Archive | the strategy notebook

The next wave in smartphone apps . . .

The next wave in smartphone apps . . .

GPS. Think outside the driving directions box. Cars. That’s right, integrating smartphone and other apps with people’s vehicles, especially positioning and navigating. Recently, Nokia demonstrated at the Internationale Automobil Ausstellung (which the non-German speaking world calls “The Frankfurt Auto Show”) unveiled a smartphone that totally integrates with the vehicle, so that all the apps and [...]

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Bilkem Chowderhead

As a middle-aged guy with the flexibility of a drafting desk and as a native Minnesotan who considers 40 degrees Fahrenheit to be t-shirt and shorts time and the flexibility of a drafting desk, Bikram Yoga, or “hot,” as in 105 degrees hot, yoga, is not a cup of tea I’ve fancied with any great [...]

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Andrew Stanton on how (not) to listen to customers

Andrew Stanton on how (not) to listen to customers

If Pixar had listened to customers, Wall*E would have been Predator vs. The Little Mermaid instead. Or worse: Shrek IV. It is a canard as hoary as any of the most common barrel-aged business proverbs: “You must listen to your customers.” In the heady early days of database marketing (I was there), that’s what we [...]

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Costco as a startup

Yesterday, stock analysts upgraded Costco stock to “Outperform” as the warehouse discounter goes gangbusters in this recession (well, gangbusters is a relative term when everyone else is losing money). CNN has a must read interview with Costco founders Jim Sinegal and Jeffrey Brofman, who go into great detail how they started the company with their [...]

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Is Jay Leno NBC’s Waterloo or Borodino?

Is Jay Leno NBC’s Waterloo or Borodino?

NBC puts its big bet on the big chin. Today marks the first day of Jay Leno’s new 10 PM show, a startling gamble on NBC’s part, a network that hasn’t won, placed, or shown in almost five years of ratings races with the other three broadcast networks. Other networks execs have popped the champagne [...]

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Selling a business in a recession

I have always counseled every client I’ve dealt with that business planning, even from the start, needs to include how the business will close (this is equally true of business planning for individual products or brands). Perhaps because businesspeople are eternal optimists or because no-one wants to face mortality at birth, few have the good [...]

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The 3 Biggest Start-up Killers, Part Three: Bad Controls

Today we finish our three-part series on the hazards that kill start-ups. As entrepreneurs and consultants, Steve and I have had season tickets to the start-up demolition derby for many years. While we aren’t sages or gurus (no-one is), we’ve learned quite a few things up watching businesses go boom over the years. And the [...]

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The 3 Biggest Start-up Killers, Part Two: Bad Organization

In all our start-up travels — on the consulting side (me) or the entrepreneur side (Steve) — we’ve had front row seats to a million start-up crack-ups. And what we’ve learned from history is that nobody learns from history, to paraphrase a philosopher who year in and year out wins the “Best Moustache on a [...]

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The 3 Biggest Start-up Killers, Part One: Bad Planning

This has been a very busy week of radio interviews for me this week. Of the many things I’ve learned by plunging into that pool is just how darned skilled these radio hosts are. One question, however, that I’m getting continually from them is some form of “What are the things guaranteed to sink your [...]

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Breaking into Starbucks

Breaking into Starbucks

Breaking into a major retailer is possible, but are you ready for the game? The New York Times has a must-read article on one entrepreneur’s winning efforts to get his products shelved in Starbucks. Read it. Seriously. And take notes. Although cursory, like everything else published in the Times, the article covers every major issue [...]

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What credit card legislation means for online retailers

On Friday, President Obama signed legislation that seriously impacts how credit card companies can market and manage consumer credit cards. The legislation introduces new and far-reaching protections for credit card borrowers, but these protections aren’t “free,” at least in economic terms. They will, in fact, be purchased by substantial revisions of how credit card companies [...]

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“Just In Time” for a recession

In this must-read article in The Wall Street Journal, Phred Dvorak explores how the recession has hit the supply chain in the most ruthlessly efficient JIT (just-in-time) manufacturing industries, like high tech. While most readers of this blog at least partly subscribe to the fantasy version of entrepreneurship — where entrepreneurs deal directly with the [...]

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If big companies were run more like start-ups . . .

I have said several dozen times in this blog that start-ups and entrepreneurs, who typically turn to the corporate behemoths for business models, will increasingly become the model for corporate behemoths. Broke, as I said in an earlier post, is the new black. The American auto industry, in particular, should be remade in the image [...]

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Financial structure, debt, and why they matter

Two recent articles in The New York Times deserve every entrepreneur’s close attention, the first dealing with small businesses caught up in the fireworks when their lenders go under and the second dealing with the impending bankruptcy of General Growth Properties, the second-largest owner of shopping malls in the country and the first major commercial [...]

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Thinking strategically, part four: Porter’s Five Forces

In part three of our startup strategy primer, we discussed the crucial difference between industry analysis and business strategy. Substituting industry analysis for business strategy is the most common — and most fatal — mistake entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and online “strategy experts” make. The one and only purpose of industry analysis is to determine the “attractiveness” [...]

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Thinking strategically, part three: industry attractiveness and competitive advantage

In this, our third blog about business strategy, we try to unravel the easily confused difference between the attractiveness of an industry and what I believe to be the foundation of strategy, competitive advantage. You see, what typically passes for business strategy in the lion’s share of business proposals that come my way are industry [...]

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Thinking strategically, part two: Core competencies and competitive advantage

Because I don’t like typing things twice, for this second installment on thinking strategically on business, I offer up a great discussion core competencies and competitive advantage from our book, Shoestring Venture: The Startup Bible. It, I think, hits just the right pitchfor entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and small businesses — in other words, for the rest [...]

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Customer-centric or vision-centric? Is crowdsourcing overhyped?

I am a dyed-in-the-wool customer service evangelist, but I have always resisted the crowdsourcing idea. Taken too far, crowdsourcing is miles worse than designing by committee, especially since the crowdsourcing committee includes any maroon who happens through your door. In response to Facebook’s recent user interface changes — and then their prompt backpedalling — Michael [...]

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Thinking strategically, part one: the “lottery” strategy

We are smack in the middle of a strategy book for our Shoestring Venture series, so watch this space over the next few months. In the meantime, we’re offering up these blog tidbits on thinking strategically. No, we’re not going to quote Sun Tzu or any of that other sociopathic “it’s a war out there” [...]

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In the world of entrepreneurship, failure teaches you . . . failure.

A research group at Harvard Business School has released a new study about venture capital financed entrepreneurs and has provisionally concluded that, well, nothing suceeds like success. While it may be true in most avenues of life that failure teaches valuable lessons, the Harvard researchers have found that failure teaches absolutely nothing. To bastardize a [...]

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