Memories of Reggie Von Zugbach De Sugg

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What Reggie taught me about business and the power of words, by BA (Hons) Business Management (1997) graduate Eddie Finnigan.

It was early Autumn 1993, and I was about to embark on a journey. I was heading from Glasgow’s Queen Street, which receives train passengers from the North of the city and heading towards Glasgow Central, an iconic train station which transmits nearly 33 million weary travellers’ every year towards London in the south and connections towards what seems like every location across the UK. My destination was the less salubrious surroundings of Paisley, famous for housing Glasgow International Airport and its textile industry with iconic Paisley Pattern. The town with a population of 77,000, which lies 15 minutes outside Glasgow, has suffered in comparison to Glasgow, which has perhaps experienced greater investment and enjoyed a far superior reputation in terms of nightlife, entertainment, sport and culture.

From memory, it was a cold and rainy autumn day, as I shuffled nervously towards my first day at the University of Paisley where I was about to start my undergraduate degree in Business & Management. With a mixture of excitement and curiosity, I wondered what would be in store for me in this new world of learning that would hopefully shape my future career path.

One of my earliest memories of studying at Paisley was the booming personality of Professor Reggie von Zugbach, the charismatic and eccentric head of Management Studies, with the thundering voice of a British Army General, who lectured us on Theory of Management and Leadership, as we learned our first baby steps in understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Organisational Behaviour and Strategic Management. Legend has it that Reggie would be used as an audience plant and agent provocateur in TV chat shows to use his gift for language and eccentricity by winding up the audience which would in turn ramp up the ratings. In one episode, he is said to have antagonized host Kirsty Wark by ranting that corporate creches were a theft on shareholders.

Reggie’s lectures were always rammed to the rafters because he provided a heady mix of entertainment and charisma, which made the learning much more interesting. On one occasion, he roared, “If you want to learn what’s happening in an organization, where do you go?” A few of us batted some aimless answers back, before he let us in on the secret, “The women’s toilets, of course.” Conscious of potential accusations of sexism and some murmurings of discontent amongst the women in our group, he questioned, “And, why don’t you go to the men’s toilets?” None of us had the answer, but he soon put us out of our suspense by bellowing, ‘because they’re too smelly’, to roars of laughter in the audience.

Amongst the hilarity Reggie shared with us several important messages about people, our behaviour in organisations and, by extension, our role in society. We learned that beyond the formal channels of communication in business exists the frenzied world of the informal in which careers can rise or fall, often surreptitiously, by the power of what we say, how we say it, and very often what we don’t say.

Fast forward to 2020 and the message is equally as relevant, if not more so, given how technology and social media have transformed our ability to communicate with each other and reach a global audience. A characteristic of society we may only have dreamed of back in 1993.

In recent weeks this has been a force for good when people across the globe from every culture have been able to demonstrate against racism through various channels many of which didn’t exist 10 years ago. However, we have also witnessed the darker side of society in which pride, prejudices and hatred rise to the surface, creating division and poisoning all of the good stuff.

We each have an individual and collective responsibility to be extra mindful of the power of our words and the effect they have on others both positive and negative. This is equally true in society as it is in business, particularly as the lines between our work and personal lives have become increasingly blurred in recent years.

Regardless of the career journey, you are currently on, there are some fundamentals with which we should never lose sight, but which we often need reminding. Helping the person to your left and the person to your right. If you have feedback to give, make sure it is coming from the right place with good a good heart and best intentions. And, most importantly, if you see or hear injustice or racism, speak up and call it out!

Your words have power, use them wisely.

Eddie Finnigan, Managing Director, Two Rivers Recruitment.


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1 Response

  1. David says:

    Loved your Reggie stories Eddie, I was in 2nd year of the Business Economics degree when he started in ’92, same time as the College changed to University.

    My memory isnt as good as yours but I do have 2 memories. One was him inviting all his students in to see him individually and telling everyone they’d get a minimum of a 2:1. Some of those folk just needed to be told they were good enough, but it was the way he motivated them that I remember. The other is inviting other students of other disciplines to his lectures as he was great entertainment.

    Complete and utter breathe of fresh air, I’m sure he’ll be sadly missed

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