A Glass Half-full
The Epilogue will be amongst the last elements of the book to be written. Here we present what are likely to be the sections which form its structure.
As with the Preface, it is typical for authors to write the Epilogue after the main book has been completed, especially nonfiction work which can lay claim to be embracing and reflecting upon ‘current affairs’. As this paragraph is composed, it has just been announced that England will enter into a second ‘national lockdown’ as the second wave of Covid-19 surges, following similar moves in its close neighbours and erstwhile free trade partners France, Germany, Italy and Spain, amongst others. What type of post-Brexit trade agreement will be settled with these EU countries, hard, soft or fudgy, remains uncertain with only weeks to go before the ‘marriage’ formally ends.
Despite these Brexit uncertainties and the Covid-19 Black Swan (see Chapter One, Scanning & Sensing the Business Environment), this book retains the optimistic outlook that it had in its conception. Business strategy, planning, innovation, marketing and branding are long term management processes and the evidence is overwhelming that companies which are well-managed through difficult times go on to prosper in the long term.
A Case for Optimism?
According to Edwin Land, founder of Polaroid, “Optimism is a moral duty”. This author’s preferred observation on the subject comes from the barrister and ‘Rumpole of the Bailey’ author, John Mortimer: “Pessimism is the best basis for a cheerful disposition. It means that I am constantly surprised”.
What we have aimed to do in this book is to paint the landscape of business strategy while simultaneously homing in on areas of detail which, if not illuminated, might well be overlooked. The suggested equivalence with the great landscape painters could be construed as hubristic but the intention is a metaphor and the inspiration of an idea, a way to communicate, not a means to claim a universal truth. And we have aimed to base our discussion throughout this book on evidence-based research and, sparing the reader further narrative, can confidently and concisely present the lessons learned for business strategy design and implementation in the following list, each line item featuring in much more detail and with greater insights and practical examples throughout British Business Manifesto: Strategies for Profitable Growth
Conclusions for Business Strategy Success
- Passionate, strong leadership.
- A long-term perspective.
- Market leadership.
- (Potential) market share transfer from one market to another.
- (Potential) customer share transfer, from one segment to another.
- (Potential) customer loyalty leverage, e.g. cross-selling, upselling, brand stretching, brand extensions.
- (Potential) image transfer across global market segments, e.g. Etsy, Lea & Perrins Worcester sauce, Netflix, Spotify, TikTok etc.
- Market knowledge competencies.
- Innovation competencies, e.g. 3M, Danone, Google, PepsiCo etc.
- Organizational flexibility: mechanistic (rigid/bureaucratic) versus organic (nimble/agile) organizational design.
- Technology superiority, e.g. Cisco Systems, IBM, German Mittelstand (SME) companies, Intel, Tesla, Uber
- Internet competencies, e.g. Amazon, Alibaba, Baidu, Booking.com, Etsy, Ocado, Starling, Walmart (e-procurement, supplier extranets etc.).
- Supply chain competencies, e.g. Amazon (inbound/outbound logistics), Apple (outsourcing plus hybrid retail channel management), Dell (direct sales), Primark (‘fast-fashion’), Toyota
- Ability to follow key customers in global markets, e.g. IBM (‘Solutions for a Small Planet’), WPP (advertising and marketing services).
- Post-acquisition integration competencies, e.g. Unilever, GSK, P&G/Gillette, Reckitt Benckiser.
- Network opportunities: joint ventures, strategic alliances, channel partnerships, etc.
- Financial strength and stability, e.g. Apple, BMW, Carrefour, Microsoft, Siemens.
- (Relative) cost-to-serve advantage e.g. Bosch, Facebook, Gillette, Matsushita, SAP, Wrigley’s etc.
- Price flexibility (low-competitive-high), especially when aligned with global brand management capabilities, e.g. the Swatch Group and its multiple ‘brand families’ (Blancpain, Longines, Omega, Rado, Swatch, Tissot,). See Chapter Three, Strategic Marketing).
- Countertrade competencies, especially for latent demand where the need is clear, but the funds are lacking (see Chapter Two, Analysing Global and Domestic Markets), e.g. GE power stations in India exchanged for a percentage of energy output earnings.
- Relevant product quality for selected country markets, e.g. don’t ‘over-engineer’ products for relatively poor markets and segments; or plan an upgrade path, e.g. Philips Medical Systems which build an installed base of ‘base-line’ scanners in emerging markets with an eye on future add-on modules being purchased by customers.
- Relevant product range for country market, e.g. McDonald’s, EuroDisney (eventually), Philips Medical Systems.
- Services, combining ‘feel-good-factor’ with revenue generation potential.
- Customisation ability, especially ‘mass customisation’ for consumer markets (e.g. Swatch) or B2B markets (e.g. IBM Key Account Management programmes).
- Channel management competencies, e.g. Gillette, parent company P&G, Unilever; SAP and IBM in SME market spaces.
- Strategic brand management, e.g. Reckitt Benckiser (brands include: Air wick, Clearasil, Dettol, Durex, Gaviscon, Harpic, Lysol, Mucinex, Nurofen, Scholl, Strepsils, Veet). See Chapter Four, Strategic Brand Management.
- Employee engagement and investment (see below).
- Be adaptive in value propositions and markets.
- Manage distributors better.
- Exploit joint ventures and strategic alliances – don’t be exploited. Best of all, seek mutual gain.
- Develop better language skills for international marketing: as former German Chancellor Willy Brandt observed, “If I am selling to you, I speak your language. If I am buying, dan mussen sie Deutsch sprechen”.
- Understand non-verbal nuances in international marketing communications and respect cultural traditions, whether for internal management processes or for foreign country customer and business partner relationships.
- Anything else relevant to the specific business strategy opportunity?
Starting with the Prologue to this book we have introduced and discussed the seminal, prescient work of Adam Smith and without doubt his Wealth of Nations treatise can be seen as a blueprint for capitalism and free international trade. Perhaps the strongest critique made of his philosophy has related to its emphasis on ‘self-interest’ which was at its core and which we cited earlier in the Prologue. But, as the world-renowned cognitive psychologist, linguist, and popular science author Professor Steven Pinker observed:
Smith was not saying that people are ruthlessly selfish, or that they ought to be; he was one of history’s keenest commentators on human sympathy. He only said that in a market, whatever tendency people have to care for their families and themselves can work to the good of all. Exchange can make an entire society not just richer but nicer, because in an effective market it is cheaper to buy things than to steal them, and other people are more valuable to you alive than dead.
This sounds like a reasonable post-Brexit philosophy for the relationship between the UK and the remaining members of its partner in divorce, the EU.
Only time will tell and only a fool would tell you otherwise.
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All content © Colin Edward Egan, 2021