Feature on an organic vineyard in Belgium

Chicago Booth’s magazine commissioned Phil to look at an organic vineyard launched by three MBA graduates from the business school. He spoke to the founders: Michel Schoonbroodt, Didier Jacques, and Philippe De Prins about their decision to embark on the project after each had enjoyed a successful careers in finance over the previous decades.

They told him about the five years of hard work, the ups and downs in the journey, and how their experience and knowledge acquired at Chicago Booth helped them achieve success.

The first harvest at the organic vineyard yielded 6,000 bottles of still and sparkling white wine in 2020. One of those wines, called Les Rémouleurs, or “knife grinders,” is on the wine list at La Canne en Ville, a Brussels restaurant with a Michelin star. The vineyard will host the Family Day of the Booth Alumni Association on September 11, 2021.

Asked what advice he has for recent Booth graduates, Schoonbroodt says: “Don’t be afraid of doing something new. It’s only difficult the first time: the second time will be easier, and the third time easier again.” The article is here.


Writing on Iran for Raconteur

Our analysis of the opportunities that the opening up of the Iranian economy offers to British firms was featured in the second issue of the new monthly magazine Raconteur. It focused on a  country of 80 million people — a majority of whom are under 30 and highly educated — which has the second-largest gas reserves and fourth-largest oil reserves in the world. It looked at the sectors that offered the best opportunities but also examined the potential financial and legal obstacles. The article can be found here.


Research summary for Cambridge Judge Business School

We worked with Cambridge Judge Business School to summarise some recent research by one of their academics for the Brian Food section of their lively website.

The research by Professor Shazhad Ansari looked at how corporate reputations develop. By tracking 42 contemporary French architecture companies over a 30-year period from 1978, he looked at how their reputations evolved among three key groups – peers (rival companies), clients, and critics –and found that not only were those reputations often different but that they interacted with each other, generating mainly – but not always – positive spillovers.

He found that respect from one’s competitors was very important, as it tended to reinforce the company’s reputation in terms of potential clients and independent critics. Equally, good critical write-ups tended to boost the reputation among the company’s peers. However When companies become highly reputable among clients, the degree of novelty and avant-gardism tended to decrease, which lowered the interest levels among critics whose role it is to identify and promote these criteria of innovativeness.

As well as looking at the results we talked to a catering chef and an independent architect about how Prof Anzari’s findings explained how their reputations developed and the actions they had taken to improve and defend them. The article can be found here

Marking the 50th birthday of the CBI

We were asked to contribute to the production of a book marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the CBI (or the Confederation of British Industry as it was in 1965).

We researched and wrote around 20 articles looking at how Britain has changed over the last five decades in a number of key areas that are close to the work of the CBI. These included:

  • the big picture of macroeconomics and the business environment
  • a focus on key sectors such as banking, energy and manufacturing
  • changes in employment and demographics
  • the role of British rapidly in a rapidly changing global environment
  • Britain’s relationship with Europe.

In all these articles we drew on research material from the CBI, interviews and the writer’s own knowledge and experience of covering the CBI as a journalist.

The report can be found here, a page-turner version is here, and a PDF version is here.

Technology changes how businesses are structured

Research by Imperial College Business School has looked at how the technology revolution underway since the turn of the millennium has triggered a surge of new players springing up to take advantage of the opportunities it offers.

We spoke with the co-author, Markus Perkmann, associate professor of technology and innovation management, about the implications of his research for our understanding of how organisations tend to be formed in this new world.

He explains how emerging organisations “cobble together” their structure in a way that is radically different from our traditional understanding.

Together with Andre Spicer at Cass Business School, Perkmann has developed a new concept of “organisational bricolage” to explain how new organisations are shaped by drawing on existing forms. To explore how this worked in practice, they looked at Indymedia, the London-based alternative media organisation that arose out of the protests against the World Trade Organisation in Seattle in 1999.

While this innovation is unlikely to make existing models of business organisations redundant in the near future, Perkmann says there is strong evidence existing companies are having to adapt. “We will always have plcs. But if you look at the different generations of organisation that succeed each other they are definitely differently organised.”

The interview is published on the Imperial College Business Blog and can be found here.

Covering the CBI Annual Conference

The CBI, the UK’s largest employers organisation in the UK, held its 2014 annual conference on 10 November in the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. Around 1,000 leading business figures and representatives from all major media organisations heard speeches by the three main party political leaders and debates over key issues facing business.

We helped provide the live coverage of the main events as they happened alongside other reporters. The pieces we produced included:

      • the keynote address and Q&A session with prime Minister David Cameron
      • the speech and Q&A with Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg
      • the keynote speech and Q&A with Labour leader Ed Miliband; and
      • a presentation by Steve Varley, Managing Partner for EY UK & Ireland, a sponsor of the conference.