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100 Best Business Books of All Time

Following years of reading, appraising, and retailing business books, 800-CEO-READ creator Jack Covert, ex-president Todd Sattersten, and present general manager Sally Haldorson have selected and appraised the one hundred greatest business titles of all time—the ones that dispense the biggest payoff for today’s occupied readers. It’s a great list, and in the vein of all lists, bound by argument and long-windedness about what is and isn’t contained in this list. Each book gets a couple of pages of outline handling.

Best Business Books on Improving Your Life

Best Business Books on Leadership

Best Business Books on Strategy

Best Business Books on Sales and Marketing

Best Business Books on Economics and Metrics

Best Business Books on Management

Best Business Biographies

Best Business Books on Entrepreneurship

Best Narratives of Fortune and Failure

Best Business Books on Innovation and Creativity

Best Books on Big Ideas About the Future of Business

Best Business Books on Management and Leadership Lessons

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Billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Path to Success: Biography and Timeline

Billionaire Li Ka-shing's Path to Success

At 88, Li Ka-shing (b. 29-July-1928) is the richest man in Asia, with a networth of almost $35 billion, and one of the most powerful people in the world, but he began life as a impoverished war refugee.

Here is a chronicle of Li’s systematic rise from poverty and life as a plastic flower salesman to one of the world’s richest individuals with investments in banks, container ports, digital and traditional media, energy, property, and various other businesses.

  • 'Li Ka-shing Hong Kong's Elusive Billionaire' by Anthony B. Chan (ISBN 0195900766) 1928: Born in Chaozhou in China’s Guangdong Province to a school-principal father.
  • 1940: With the Japanese invading, his father packs up the family and flees to Hong Kong. Dad dies from tuberculosis two years afterward; at 12 Li joined an uncle’s plastic-watch-strap company watch company to help with his household’s rent. “The great tug of war and the taste of povert—-they are hardly memories one can forget,” Li says.
  • 1950: He quits and starts his own small business making plastic toys, shortly switching to plastic flowers. More than a decade later, riots in Hong Kong push down property values, giving him the chance to buy up commercial real estate on the cheap. As time wore on and the war ended, young Li weighed where his future lay. The Chinese nationalists were finished, he calculated, so he laid business stakes in Hong Kong. With money tight, he skipped movies and shaved his head to extend the time between haircuts, he says. What he didn’t forgo was reading–used books, manuals, leftover journals. He credits superior preparation–he was often self-taught–for his gains. When he famously gained a manufacturing foothold with the plastic flowers in the 1950s, he says, he was able to engineer critical molding machinery with an injection process made using a Coca-Cola bottle and a plastic straw, using something he saw in Modern Plastics as a guide.
  • 'Li Ka-shing No Accidental Success' by Li Yongning (ISBN 751134352X) 1972: Li lists his holding company Cheung Kong Ltd., in Hong Kong. Investors can’t get enough. The IPO is oversubscribed more than 65-fold.
  • 1978: Li visited China, after Deng Xiaoping’s reforms had begun. He later recalled, “I went to see some friends in the guesthouse. They would write notes to me because they were afraid of being eavesdropped on. They had been scared by the Cultural Revolution. Today they can openly criticize the government.”
  • 1979: Li becomes the earliest ethnic Chinese to buy a controlling stake in one of the old British trading houses, the then-struggling Hutchinson Whampoa.
  • 1979: Li begins his foray into the port business began, when he bought control of Hutchison Whampoa, a British trading house that had long dominated Hong Kong’s economy but had been struggling. One of the assets was a successful container-terminal operation in Hong Kong.
  • 'Asian Godfathers Money and Power' by Joe Studwell (ISBN 0802143911) 1986: Acquires a controlling stake in Canada’s Husky Energy. That investment plus his other assets earn him a spot on Forbes’ first ranking of the world’s billionaires a year later. “My life has been filled with challenges. But I must say, fortune has indeed bestowed many opportunities.”
  • 1990: Less than a year after the bloody Tiananmen Square incident in Beijing, Shanghai’s mayor asked Li to invest in its port operations, a congested environment where ships had to wait up to seven days at sea before gaining dock access.
  • 1999: Jackpot! Hutchinson does its biggest deal ever: selling its stake in telecom Orange Plc. to German Mannesmann for nearly $15 billion.

Li Ka-shing Biography

  • 2006: Pledges to bequeath one-third of his wealth to the Li Ka Shing Foundation to support education and health care around the world. “We all know the importance of identifying the right capital investment. Social capital is the key”
  • 'The New Elite' by Jim Taylor, Doug Harrison (ISBN 0814400485) 2007: Goes with his gut and invests in Facebook within five minutes of hearing the pitch for the fledging business. The social network scores a big valuation ($15 billion) despite scant revenue. “A person investing in technology will feel younger.”
  • 2010 to 2014: Li trims some Chinese and Hong Kong investments and looks to Europe instead. In all, his companies spend more than $28 billion buying assets on that continent, including a water company, utility firms, and two mobile phone operators. “Businesspeople in general shouldn’t have an overly narrow view of their industry.”
  • 2015: Perceiving that more of his attention is directed overseas, the government-controlled media questions his loyalty to greater China. Li issues a three-page response denying the allegations.

Through his publicly listed Hutchison Whampoa and Cheung Kong holdings, Li ka-shing controls more than $60 billion worth of assets in telecommunications, real estate, infrastructure, ports, retailing and manufacturing, energy, and technology.

Recommended Reading

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Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Calls It a Day

Starbucks COO Kevin Johnson is the right replacement for CEO Howard Schultz

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has called it a day, and that’s causing some investors a bit of worry, primarily because the coffee giant struggled the last time Schultz left in 2000.

Starbucks COO Kevin Johnson Replaces CEO Howard Schultz

Kevin Johnson, the current president and chief operating officer of Starbucks, will take over as CEO. Johnson is a 30-year veteran of the tech industry held senior leadership roles for 16 years at Microsoft and a five-year stint CEO of Juniper Networks.

Johnson’s consumer technology background is impressive and is a key asset for Starbucks in expanding the company’s already-leading digital platform across channels and geographies in the years to come.

Former Starbucks COO Troy Alstead Quit in January 2015

When Starbucks’ longtime COO Troy Alstead quit, Schultz wrote, “Looking back on the 23 years we spent together side-by-side as Starbucks colleagues, I can recall so many memorable moments and accomplishments in which Troy can take pride in a job well done. Troy is a beloved Starbucks partner and has played an invaluable role in our growth as an enterprise and in the development of our culture as a performance-driven company balanced with humanity, which is unique for our industry. Troy’s humanity and humility will be missed and we wish him the best.”

Starbucks' Premium Roastery and Reserve Stores

Schultz Focused on Sustaining Revenue

For the last several years, Schultz focused on sustaining revenue growth by moving beyond his coffee house roots. In 2012, he purchased Teavana as another brick in the road, which has encompassed instant coffee, energy drinks, juice, a single-serve brewer and food to sell in its shops and in grocery stores. In 2013, Starbucks and yogurt-maker Danone, declared a plan to cooperatively create an assortment of specialty yogurt products in contributing Starbucks stores in 2014 and in grocery channels in 2015 as part of the coffee chain’s growing Evolution Fresh brand. With cafe-like atmospheres and a brand that evokes a high-quality customer experience, Starbucks appreciates pricing power benefits over nearly all specialty coffee peers. This will be expanded by the development of the Starbucks Reserve sub-brand to deliver exclusive, higher-end coffee blends.

While Schultz’s forethought and attention to customer experience have been significant motives that Starbucks has established one of the widest-moat and most consistent growth stories in the global consumer coverage universe, Starbucks has one of the deepest benches in the consumer sector. While most of the focus is technically on new CEO Johnson and his wide-ranging consumer technology background, Schultz will still be immersed with the development of Starbucks’ Premium Roastery and Reserve stores.

'Onward How Starbucks Fought for Its Life' by Howard Schultz (ISBN 1609613821) Don’t liken Schultz’s switch to that of 2000, when he undertook the chairman role and assigned Jim Donald as CEO. Schultz ultimately returned as CEO in 2008 in the wake of disappointing sales figures and a “watering down of the Starbucks experience”. In his turnaround memoir Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul, Schultz wrote “The merchant’s success depends on his or her ability to tell a story. What people see or hear or smell or do when they enter a space guides their feelings, enticing them to celebrate whatever the seller has to offer. Intuitively I have always understood this. So when, in 2006 and 2007, I walked into more and more Starbucks stores and sensed that we were no longer celebrating coffee, my heart sank. Our customers deserved better.”

How Starbucks Became Successful

How Starbucks Became Successful

Brand, channel, and technology advantages have positioned Starbucks for a long runway for growth:

  • Starbucks coffee is robust, and people get used to the taste, making it difficult for them to be content somewhere else, either to coffee chains such as Dunkin’ Brands, Tim Hortons, or McDonald’s. Joh. A. Benckiser’s amalgamation of Mondelez’s coffee properties (D.E Master Blenders, Peet’s, Caribou, Einstein Noah, and Keurig) are emerging as Starbucks’s noteworthy competitors. Despite the tenacity of the legend, Starbucks doesn’t really burn its beans. Nonetheless it uses two tablespoons of coffee per 6 ounces of water, which is beyond a lot of other places.
  • Decades ago, in many markets, the only place a customer could get a cappuccino was a restaurant, and there indeed weren’t any flavored or distinguished coffees anywhere. Starbucks was the pioneer in bringing those to the masses. There’s countless brand loyalty they’ve built up over the years. As good the coffee beans are a good amount of training goes in the way they make specialized drinks. Wet, dry cappucino, lattes in perfect ratios of coffee, milk and foam.
  • Starbucks has been known for being pretty generous to its employees, together with presenting full benefits to those working as a minimum 20 hours per week. That made customers feel good about buying coffee there.
  • Customers appreciate the consistency of Starbucks products. A customer can go to a Starbucks pretty much anyplace in the world, and know what they’re getting. A grande vanilla latte will be on the menu and taste the same whether in Seattle, New York, London, Istanbul, or Moscow.

The Recipe to Starbucks Success

The Recipe to Starbucks’ Success

Yet same-store sales have been decelerating, however from very high levels, and the company ran into difficulty the last time Schultz stepped back from the CEO role. Regardless of impressive growth plans, and commodity cost and foreign currency volatility, Starbucks can endure a 40%-45% dividend payout ratio over the next decade.

Some analysts and investors aren’t worried about the management change. Wells Fargo’s Bonnie Herzog acknowledged that while Schultz’s departure is “a loss, in our view the show must (and will) go on” and added, “While we acknowledge that Schultz is without question one of the strongest and most visionary leaders in the consumer/retail world, we believe the succession planning put in place several years ago assures the recent exceptional performance will likely continue.”

Starbucks Future Strategy for Invigorated Growth

Starbucks Future Strategy for Invigorated Growth

Speaking of how Starbucks’ invigorated food and beverage menu and store reformats have uplifted the Starbucks customer experience, pierced new markets and times, and enhanced unit-level productivity metrics, Herzog also wrote,

The leadership change announced today has been a long-time in the making, starting nearly 3 years ago with the shuffling of the senior leadership team, and subsequent promotion of Johnson in early 2015 to the role of President/COO. We believe that Johnson is a very capable leader, with strong experience working side-by-side Schultz for the past two years. Importantly Johnson has an exceptionally good relationship with Schultz, which should keep Schultz sufficiently removed to allow Johnson to lead effectively given his trust in Johnson, while also remaining sufficiently nearby to ensure the ship remains on course… We believe Johnson’s technology background positions him well to ensure SBUX’s mobile and digital initiatives—key to SBUX’s long-term success, in our view—will remain a primary focus of the company. Importantly, Schultz will remain focused on his ongoing efforts to premiumize the SBUX brand and experience through Roastery and Reserve stores, which should support accelerated innovation and allow the broader store network led by Johnson to continue to thrive.

Investors are also cheerful about Starbucks’ mobile, digital, and loyalty program collaborations across the various business lines, affiliations with Spotify, New York Times, and Lyft, and new payment technologies. Starbucks’ worldwide opportunities are undisputable–particularly in China, India, Japan, Brazil, and Eastern Europe–and Starbucks will apply its best practices from the U.S. to accelerate its growth aspirations.

Starbucks has organized an investor meeting next week, during which its leaders are expected to release news on current and future initiatives.

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Is Costco threatened by Amazon?

Is Costco Wholesale threatened by Amazon?

The North American retail landscape appears entirely different today than it did even ten years ago. The method that consumers make purchasing decisions has radically changed: they stand in stores, using their smartphones to match prices and product reviews; family and friends instantaneously chip in on shopping choices via social media; and when they’re ready to buy, an ever-growing list of online retailers deliver products directly to them, occasionally on the same day.

Brick-and-mortar retailers such as Costco simply focus on selling items that Amazon can’t beat them on. Some products do not lend themselves to package delivery since they are too big, heavy, cheap, fragile, or reliant on fitting properly. Likewise, lawn chairs, boots, thumbtacks, bags of cement, frozen shrimp, and thousands of other items are difficult to move via ecommerce channels.

Paradoxically, Costco is not one of the many companies that accuse Amazon for uninspiring growth or stagnation. Amazon can easily take bites out of the edges of Costco’s market share, and that’s all it takes to flatten out comparable sales, an important metric in the retailing industry.

Costco is remarkable at staying in stock on the goods it sells, but when it comes to general merchandise, you have to mostly grab what they have. Want Fancy Feast cat food? They’ve got it, but only in one specific flavor combination packet. If your cats don’t like it, so it goes. However, you can get precisely the flavors you want from Amazon, without waiting in lines.

Then there’s items like deodorants. While I’m happy to buy in quantity, I was unsure if Costco sells the brand I like. I ordered a four-pack from Amazon and it was here when I got home. Same with shaving cream. Women won’t find “Edge” shaving cream to have anything like a feminine smell. I bought it once. That was that: another item, gone to Amazon.

Costco established the warehouse club retail model, which depends on customer-friendly average markups on branded products (in the low double digits, compared to the high teens at WalMart and the mid-20s at most grocery stores), high throughput, bargaining power, a no-frills shopping environment, and supply-chain effectiveness.

Costco-Amazon Competitive Analysis

I still like Costco, and I’ll definitely continue re-upping my membership. The treasure hunt can be fun and the moveable feast is great. But quantity purchases of exactly the household items I want aren’t available often enough. It sells one kind of almond butter, two kinds of detergent. These are items that have forever left my Costco basket, and have actually caused a reduction in trips, as well.

Costco has lots of options left available to it. It rarely advertises. It can change that. It has been a real laggard in omnichannel retailing…any relationship between items on the website and items in stores is purely coincidental (or opportunistic). I think the company has to change that. There are some items that have to be touched and seen, even if the sale consummates on-line.

The company’s business model remains sound, but the assortment on certain items and sundries might have to broaden. No one wants to go on a treasure hunt for deodorant. That’s a seriously risky proposition.

In May 2016, UBS analyst Michael Lasser and team argued after Costco’s quarterly results that the quarter was so good that it “refutes the bear case that centers on the potential that Costco is losing customers to Amazon.com”:

We think this provides evidence that refutes the bear case that centers on the potential that Costco is losing customers to Amazon. Further, Costco’s op. margin was in line w. our expectations showing how well it’s managing in this tough environment. A lower than expected tax rate added ~$0.01 to EPS. While Costco’s sales slowed in 3Q, we think the deceleration was largely due to the pending transition of its credit card. We believe its sales will pick back up once the transition occurs on June 20. This provides a visible NT catalyst. Plus, there’s a secondary catalyst next year when Costco is likely to raise its membership fees. We think buying shares ahead of these catalysts is a prudent move.

Grocery One of Coscto's Advantages in comparison to Amazon

In July 2016, UBS analyst Michael Lasser and team explained why shares of Costco Wholesale soared after the company reported same-store sales for June:

While there was no mention of a disruption from the credit card transition, we believe it had some impact. So, the result would have been even better without this effect. Further, it’s probably too early for the shift to Visa (V) to have that much of a benefit. The gains should build in the coming months, driving an acceleration in Costco’s US comp. Even so, the company still generated a 3% increase in its global traffic. This type of performance warrants a premium valuation, in our view.

With the credit card switch in effect, spend/member is likely to pick up as private-label credit-card customers take advantage of the new card’s more attractive reward structure (2% cash back at Costco vs. 1% prior). Also, we think Costco’s reliance on grocery & gas sales (~2/3 of total sales) helps insulate it from Amazon.com (AMZN). These factors support our forecast of 4% core US comp growth in July, which would match its highest growth rate since Nov ’15.

Costco has long been known for giving higher wages and presenting more liberal benefits than its competitors —and producing superior sales per square foot, too. The benefits of the good old days are unreasonable because of rising costs and an aging population. Lifespan job tenure is obsolete and most people embrace workforce mobility. Yet in a consumption-based economy, workers must be able to afford more than the basics, and they deserve a certain measure of security.

Citing a recent report from Cowen’s Internet analyst John Blackledge, Cowen analyst Oliver Chen wrote that Amazon Prime members are expanding their shopping well beyond books, clothing and movies. Data shows that 22% of those Amazon Prime members shopping on the web site 3.5 times each month buy groceries on the web site.

As detailed in the Ahead of the Curve: Amazon Dominates “Prime” Time 50-page report by Cowen’s Internet Analyst John Blackledge), AMZN’s aggressive growth of Prime is both impressive and has wide ranging competitive implications given broad HHI, permeation across media and appeal among young consumers. How can bricks-and-mortar retail compete?

  • The key competitive weapon remains transformation towards a consumer-led supply chain which integrates physical stores to drive convenience—Buy online pick up in store, return in store, ship from store, and car pickup along store need to be utilized across chains;
  • proprietary relationships with vendors and vertical integration such as owning factories and direct sourcing capabilities;
  • frequency of store traffic based on inventory turns and product assortment;
  • emotional, brand-lead lifestyle contact;
  • categories which are not easily replicated online (jewelry, physical fitness); and
  • fashion & curation leadership.

Citi Costco Credit Card Citi’s new Costco Anyway card is significantly more appealing than Amex’s TrueEarnings Costco card. Costco’s management has stated that the terms Citi offered were too compelling for Costco to stay with Amex; to protect/ insure continued customer service levels in transition to Citi, there are significant and specific requirements associated with the portfolio.

Amazon.com Prime Compared to Costco Membership

Morgan Stanley’s Simeon Gutman and team conducted a survey and suggest five reasons that Costco Wholesale should remain Amazon.com-proof:

  • Amazon.com (AMZN) and Costco Are Not Mutually Exclusive. Of the 23% who are Costco members (628 respondents), 45% (285 respondents) are Amazon Prime members as well, which suggests the two retailers fulfill different consumer needs. Of the 33% surveyed who are Prime members (893 respondents), 32% (285 respondents) are also Costco members…
  • Grocery One of Coscto’s Advantages. 12.5%/11% of Costco members call out increased spending on packaged/fresh grocery, well ahead of the 5%/2% of Prime members….
  • Only 8% of People Shopping at Both Costco and Amazon Plan to Shift Dollars Away from Costco. Of the 14% (285 respondents) who shop at both, only a net 8% (32 respondents) plan to shift shopping away from Costco towards Amazon. This represents just 1% of total consumers surveyed.
  • Sticky Members with Higher Spend…with Amazon Scoring Higher on Multiple Qualitative Factors. 94%/95% of surveyed Prime/Costco members intend to renew their memberships, which speaks to high loyalty and low churn. Further, 49%/26% of Prime/Costco members indicated shopping more frequently over the past 12 months and 85% of surveyed members attributed “Retailer I Trust” to Amazon and Costco. It is also notable that Amazon scored materially higher than Costco in perceived prices, selection, convenience, quality of checkout and ease of navigation…which will be important to monitor going forward as these advantages could tilt Costco members’ toward Amazon over time.
  • Costco Members Younger than Perceived. The average Costco member is 49 years old vs. 44.5 for the average Amazon Prime member. This four-year gap seems insignificant, in our view, and is counter to the bear case that Costco does not resonate with millennials…

Implications: The survey results should be a positive step in alleviating the greatest investment debate for Costco, that the club model/Costco is at risk from Amazon.

Given that membership fees represent about 70% of Costco’s operating profit and renewal rates stand at about 90% in the U.S. and Canada, Costco’s long-term revenue and profit growth could stagnate. There is little room for additional household penetration because Costco by this time has around 80 million members; historic sales and earnings growth predictions may not be maintainable. Also, new club openings in current markets could cause cannibalization of sales from older locations. Not to mention of challenges in acquiring appropriate real estate choices for 140,000-square-foot warehouse clubs in urban regions.

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Costco’s Winning Business Model Strategy

Costco Logo: Costco's Winning Business Model Strategy

Costco has built a devoted foundation of customers with low prices and workers with high wages. The discount warehouse services industry is highly competitive. There are several warehouse operators across the United States and Canada that offer similar merchandise quality, selection, and price.

At the end of financial year 2015, Costco managed 480 membership warehouse clubs in the United States, 89 in Canada, 36 in Mexico, 27 in the United Kingdom, 23 in Japan, 11 in Taiwan, 12 in Korea, 7 in Australia, and one in Spain. Base and executive memberships cost $55 and $110 per year, respectively. The company operates 557 warehouse stores, 406 of which are situated in 40 U.S. States and Puerto Rico. The rest are in Canada, Mexico, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and the United Kingdom.

The internet has made it immeasurably easier for shoppers to chase for the latest deal—and a lot more demanding for brick-and- mortar retailers to command customer loyalty. However, Costco has managed to resist the tendency—with only 3% of its retail sales occurring from e-commerce. In reality, it outclasses other retailers when it comes to dependably increasing sales from its millions of loyal shoppers.

At the warehouse stores, forklifts relocate pallets into racks such that the first time an item is actually touched is when the consumer contacts into the shelf to collect the item and places it into their shopping cart.

Costco's Sustainable Competitive Advantage

Costco’s Sustainable Competitive Advantage

Costco’s objective has been to increase sales while cutting long-term costs (by trimming freight expenses, scaling its merchandise, negotiating prices with vendors, and reducing packaging) with the intention that it can pass those savings down to members. Costco has said that its “rule of thumb is to give 80% to 90% back to the customer.” Those efforts have paid off, with memberships reaching an all-time peak of 81 million members in 2015.

Shiny steel caskets exhibited amongst the stacks of snow tires and pallets of heavy applesauce, rose-scented toilet tissue, mentholated shaving cream, and mild-flavored salsa. However, in time, people may grow familiarized to the sight. By including these special deal items to the cart, the total spend at the cash register expands. This behavior diverges severely with the type of consumer who has the self-control to fill up on everyday consumables at everyday low prices. The latter type of consumer does win in the end even if the cost of the membership is factored into the equation. As one (rather demonstrative) instance, when reviewing the 1999 Kroger-Fred Meyer merger, the FTC vindicated this definition by asserting,

Supermarkets compete primarily with other supermarkets that provide one-stop shopping for food and grocery products. Supermarkets primarily base their food and grocery prices on the prices of food and grocery products sold at nearby supermarkets. Supermarkets do not regularly price-check food and grocery products sold at other types of stores and do not significantly change their food and grocery prices in response to prices at other types of stores. Most consumers shopping for food and grocery products at supermarkets are not likely to shop elsewhere in response to a small price increase by supermarkets.

What Makes Costco Successful

What Makes Costco Successful

Renewals of Costco’s $55 annual memberships stand at a remarkable 91%—a record high. On the word of financial analysts, the low price of memberships and a stable return of loyal members is what sets Costco apart from big box and department store retailers which persist to fight for market-share gains in a altering landscape of increased competition from online retailers led by Amazon. Costco’s ability to dependably drive increases in traffic is a key differentiator.

Everything at Costco is continually being evaluated for productivity. Costco manages a mix of distribution facilities to accomplish the overall objective of operating with an efficient supply chain. The company lately substituted the form of their milk cartons to get rid of the empty space at the top. They can fill thinner jugs all the way to the top, so they can get more gallons onto the same amount of space on a freight truck. The loss-leader abilities of Costco’s business model ought to endure to drive market share advances over the long term. However, it is possible that incumbent grocers could react to Costco, Sam’s Club, or Walmart Supercenter entry along one or more of these non-price dimensions, in which case their prices could continue unaffected or rise.

Costco’s philosophy is to provide its members with quality goods at the most competitive prices. It does not concentrate its efforts on maximizing prices in the short term, but instead focuses to maintain a perception among its members of “pricing authority,” or constantly providing the most competitive prices. This question is actually quite complex in that it has multiple answers that boil down to individual consumer behavior. The reality is that Costco has perfected a purchasing strategy known as the “treasure hunt” which means that there are always new items and tempting deals that extemporaneously come and go. The consumer who walks every aisle knows what I mean by this because they are subconsciously on the treasure hunt.

During the next 10 years, warehouse openings should move the number of primary cardholders to 65 million–75 million, up from 45 million in the most current fiscal year. In spite of having warehouses that spanned three acres, and piles of merchandise stacked to the ceiling, Costco carried only 4,000 carefully chosen products at a time. Three-quarters of the items were such “basic” products as batteries, laundry detergent, and instant noodles. Then there were the “high-end” name-brand products, which might be stocked at Costco one day and then gone the next.

Costco Employees Happier with Wages and Benefits

Costco Employees Happier with Wages and Benefits

While Walmart and Target just recently began increasing take-home pay for their employees, Costco has been an industry trendsetter for years. With starting hourly pay at about $11.50 and a company average of $22 per hour, Costco’s compensation costs beat the competition. Costco has asserted that paying employees well can be more advantageous eventually by keeping turnover low and capitalizing on employee efficiency. Actually, turnover stands at about 10% compared with the industry average of 55%. For employees who have been there more than one year turnover drops to just 6%. Employees rarely leave: The company turnover rate is 5% among employees who have been there over a year, and less than 1% among the executive ranks. Costco management has asserted that loyal employees bring about better customer service.

Costco purchases the majority of their merchandise promptly from manufacturers and routes it through a network of cross-docking facilities, which act as merchant consolidation points to move goods in full truckload volumes to the stores. Sam’s Club carries about 4900 items and Costco around 4000; by comparison, the normal grocery store carries approximately 50,000 and the average Walmart about 100,000. Furthermore, the shopping experience at warehouse clubs is unusual—members pay a fee for access to goods stacked high and sold in wholesale quantities in low-amenity environments. Warehouse clubs are very spartan in their accommodations. They do not bag consumers’ purchases, and a club employee checks all shoppers’ carts and receipts on exit.

Secret to Costco's Success Lies in Supply Chain Efficiency

The Secret to Costco’s Success Lies in Supply Chain Efficiency

Big-box retailers Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s Wholesale, and Walmart, along with full-service and fast food restaurants, are significant contributors to the nation’s obesity outbreak. Costco continues to productively increase its businesses, on account of its low prices and robust customer loyalty. Its ability to provide quality products, at a reasonable price, should appeal to most consumers in North America and around the world. While competition in the market remains ferocious, Costco’s leadership is taking the right steps to guide the company into the future. Over the years, Costco added departments, growing further than the traditional discount warehouse offerings. A large majority of the stores featured a drugstore, an optical-dispensing center, one-hour photo services, a food court, and the ever admired and low-priced hot-dog stands. More than half-offered hearing-aid centers and a handful were equipped with print shops and copy centers. More generally, not all big-box chains are created equal. The big-box retail literature has fixated almost exclusively on Walmart, examining its effects on a wide range of outcomes, including prices, labor market consequences, small business activity, time use, obesity, and social and cultural pointers.

Using city-level panel grocery price data matched with an exclusive data set on Walmart and warehouse club locations, customers find that Costco entry is associated with higher grocery prices at obligatory retailers and that the effect is sturdiest in cities with small populations and high grocery store densities. The competitive response need not be to reduce prices; conversely, as segmented-market models with a mix of brand-loyal and price-sensitive consumers have shown that in some cases incumbents can increase prices in response to a low-cost entrant.

The lesson to be learned from Costco for every manufacturer, distributor, or retailer, regardless of industry, is to figure out how to eliminate the fingerprints within the respective supply chain and within internal processes.

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Remembering Silicon Valley ‘Coach’ Bill Campbell

Remembering Silicon Valley 'Coach' Bill Campbell Bill Campbell, better known merely as “Coach,” was a renowned mentor of Silicon Valley executives and venture capitalists. He advised and coached some of tech’s biggest names, comprising Google’s Eric Schmidt, Apple’s Steve Jobs, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

The cluster is a geographically proximate group of interrelated companies and associated institutions in a particular field, linked by cohesions and complementarities. The cluster model converges upon the circumstances that support firm competitiveness at the national scale. It is an economic development model that stimulates collaboration among institutions to accelerate the exchange of information and technology. A venture capital firm in structuring a fund aims to limit the obligation of investors to the amount of their investment and circumvent a double charge of taxation (once when returns on investments are realized by the fund and a second time when the investors receive the proceeds of their investment from the fund). The most important customers for these new technologies may be beyond US borders, however, where breaks for a solid education are hard to come by and a Western credential carries a lot of weight. Changes and adaptations have become customs and are embedded in the social norms of the Valley. But it so far cannot escape from its contract manufacturing past. It does not have the profundity of competences and capabilities, nor does it have the scale to take advantage of a more networked-oriented internet-driven economy. Entrepreneurial financing is an important mechanism to engender economic advantages. In particular, the science and technology incubators play a vital role in supporting entrepreneurship and economic growth. To date, few studies have looked meticulously at the strategies and policies that are crucial for creating an empowering environment for high-tech start-ups.

Bill Campbell did not describe himself as a workaholic, although as president of Claris he did acknowledge to working 16-hour days, having nightly business dinners, touring frequently and working weekends. After four years as head of Apple Computer’s sales and marketing effort, Campbell was connected more with hardware than software. Apple and Google shared personal ties, with Apple board members Bill Campbell and Al Gore, the former U.S. vice president, serving as advisers to Google in its formative days.

John Doerr, chair of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, called him “our SuperCoach — colorful confidante and mentor for leaders and whole teams.” Doerr brought Campbell to Google to serve as an informal adviser to founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Campbell was influential in the hiring of Eric Schmidt to be Google’s chief executive in August 2001. Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt recalled in Forbes magazine that Campbell’s supreme gift was knowing how to goad and inspire people.

It’s hard to know what Google would have been like without him. He was present at every decision of consequence. He understood the people. He would normally say very little during my staff meetings and just observe. And then I and other executives would individually make a trek to his Intuit office in Palo Alto for his feedback. He wasn’t a technical wizard, but he understood how to solve human problems and motivate people. He would have been a good coach in any industry.

Bill Campbell viewed himself as Silicon Valley’s confidant. He was very careful to say, “I’m here to help you. I don’t want anything in return. I don’t want any attention.” If he had had a public persona, it would’ve made him less effective. This was very genuine. Some people want power or fame. He wanted love. He wanted to be appreciated. And he was.

The Silicon Valley culture efficaciously captures the prevailing ideological elements of Silicon Valley, mingling celebration of technology with a attraction with what the museum’s brochures refers to as the gizmos and gadgets produced by Valley companies. An obsession with speed: work late, work long, work fast, work smart, borrow and assimilate technical knowledge at the vanguard that is not already possessed, and enter the market place with an sophisticated solution needed by many with astounding features at a low cost point. A sale is incongruous to harvest a high price if the firm is seen as running out of funds and despairing for a savior. For a firm that cannot draw outside financing, an inside round can afford convenient “backstop financing.”

A Silicon Valley Confidant

Campbell was intensely involved in Silicon Valley’s start-up culture as well. Fortune’s Jennifer Reingold wrote that Campbell was careful not to take credit for his work, even while industry leaders spoke of Campbell “as if he’s some kind of profane cosmic mash-up of Oprah, Yoda and Joe Paterno.” Teams thrive to create synergy to respond to pressures of condensed product-planning life cycles, product competitiveness, and Silicon Valley’s parent companies’ influences. Global competition in the high technology industry is also at work here, where-as Campbell mentioned above–speed, quality, cost, and innovation propel strategy and structure.

Campbell coached the Columbia University football team in the 1970s (albeit with a losing record.) He then served as CEO of Intuit in the mid-1990s, then chairman from 1998 until January-2016, when he became chairman emeritus. Campbell was also chairman of the board of trustees at Columbia University from 2005 until 2014. Previously in his career, he had worked at Kodak and Apple, where he worked as a marketing executive. He was an Apple director from 1997 until 2014. His association with Apple dates back to 1983, when he enrolled the company as vice president of marketing. In 1983, Campbell took a chance by taking a job at Apple under John Sculley and Steve Jobs. Campbell left a position at Kodak, which was a $14 billion company at the time, for Apple, which was around $90 million then. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said, “when Bill joined Apple’s board, the company was on the brink of collapse. He not only helped Apple survive, but he’s led us to a level of success that was simply unimaginable back in 1997.”

The anonymities of the trade become no secrecies; but are as it were in the air, and children learn many of them instinctively. In Silicon Valley, good work is rightly cherished; inventions and improvements in machinery, in processes and the general organization of the business have their qualities promptly discussed: if one man starts a new idea, it is taken up by others and combined with suggestions of their own; and thus it becomes the source of further new ideas. According to Campbell, the Silicon Valley’s determination for reliability was the catalyst behind the development of the planar process, and then of the integrated circuit. He confounded things by noting that the high tech industry’s drive to clutch its producers’ profits served to direct both Silicon Valley semiconductor and tube companies to look for saleable markets.

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The Rise and Fall of Theranos

The Rise and Fall of Theranos

Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos Two years ago, the blood-testing startup Theranos was one of the hottest assets in Silicon Valley. Valued at $9 billion, it guaranteed nothing short of a paradigm shift in medicine with its groundbreaking, needle-free test process. CEO Elizabeth Holmes, a 32-year-old Stanford dropout, was effusively profiled in the business press as the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire. But now, the company is fighting for its survival, in the midst of claims that its tests are “at best, fundamentally flawed and, at worst, unsafe.” The disturbance began six months ago, when The Wall Street Journal reported that the company’s breakthrough technology, which could reasonably run hundreds of tests with blood from a finger prick, couldn’t really deliver. Not long after, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which regulates lab testing, said that Theranos put patients’ lives at risk with faulty tests at its California lab. The latest blow: The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) lately began independent criminal investigations into whether Theranos deceived investors about its technology.

Nothing is proven yet. It’s very unusual for the SEC to investigate a privately held company like Theranos, but it could begin to happen more often. SEC Chair Mary Jo White wants to give more enquiry to the growing number of so-called unicorn startups, which are valued at more than $1 billion, “because they pose a high risk to investors.” The company’s fate is now in the hands of its charismatic founder—as the company’s leader, chairwoman, and majority stakeholder, Holmes can command what she wants done at her company. It’s a common procedure in Silicon Valley’s startup philosophy, where boards have “little real power.” Many venture capitalists are willing to take the risk, hoping to get in with the next Mark Zuckerberg, but “if trouble brews,” the cult encircling a founder can become a obligation. That’s largely because there is no such thing as investigative journalism in Silicon Valley. Journalism here is largely confused with, and deliberately conflated with, public relations, but they’re not the same thing.

So far, Theranos has never been able to establish its testing technology really works. Rather than publishing research in peer-reviewed journals, or letting its blood-testing machines to be assessed by external experts, the company has continually kept its methods cloaked in secrecy. Theranos has reasoned that it was guarding trade secrets, but testing openness is customary routine in the medical industry. Even drug companies, which function in a exceedingly aggressive segment, issue adequate results of their drug trials to establish that a medicine actually works, whilst even keeping sufficient details secret to make their product proprietary. Blood testing is a $73-billion-a-year commerce set for disruption—as any person who’s had blood drawn can confirm, it’s laborious, uncomfortable, and pricey.

Theranos is under investigation for fraud, which is weird for a private company. Theranos is performing tests on patients without having published peer reviewed research—a cardinal sin in science—and with minimal federal oversight. Theranos should have attracted scrutiny long before it did.

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The Social Responsibility of Business: Define and Live Your High Purpose

'Managing Corporate Social Responsibility' by Timothy Coombs (ISBN 1444336452) High-purpose companies survive to serve basic human needs, advance society, and nurture an advanced form of capitalism. They address serious problems and make more money as an outcome. For example, in 1997 British Petroleum took a stand on global warming. By 2003, the company had reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by over 10 percent, and become the foremost provider of cleaner-burning fuels and the second-largest manufacturer of solar panels. BP generated $650 million worth of value on a $20 million investment in ecologically friendly products and policies.

Examples of Corporate Social Responsibility

Examples of Corporate Social Responsibility

Comparable examples abound.

  • Interface Corporation, the largest commercial carpet and textile manufacturer, saved $230 million in overhead costs and increased market share because of its pledge to environmental sustainability.
  • Green Mountain Coffee Roasters grew fast because of its commitment to fair trade.
  • Stonyfield Farm Yogurt Company became the biggest organic brand in the U.S. though practices that helped struggling dairy farmers to survive.
  • Hewlett-Packard has positioned itself for long-term by helping close the digital divide.

Each of these companies is dedicated to a wider concept of social responsibility— no longer an postscript, a compliance issue, PR gimmick, or ugly stepchild to profit and strategy. It can help your business prosper. Rosabeth Moss Kanter of the Harvard Business School characterizes the approach of the new givers, “We fixed American business; now we need to fix charity.”

Five Keys to Purpose First, Profits Second

The ability of successful entrepreneurs to generate considerable wealth is obvious. As such, their capacity to contribute from their resources to projects and organizations with a specific social enhancement agenda is also apparent. This potential for successful entrepreneurs to improve the quality of the society or societies in which they live and to become role models of philanthropic attempt is exemplified by the recent commitments of two of the most high profile and successful entrepreneurs in the United States, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. There has nevertheless been little scholarly investigation into the comparative tendency for entrepreneurs to participate in philanthropic endeavor, and whether entrepreneurs are inclined to adopt specific forms or tactics to their philanthropy.

Here are five keys to cultivating your performance via social responsibility and a high-purpose strategy:

  • 'People Over Profit' by Dale Partridge (ISBN 0718021746) Face the truth. To take up a higher purpose, you need to “own up” to your past. Carefully evaluate your company’s impact on society and the environment. Often, this review can divulge opportunities and can serve as a powerful catalyst to stimulate your organization and enable it to move in unison towards the best solutions. Today’s new rich have the opportunity to shape America-and the world-just as intensely as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller did. However, so far most have declined to take it.
  • Choose a relevant crusade. Your company can create more social and financial value by supporting a cause that directly relates to your business. What problems are unique to your company or category? What issues are most pressing to your customers, employees, suppliers, or shareholders? Discover financially self-sustaining charitable models that are relevant to your business. Effective charitable programs pay for themselves. The purpose of the crusade is to provide communities with practical experience in philanthropy and the opportunity to think consciously about giving back to society.
  • Do something that no one else can. What does your company do better than anyone else does? How can you use the company’s fortes, resources, and expertise to help solve the chosen problem? Develop an line of attack that cannot be easily mimicked. This way your core assets become recognized as being of service to humanity, thus rising the company’s value.
  • Put the problem first. Although every company should aim to secure rewards from their high-purpose initiatives, the character of the chosen social or environmental problem should point the direction. Take a needs-based approach. Study the problem, the circumstances surrounding it, and the people most affected by it. Then, engineer business-building solutions.
  • Expand definitions of success. Rather than define success solely in terms of short-term cost-effectiveness, build value and sustainability in all forms. Define and monitor your performance. The firm set up the foundation by means of its growing role in society. Managers faced operational and strategic quandaries concerning the host-countries’ poor public healthcare provision and in coming up with operative solutions.

Importance of Corporate Social Responsibility

Importance of Corporate Social Responsibility

The paybacks that you gain through high-purpose strategies range from competitive edge and growth opportunities to better stakeholder relationships, higher innovation, quality, efficiency, and lower overhead costs. This approach to philanthropy increases dependency and reduces initiative and enterprise. It doesn’t create the necessary human capacity to make communities self-sustaining and independent.

Today you must deliver social value. Companies that compete unfairly or function without regard to the collective interests will fail in the long term. High-purpose strategies do not disrupt companies from achieving the highest financial returns for shareholders. On the contrary, they build business, making them one of the best investments a company can make. Globalization is weakening the ties that bound companies to the communities that gave them birth.

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Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary at the Paris Air Show 2013

Ryanair orders 175 New Boeing Aircraft

Michael O’Leary, the chief executive of Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair, participated in his first air show at the Paris Air Show 2013 to sign a deal with Boeing for 175 new 737-800 aircraft.

These aircraft are to be delivered over the five years from 2014 to 2018 to enable Europe’s largest airline to increase in size for twenty five percent over the five years and bring more low cost fares for Europe’s consumers. O’Leary confirmed that Boeing has been delivering great aircraft for many years, and they’ve never missed a delivery date. He also said that he chose the Boeing 737-800 over the competing Airbus model, the A320, because the operating economics of the 189-seat B737-800 are superior to that of the 180 seats on the A320. The nine extra seats make a big difference. In addition, the B737-800 is a great aircraft with superior technically reliability is among the best in the. Airbus, although makes good aircrafts, doen’st have enough seats on the A320 for Ryanair. If Ryanair would fly transatlantic, O’Leary hopes that there would be a very competitive bidding process between Airbus and Boeing and he will take the aircraft that offers the lowest operating cost per seat to enable Ryanair to offer $10 fares across the Atlantic.

Ryanair's Michael O'Leary at the Paris Air Show 2013

Answering a question on whether he’ll be at another air show to sign up for more aircraft, O’Leary responded, “I bloody hope not. I’d rather be signing in Seattle or New York or somewhere exciting rather than a wet and windy place like the Paris Air Show. … We’ve been in dialog with Boeing for the last four years, the major change has been a change in senior management in the last twelve months, and they’ve put more sales guys in charge. And there’s a real commitment within Boeing to do business and to recognize the need to compete aggressively with Airbus. “

I haven’t alienated myself from Airbus … they make great aircraft … The NEO has been a very successful product … it’s been too successful. You look at the EasyJet order yesterday and they can only get three aircraft in 2017 to be fair. The key thing about the Boeing order is that we get the three first deliveries in 2014 and then big chunky numbers in 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Ryanair's Michael O'Leary with Boeing's Ray Conner after announcing $15 billion purchase of 175 737-8 jets.

So it’s easier for us at this point to do another deal with Boeing because they have the aircraft and the willingness to continue to work with us. I think it’s harder for Airbus to do a deal with us because frankly they don’t need our business because they signed up huge numbers of the aircraft with Lion Air, Air Asia, the NEO with Pegasus, and more yesterday with EasyJet. Frankly, I’d never rule out to deal with the Airbus, if Airbus could deliver us the numbers have aircraft we need and at the right pricing, we’d do a deal.

I don’t see any prospect John Leahy leaving Airbus … he has done a terrific job over the last twenty years and he’s been one of the outstanding sales guys in the aircraft market and I hope there’s not much prospect of me leaving Ryanair for the next couple of years because I have four kids under the age of seven and I sure as hell don’t spend any more time at home. One of the opportunities that will arise if we had been allowed to acquire Air Lingus, we’ve had discussions with John Leahy, we would have placed an Airbus order very quickly if we owned Air Lingus.

Air Lingus would have continued to be an Airbus operator. You know things change and opportunities. I think it would be disingenuous to do anything other than to applaud the success of Airbus’s NEO product. It certainly has put pressure on Boeing to develop and bring forward the MAX product and that kind of competition can only be good for airlines and passengers.

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Innovate Around Your Brand

Innovation

The world is filled with brands and products competing for our attention and our dollars. It can be mind-boggling. That makes breaking through the clutter a never-ending battle. So, how can we stand out and own a share of the consumer’s mind?

The answer is through innovation the constant challenge to the status quo, the relentless, restless search for something new and better. Companies grab market share and reinforce positions with fresh ideas that create fresh profits.

Innovation is the life-blood of any industry. And yet, as the economy cooled off, so did funding for innovation. The focus turned from the “next new thing” to the quarter’s earnings. But we have not turned our back on innovation. In fact, innovation is happening at a fast and furious pace.

Our consumers have always wanted choices, and we have always responded. Today, as consumers’ tastes change and their desire for variety, wellness and convenience grows, we continue to respond. Just look at some of the great examples of innovation in our industry. Whether you’re taking about Red Fusion, Mr. Green, Pepsi Blue, Simply Orange, or Vanilla Coke, we’re giving consumers a rainbow of new choices in colas, flavors, juices, nutritional beverages, waters and sports drinks.

When you add 25,000 other product introductions a year from other industries, you know how many consumers feel bombarded.

This brings me to the question we must ask about innovation, about any new product, package, or service we introduce: What is its value? And is it meaningful? To me, that’s an easy litmus test. Meaningful innovation is sustaining. It stands the test of time because it continues to add value.

The problem with the dot-com companies wasn’t a lack of good ideas. Webvan and pets.com were great ideas. But they didn’t have the right business models to support the innovation and sustain long-term value.

Innovation isn’t all about flash and sizzle. Innovation is very much about substance. And that’s the foundation for our vision for innovation: Innovation must be a “difference engine.” It must make a real difference and drive real growth. And for innovation to be worthy of our investment, it must add value to our brands and create long-term value for everyone touched by our business. When there isn’t meaningful innovation, we lose momentum. When we innovate around trademark Coca-Cola, our growth accelerates.

Through our emphasis on innovation, we’ve learned five key lessons:

Innovation comes from listening and from understanding consumers.

Consumer relevance drives everything. To be relevant, we must be observant and understand what’s important in our consumers’ lives.

That’s how Red Bull did it, starting in the early ’80s, when its founder noticed the popularity of a new beverage while on business in Asia. He brought a few samples back to Austria and created not only a brand, but also a new beverage category—energy drinks.

At Coca-Cola, we used to think about painting the world red. Now, we think about painting the world relevant. Vanilla Coke is turning out to be very relevant. It reminds older consumers of simpler times, when they stopped by the soda fountain after school for a soft drink and some fries. And for younger consumers, it’s giving them a distinctive new taste and new look with its Coca-Cola trademark packaging.

Connection with consumers in relevant ways got us off to a great start with Vanilla Coke. We attracted more than 7 million new drinkers and sold more than 60 million cases; and when we learned that many consumers wanted a diet version, we created Diet Vanilla Coke. If you’re listening, your consumers will tell you where to look for innovation.

Brands, not products, create sustaining value.

And innovation builds brands. Brands are made in hearts and minds because brands provide two things that products can’t—time and trust. Brands deliver both by making choices easier and more reassuring. Great companies create and sustaining great brands through innovation.

  • Harley-Davidson, one of America’s great brands, stirs passion in it riders, dealers, and employees. And it translates that passion into profits. Since going public in 1986, its shares have risen 15,000 percent. Forbes named Harley-Davidson “Company of the Year” last year because in its 100th year of industry leadership, Harley Davidson flexed its innovative muscle—a motorcycle with a liquid-cooled engine that revs the bike higher and hotter in each gear and makes you go faster. It was a giant step for a company that made only air-cooled engines for 100 years. It also helped Harley appeal to the audience it was after—young, urban, hip Americans and Europeans.
  • Another innovation-driving brand is PowerAde. After living in the shadow of a formidable competitor, we gave it a complete makeover—new formula, graphics, advertising, and flavors. Now, it’s a serious contender, driven by an innovative consumer proposition—real power.

You really aren’t committed to innovation unless you’re willing to fail.

Thomas Watson, IBM’s legendary chairman, once said, “The fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate.” Inventors know that failure is a prerequisite to “eureka” moments, but in business we have a hard time with that.

Does anyone remember New Coke? We sure do. New Coke was a lesson. When consumers turned their backs on New Coke, we were reminded of the deep emotional relationship consumers have with great brands. Brands should cherish those relationships. It’s a lesson we value, and one we’ll never forget.

Our former CEO, Roberto Goizueta, used to say: “You can only stumble if you’re moving.” Innovation is about moving, hopefully forward, but occasionally, a few steps to the rear. Often innovation takes us into uncharted territory, where risk goes up. And that’s good. The key is to keep moving.

Innovation is more than products and packaging

Innovation is more than products and packaging—it’s everything and everyone.

Innovation permeates everything—operating strategies, tactics, systems, supply chains, information technology, distribution, and marketing.

When it comes to marketing, there’s always room for innovation. We found a new opportunity with the series “American Idol.” The innovation was in how we integrated the consumer messaging. In addition to customized advertising, Coca-Cola played a role within the framework of the show—in the Red Room, with the Red Couch, and with product placement. The show became a blockbuster hit, leading to an innovative marketing strategy.

If innovation is all-encompassing, it should be done systematically. In other words, define the problem and solve it. What are the objectives? Who will do the work? How will we measure success? Innovation is everyone’s business. At Delta Air Lines, a menu planner noticed that most people never touched the lettuce leaf under their salads. Her suggestion to eliminate the lettuce leaf saved Delta $1 million. A good idea is a good idea—no matter how small it seems.

In Coca-Cola North America, we’re trying to build a culture that encourages innovation through the same sort of observation and curiosity. Our goal is that every employee starts to think about ways they can do their job better—more efficiently, more productively with greater innovation. In such a culture, companies leverage their people and assets to their fullest. One example is our “good answer” program, created to help our Fountain customers handle their customer calls. Our “good answer” team now receives phone calls, emails and regular mail from consumers on behalf of a growing number of our restaurant customers. In addition to responding to the consumer’s issue, they also provide an analysis of the calls to help the operator make better decisions about their menus, facilities and service.

Coca Cola Brand

We must apply innovation to our social contract with communities.

This lesson is bigger than brands, packages, and marketing campaigns. It’s about our reputation and our image. We’re all under constant scrutiny these days regarding the ways we affect our communities. And the focus is intense in two places—the environment and obesity.

Soft drink packages are already the most environmentally friendly recycled consumer packages. We find creative ways to increase the recycled content we use in packages. During the Salt Lake Olympics, for example, our people created a recyclable, biodegradable cold drink cup from renewable resources.

The obesity issue is complex because it’s not just about what you consume—it includes a healthy and active lifestyle. We recently launched an innovative program called “Step with It” in cooperation with the National Association for Sport and Physical Education to increase physical activity in schools.

Pepsi formed an alliance with respected health, nutrition and exercise experts to educate and encourage Americans to reduce health risks through informed choices and an active lifestyle.

Conclusions

We need to be just as innovative in the ways we protect and sustain our business as we are in the way we market and sell our products. These five lessons are our guiding principles—an imperative to continue to delight our consumers with innovative brands, packages, and business systems that create value. When we’re creating the next great innovations, we’re creating sustainable value, and we’re leaving our businesses, communities, and industry a little better.

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