I started my academic career after spending time in various sales roles in France and the UK, as a researcher on a Leverhulme research grant, working with industry on ‘Managing the Product Range’. In reality, this focused more on how companies reached and implemented decisions to delete products from ever-expanding offerings, a decision that proved to be made infrequently, and when reached, was implemented poorly, if at all. The companies ranged from fast moving consumer goods giants, to small OEMs in B2B contexts – but the issues and problems were remarkably similar, with inadequate financial and customer data being at the heart of hesitation, delay and market acceptability.
My research became increasingly bound up with issues of product innovation and many of the insights gained (while translating some very applied research into a fully-fledged PhD) centred on the importance of marketing – as a function which sought to instill company decision making with the importance of a market or customer view.
As I completed by PhD, I took up a lectureship at the University of Strathclyde and went on to gain wider academic experience in the US, The Netherlands, Spain, France, Denmark and Australia. These international perspectives were important to both my development as a scholar, working with internationally renowned research teams, but also in widening the strategies and ambitions of the UK-based institutions where I worked in leaderships roles in the 15 years after gaining the doctorate.
I thought it was important to bring to institutions such as Heriot Watt University and the University of Stirling, policies that married the need for rigorous academic research with the need for practice-oriented relevance. I’m very pleased that this view has grown in impetus across UK academic institutions such that the ‘Research Excellence Framework’ which measures the distinction of our universities’ research and includes a strong element of evaluation of the impact of that research outside the various subject academies. A further strand through my evolving leadership has been the conviction that international perspectives are vital to student development – widening horizons and appreciating different cultures are, I believe, central to the advancement of individuals, organisations and societies.
In the last decade, I have been extensively involved in International Business School Development. As executive dean of Strathclyde Business School, and with university-wide responsibility for Internationalisation of Strathclyde, I joined the Accreditation Board of the European Foundation for Management Development as well as the Board of Directors of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, both bodies responsible for international Business School Accreditation. I was delighted that during my time as dean, Strathclyde attained highest levels of such accreditation. During these processes, I have learned much about the importance of imbuing business school work with strong values of ethics, responsibility and sustainability, and ensuring that higher education is available to the many, not just the few.
Some 30 years after completing my PhD, I still believe many organisations struggle to put the customer at the heart of strategy and operations, despite proclamations to the contrary, and the role of marketing seems at times to have waxed and waned over the decades as new forms of customer insight and information have come from perspectives in operations, quality management, CRM and now, digitisation and disruption. That said, a constant theme from academic research continues to underpin the importance of customer and market input to strategy in the competitive positioning of organisations – from the start up to multinational and encompassing the third sector equally.
In my appointment last year to the role of dean at Durham University Business School, I believe that these values of internationalisation, my ethical stance on issues such as sustainability and diversity as well as a belief in the impact academia can and must make to local, regional and global communities, are well matched to this great university. The university has an important presence in the city and region, as well as a global reach and, working with my colleagues, I intend to strengthen these further through working in collaboration with industry, economic growth and innovation bodies, and the third sector.
2016 Became dean of Durham University Business School
2008 Promoted to executive dean of Strathclyde Business School
2005 Appointed vice-dean of research at Strathclyde Business School
1995 Appointed professor of marketing at the University of Stirling
1993 Appointed professor of marketing at Heriot Watt University