Executive business courses are ‘like a booster shot’ to a person’s career
For SMEs and those returning to the workforce, Trinity Business School can help
Though renowned for its heritage as an academic institution, the university is also a hive of entrepreneurship whose former alumni have gone on to set up businesses. Photograph: iStock
From where he is sitting for our interview at a city centre coffee shop, Michael Flynn, assistant professor in entrepreneurship and director of executive education at Trinity College Dublin can see two former students working away on their businesses on their laptops. A third walks in while he talks.
Though renowned for its heritage as an academic institution, the university is also a hive of entrepreneurship whose former alumni have gone on to set up businesses as diverse, and cutting edge, as biotech company Nuritas, gaming innovator Havok and social enterprise Food Cloud.
But it isn’t just start ups. Trinity Business School also works with some of the biggest and best known companies in Ireland and across the world, helping them unlock “intrapreneurialism”, upskill in a particular area or undertake significant change.
The diverse list of organisations to have undertaken its executive education programmes include Dublin Airport Authority, Musgrave and AstraZenica, as well as Ulster Bank, ESB and VhiPlus. It has also worked with scores of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) – the backbone of the Irish economy on whose performance the economy depends.
“TCD is a quiet achiever but has been here for a long time, doing a lot for Ireland Inc,” says Flynn.
Over the past two decades it has become a European business school of consequence, having grown its number of MBA students from 20 a year to 150.
“We have also grown our portfolio of short, open executive education courses that anyone can jump into, from three to 15.”
We have a lot of people on our courses who missed out on the undergraduate experience the first time, or are in an area that is completely unrelated to their degree
These courses, which take from two to five days in length, “provide an in-depth boost in areas that they need help with for their organisation, for long term impact.”
Because Trinity Business School recruits experts from Ireland and around the world to deliver these courses, they are “like a booster shot for their careers, their work or their organisations,” he says.
While very many of the participants for these courses come from large organisations, an increasing number come from SMEs.
“We have a lot of people on our courses who run their own business and either missed out on the undergraduate experience the first time, or find themselves operating in an area that is completely unrelated to their degree. They find they need help in such practical business areas as negotiations and deal making, people management, how to manage a high performance team or what to do with all the data they are generating – big data and business strategy,” he says.
All its courses are specific and practical, including its China market entry programme. “They’re all bite sized courses involving action based learning, which participants take back to their business and apply.” Many of the programmes include follow up mentorship, to ease implementation of what has been learned.
For SMEs, its course on business growth strategy is particularly popular. This augurs well for a country he believes is like the Singapore of Europe.
"Ireland is a small, open economy and a hub for business. To grow you have to go offshore very quickly. Quite often business people do our programmes to grow domestically and beyond. Much of this is to the UK and US, but, because we are very conscious of Ireland’s need to have a balanced trade relationship with the world, we focus on the EU and APAC region too.”
Trinity Business School has grown its offering in the area of customised programmes too. “Here companies come to us with a perceived need in a number of areas and, rather than just putting their people in our programmes, we work with them to develop a programme specifically designed for them,” he says.
These are all the more effective for being bespoke. “We collaboratively and iteratively match their needs to a programme that is designed to bring that organisation or SME along a particular pathway.”
As the economy has recovered from the downturn, so too have the areas businesses need help with.
“It used to be more about growth and Lean systems, which is still important, but it is now increasingly about how do we retain people, how do we ensure they are genuinely happy coming to work, apart from with money. The emphasis is on organisational culture, fulfillment and balancing work with personal life. It’s about things like helping managers, who are increasingly feeling stressed, to ensure they don’t stress others but instead inspire them.”
Because of the long standing industry partnerships that have grown up as a result of the placement and recruitment of TCD students, the Business School has an extensive network. “For us it’s about building holistic relationships with companies over time, not just in Ireland but overseas. Trinity College is perceived as an Ivy League equivalent in the US, for example.”
Trinity Business School’s €80 million new building on Dublin’s Pearse Street, which will include an Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub, will enhance its profile further and give it the resources to match that reputation.
As Ireland’s population ages and people return to education more often, throughout longer working lives, the need for executive education is set to grow.
It’s about having people with a deep understanding of the international landscape
On top of this, future downturns will be different thanks to the realisation by employers that holding on to staff is critical to long term sustainability, he believes.
“There is an understanding now that you hold on to your key people. The world has never been more unpredictable, at any time post-war. As Ireland is the Singapore of Europe, an open, global economy and a hub for outward entrepreneurship, we can’t turn into ourselves. We have to remain open and engaged internationally,” he says.
To do that a business needs a “thick skin”, which it gets through people development. “It’s about having people with a deep understanding of the international landscape who are always scanning the horizon in a culture that is innovative, strategic and agile,” says Flynn.
“Skills and knowledge have an increasingly short shelf life. What we do is help organisations create not a finite piece of knowledge but an agile, resilient, self driven people who are flexible enough to cope. It’s about entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship, something that is deeply embedded in our offering.”
Trinity has set about making a world class business school and now ranks in the top two per cent of business schools worldwide. Now amongst the fast growing business schools in Europe, its new facility opens on Thursday, May 23rd.