Since its establishment last year, the Playfair Project has grown from being a simple idea to a small business and one of the most exciting student initiatives in St Andrews. With its primary services in consultancy, it aims to provide an opportunity for undergraduates and postgraduates to apply the skills acquired during their studies by working with local businesses towards their respective goals.
The project’s website states that their “core competencies include market research, revenue generation analysis, business strategy and structuring and social media impact”.
Dougal Adamson, a co-founder of the Playfair Project, describes the process as a “circle of benefit”, where local businesses are profiting from advice on their strategy on a pro-bono basis, while students are gaining valuable experience in real business situations.
Thus far, this vision has been realised and has founded the growing success of the project. I sat down with Mr Adamson to find out more about the initiative, why it is doing so well and how one can get involved.
When faced with describing how he found inspiration for the business, Mr Adamson explained that he had worked in a similarly structured project before: “Conducting research, collating results and producing a thorough and professional report to a tight deadline for a real client was hugely gratifying. I felt there was not anything like it available to everyone on a larger, long- term scale.”
The concept that a positive and noticeable contribution to the town could be achieved in the process formed the logic behind the name of the business. Mr Adamson expressed that the Playfair Project is “loosely named after someone who was also passionate about improving the local economy of St Andrews.”
The founders decided that the business would be named in recognition of Hugh Lyon Playfair and his contribution to the town of St Andrews in his time as town provost in the 19th century. Having recently read his biography, Mr Adamson de- scribed Playfair’s determination to improve the general welfare of the town, from forcing the renovation of North Street to participating in the foundation of Madras College.
After discussing the reasoning behind the initiative, we progressed to talking about the services of the Playfair Project and their relative success. Mr Adamson said he felt it was important to emphasise the informality of internal communication and challenged the preconceptions about consultancy and its conceited status.
“While professionalism and performance is imperative, we are students and things must be seen in context. We pride ourselves on being a cohesive and communicative group that can provide each other with a valuable network and aid each other’s development. An over-formalised environment is not necessary.”
In short, student consultancy has been chosen as a tag for the Playfair Project for ease of definition and universal rectitude rather than to accurately depict its methods of business.
Mr Adamson moved on to explain that student consultancy is a growing trend and has much support from all over the country. “When considering the start-up last year, we had support from similar groups in Oxford, Edinburgh and York. Now that we are established, others are contacting us for advice. It really is an expanding field across the UK, and even the world. My fellow co-founders both gained their experience in Germany.”
This prompted the question of what sets this particular initiative apart from other student activities and why it is becoming increasingly popular. Mr Adamson mentioned that the Playfair Project operates as a small business and is due to become a registered company in the next few weeks.
“Being part of a real business formed with functioning departments such as acquisition, recruitment and legal provides a valuable insight into the operations of larger companies.”
On the consultancy side, he suggested that frequent and active client interaction as well as the ability to solve real issues for local businesses provides great incentive to get involved.
“From organised training sessions to mid-term reviews to presenting to clients, it is a unique opportunity that I fully recommend to anyone interested in this field of work.”
Yet overall, he concluded that the steep learning curb is what makes the jobs in both consultancy and operations is the most attractive.
“Ultimately we look for driven, self-starting and committed individuals from any degree and discipline and then it is a learning process for us all from there. That is what makes it such a dynamic, attractive and rewarding initiative.”
The Playfair Project recently held an information evening for people interested in joining and is accepting applications for its current vacancies until midnight on 13 April. More information can be found on their website, playfairproject.co.uk.