IBA and the end of the grey

We just returned from an incredible trip to Malawi. I worked with a good friend and aeronautical engineer for a life insurance company. It was a fantastic match for us, Gerard had experience standardising procedures with low cost airlines and I had worked as an economist so we were able to standardise many procedures to save costs and build robust risk models which will guide their future asset holdings and reassurance levels.

We also aligned the businesses strategy with their core offering and looked at staff incentives etc. and all the other MBA consultancy things that would be expected. However the CEO gave us the boardroom as an office and a mandate to look into anything and speak with anyone without constraint. The theoretical models we had learn, combined with our experience really made sense in this new setting and inspired us basically to work 18 hour days while we were there to deliver real results that we were both incredibly happy and proud of at the end of our time. The CEO of the company went on National television and told Malawi how he wished we could stay forever and the real impact our work had had on the company.

I think the main reason for this successful partnership between us and the company was an openness and willingness to learn. We had a massive learning curve relating to how business was done in Malawi, sometimes what I would consider outrageous in the West was normal practice in Malawi. Similarly the company was fantastic at building relationships and connections but less good at keeping records and using data to inform their decisions (something which is fairly critical for an insurance company) and they were very willing to listen to our suggestions and allow us to implement suggestions to improve this.

On the final weekend we climbed Africa’s 3rd highest peak Mt Mulanji and saw the wonders of Malawi from high above. Their is a strong rumour that Tolkien climbed Mt Mulanji just before he wrote his famous trilogy and it is easy to see there could be truth in the rumour. 

Driving to the base of the mountain we passed vast tea plantations full of happy smiling people amongst the green, just like the Shire. Ascending the mountain caves and waterfalls leapt from the jungle until atop the mountain huge rocky crags jut up into the air with soft clouds cloaking their fullness. 

The CEO of the company we had worked for took me out on a safari and to his lake hut the following day. We saw the animals Africa is famous for (although unfortunately not the predators), elephants, warthogs, antelope and hippos were scattered throughout the savannah. We then drove to the beautiful lake Malawi where idyllic resorts sat perched upon the banks, a stark contrast to the despondence of poverty stricken villagers huddled in thatched huts just beyond the razor wire topped security walls.

I learnt a lot from the trip and have also been given confidence that the skills I have learnt can be applied to a world even where property rights and the rule of law are not as robust as in other places I have worked.

Returning to England the sun was shining and I actually felt a droplet run down my face. Looking up I searched in vain for the grey clouds that seemed ever-present, but to my surprise it wasn’t rain but sweat. The sun had finally shaken its reputation as the sol de brujas (sun of the witches) which looked hot but was actually a trick to lure you outside into the cold without enough warm clothes.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Shining (petanque) balls at MBAT

A previous blog mentioned a conference ‘Doing good doing well’ in Barcelona that I attended. Leo who also went to the conference has written a great piece on it here.

But between the conferences we also managed to get out and see a bit of Europe as well as beating LBS in petanque (some french game similar to Bocce).

We descended on Paris 2 weeks ago for MBAT which was fantastic, both on and off the field. We ended up with Cranfield’s best points score ever, coming 1st and 3rd in poker, 2nd in Petanque, 1st in battle of the bands, and 3rd in badminton.

The strangest of these was definitely Petanque, we turned up bleary eyed in the blistering rain, after being enthusiastically roused by our kiwi captain. We walked around in a daze as frenchmen haughtily laughed at us for not knowing anything about the game and the Oxford teams warmed up and stretched on the side in their expensive Hawaiian shirts (these were not worn ironically, I found out Oxford do not joke). Then it was time to throw our shiny balls at smaller balls. Fantastically we were playing the Oxford A-team first up (these were their best Petanque’rs after months of try-outs). Looking haughtily down over their flower garlanded collars they sneered at our immature jokes about ‘touching balls etc’.

But suddenly our team snapped into action, whether it was divine intervention or the pulsing beat from last nights battle of the bands echoing through our wrists we became champions and cleaned the floor with them, then INSEAD, then HEC and it continued, victory after victory through the group stage and then on into the semi-finals. By this point the rain was pouring down and we were up against LBS. I’d like to say we thrashed them and they were as snotty as the Oxford bunch but they brought a carton of beer down and we had a very casual game which we narrowly won. Truth be told by this point we were all hoping to lose so we could go back to our hotel out of the rain.

By the time the final came around we could no longer muster the strength, even the referee’s were done by this point, and a very enthusiastic, self refereeing rotterdam university took the cup. Great effort and stamina though to maintain their friendly disposition and unabated enthusiasm throughout.

Off the field we got hugely into the dress ups, the highlight being a bunch of leather clad, make-up laden Cranfield blokes creating a mosh pit with girls straddling the shoulders of many of us as we rocked out to the Cranfield bands winning renditions of rage against the machine.

Image

rockstars

Image

the Cranfield undefeated football team (as in our opposition were undefeated by us)Image

 

Braveheart dress for ‘Carnaval theme’ what do you mean its not caranval, its Hogmanay

 

The next weekend me and some of the Chileans went to Riga to go kitesurfing, unfortunately there was no wind but we partied anyway in a fantastic city and met some brilliant people.

And in between the two we had a brilliant kitchen party with live ‘British’ music, some Latin dancing and Spanish and Indian food

Image

 

 

Hasta Luego

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Creating a dream

I am going to become a strategy consultant. Its pays well, has good prospects and I would learn a lot in a short amount of time. It sounds like a fantastic job. I thought all this a month ago, but in the back of my mind was a niggling doubt tugging away, making me resist hitting the submit button on the McKinsey website. And then I saw a quote. It wasn’t the standard jokes about graphs and getting paid to say nothing.

‘If you’re not building your own dreams you’re being paid to build somebody elses’.

For me this translated into ‘find a purpose and follow it’, a pay cheque is not a leader that I wish to fall in line behind. Despite some familial advice to ‘build my resume’ and the sight of others madly dashing around in suits to interviews I decided to build my own dream. My dream is to give others the opportunities I was fortunate enough to have. When I went back to my old council estate everyone I grew up with was gone. The football ‘field’, a cement cage by the railway tracks, which was the scene of the most frantic football matches imaginable; was covered in graffiti and long abandoned, looking as though an earthquake had torn it apart. A council sign warning people against entering this dangerous, forgotten hub, hung above a chain enforcing its will. I heard fervent whispers of the friends I used to know. The friend who would scrounge around with me for the change that had fallen from the pockets of drunkards who had passed out on the wall the night before was lost to drugs. The neighbour, who laughed happily as I gleefully chanted nonsensical words along to the African songs his family would sing on our way to McDonalds, was doing his second stint in gaol for armed robbery and kidnap. Others ran gangs, others were depressed, many were on drugs. There were few stories that were not dismal. But mine was not. Through the generosity and kindness of others I had been given the chance to learn and experience fantastic things and believe that any dream I could imagine was at the least a possibility.

My dream is for others to grow up believing the same, with hope, not having to rely on the benevolence of a few generous people (such as the CAAS benefactors) but instead able to access the things they need when they need them.

I want to create an online platform that allows people to sell a portion of their future income in return for the funding, networks and knowledge they need to achieve their dreams. I have been the beneficiary of incredible opportunities throughout my life, the most substantial of which is the scholarship that the CAAS so generously bestowed upon me.

The business model I want to create would provide people with a way to reach their potential while maintaining their independence and not being burdened with hard to service debt repayments while at the same time providing value for the people fronting up the money and the business I want to develop. Providing this shared value for all stakeholders and the community at large is the way I would like to create a sustainable business. I want to do this for my own sense of morality but I also believe in a future where more and more information is readily available to public scrutiny and societal morals can impact behaviour to increasing degrees I believe this is even more important.

The business will operate in three streams;

One stream will be through university partnerships. I am hoping to try and get one setup at Cranfield if they are willing but Cambridge have also shown interest. This would involve alumni providing students with the opportunities they had and sharing in the future the student creates (through both a share of their future income and the knowledge that the student couldn’t have achieved what they did without their help).

Another stream will be through our online platform, whereby people who are selling their future income (aspirants) will create a profile detailing what drives them and what they want to achieve. We will provide metrics related to the average income trajectories and volatility of employment etc. for the aspirants chosen field alongside this profile. From this the investor can make an offer to the aspirant including both the financial sum they are willing to pay for a given percentage of future income as well as the networks and experience they can bring to the aspirant. The aspirant can then chose to accept, counter offer or reject this bid. Investors thus use their judge of character in choosing people who will have a successful future as well as leveraging their knowledge and networks to increase the value of their asset, to the benefit of the aspirant and investor.

The final stream involves firms purchasing ‘bundles’ of students. As firms will be purchasing a many students the overall risk that the total return will deviate from the average return (accounting for macro-economic factors) is significantly reduced. As such we can model with a reasonable degree of accuracy the return on investment a firm will make. The aspirants that the firms fund can then form part of their marketing campaign, building their CSR reputation within the community. This will most powerfully be disseminated through the aspirants themselves. For what person, who has been given hope and brought closer to their dreams by an organisation would not become a fervent brand advocate of the most authentic kind. Furthermore firms will have the opportunity to provide employee mentors to these aspirants which, in conjunction with developing a coaching capability within the organisation, will allow firms to vet prospective employees in an incredibly thorough way.

Aspirants for their part receive financing and mentoring to achieve both a qualitatively and quantitatively better life. Qualitatively they have the opportunity to pursue their dreams and quantitatively they will have access to networks and capital to significantly boost their earning potential, of which a small amount will go to the investor. Furthermore they will not be burdened, as I was with a 15% per annum student loan, by debt repayments that they cannot afford, as all repayments will be levied on their income.

Socially there will be a better use of capital for education as, instead of relying purely on the generosity of the few, it will instead be in investors (both individual and companies) best interests to invest in the education of these people. A more educated population and a more meritocratic distribution of education will result in a more productive economy. Furthermore the benefit of giving people at the bottom of the social ladder a way to increase their standard of living, will in my opinion reduce the incidence of crime by people who feel helpless to survive without it.

I have been overwhelmed with the generosity of people yet again, from lawyers to faculty to business leaders, in helping me bring this to fruition. I want the business to run at a profit to ensure its sustainability and its autonomy from philanthropic interests so the organisation will take a small commission on each investment and will also develop additional spin-offs such as exchange traded fund type investments, for investors and students who wish to participate solely in a financial trade.

I believe this business provides me, my customers (investors and clients) and all stakeholders to the business a shared value in the 5 aspects of life I think (influenced heavily by some reading I’ve been doing) are the most important.

A sense of;

  • Purpose
  • Freedom
  • Mastery
  • Community
  • Material satisfaction

I have been developing the business model and sorting out the legal and IT requirements as well as some marketing for the business this past month. My email is dan.george@cranfield.ac.uk I would love to hear from anyone who has any ideas or wants to get involved with the business. I’m currently working on the financing side of the business and have applied for a grant which required a short video available in the post below.

I discovered a grant which I thought fit this business idea perfectly unfortunately it closed the next day so I madly get my artist sister to help me create and film a video. I then downloaded and learnt how to use some video editing software (poorly) so apologies for the amateurish quality of the film. I’m going to make some better ones which I’ll include in the next blog post. It has also been fantastic practice for the annual video we will make for the CAAS scholarship awards dinner which will (sorry David Scollon but its true) ‘will be the best ever’ in dedication to Alex Chapman.

Sorry for the belated post, it has been a crazy few weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Video | Posted on by | Leave a comment

History was written…in sheep entrails.

A score and four days ago, the brilliant lights of the Southern Cross, fell upon the unfancied fortunes of Cranfield MBA’s. For on this Australia day, the hordes of LBS descended upon Cranfield as hundreds of years earlier the Persian hordes had descended upon tiny (back then solvent) Greece. Outnumbered a dozen to one, the brave athletes stood their ground at the Social, awaiting their inevitable fate. However, as then Leonidas watched, stoney faced as a storm sunk and battered the Persian ships then, so too did our Social rep watch as alcoholic intolerance sunk many LBS athletes on their way to Cranfield, no doubt encouraged by the great kangaroo up in the sky.

The brave Cranfield participants gathered at the sports hall and suffered a straight sets loss in volleyball. Defeated and jeered, feeding the LBS hubris, they held their ground. They were then battered at basketball and squash yet still they would not bow. And then it was time for rugby. A sport we could surely not win, ever. A team was scraped together, the rules explained nervously by a passing MSC student as the LBS team went through their warm up drills, resplendent in specially made uniforms. But when the whistle blew, Cranfields rugby players sprung to life, such was their sense of duty to each other that they moved as a unit, instinctively finding each other, threading through the LBS lines and scoring again and again as they fought all human barriers of pain and endurance. The sons and daughters of the great rugby nations of Australia, South Africa, England, New Zealand and …India, united to form a team of champions that drove LBS into the ground. A 7-1 thrashing by halftime was carried home (just) by the remaining team members in the second as these great nations were required on the football (soccer pitch). Again LBS threatened, unveiling yet more exotic wonders (as Xerxes forces rode elephants into battle) their Columbian and English core deftly passing the ball around clumsy challenges and drawing first blood. But Cranfield weathered the storm and they had their own Latin connection, a cry of ‘unleash the Chileans’ echoed throughout the grounds as the Australian and Slavic players heaved themselves at the opposition giving the  Chileans the space to dance around LBS and find the back of the net time and time again. A hard fought victory ended in a 7-5 win for Cranfield.

After much celebrating and many American drinking games LBS reluctantly boarded their bus home. And that was the end of the night for Cranfield MBA’s. Other than a brave band of three, who boarded the bus, armed with bottles of wine.  

The LBS crew were fantastically hospitable, and took us to a fantastic house party in London as well as putting us up for the night. The next morning was a highlight for me as I had lost my friends and phone the night before. Heading to the station, bedraggled and in a now torn suit, I had my wallet stolen. To this day I am in awe of the thief who took it. I felt not the slightest movement and have no idea who it could have been. I almost feel honored to have been a victim of such professionalism. At the station I asked a stranger if he could buy me a ticket to my brother’s house. Luckily I think he was taken aback by a long haired Australian in a purple silk tie, begging for a ticket and so generously complied. If you ever read this kind stranger, thank you again and if you get in touch I’ll give you your five pounds back. I also had my first taste of haggis which was fantastic and my last taste of whatever desert was (it was like a very sweet porridge that someone had garnished with copious amounts of ground snake skin). All in all it was a fantastic day and night, the organisers and participants did a fantastic job.

This weekend I am off to Barcelona for a conference on social entrepreneurship. I will let you know how it goes. It will be fantastic to see the sun and sea again too.

(The historian’s report of Burn’s night makes more sense if you are incredibly knowledgeable in the area of ancient Greek history or you have seen the movie 300)

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

International Week

International Week

Amidst the WACS and finance classes there was a fantastic week of free lunches, national booze and great entertainment, also some K-pop (photo courtesy of Osvaldo Rojas).

Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Burns Night Volleyball Team

Burns Night Volleyball Team

After a spirited display the Cranfield team went down 3 sets to nil against LBS. However it has inspired us to start training for MBA (photo courtesy of Osvaldo Rojas).

Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment