Category Archives: Management

An Alternative To Layoffs

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Duncan Aviation, a premier US corporate jet maintenance company headquartered in Lincoln, NE, announced a reduction in hours and salaries – not a layoff – as a way to deal with the current business downturn.

The Lincoln Journal Star story from January 27th is followed by more than 40 comments, primarily comments by employees such as:

– "This seems like a reasonable solution, and a very honest business practice, ensuring the employees maintain a somewhat steady income and importantly, benefits. It is refreshing to see an approach other than cutting jobs."

– "At least the company is trying to do what is right, kudos for that. Better than some of the companies that just show employees the door."

– "High praise and many kudos to Duncan. I am proud to see a Company as Duncan take a huge step to keep their employees."

– "Kudos to Duncan for watching out for their employees!"

– "We would rather have the wage reduction and the 32-hour workweek as opposed to being unemployed with no benefits." (wife of a Duncan employee)

Everyone wins in this deal.

A Turnaround Strategy That Worked

MacDonald’s is one of two Dow Jones Industrial Average companies that posted a share price gain for 2008. This success is based on a comprehensive plan that began in 2003, when the company posted its first quarterly loss.

Andrew Martin’s article in the today’s NYTimes details:

– A change in mission “from the world’s best quick-service restaurant” to “our customers’ favorite place and way to eat”. The mission statement translated into every aspect of the business and is well articulated in the “I’m Loving It” ads.

– A change in investment strategy from expansion to a focus on improved sales per store

– A change in menu strategy that replaced supersizing with healthier options and all-white chicken.

– An addition of premium coffee products to compete with Starbucks and the new offerings from C stores.

– A renewed focus on cleanliness and service.

– And, a focus on updated facilities including drive-throughs. 60 percent of the profit passes through a window.

The genius of this turnaround is the customer focus of “being our customers’ favorite place and way to eat”.

What would happen in your business if you focused on being your customers’ favorite……………..?

The Search for Asymmetrical Information

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Kevin Fryer recently loaned me a copy of Ken Fisher’s remarkable book, The Only Three Questions that Count: Investing by Knowing What Others Don’t.

As the title suggests, he makes the case for knowing (and actively searching for) information that no-one else knows. The logic and the detailed examples based on historical data are terrific. This book will radically alter your view of investing.

It was interesting, recently, to find Mr. Fisher’s premise replayed in an on line course from MIT. That course dealt with asymmetric information as applied to business decisions.

In marketing, we invest a lot of time on customer research. But, one seldom sees a research objective that reads, “to learn something about customers that no-one else knows”. But, isn’t that the real objective?

Perhaps one of the most successful companies at levering asymmetric customer data is Procter & Gamble.

There were several case histories within P&G of the power of the annual brand surveys. The process includes an annual round of quantitative and qualitative research for each brand.

As the story is told, during a 1960s California focus group for Tide, environmental concerns about phosphorus in detergent emerged. The company acted on the consumer concern, reformulated the product, re-engineered the plants and stayed ahead of the competitors, the regulators and the nascent environmental movement in the US. In fact, the reformulation of Tide put the company several years ahead.

Finding the asymmetric data on your market could lead to a huge payoff.