinator, who introduced us to the school.  We were given an interesting overview of German history, a tour of the campus and provided a list of “do’s and dont’s”.  Punctuality was stressed as being very important.  We were also introduced to the Head of the program, Prof. Mrdjan Mladjan.  The program on the next two days was altered due to one our lecturers falling ill and not being able to attend.  Alternative lecturers were found and the program was modified.

The Campus
EBS is a private university and the campus is relatively small, making it very easy to make your way around.  Buildings are not air-conditioned, and this has proven to be a challenge for some.  The campus has a cafeteria – dining hall.  You definitely won’t go hungry.  A full meal lunch can be purchased for less than 5 euros.

The Weather

The week started wet, cold and miserable.  It improved considerably and the weekend has been perfect.  For this time of year, you need to be prepared for all 4 seasons in one.  Some have suffered because the classroom can be very cold as the heating has been turned off for the summer.

I am staying in Wiesbaden, where more attendees have located themselves.  Accommodation is quite good.  I am staying in a small hotel (The City Hotel), clean, comfortable and with wi-fi.  Others have found flats and some are sharing accommodation.  Wiesbaden is a city with a population of 500,000.  It’s got plenty of restaurants, bars and cafes.  Food is not a problem.

Some of the attendees are staying in Oestrich-Winkel, a small village 15 minute walk from the campus.  Most have said there’s not much to do after lectures and they tend to venture to Wiesbaden.

Speaking only English is not an issue as many German’s understand English.  We are doing a German survival course which is proving to be quite useful.  By the time I leave Germany I’ll probably know a few more words.

Travel to and from campus
The rail system in Europe is fantastic – frequent, fast and on-time.  The trip to EBS from Wiesbaden takes approximately 25 minutes.  The school has provided us with rail passes.  If you need to venture further, rail is a great way to get around.  Frankfurt airport is approximately 45 minutes by train from Wiesbaden.

Hear from other MBA students who have studied overseas here.


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Systems Thinking and why it’s integral to the Adelaide MBA

Damian ScanlonDamian Scanlon is the current Adelaide MBA Director. Damian has had over 15 years senior executive experience working for major Australian publicly listed companies mainly in the aviation (TNT/Ansett) and mineral processing industries (Adelaide Brighton Ltd & FCT Ltd), with short stints in the banking (ANZ) and oil (Amoco) industries early in his career. Positions held included senior executive management roles, including CEO, and board positions in subsidiary companies as well as holding group and general management positions at the state and national level. Damian can be reached on LinkedIn.

Recently I hosted a panel discussion about Systems Thinking with a keynote presentation by Professor Ockie Bosch and Dr Nam Nguyen who teach this subject in our MBA.   Nam has recently been appointed to Business System Laboratory in Italy joining Ockie as a Board member as well as being elected as the Vice President for the International Federation for Systems Research IFSR). The IFSR is the ‘mother’ organisation which has 43 member organisations and systems societies, from all continents, under its ‘umbrella’.

To view their slides, click here.  The purpose of this presentation was to highlight the basic fundamentals of Systems Thinking and why the Adelaide MBA has incorporated it as an integral part of the program.

Complex economic and managerial problems cannot be solved anymore with traditional single discipline and linear thinking mindsets. Employers will therefore increasingly require their employees to have the capacity to redesign in systems and sustainability terms. There is an increasing demand for society to move away from linear thinking that often leads to “quick fixes” that do not last, to a new way of thinking that is systems-based.  Understanding the principles of interconnectedness, feedback and leverage points in systems and appreciating the values of cross-sectoral/disciplinary communication and collaboration are the only ways in which society will be able to find long lasting, sustainable solutions to the many problems we are facing.  Developing such an understanding in order to address complex economic and managerial challenges, requires a strong level of awareness of the value of knowledge on systems approaches and tools that will increase the demand for systems education.

The Adelaide MBA has incorporated Systems Thinking as an integral part of its MBA as we need to equip current and future managers and leaders to be capable to deal with complex problems in a systemic, integrated and collaborative fashion. The Adelaide MBA therefore is distinctively different to all other MBA’s being offered in Australasia, creating managers who will be fully equipped with systems design-led knowledge, cutting edge tools and processes to make effective investment decision and policies in our 21st Century knowledge society; a society faced with a multitude of highly complex issues.

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Could Singapore dislodge Switzerland as the world’s biggest wealth management centre?

Damian ScanlonDamian Scanlon is the current Adelaide MBA Director.  Damian has had over 15 years senior executive experience working for major Australian publicly listed companies mainly in the aviation (TNT/Ansett) and mineral processing industries (Adelaide Brighton Ltd & FCT Ltd), with short stints in the banking (ANZ) and oil (Amoco) industries early in his career. Positions held included senior executive management roles, including CEO, and board positions in subsidiary companies as well as holding group and general management positions at the state and national level. Damian can be reached on LinkedIn.

In late February, I chaired a panel discussion on Private Wealth Management in conjunction with the International Centre for Financial Services (ICFS), our Masters of Applied Finance program and Notz Stucki (Swiss Asset Managers). Our ICFS is recognised worldwide for its work in this sector and our MBA and Masters of Applied Finance programs are highly sought after business qualifications for those wanting to enter the financial services sector.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Singapore could dislodge Switzerland as the world’s biggest wealth management centre as early as 2015 with the value of assets under management currently around S$1.63tn. There were roughly 100,000 people with investable assets of more than $1m in 2012, with an aggregate wealth of $489bn. Singapore has also made a virtue of its position in the centre of south east Asia to attract wealth from families in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

ICFS are running a two day workshop in March on how to gain an edge in this market and the panel discussion is a preview of this. The MBA, ICFS and our MAF course should get good positioning in this sector. We are also currently exploring a potential follow up around Family Business.

Read Damian’s panel introduction here.

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5 More Things I Wish I Knew At The Start Of My MBA

Andy ForbesAndy Forbes is a current Adelaide MBA student and the IT Manager at Cavendish Superannuation. Andy is also the author of the blog and contributes a monthly post to the Adelaide MBA blog on general business issues and his MBA study. [Read all of Andy’s posts] Andy can be reached on his website and LinkedIn.

In November last year I wrote a post titled, 5 Things I wish I knew at the start of my MBA.  At the time, someone pointed out on the Adelaide MBA Alumni LinkedIn Group that I was doing well to only have five things. They were right, my list was originally ten but could have easily been many more.

The first five were:

  1. Don’t hand in safe assignments, be bold
  2. Group Assignments – Allocate someone just to do the editing
  3. Worry less about definitions and more about applying them
  4. Group Assignments – Don’t be afraid to use your company
  5. Read a wide range of business books and biographies

Here are the ’5 More things I wish I knew at the start of my MBA’, to make the original list of 10:

6. Attend events, make sure people know who you are and that you know who they are

The university runs a number of events, such as the networking breakfasts, end of trimester celebrations and guest speaker seminars. Attend as many as you can, meet people, try to understand who they are and what they are about. Try to make it easy for them to understand what you are about too.

The other side of this networking is being able to debate issues and get advice from managers outside your organisation who may have seen or experienced similar management challenges before.

7. Make notes in your books

Traditionally I have always disliked making notes or marks in my books. I like to keep them in good condition. Perhaps it’s a reflection of my mum being a librarian and her troubles with kids drawing in books. Either way, a book in unmarked condition is not helpful. Make notes all over your books. As you read, underline any important quotes, draw vertical lines next to important paragraphs and don’t be afraid to write your own thoughts or enquiries in the margins. Then later when you refer back to the book, you will be able to immediately jump to what is important. If you use electronic books, make use of the highlighting and notes features.

8. Get an ultra-portable laptop or tablet for comprehensive notes

A few subjects back, I started using my iPad and wireless keyboard for lecture notes. I wish I had this system from the start. My lecture notes are now awesome, searchable, printable, spell-checked and even have drawings in them. The biggest benefit of this approach is that I can type much faster than I can write, which gives me more time to pay attention to what is being said. A solid note taking system will help your assignments and exam revision. Typed up notes pay dividends in open book exams.

Note of caution – if you take this advice on, then make sure you know how to paste drawings, charts etc into your lecture notes before trying to do it in class. It can have its challenges.

9. Really, truly understand the commitment you’ve made. Make sure your loved ones understand it and support you too

Doing an MBA is a big commitment. It requires much more work than I thought it would. I heard a joke once that MBA stands for Married-But-Absent and it certainly feels this way at times. To do well and absorb the most from the course, try to make sure that those around you are supportive of your efforts. You’ll need to sustain motivation for a few years, – the more support and encouragement you have the better.

10. Start a blog or a journal to record your journey

One of the unfortunate facts of learning is that it can be hard to remember course material once a subject is finished. There is too much quality in an MBA to let that happen. Make lots of notes, start a blog or journal, or just have a management folder that you put interesting things into. I can’t recommend starting a blog enough. It becomes a useful resource for you and is a great way network and market yourself, both inside your company and outside.

However you do it, find a way to not lose what you have learnt.

So there you have it, that’s my top ten things I wish I knew at the start of my MBA journey.

I hope it’s a helpful list and, if you have any of your own to add, post it in the comments below!

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Looking beyond your hometown to study an MBA

Henry GoodenJames Young is a current full-time Adelaide MBA student. James is a CPA who has worked in project based companies in industries ranging from advertising, architecture and construction up to CFO level. James can be reached on LinkedIn.

Deciding to do an MBA is one thing, deciding where to do it and how to do it is a whole different ball game. I decided to do it full time so I could concentrate on the program and try to get the most from it without having any other commitments. This might not be possible or practical for everyone but it still leaves the decision of which MBA to do.

While working in Melbourne, I met one of my neighbours at a Christmas apartment block drinks event. He was a Canadian that moved to Australia to study Engineering at Melbourne University. I asked him why he moved so far away to study and his response intrigued me and was something I never forgot.  He said that he reviewed the best universities from around the world relevant to his program and Melbourne University was the one that suited him the most. So, he packed up and moved to Melbourne to take advantage of what they had to offer.

A little while later after I made the decision to leave the work force and complete an MBA as a full-time student, I thought about my neighbour’s advice. Instead of just looking at universities in my home town of Melbourne, I decided to consider universities in Sydney and Adelaide.  And……. I am glad I did!

The three main factors I considered when selecting an MBA were:

  1. The quality of the program – I was looking for experienced and well qualified lecturers; a good amount of contact hours; subjects that would provide value to my career and a group of students that would be able to provide interesting perspectives from their own career
  2. Affordable cost of living – I didn’t want to have to worry about money during this period so I needed to make sure that the cost of living was reasonable
  3. The quality of life during the process.

Once I saw the Adelaide MBA program I was quite simply sold and then began to do the sums around the cost of living. My one bedroom apartment in St Kilda would rent out for $450 per week whereas here in Adelaide I could rent a 3 bedroom house on a quarter acre block for $340 a week (something my dog very much appreciates). The cost of food was comparable and in some parts much cheaper than my usual South Melbourne Market weekly shop. Public transport was cheaper and for reasons unknown to me, my health insurance came down because I moved to Adelaide. All of this while being only two train stops out of the city ensures that my third requirement is also satisfied, that being the quality of life during the process of studying an MBA.

So that chat that I had with the Canadian a few years ago became very helpful in making me realise not to constrain myself with just what’s around me, but to look beyond the boundaries of my current city and see what else is available. Thankfully I did as Adelaide and the university has come up trumps.

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Study abroad and broaden your skills

Henry Gooden Henry is the principal of Good Dog Design Australia and recently completed his MBA at Adelaide University.  Henry can be contacted via his site ( and LinkedIn 

My Adelaide MBA degree began with a walk over the Adelaide University footbridge in 2010 and ended with a stroll across the Charles Bridge in Prague three years later.  Over the first two weeks of July I attended a study abroad exchange with HHL University in Leipzig.  The exchange consisted of a week in Leipzig followed by a week Prague, and I found it to be the perfect way to finish my degree.

I applied for the Financial Incentive Scheme offered by the University and was lucky enough to receive one.  Should you take advantage of the study abroad exchanges that the University of Adelaide MBA offers?  Obviously, yes!  Here’s why…

Completing the MBA part-time means juggling family life, work and study for three years.  A study abroad course gave me the opportunity to apply all that I had learned from my previous subjects over a two week period.   The fortnight away gave me a break from the daily grind of work and an ability to completely focus on the course and the tasks at hand.  You also are obviously immersed in a different culture and get the chance to observe how cultural differences and approaches can have impacts not only on how different societies do business, but also how they think.  The lecturers, class activities and topics also present new aspects of teaching and learning that you won’t be able to get anywhere else.

Solve new problems by learning how other people think
Regardless of the exchange course you will find yourself surrounded by MBA students from around the world.  Not only does this give you the chance to make some great new friends and connections, you also get to learn new ways of tackling and solving problems. You get the opportunity to work closely with all the students in the course as you walk through case studies, course work and projects.  Learning the diversity of problem solving skills from students from around the world is one of the biggest takeaways from the exchange.

Non-stop fun
It is hardly all work though! At the end of each day there is plenty of time to head out with the group and explore the cities.  The group I was with gelled really well. Even at the end of the two weeks, all twelve of us were still meeting each night to have dinner, not because we had to, but because we were all having so much fun. All of the cities offered in the exchange will have plenty to offer, but I loved every moment spent in Leipzig and Prague.

A particular highlight of the trip was a visit to the Porsche Assembly plant as part of our Case Study of Skoda and Porsche.  We were able to see first-hand the Lean and JIT practices on display at the Porsche Assembly Plant just outside of Leipzig.  Porsche is the most profitable car company in the world and the factory gave an obvious display of why this is the case.  Upon completion of the tour we were able to partake in a fast lap of the test course in a Porsche Panamera.  Drifting through a corner at over 150km per hour was easily one of the more enjoyable ways to pass an afternoon.

The group I was with continues to stay in contact with each other.  We made a pact that the first person to strike it big after finishing their MBA will finance a group reunion tour.

Convinced and Ready to Go?
Excellent!  Here are some things to think about to ensure you have an amazing time:

•    Hit the ground running
One of the biggest reasons we had such a great time was that we all had touched base via Facebook before we got there.  It meant that we all knew each other before we even got to Leipzig.

•    Have a meeting place to start each night
Find a place that is an unofficial meeting spot for everyone to catch up after the end of the day’s topics. It’s a great chance to use this as a launch point to plan your nights out and see the cities you are in.

•    Get your project done early!
You can even do some legwork before you go. Many of the courses will give you topic outlines before you leave.  Get the research done here so that you can see the sites when you are overseas.

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What I’ve Gained From My Adelaide MBA – Only 3 Months In!

Danish YaqubDanish Yaqub is a current international student at the Adelaide Business School, and a free-lance consultant in the technology sector. Danish also blogs at The Age of Transformation, and can be reached through Linked In.


Not long ago, I pondered over my options for pursuing an MBA in Australia. From the sunny and sandy city of Dubai, I chose the Adelaide MBA never having set foot on Australian soil before.

It doesn’t mean I took the decision lightly though – 3 years of research, some false starts, and many options later, I finally began in the Spring of 2013 at the Adelaide Business School and 3 months in I can tell you that it was absolutely the best decision I could make.

MBA programmes have become so standardised that its hard to tell them apart, which is exactly why anyone considering one, should look for what distinguishes one from the other. Here are a few distinguishing features that I’ve found in the MBA programme at Adelaide:

Extremely Smart, Very Motivated

The Adelaide MBA attracts the best and brightest management talent from across Australia; professionals with many years of knowledge and experience, across diverse industries, which provides an excellent opportunity to build new relationships and networks, that last far beyond the MBA programme. The business school arranges several events throughout the term to help the students network with each other and with faculty at welcome dinners, orientation meetings, quarterly breakfast meetings (for all alumni) and end-of-term drinks. The course assessments too place significant weightage on group research projects that give you an opportunity to work with different people in different courses, intensively throughout the term.

Not too Big, Not too Small

Bigger is better, right? Not in my experience, when it comes to the class size of MBA programmes. Even in a class of 50, you may only get a chance to discuss and share your experiences once during the seminar; there’s just too much for the lecturer to cover, and too many students that can and want to contribute. The Adelaide MBA class sizes range from 20 – 35 students per course, which means that not only do the lecturers get to know you personally, and to challenge you intellectually, but you get the opportunity to apply your experience to the learning immediately in the moment.

Research and Teaching Excellence

As a management professional, I never really appreciated the linkage between high quality research outcomes and an MBA programme until I started here. Now it’s clear to me that the MBA programme is a product of an integrated, inter-disciplinary approach to research and by consequence to teaching. The best MBA programmes are the ones hosted in Universities with a tradition of research and development, as at the University of Adelaide, which has a long, and distinguished history in R&D across science, engineering & business. In the final equation, whether it’s the academic credentials of the faculty, or the cross-pollination of ideas between different research centres, it enables the business school to provide range and depth in the MBA curriculum to its students.

While tuition fees and rankings are important, discerning international professionals should increasingly rely on factors beyond to identify and select graduate business schools for their MBA in Australia; distinguishing features of the programme along with liveability and affordability, have ultimately shaped my MBA experience so far.

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Core benefit and ultra low cost: always an option

When I saw Mark Hassell (Chief Customer Officer Virgin Australia) in September, his story of the evolution of Virgin served as a case study in the “Total Product Concept”.

Source: Kotler,
P. And Keller, K. L. (2012) Framework for Marketing Management, 5th
edition, Pearson, New Jersey. ISBN 978-0-273-75251-6  

While it has been in the first few slides of any Intro to Marketing course I’ve taught it’s nice to have a real life example. I’ve always spoken of airlines but for last month’s MBA course I was able to let Mark tell the story.

Click here to see the full video.

Deregulation and a low cost entry point
When Richard Branston launched Virgin Blue in the early 90s a famous line was “we won’t give you an airline meal you don’t want, we’ll just give you the very best price”. Until 1990, full service carriers were the only option to fly. If we look at the “Levels of Product” diagram at the top, they kept adding new things – inflight meals, lounges, movies – and these were all at the “augmented” level. Before the 1990s this worked pretty well in a regulated market.

But as Mark said, the low cost carriers (eg Ryanair) in Europe set the scene for a cut price carrier. The mystique of air travel was waning and consumers began to think in terms of “getting from A to B”. Enter Virgin (v1) with a product stripped down to the core benefit (time efficient transport) as an entry point.

Fair enough, there was a basic product in terms of seating/reservations and an expected product (safety) but all of those expensive product augmentations were left to the existing full fare carriers.

Sure, at the time Virgin wasn’t the only attacker at the low price end – “Impulse” was a name that got around – but their message was clear and well made. Have a look at the video above at the 6.50 mark. The “cheeky low cost carrier” suited Sir Richard’s personality well.

Next: When being drawn into product augmentation raises your costs. Time to do some hard thinking.

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5 Things I Wish I Knew At The Start Of My MBA

Andy ForbesAndy Forbes is a current Adelaide MBA student and the IT Manager at Cavendish Superannuation. Andy is also the author of the blog and contributes a monthly post to the Adelaide MBA blog on general business issues and his MBA study. [Read all of Andy’s posts] Andy can be reached on his website and LinkedIn.


Studying an MBA is a long journey. Juggling a career, family and study can be tough going. There’s a joke that MBA stands for ‘Married But Absent’ and at times it certainly feels that way. Like many journeys there are a few things I wish I knew at the start, and that’s what this post is about. Here are the five things I wish I knew when starting my MBA study:

5 Things I Wish I Knew At The Start Of My MBA

1. Don’t hand in safe assignments

I previously approached my assignments as something I was going to present to my employer. As one of my MBA lecturers pointed out (thanks Sam Wells), it is a nice approach but it restricts your thinking, and in turn your learning. Your ideas will be inhibited – consciously or subconsciously, to ensure they’re acceptable for management to read. Sure, you will think and write in a more empowered way but you’ll pull up shorter on radical ideas, because of concern that it may be rejected by your peers.

Imagine that you were in complete control at your workplace. Be opinionated, passionate and powerful. Think – what would someone like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs or even Kerry Packer have said if they were in your shoes? They would not be making safe recommendations. Push your limits, be a little crazy.

Disclaimer – if you go down this path, don’t forget an MBA is a post-graduate course, and requires a certain academic rigour. Be prepared that you will occasionally get it wrong- take it on the chin, learn and keep pushing, you’ll be better for it.

2. Group Assignments – Allocate someone just to do the editing

When doing group work, I’ve found that it works best if you allocate someone just to the task of editing. Give them the power to revise and re-do any of the group’s work. At first, it doesn’t feel fair, as everyone will be writing their section whilst the editor is waiting for content, but it works really well, and they end up working just as hard.

Asking someone to contribute equally to the content, as well as editing can be unfair and can limit the team’s success.

The editing of an assignment, making it sound ‘of one voice’, and ensuring it meets the assignment criteria usually takes longer than one of the sections. Often, the editor is required to rewrite large portions of one or two group member’s submissions. Being the editor can be hard work, and should be left to the person who cares the most about high grades.

3. Worry less about definitions and more about applying them

Lecturers generally don’t want to see definitions. If you are just repeating what is in the textbook you are probably approaching the question from the wrong angle. Use the term or concept a little more like assumed knowledge, and then demonstrate understanding of it by its application. It sounds obvious, but the trick is getting the balance right for each subject and lecturer.

4. Group Assignments – Don’t be afraid to use your company

Using your company for group projects may seem a little limiting – you already know your company, right? In practice works really well though. A group project on your company will give surprising insights and will result in a deeper understanding of your company’s dynamics and issues. It will give you an opportunity to talk to internal managers about work issues outside of your regular role or department in the company. Also, from a networking perspective, these managers will see you being pro-active about your career and personal development.  All good things.

If you’re taking my advice from point 1, you may need to audit your assignment before letting fellow employees see the results!

5. Read a wide range of business books and biographies

Read more. Read business books and biographies of famous people. Lecturers love it when you reference outside material as it shows you are making connections that they haven’t spoon fed you. It will be helpful in your assignments, and on your journey to be a better manager. A good book can supply knowledge and inspiration.

Don’t just read business books that are fresh off the press either, there is a lot value in the previous generation’s reading list.

So that’s 5 things I wish I knew at the start of my MBA journey. Any thoughts, comments – (what’s something you wish you knew at the start?) –  hit me up in the comments below.

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