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In this edition of e-Biz, we sit down and have a cup of coffee with one of the stalwarts of the Business School and former Graduate School of Management Director, Professor Geoff Soutar.
Described as ‘a hell of a nice guy', ‘generous', ‘humble' and a ‘legend', Geoff Soutar is acknowledged in national and international marketing circles as a leading figure in Australia and ranks as one of the most published academics in his field.
As a former student, now colleague and research partner, Tim Mazzarol describes his mentor Geoff, as a ‘real' academic, teacher, researcher and scientist.
"Geoff is truly committed to the benefit of students and to share his knowledge," he said.
"I have experienced Geoff as a student doing my PhD and then as a colleague. Geoff is one of the most generous people around in terms of his time. He also has one of the sharpest and most analytical minds I have ever known, with the ability to find the cause of a problem or to guide a project or process in the right direction quickly and efficiently," Tim said.
Tim describes Geoff as a humble person and an excellent collaborative partner and team member. "His knowledge of marketing, management, research and a wide range of other issues is vast and he is a source of expert advice on many things," Tim said.
As a UWA undergraduate in the late 1960s, Geoff went to Cornell University on a Fulbright Award, where he completed his PhD. Returning to UWA as a lecturer in 1973, he recalls teaching one of the first MBA classes at the University.
"I recall teaching the first MBA class; there were two units, one in optimisation and the other in statistics. In those days these units were ‘lovingly' called sums 1 and sums 2 by the students. There was no such thing as handouts or whiteboards. Imagine three hours of maths scribbled on a chalk board," Geoff said.
When asked what made him decide to become a Professor, Geoff remembers one of his first ever job interviews. "I said it was because I didn't have to wear a tie [Yes - I did get the job!]. I think most people come to realise they are an academic and it was that way with me. In my second year as an undergraduate I was getting ready to join the family accounting firm, but knew I wanted to teach and research, and that was that!"
"My greatest enjoyment is working with some great [and very smart] people and being able to teach some great [and very smart] people. UWA is a unique institution and those of us who work here are very fortunate. You become really aware of this when you go elsewhere for a while, as I did. On the other hand, WA is also fortunate to have such a great university - it has enriched us in so many ways," he said.
Currently supervising more than 20 PhD or DBA students, Geoff has published a number of books, more than 125 journal articles and 200 conference papers thus far in his career. From a research perspective, Geoff has a keen interest in how firms develop new products [or services] which is what led him from economics into marketing.
"Over the years I have undertaken a number of studies that have looked at different parts of this process and I continue to be intrigued by the way success comes in this area," Geoff said.
Geoff is also interested in how consumers make decisions in the marketplace which has led to a long-term examination of value as a key driver.
"With Jill Sweeney, we have tried to build models that provide business managers with useful information. It is about trying to develop ways to better measure value," he said.
Geoff, Jill and Tim Mazzarol are currently partners in a large and long-term project that is looking at what leads people to provide Word of Mouth (WOM) and how people react to that WOM.
Additionally Geoff's involvement in international education, from the mid 1980s, has led to an interest in the nature of this market - which is the second largest international service industry after tourism.
"Tim and I have undertaken a lot of research across many countries and continue to examine this amazingly interesting, but little understood, marketplace," he said.
Geoff recounts one of his career highlights as being his research into the America's Cup when it was here in Perth.
"I got involved with Paul McLeod in unintentionally in doing most of the research that was undertaken when the America's Cup was held in Fremantle. It was an amazing experience to undertake ground breaking research concerning decision makers used in developing the operational plans that made the Cup a success," he said.
Geoff states another high being when he was made an inaugural Fellow of the Australian and New Zealand Marketing Academy in 2004 [one of only three] and a Fellow and Life Member of the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management [one of only two such people].
"This told me my academic colleagues valued my contribution. But seeing so many of my research students finish and go onto fulfilling careers in both academia and in ‘the real world' is also a highlight - a good friend said to me once that students who succeed are your real academic contribution and I am one proud ‘dad'," he said.
Geoff aims to continue teaching the things that he ‘loves talking about' and to continue to learn more as he researches the things that intrigue him.
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