Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Filled Under:

Learning versus Doing

It's been about three weeks since I started working at Marutaka Techno, and I already feel like I have learnt more about business in these three weeks than in my two years at university in the UK (I won't count my year in Japan as I didn't really study much business). In my opinion, business is not really something that can be "learnt" in a classroom or lecture theatre.
If one does a quick search for the definition of business, the best result is:

"the purchase and sale of goods in an attempt to make a profit"
While one could spend all day studying marketing theories and accounting techniques, success ultimately depends on whether you are turning a profit. The majority of business topics studied in university are based on widely-used concepts (accounting standards and pricing strategies etc.) but without using them in a real-world situation, the true meaning and value of these topics cannot be fully understood. In my second year of university, my "international marketing" module included a period using a piece of simulation software called Country Manager (CM). Although CM supposedly teaches the user about brand awareness, advertising, pricing, segmenting, positioning and a whole host of different marketing concepts, I came away from the experience feeling underwhelmed. The lecturer assured us that the virtual world would be fluid and dynamic (just like the real-world), but I think we all know that it isn't really possible (at least with current technology). Everything that happened inside the simulator was simply a computer program responding to our actions and inputs. I never had a sense of selling products in a real-life market. Nevertheless, I appreciate the lecturer's efforts to mix things up a bit and give us at least a partial taste of what it might be like to be in charge of a brand.

From my experience working at Marutaka Techno, I feel that I've gained a lot of experience and a better understanding of exactly what goes into making business decisions. The majority of marketing studied in university is usually connected with selling to the consumer (the end-user), but as I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, Marutaka Techno primarily sells to distributors, who then sell to the consumer. Regarding the project I'm currently working on (selling to hotels and health clubs in the UK), I have to be even more specific and think, 

"What is going to make a big hotel chain want to buy these products?"

Without knowing Marutaka Techno's products and the characteristics of these hotel(s) extremely well, it is very difficult to answer such a question. In fact, there is no way to really know what we can do to get them to buy our products. We don't know the basis on which they make purchasing decisions and we don't know their future business plans (such as expansions and branch closures). Many private companies with a concentrated group of shareholders not obliged to disclose financial information usually do not publish financial reports. As a result, it is very difficult to weigh up the true scope of the company (such as their capital, employee numbers and revenue/profit figures for a period). This internship has taught me that business is never a simple case of black and white. We rarely have access to the information we need to make vital decisions. Marketing in university is (largely) about learning theories and concepts, but with no real world situations in which to apply them, it would be naive to say "I fully understand this concept and it's applications". 

As there are very few ways to prove your worth as a "businessman" (or business woman), getting a job in the business world often boils down to the common phrase:

"It's not about what you know, but who you know"

Unfortunately, I know a lot of people who studied business and found it very difficult to get a job upon graduation without knowing someone in the industry. This may also be down to the sheer number of people studying business-related subjects and a general pattern among graduates of all disciplines due to economic conditions, but I suggest that the nature of "business" as an academic subject also makes matters worse. Another issue is that "business" seems to be viewed as a vague subject (I can understand the sentiment) and while the entry requirements for some business management courses are quite strict (I needed an AAB with proof of proficiency in a foreign language at A-Level), they tend not to be as difficult to get into when compared with subjects such as Law, Medicine and Engineering. 

While I stand by my decision to study International Business and Japanese at university, I get the feeling that studying alone is not enough for the average Joe Bloggs to get a job off the back of a business degree in this day and age. I come from an average family with an average income. I don't have a rich dad who will give me a job when I graduate and I don't know anyone who can put in a good word for me at the board meeting. When you're in this situation, the only thing you can do is try your best to gain experience.

couldn't be more true!


 Is an internship the right decision for you? 

While many companies are offering internship opportunities at the moment, one has to keep one question in mind,

"Who is going to benefit from this internship?"

The word "benefit" here takes on a whole host of meanings. I want you to take a good look at that question and keep it in your mind. In the next post, I'm going to writing about that exact topic. I'll provide some real world examples (including my own situation right now).

That's all I have time for right now, but I will be posting again either tomorrow or Friday!

As always, thanks for reading and have a good morning/day/evening!


Post a Comment