Articles Tagged Strategy

Aug 16, 2015
There may be much more corporate distress to come

For years now, I have been warning of many a corporate collapse to come, on this page and elsewhere. We have been seeing unprecedented speed of change in technology; the far-reaching impact of demographics; and gradual handover of power from producers to consumers. Globally, many a dominant company has been laid low. Japan’s giant Sony […]

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Jun 28, 2015
You want to charge a high price? Justify it

Walmart, with a strategy predicated on low prices, is the company with the highest revenue in the world. But Apple, with a strategy predicated on high prices, is the world’s most valuable company. Volkswagen fights for volume leadership in vehicles with Toyota globally. But recently, an interesting thing happened: Porsche, a part of the VW […]

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May 24, 2015
Innovation is all about connections

The year was 1970. A man was with his family at a busy airport, lugging two very heavy suitcases. An airport employee walked past, pushing a heavy piece of machinery fairly easily on a large wheeled trolley. An “aha” moment occured. The man, Bernard D. Sadow, looked at the trolley, looked at his suitcases, and […]

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Jan 04, 2015
Everything you enjoy today was created by a trailblazer

Most of us tread on well-worn paths. We live in places where we are connected to electricity and running water. We acquire received wisdom from orthodox institutions. We take up familiar occupations, and follow traditional career paths. We start businesses in conventional industries with established competitors and known rules. We take the road most taken. […]

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Oct 19, 2014
Poor customer experience? Here comes disruption

You must have heard of Uber. The mobile-app-driven taxi service has taken the world by storm. In just a short time it covers 45 countries (200 cities), and has even entered Africa (Lagos and Cape Town). Why this phenomenal expansion? Here’s how it works: You go to the app in your phone. It picks up […]

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Sep 14, 2014
When companies are built on being the best in a rat race, only rats will win

John Lanchester writes very useful books demystifying the world of finance, explaining its arcane intricacies to those who weren’t schooled in it. Sitting on a plane recently, I came across a piece by him in the New Yorker. It contained this gem: ““My father once told me about the first colleague he ever knew to […]

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Jul 20, 2014
Why Germany won, Brazil lost, and Africa under-performed again

Football’s World Cup comes and goes every four years, and in its wake it alway leaves some valuable lessons. This column tries to chronicle them, so here is the 2014 edition. In 2010 I wrote here that to win in football (or any collective endeavour) four ingredients are necessary: first, a great ethos and common […]

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Feb 09, 2014
Watch all these jobs disappear

This column often highlights the various technological disruptions that will change all our lives – for better and for worse. As I have written before, this is a time of phenomenal economic and technological change, and the ramifications will be felt far and wide. One of the issues we will have to deal with in […]

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Jan 19, 2014
These distasteful selling strategies are for losers

I hate spam. I always have. If you send me spam, it will have the reverse effect to what you intended: after receiving your unsolicited communication, I will never even consider buying whatever you’re selling. I tweeted this sentiment recently, and got an odd reply: “But Mr B, what’s really wrong with this practice? Isn’t […]

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Jan 05, 2014
Success is no longer a train you board with a ticket

To succeed in the world to come, you won’t be boarding trains with tickets; you’ll be jumping off planes with parachutes. These are fast-changing, enormously disruptive times. Success is no longer about playing safe, being predictable, or following schedules. That’s how it was when I was growing up. Children were told to pick safe subjects; […]

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Oct 27, 2013
Whatever business you’re in, a surprise is coming

I’ve always liked taking photographs, so I’ve always had a camera. My wife prefers moving images, so she’s always in the market for a video camera. We both hate talking on the phone, so we carried mobile phones more out of necessity than choice. Here’s the thing. Those three consumer items – camera, videocam, phone […]

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Sep 02, 2013
My final ‘Thought Leadership’ column: the business of doing business

This will be my final column in the Thought Leadership series in this newspaper. The column began life in August 2007 and tried to bring you the best business insights from leading books and publications – and elaborate on those insights in a Kenyan and African context. In this valedictory piece, I would like to […]

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Sep 01, 2013
Here comes the digital native to disrupt your business

When I was applying for university, my target college had no website. This was not because it was an inferior institution; it has produced no fewer than sixteen Nobel laureates. The point is, at that time no one had a website. So I had to rely on a small brochure with a handful of photographs […]

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Jul 22, 2013
If cost-cutting is your main strategy, you’re done

“There are no surer signs of the inadequacy and delinquency of corporate leadership than that cost efficiency should feature as the dominant issue facing the company, and that the tactics of outsourcing, shared services, reorganization and other short-term palliatives are being paraded as the main drivers of future profitability.” JULES GODDARD & TONY ECCLES ‘Uncommon […]

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Jul 21, 2013
Are you laughing your way to the bank or the graveyard?

Which of the following things have happened to you of late? You want to buy a product for your home. You have spoken to a vendor and agreed a house visit so that installation can be done. You take time off from work to do this. The vendor, however, does not show up. At all. […]

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Jul 15, 2013
My 300th BD column: is your business becoming a ‘bad biryani?’

“When asked what the learnings from Kingfisher Airlines experience were, Tony Fernandes said: “Focus. I have said it to Vijay many times. This is damn bloody tough business. People saw me running around in a T-shirt and a cap and said well if that Indian guy can do it then I can. Vijay was one […]

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Jul 08, 2013
Where is your business’s greatest enemy?

“Companies are rarely brought low by external forces. The majority of corporate crises, sometimes called “stall points”, when revenue growth slackens dramatically or even reverses, are self-inflicted. The two root causes of stall points are myopia and complacency. Myopia is the failure to recognize market discontinuities until it is too late to respond effectively. Complacency […]

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Jul 01, 2013
How prepared is your board for this world of rapid change?

“Technology is making boundaries between industries more porous and providing opportunities for attacker models. For example, in the banking industry, online consumer-payment products such as Square—a mobile app and device that enables merchants to accept payments—are challenging traditional payment solutions. Free Mobile, a French telecommunications attacker, has captured significant market share by offering inexpensive mobile […]

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Jun 23, 2013
Leadership lessons from a retiring manager

A certain someone became manager of an institution when I was still a greenhorn at university. He retired last week, having clocked a full 26 years in the job, at a time when I myself entertain thoughts of retirement. In those years I have changed jobs, even occupations, several times; the gentleman I refer to […]

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Jun 17, 2013
Is traditional marketing dead?

“Traditional marketing — including advertising, public relations, branding and corporate communications — is dead. Many people in traditional marketing roles and organizations may not realize they’re operating within a dead paradigm. But they are. The evidence is clear.” BILL LEE HBR Blog Network (9 August, 2012) Is marketing, as we’ve known it, dead? Bill Lee, […]

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Jun 10, 2013
Why so many failed to see the market for tablets

“The tablet market should top all laptop shipments this year and the entire PC market by 2015, according to a report released Tuesday. Market researcher IDC estimated that tablet shipments will grow 59 percent this year to 229.3 million units. That’s higher than IDC’s estimate for notebook shipments this year. Topping that, IDC predicts tablet […]

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May 27, 2013
Could you run your supermarket more like a hotel?

“Waitrose is to introduce hotel-style welcome desks into its stores in the latest stage of plans to expand its online business. The upmarket retailer, led by managing director Mark Price, plans to install the “concierge” service desks in order to allow customers to make online orders, collect products bought over the internet, and have their […]

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May 26, 2013
The Germans play for the long term

Last night, the 2013 UEFA Champions League final was played. I have no idea who won, as this column’s copy deadline is long before Saturday. But I can safely predict that a German team took home Europe’s premier club football trophy. This, of course, is not because I have particularly strong powers of prophecy; it […]

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May 05, 2013
Should Kenya make toothpicks?

My friend and fellow columnist Charles Onyango-Obbo asked an interesting question on Twitter recently: why don’t Kenya and other African countries make toothpicks? I promised to answer, so here is a response. Perhaps the question is better framed in the way that many of Charles’s followers seemed to put it: why can’t we even make […]

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Apr 15, 2013
You need to be better, not just cheaper

“Frustrated by the lack of rigorous research, we undertook a statistical study of thousands of companies, and eventually identified several hundred among them that have done well enough for a long enough period of time to qualify as truly exceptional. Then we discovered something startling: The many and diverse choices that made certain companies great […]

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Apr 08, 2013
You can’t run a business on numbers alone

“We know it’s impossible to run a successful business just with numbers because people aren’t predictable. We have to work with complex people, bring out the best in them, make them feel secure, encourage their creativity, inspire them to take responsibility when all the rules and metrics point the other way…” David Boyle Authenticity (2004) […]

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Apr 01, 2013
Why the high and mighty keep tumbling

“In “The End of Power” Mr (Moses) Naím, a former Venezuelan cabinet minister now ensconced at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a think-tank, argues forcefully that rigid pyramids of power are collapsing. Micropowers are learning how to frustrate macropowers. Bigwigs are finding it harder to wield power and harder to hold on to it. […]

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Mar 31, 2013
In business, bigger is not necessarily better

I met a gentleman recently who runs a successful business. He is held in high regard by his customers, and indeed the reason I was visiting him was due to strong word-of-mouth recommendations. Though thriving, his business is not large. It has been located in the same premises for decades. Given the demand for his […]

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