We recently sat down for a chat with LSBF Founder Aaron Etingen. Mr Etingen opened up to us about his influences, the direction he wants to take LSBF in 2014, and his advice for students to have a successful career. Here’s the full interview …
What was the greatest highlight of 2013 for you?
We had a number of exciting developments; including setting up a partnership with the online division of Cornell University, eCornell, and generally we started to become a lot more active in the US. A leading business school in Germany also joined our group. We made significant progress in building LSBF’s global infrastructure. We opened a new campus in Billiter Street, right in the heart of the City, spanning some 60,000 ft of Grade A space as well as a new building in Red Lion Street, and, internationally, in Singapore and Toronto, which are also now Grade A campuses. Not forgetting, the proud moment of meeting Her Majesty the Queen and receiving the Queen’s Award for Enterprise – a fantastic achievement for the group which we are all very proud of.
Can you name a person who has had a big impact on you as an entrepreneur and explain how they have influenced you?
I am inspired by the likes of Walt Disney and Steve Jobs – even though some may disagree – they did not live to see the pinnacle of their company’s success but they could visualise it, innovate and create their own reality. These are the people who inspire me.
What is the one character trait you believe every leader should possess?
Leadership! But, in all seriousness, there are many qualities which leaders should have – integrity, loyalty, vision, the ability to make people feel part of something bigger.
How would you describe your leadership style?
There is a difference between leadership style and management style. Politicians can be great leaders but they don’t need to be great managers, whereas in the world of business, one must be both a leader and a manager. In the SME environment when you run a medium size enterprise you need all sorts of qualities. In my case, I start with a vision of where we want to get to, then I bring a team on board to deliver the how and when, I like to empower people and give them the opportunity to express themselves and then I will challenge them to achieve superior results.
How do you encourage creative thinking within the organisation and where do the great ideas come from within your organisation?
I think what’s important is giving people the opportunity to talk and listen, having constant focus on research and product design. Where creativity is needed, we have groups dedicated to driving innovation across the business from a product design and content perspective. Areas like Communications and Product Design are the ones that require the most creativity. We work with the relevant industries to understand what their needs are and then look to reflect that in our programmes. That dialogue between industry and academia is key.
When you are faced with two equally qualified candidates, how do you determine who to hire?
It is rare to come across two totally equally qualified candidates. People are very different, roles are very different. I look for people who are passionate about what they do, who live and breathe their job and express themselves through their job. At LSBF, employees need to have a passion for the education industry, for the students themselves, and the desire to make a positive impact on students’ experience, lives and careers.
What is your advice to LSBF students who want to do well in their careers?
Globally, LSBF students are already part of a very exciting community. My advice would be to look at the fact that the world is changing, it is becoming competitive and industries are more volatile than ever. In order to build a successful career you need to do well while the economy is doing well but it’s also about being able to do well in the downturn. It’s about being competitive, having international exposure, gaining cutting edge work experience in your field, always learning and developing new skills, always challenging yourself – don’t stay in your comfort zone. Foreign languages are great and networking is important – build relationships while you are still a student, your peers are also your future network and will be part of your success in the future.
What are you looking to achieve in 2014?
I want to move LSBF from being a business school to becoming a business hub. We want to be in a position where businesses come to LSBF, not just for educational needs but for any need, whether that be to set up a business plan, marketing plan, HR strategy, raising capital etc. and placing LSBF students at the heart of that. We have a phenomenal business network in the UK and globally. That network can help organisations and entrepreneurs. The idea is that every professor and lecturer will be working with their relevant industry, helping entrepreneurs and businesses to achieve their objectives and engaging students in the process. The idea is all about engaging students and lecturers to grow companies. This is one of the primary structural changes I am looking to introduce this year.
If you were down to your last £1,000 how would you spend it and why?
I would start a company.
What would you say the next direction for education is?
After spending time with political leaders and business leaders, I believe there is potential for cross-disciplinary education, which is much wider than the current education framework – engineers who understand business, business people who understand science, creating modern day Da Vincis. Another area for development would be classroom engagement. I don’t believe in ‘one-way’ teaching, if students are learning on campus and coming to class they need to be actively engaged and doing things in class they could not do at home or on YouTube.
Aaron Etingen has recently been voted the Accountancy Personality of the Year at the PQ Awards 2014.
This interview has first appeared in the LSBF student magazine, Varsity Life.
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