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Improve Your Sustainable Business With SWOTs

June 8th, 2011 Comments off

We often talk about things in class and fail to relate them to what happens in reality.  Here is a great post about the usefulness of SWOT analysis that highlights the fact that people learn about these things in school and even remember them in great detail, but they often fail to put them in to practice.

When was the last time you did a SWOT analysis for your business? “Uhm, I’m not really sure.

So how did you learn what SWOT analysis is about? “Oh that’s easy, we covered it when I was getting my MBA.”

I have conducted this informal survey on a regular basis, the results are always the same and yet it still surprises me.  If SWOT analysis was important enough to teach in b-school, and important enough for you to remember, why isn’t it important enough for you to implement???  Staying ahead of the curve can be as simple as using the SWOT’s technique.

This particular site focuses on the Triple Bottom Line that I’ve mentioned elsewhere (people, planet, profits) but the lesson is pertinent for areas outside sustainability.

Check it out at the link below:

Improve Your Sustainable Business With SWOTs.

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General Mills’ Supply Chain Scorecard

June 6th, 2011 Comments off

It seems that sustainability is the hot buzzword these days in marketing and accounting circles.  Locally-based giant, General Mills, is taking the sustainability push beyond its legal borders and using a scorecard to track its suppliers:

General Mills has been pushing on green issues since about 2005, Lynch explained, and is steadily seeking to expand its reach on sustainability. The company began its sustainability initiatives with a focus on its manufacturing plants, simply because that was the area where the company has the most control over its operations.But in tracking its internal and supply-chain emissions, Lynch said that GM has come to a few realizations about where its impacts come from.

“The vast majority of our inputs come in through suppliers who provide value to us here in sorting or milling or roasting or adding flavor and it’s in very few situations that we’re buying directly from farmers,” Lynch said.

Read more at:

 

Walmart’s Green Initiatives

May 31st, 2011 Comments off

Like arch-rival Target, Walmart is seeing investment in environmentally friendly practices flow to the bottom line.  It has long been my position that companies will embrace “green” when it results in “green” to their income.  That seems to be the case here as well.  Through some tweaking, Walmart has turned expenses into revenues:

A seemingly unrealistic goal of zero waste to landfills is suddenly looking attainable; the company cut its waste 81% in California, a pilot program now going nationwide. The trick to it was finding new uses for former trash: turning plastic waste into dog beds, food waste into compost sold in its stores, expired but still healthful foods into food bank donations. The waste Wal-Mart once paid to have hauled away is now earning the company more than $100 million a year.

Read more at: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-humes-walmart-20110531,0,5608647.story

Chartered Global Management Accountant credential announced

May 23rd, 2011 Comments off

The American Institute of Public Accountants (AICPA) announced today that its governing body has approved a joint venture with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) to manage a new accounting credential aimed at management accountants worldwide.  This accounting credential will be known as CGMA and stands for Chartered Global Management Accountant.  Certain members of both organizations will automatically be eligible for the new credential beginning in 2012 and there will eventually be paths to gain the credential for others as well.

“This is truly an historic moment for management accounting and the accounting profession worldwide,” AICPA Chairman Paul Stahlin said.  “Our joint venture with CIMA creates long-term strategic value for our members and literally opens up the world for U.S. CPAs in management accounting.”

CIMA President George Glass said: “We are delighted that management accountancy is to be given a strong new global impetus by this joint venture. This advances our strategic aims and will ensure management accountants, committed to strict ethical standards, will receive world-class support in a fast-globalizing world.”

CIMA is the largest professional body in the world focused exclusively on management accounting and the AICPA is the world’s largest professional accounting organization with members in a wide range of accounting and financial executive roles. Together, the new venture will cover more than 550,000 members and students worldwide.

Given that the Institute of Management Accountants in the United States already offers the CMA (Certified Management Accountant) credential, it is at least a bit interesting that CIMA chose the AICPA as their American partner.  Is the CMA credential headed for extinction? Hard to say at this point.  It may take a while for things to shake out and in the end both credentials may be held in high esteem.  Time will tell…

More information:

Wal-Mart sharpens low-price focus

April 11th, 2011 Comments off

Here is a piece that looks at Walmart’s efforts to move back the clock to a time when they were more closely aligned with Sam Walton’s vision.

Powerful snow blowers seem like a key item to keep in stock in Minneapolis, where residents need to uncover their driveways and sidewalks from about 50 inches of snow each winter.

But a couple of years ago, Wal-Mart decided to take some snow blowers, ice-fishing gear and other goods out of its Minneapolis-area stores.

Eliminating that merchandise was part of an effort the world’s largest retailer kicked off in late 2008 to get rid of items nationwide that were not top sellers and promote deep discounts on other more popular goods.

 

Wal-Mart sharpens low-price focus | Reuters.

Hulu Reworks Its Script as Digital Change Hits TV

January 27th, 2011 Comments off

Like music and telecommunications before it, the digitial revolution is set to hit TV hard in the next year or two.  One player that has emerged is Hulu, a joint-venture owned primarily by the companies that control the legacy broadcaster Fox, ABC, and NBC.  What is interesting is that NBC is now controlled by cable TV giant Comcast and Hulu may end up being a big threat to the cable TV industry.

Even before now, the culture of Hulu that has made it successful has clashed with the culture of its owners:

The partners hired Mr. Kilar, former general manager of Amazon.com Inc.’s North American media business, giving him autonomy to chart a new course. Mr. Kilar, 39, was determined to create an independent corporate culture closer to the tech world than the tradition-bound television business.

The company built a Silicon Valley-inspired startup in a low-slung office park in Santa Monica, a few miles west of its Hollywood owners. In the break room, engineers modified a refrigerator to house a beer keg, cutting a hole in it to fit a special tap in the shape of Hulu’s logo.

Mr. Kilar gave new hires a culture manifesto, an 1,100-word document that paints Hulu as a frugal meritocracy where “Fruity Snacks boxes hold up our monitors,” but where everyone has a “neurotic focus on quality.”

In an office expansion, Mr. Kilar and senior managers gave up their offices to sit at desks in an open floor plan among hundreds of employees, underscoring Hulu’s egalitarian approach.

It wasn’t long before the new venture clashed with owners’ established ways.

What is interesting to me is that Hulu may need a certain kind of culture like the one it has created but that may be prevented by those clinging to the past. Ultimately some company or group of companies will write the future of what TV looks like…the legacy players need to decide if they want to be part of that ride or not.  There has already been upheaval at Hulu (read the rest of the article linked below) as they bring in people with cable/satellite backgrounds to manage operations instead of people from tech/startup backgrounds that were running things initially.  This is a great example of how culture can impact a business, possibly negatively.

Hulu Reworks Its Script As Digital Change Hits TV. Sam Schechner, Jessica E. Vascellaro. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Jan 27, 2011. pg. A.1

Simon Sinek on Leadership

January 26th, 2011 Comments off

This is the video we watched last week in class that spells out a simple model on leadership and looks at why some companies and individuals succeed where others (that are seemingly in a more advantageous position) fail. To see an HD version or to download the complete file to view later, visit TED.com.

Bill George: Corporate Responsibilty Extends Beyond Profits

January 24th, 2011 Comments off

Bill George, former chair and CEO of Medtronic and current Harvard Professor, is one of the nation’s most outspoken leaders when it comes to the role corporations play in society.  I discovered his recent opinion piece in the Star Tribune when I read a rebuttal by Howard Root to it in today’s newspaper. 

Bill George:

A short-term focus on shareholder gains has substantially increased the velocity of stock market trading. In the past 25 years, holding periods for stocks have fallen from eight years to six months. CEOs focusing on meeting the demands of short-term investors have led to the destruction of many once-great companies, including General Motors, Sears and Enron. This culminated in the 2008 global financial meltdown, when over-leveraged financial institutions collapsed as they tried to maximize short-term value.

Howard Root:

 But George conveniently inserts the words “short-term” into Friedman’s philosophy. Contrary to George’s assertion, to maximize profits does not mean to focus only on today and ignore long-term growth. To maximize profits also does not mean to make poorly designed products (as GM did) or to fail to adapt to the popularity of the big-box retail concept (as Sears did). Friedman did not advocate short-term thinking, but rather that a corporation’s only constituency, both on a short-term and a long-term basis, is the shareholder, and that management’s favorite societal causes are irrelevant to its business goals.

I think both authors make excellent points througout their pieces and I think in an odd way (for writing and having seemingly opposite viewpoints) they can both be considered “right” when it comes to this argument.  Root conveniently uses extreme examples just as George conveniently leaves out pieces of what MIlton Friedman believed. 

Read both and draw your own conclusions.  Regardless of how any of us feel, I think this idea of corporate social responsibility is one that will grow in the coming years.  I’m not sure whether it is important if it grows because business are pursuing profits (i.e. giving customers what they want) or if it grows because they feel a responsibility to society.  Drawing from Kant and Machiavelli, the ends may justify the means. 

Bill George:

Howard Root

Why Can’t Kmart Be Successful While Target and Walmart Thrive?

January 14th, 2011 Comments off

In simplified terms, we can think of Walmart as a cost leader and Target as a differentiator.  What does that make Kmart?  Can companies get “stuck” in the middle and suffer as a result?  I’m not sure it is that simple, but certainly companies that are not able to either identify their core competencies or that are unable to capitalize on them have a hard time competing.  Kmart seems to be a company that is lost, and they have seemed that way for many years.  Consider this quote from an HBR blog post (link at the bottom of this post)

We believe that all successful companies — Walmart and Target included — know precisely how they provide value for customers. They make a deliberate choice about their “way to play” in the market, guided primarily by what those companies do uniquely well: their distinctive capabilities. We define capabilities not as “people capabilities,” but as the interconnected people, knowledge, systems, tools and processes that create differentiated value.

The blog post goes on to mention the factors that are unique to Walmart and those that are Target’s strengths.  Kmart seems to be unfocused in comparison and the market punishes them as a a result.  Read more at the link below:

Why Can’t Kmart Be Successful While Target and Walmart Thrive? – Paul Leinwand and Cesare Mainardi – The Conversation – Harvard Business Review.