October 13, 2016, by Postgraduate Placements Nottingham

How PPN helped grow my eCommerce consultancy

This week Chris Jones of RedSock.biz shares why he chose to offer placement opportunities with his company.

Many of the other employers featured in this blog could reasonably be described as “hyper-modern”: often they seem to be high-tech or new-industry companies. I suppose I might be described as “post-modern”: I’m a freelance management consultant, with no staff and no premises, and I operate in the gig economy, although I guess my gigs are a little bit different to being a Deliveroo rider.

I’m a consultant specialising in various aspects of eCommerce, and I was offered an assignment to write a series of quite deep briefings about retail eCommerce, targeted at British exporters, covering certain non-European countries, including places like India, Canada, Brazil, Japan and South Korea. Not only was I very busy with other client assignments at the time, but I had a more fundamental problem – I don’t speak Hindi, Portuguese, Japanese, or Korean.

I had the idea of trying to reach people with language skills to help, but I wanted more than just interpreters, I wanted people who could also research intelligently and independently on broad lines I laid down to fit the planned structure of the briefings. While wondering how to reach such people, I discovered the Post-graduate Placements programme entirely by accident. (I’ve just seen another blog post describing it as Nottingham’s best kept secret – I can certainly vouch for that!). My wife is a mature PhD student at Nottingham University, and by serendipity, just as I was describing the problem to her, a post-grad email circular popped into her inbox advertising the schemes to students.

“the PPN scheme has enabled me to accept client assignments that were otherwise out of reach”

I contacted the extremely helpful PPN scheme administrators, and a vague idea suddenly became a realistic possibility, especially when we discussed the very attractive commercial terms. The PPN team were very flexible in adapting their standard set-up so that I could meet the students in Costa Coffee bars (my usual premises) on an occasional basis, instead of having them work regularly on site at my offices, because I don’t have any offices!

My requirements were quite specialist, so I wasn’t overwhelmed with applicants, but those that did apply have turned out to be of very high calibre. In the end I was able to accept no less than 5 client assignments, none of which I would otherwise have been able to take on myself. The research performed by the students varied from very good to absolutely outstanding: my client is particularly pleased with the briefing on Japan for example, for which the excellent post-grad researcher was able to unearth material never previously published in any English language publication on the topic as well as providing invaluable personal cultural insight.

Despite being a freelance consultant partly to escape from line-managing staff in a more regular company environment, I actually found I really enjoyed working with the students too, and I’m hoping I might find future opportunities to repeat the experience, although maybe not with 5 in parallel – my coffee intake reached alarming levels at one point.

In short, the PPN scheme has enabled me to accept client assignments that were otherwise out of reach, make a good profit on them, with only a minimum level of admin hassle supported by a helpful and flexible team, and enjoy myself too. Now I’m just off to order another decaf…

If you are a business interested in offering a postgraduate placement please visit our webpage for more information.

Posted in Placements