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The publicly traded company Motorola Mobility was created when Motorola spun off its Mobile Devices division, creating a new entity. The newly-formed company’s executive team was under intense pressure to come out with a smartphone that could grab substantial market share from Apple’s iPhone 4S and Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus. To do this, the team oversaw the design of an Android version of the Motorola RAZR, which was once the best-selling phone in the world. The hope of the executive team was that past customers who loved the RAZR would love the new ultra-thin smartphone—the Droid RAZR. The Droid RAZR was designed by a team, as are other Motorola products. To understand the team approach at Motorola, let’s review the process used to design the RAZR.
By winter 2003, the company that for years had run ringtones around the competition had been bumped from the top spot in worldwide sales.1 Motorola found itself stuck in the number-three slot. Their sales had declined because consumers were less than enthusiastic about the uninspired style of Motorola phones, and for many people, style is just as important in picking a cell phone as features. As a reviewer for one industry publication put it, “We just want to see the look on people’s faces when we slide [our phones] out of our pockets to take a call.”
Yet there was a glimmer of hope at Motorola. Despite its recent lapse in cell phone fashion sense, Motorola still maintained a concept-phone unit—a group responsible for designing futuristic new product features such as speech-recognition capability, flexible touchscreens, and touch-sensitive body covers. In every concept-phone unit, developers engage in an ongoing struggle to balance the two often-opposing demands of cell phone design: building the smallest possible phone with the largest possible screen. The previous year, Motorola had unveiled the rough model of an ultra-trim phone—at 10 millimeters, about half the width of the average flip-top or “clamshell” design. It was on this concept that Motorola decided to stake the revival of its reputation as a cell phone maker who knew how to package functionality with a wow factor.
The next step in developing a concept phone is actually building it. Teamwork becomes critical at this point. The process requires some diversity in expertise. An electronics engineer, for example, knows how to apply energy to transmit information through a system but not how to apply physics to the design and manufacture of the system; that’s the specialty of a mechanical engineer. Engineers aren’t designers—the specialists who know how to enhance the marketability of a product through its aesthetic value. Designers bring their own unique value to the team.
In addition, when you set out to build any kind of innovative high-tech product, you need to become a master of trade-offs—in Motorola’s case, compromises resulted from the demands of state-of-the-art functionality on one hand and fashionable design on the other. Negotiating trade-offs is a team process: it takes at least two people to resolve design disputes.
The responsibility for assembling and managing the Motorola “thin-clam” team fell to veteran electronic engineer Roger Jellicoe. His mission: create the world’s thinnest phone, do it in one year, and try to keep it a secret. Before the project was completed, the team had grown to more than twenty members, and with increased creative input and enthusiasm came increased confidence and clout. Jellicoe had been warned by company specialists in such matters that no phone wider than 49 millimeters could be held comfortably in the human hand. When the team had finally arrived at a satisfactory design that couldn’t work at less than 53 millimeters, they ignored the “49 millimeters warning,” built a model, passed it around, and came to a consensus: as one team member put it, “People could hold it in their hands and say, ‘Yeah, it doesn’t feel like a brick.’” Four millimeters, they decided, was an acceptable trade-off, and the new phone went to market at 53 millimeters. While small by today’s standards, at the time, 53 millimeters was a gamble.
Team members liked to call the design process the “dance.” Sometimes it flowed smoothly and sometimes people stepped on one another’s toes, but for the most part, the team moved in lockstep toward its goal. After a series of trade-offs about what to call the final product (suggestions ranged from Razor Clam to V3), Motorola’s new RAZR was introduced in July 2004. Recall that the product was originally conceived as a high-tech toy—something to restore the luster to Motorola’s tarnished image. It wasn’t supposed to set sales records, and sales in the fourth quarter of 2004, though promising, were in fact fairly modest. Back in September, however, a new executive named Ron Garriques had taken over Motorola’s cell phone division; one of his first decisions was to raise the bar for RAZR. Disregarding a 2005 budget that called for sales of two million units, Garriques pushed expected sales for the RAZR up to twenty million. The RAZR topped that target, shipped ten million in the first quarter of 2006, and hit the fifty-million mark at midyear. Talking on a RAZR, declared hip-hop star Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, “is like driving a Mercedes versus a regular ol’ ride.”2
Jellicoe and his team were invited to attend an event hosted by top executives, receiving a standing ovation, along with a load of stock options. One of the reasons for the RAZR’s success, said Jellicoe, was that “It took the world by surprise. Very few Motorola products do that.” For a while, the new RAZR was the best-selling phone in the world.
A team (or a work team) is a group of people with complementary skills who work together to achieve a specific goal.3 In the case of Motorola’s RAZR team, the specific goal was to develop (and ultimately bring to market) an ultrathin cell phone that would help restore the company’s reputation. The team achieved its goal by integrating specialized but complementary skills in engineering and design and by making the most of its authority to make its own decisions and manage its own operations.
As Bonnie Edelstein, a consultant in organizational development suggests, “A group is a bunch of people in an elevator. A team is also a bunch of people in an elevator, but the elevator is broken.”4 This distinction may be a little oversimplified, but as our tale of teamwork at Motorola reminds us, a team is clearly something more than a mere group of individuals. In particular, members of a group—or, more accurately, a working group—go about their jobs independently and meet primarily to work towards a shared objective. A group of department-store managers, for example, might meet monthly to discuss their progress in cutting plant costs. However, each manager is focused on the goals of his or her department because each is held accountable for meeting those goals.
To put teams in perspective, let’s identify five key characteristics. Teams:5
Why do major organizations now rely so much on teams to improve operations? Executives at Xerox have reported that team-based operations are 30 percent more productive than conventional operations. General Mills says that factories organized around team activities are 40 percent more productive than traditionally organized factories. FedEx says that teams reduced service errors (lost packages, incorrect bills) by 13 percent in the first year.6
Today it seems obvious that teams can address a variety of challenges in the world of corporate activity. Before we go any further, however, we should remind ourselves that the data we’ve just cited aren’t necessarily definitive. For one thing, they may not be objective—companies are more likely to report successes than failures. As a matter of fact, teams don’t always work. According to one study, team-based projects fail 50 to 70 percent of the time.7
Research shows that companies build and support teams because of their effect on overall workplace performance, both organizational and individual. If we examine the impact of team-based operations according to a wide range of relevant criteria, we find that overall organizational performance generally improves. Figure 1.3 lists several areas in which we can analyze workplace performance and indicates the percentage of companies that have reported improvements in each area.
|Area of Performance||Firms Reporting Improvement|
|Product and service quality||70%|
|Quality of work life||63%|
Source: Adapted from Edward E. Lawler, S. A. Mohman, and G. E. Ledford (1992). Creating High Performance Organizations: Practices and Results of Employee Involvement and Total Quality in Fortune 1000 Companies. San Francisco: Wiley. Reprinted with permission of John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Teams, then, can improve company and individual performance in a number of areas. Not all teams, however, are formed to achieve the same goals or charged with the same responsibilities. Nor are they organized in the same way. Some, for instance, are more autonomous than others—less accountable to those higher up in the organization. Some depend on a team leader who’s responsible for defining the team’s goals and making sure that its activities are performed effectively. Others are more or less self- governing: though a leader lays out overall goals and strategies, the team itself chooses and manages the methods by which it pursues its goals and implements its strategies.8 Teams also vary according to their membership. Let’s look at several categories of teams.
As its name implies, in the manager-led team the manager is the team leader and is in charge of setting team goals, assigning tasks, and monitoring the team’s performance. The individual team members have relatively little autonomy. For example, the key employees of a professional football team (a manager-led team) are highly trained (and highly paid) athletes, but their activities on the field are tightly controlled by a head coach. As team manager, the coach is responsible both for developing the strategies by which the team pursues its goal of winning games and for the outcome of each game and season. He’s also solely responsible for interacting with managers above him in the organization. The players are responsible mainly for executing plays.9
Self-managing teams (also known as self-directed teams) have considerable autonomy. They are usually small and often absorb activities that were once performed by traditional supervisors. A manager or team leader may determine overall goals, but the members of the self-managing team control the activities needed to achieve those goals.
Self-managing teams are the organizational hallmark of Whole Foods Market, the largest natural-foods grocer in the United States. Each store is run by ten departmental teams, and virtually every store employee is a member of a team. Each team has a designated leader and its own performance targets. (Team leaders also belong to a store team, and store-team leaders belong to a regional team.) To do its job, every team has access to the kind of information—including sales and even salary figures—that most companies reserve for traditional managers.10
Not every self-managed team enjoys the same degree of autonomy. Companies vary widely in choosing which tasks teams are allowed to manage and which ones are best left to upper-level management only. As you can see in Figure 1.5 for example, self-managing teams are often allowed to schedule assignments, but they are rarely allowed to fire coworkers.
Many companies use cross-functional teams—teams that, as the name suggests, cut across an organization’s functional areas (operations, marketing, finance, and so on). A cross-functional team is designed to take advantage of the special expertise of members drawn from different functional areas of the company. When the Internal Revenue Service, for example, wanted to study the effects on employees of a major change in information systems, it created a cross-functional team composed of people from a wide range of departments. The final study reflected expertise in such areas as job analysis, training, change management, industrial psychology, and ergonomics.11
Cross-functional teams figure prominently in the product-development process at Nike, where they take advantage of expertise from both inside and outside the company.
Typically, team members include not only product designers, marketing specialists, and accountants but also sports-research experts, coaches, athletes, and even consumers. Likewise, Motorola’s RAZR team was a cross-functional team; responsibility for developing the new product wasn’t passed along from the design team to the engineering team but rather was entrusted to a special team composed of both designers and engineers.
Committees and task forces, both of which are dedicated to specific issues or tasks, are often cross-functional teams. Problem-solving teams, which are created to study such issues as improving quality or reducing waste, may be either intradepartmental or cross- functional.12
Technology now makes it possible for teams to function not only across organizational boundaries like functional areas but also across time and space. Technologies such as videoconferencing allow people to interact simultaneously and in real time, offering a number of advantages in conducting the business of a virtual team.13 Members can participate from any location or at any time of day, and teams can “meet” for as long as it takes to achieve a goal or solve a problem—a few days, weeks, or months.
Team size does not seem to be an obstacle when it comes to virtual-team meetings; in building the F-35 Strike Fighter, U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin staked the $225 billion project on a virtual product-team of unprecedented global dimension, drawing on designers and engineers from the ranks of eight international partners from Canada, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Turkey.14
An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
Now that we know a little bit about how teams work, we need to ask ourselves why they work. Not surprisingly, this is a fairly complex issue. In this section, we’ll explore why teams are often effective and when they ineffective.
First, let’s begin by identifying several factors that contribute to effective teamwork. Teams are most effective when the following factors are met:
Some of these factors may seem intuitive. Because such issues are rarely clear-cut, we need to examine the issue of group effectiveness from another perspective—one that considers the effects of factors that aren’t quite so straightforward.
The idea of group cohesiveness refers to the attractiveness of a team to its members. If a group is high in cohesiveness, membership is quite satisfying to its members. If it’s low in cohesiveness, members are unhappy with it and may try to leave it.15
Numerous factors may contribute to team cohesiveness, but in this section, we’ll focus on five of the most important:
Maintaining team focus on broad organizational goals is crucial. If members get too wrapped up in immediate team goals, the whole team may lose sight of the larger organizational goals toward which it’s supposed to be working. Let’s look at some factors that can erode team performance.
It’s easy for leaders to direct members toward team goals when members are all on the same page—when there’s a basic willingness to conform to the team’s rules. When there’s too much conformity, however, the group can become ineffective: it may resist fresh ideas and, what’s worse, may end up adopting its own dysfunctional tendencies as its way of doing things. Such tendencies may also encourage a phenomenon known as groupthink—the tendency to conform to group pressure in making decisions, while failing to think critically or to consider outside influences.
Groupthink is often cited as a factor in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in January 1986: engineers from a supplier of components for the rocket booster warned that the launch might be risky because of the weather but were persuaded to set aside their warning by NASA officials who wanted the launch to proceed as scheduled.16
Remember that teams are composed of people, and whatever the roles they happen to be playing at a given time, people are subject to psychological ups and downs. As members of workplace teams, they need motivation, and when motivation is low, so are effectiveness and productivity. The difficulty of maintaining a high level of motivation is the chief cause of frustration among members of teams. As such, it’s also a chief cause of ineffective teamwork, and that’s one reason why more employers now look for the ability to develop and sustain motivation when they’re hiring new managers.17
Let’s take a quick look at three other obstacles to success in introducing teams into an organization:18
An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
“I’ll work extra hard and do it myself, but please don’t make me have to work in a group.”
Like it or not, you’ve probably already notice that you’ll have team-based assignments in college. More than two-thirds of all students report having participated in the work of an organized team, and if you’re in business school, you will almost certainly find yourself engaged in team-based activities.19
Why do we put so much emphasis on something that, reportedly, makes many students feel anxious and academically drained? Here’s one college student’s practical-minded answer to this question:
“In the real world, you have to work with people. You don’t always know the people you work with, and you don’t always get along with them. Your boss won’t particularly care, and if you can’t get the job done, your job may end up on the line. Life is all about group work, whether we like it or not. And school, in many ways, prepares us for life, including working with others.”20
She’s right. In placing so much emphasis on teamwork skills and experience, business colleges are doing the responsible thing—preparing students for the business world. A survey of Fortune 1000 companies reveals that 79 percent use self-managing teams and 91 percent use other forms of employee work groups. Another survey found that the skill that most employers value in new employees is the ability to work in teams.21 Consider the advice of former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca: “A major reason that capable people fail to advance is that they don’t work well with their colleagues.”22 The importance of the ability to work in teams was confirmed in a survey of leadership practices of more than sixty of the world’s top organizations.23
When top executives in these organizations were asked what causes the careers of high-potential leadership candidates to derail, 60 percent of the organizations cited “inability to work in teams.” Interestingly, only 9 percent attributed the failure of these executives to advance to “lack of technical ability.”
To put it in plain terms, the question is not whether you’ll find yourself working as part of a team. You will. The question is whether you’ll know how to participate successfully in team-based activities.
What if your instructor decides to divide the class into teams and assigns each team to develop a new product plus a business plan to get it on the market? What teamwork skills could you bring to the table, and what teamwork skills do you need to improve? Do you possess qualities that might make you a good team leader?
Sometimes we hear about a sports team made up of mostly average players who win a championship because of coaching genius, flawless teamwork, and superhuman determination.24 But not terribly often. In fact, we usually hear about such teams simply because they’re newsworthy—exceptions to the rule. Typically a team performs well because its members possess some level of talent. Members’ talents must also be managed in a collective effort to achieve a common goal.
In the final analysis, a team can succeed only if its members provide the skills that need managing. In particular, every team requires some mixture of three sets of skills:
The key is ultimately to have the right mix of these skills. Remember, too, that no team needs to possess all these skills—never mind the right balance of them—from day one. In many cases, a team gains certain skills only when members volunteer for certain tasks and perfect their skills in the process of performing them. For the same reason, effective teamwork develops over time as team members learn how to handle various team-based tasks. In a sense, teamwork is always work in progress.
As a student and later in the workplace, you’ll be a member of a team more often than a leader. Team members can have as much impact on a team’s success as its leaders. A key is the quality of the contributions they make in performing non-leadership roles.25
What, exactly, are those roles? At this point, you’ve probably concluded that every team faces two basic challenges:
Whether you affect the team’s work positively or negatively depends on the extent to which you help it or hinder it in meeting these two challenges.26 We can thus divide teamwork roles into two categories, depending on which of these two challenges each role addresses. These two categories (task-facilitating roles and relationship-building roles) are summarized here:
|Task-facilitating Roles||Example||Relationship-Building Roles||Example|
|Direction giving||“Jot down a few ideas and we’ll see what everyone has come up with.”||Supporting||“Now, that’s what I mean by a practical application.”|
|Information seeking||“Does anyone know if this is the latest data we have?”||Harmonizing||“Actually, I think you’re both saying pretty much the same thing.”|
|Information giving||“Here are the latest numbers from….”||Tension relieving||“Before we go on, would anyone like a drink?”|
|Elaborating||“I think a good example of what you’re talking about is….”||Confronting||“How does that suggestion relate to the topic that we’re discussing?”|
|Urging||“Let’s try to finish this proposal before we adjourn.”||Energizing||“It’s been a long time since I’ve had this many laughs at a meeting in this department.”|
|Monitoring||“If you’ll take care of the first section, I’ll make sure that we have the second by next week.”||Developing||“If you need some help pulling the data together, let me know.”|
|Process Analyzing||“What happened to the energy level in this room?”||Consensus Building||“Do we agree on the first four points even if number five needs a little more work?”|
|Reality Testing||“Can we make this work and stay within budget?”||Empathizing||“It’s not you. The numbers are confusing.”|
|Enforcing||“We’re getting off track. Let’s try to stay on topic.”||Summarizing||“Before we jump ahead, here’s what we’ve decided so far.”|
Adapted from David A. Whetten and Kim S. Cameron (2007). Developing Management Skills, 7th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education. Pp. 517, 519.
Task-facilitating roles address challenge number one—accomplishing the team goals. As you can see from Table P.6, such roles include not only providing information when someone else needs it but also asking for it when you need it. In addition, it includes monitoring (checking on progress) and enforcing (making sure that team decisions are carried out). Task facilitators are especially valuable when assignments aren’t clear or when progress is too slow.
When you challenge unmotivated behavior or help other team members understand their roles, you’re performing a relationship-building role and addressing challenge number two—maintaining or improving group cohesiveness. This type of role includes activities that improve team “chemistry,” from empathizing to confronting.
Bear in mind three points about this model: (1) Teams are most effective when there’s a good balance between task facilitation and relationship-building; (2) it’s hard for any given member to perform both types of roles, as some people are better at focusing on tasks and others on relationships; and (3) overplaying any facet of any role can easily become counterproductive. For example, elaborating on something may not be the best strategy when the team needs to make a quick decision; and consensus building may cause the team to overlook an important difference of opinion.
Finally, review Figure 1.8, which summarizes a few characteristics of another kind of team-membership role. So-called blocking roles consist of behavior that inhibits either team performance or that of individual members. Every member of the team should know how to recognize blocking behavior. If teams don’t confront dysfunctional members, they can destroy morale, hamper consensus building, create conflict, and hinder progress.
|Dominate||Talk as much as possible; interrupt and interject|
|Overanalyze||Split hairs and belabor every detail|
|Stall||Frustrate efforts to come to conclusions: decline to agree, sidetrack the discussion, rehash old ideas|
|Remain passive||Stay on the fringe; keep interaction to a minimum; wait for others to take on work|
|Overgeneralize||Blow things out of proportion; float unfounded conclusions|
|Find fault||Criticize and withhold credit whenever possible|
|Make premature decisions||Rush to conclusions before goals are set, information is shared, or problems are clarified|
|Present opinions as facts||Refuse to seek factual support for ideas that you personally favor|
|Reject||Object to ideas by people who tend to disagree with you|
|Pull Rank||Use status or title to push through ideas, rather than seek consensus on their value|
|Resist||Throw up roadblocks to progress; look on the negative side|
|Deflect||Refuse to stay on topic; focus on minor points rather than main points|
Adapted from David A. Whetten and Kim S. Cameron (2007). Developing Management Skills, 7th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education. Pp. 519-20.
In your academic career you’ll participate in a number of team projects. To get insider advice on how to succeed on team projects in college, let’s look at some suggestions offered by students who have gone through this experience.27
To borrow from Shakespeare, “Some people are born leaders, some achieve leadership, and some have leadership thrust upon them.” At some point in a successful career, you will likely be asked to lead a team. What will you have to do to succeed as a leader?
Like so many of the questions that we ask in this book, this question doesn’t have any simple answers. We can provide one broad answer: a leader must help members develop the attitudes and behavior that contribute to team success: interdependence, collective responsibility, shared commitment, and so forth.
Team leaders must be able to influence their team members. Notice that we say influence: except in unusual circumstances, giving commands and controlling everything directly doesn’t work very well.28 As one team of researchers puts it, team leaders are more effective when they work with members rather than on them.29 Hand-in-hand with the ability to influence is the ability to gain and keep the trust of team members. People aren’t likely to be influenced by a leader whom they perceive as dishonest or selfishly motivated.
Assuming you were asked to lead a team, there are certain leadership skills and behaviors that would help you influence your team members and build trust. Let’s look briefly at some of them:
An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
Figure 1.3: Adapted from Edward E. Lawler, S. A. Mohman, and G. E. Ledford (1992). Creating High Performance Organizations: Practices and Results of Employee Involvement and Total Quality in Fortune 1000 Companies. San Francisco: Wiley. Reprinted with permission of John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Figure 1.7: Adapted from David A. Whetten and Kim S. Cameron (2007). Developing Management Skills, 7th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education. Pp. 517, 519.
Figure 1.8: Adapted from David A. Whetten and Kim S. Cameron (2007). Developing Management Skills, 7th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education. Pp. 519-20.
In 1976 Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created their first computer, the Apple I.1 They invested a mere $1,300 and set up business in Jobs’ garage. Three decades later, their business—Apple Inc.—has become one of the world’s most influential and successful companies. Jobs and Wozniak were successful entrepreneurs: those who take the risks and reap the rewards associated with starting a new business enterprise. Did you ever wonder why Apple flourished while so many other young companies failed? How did it grow from a garage start-up to a company generating over $233 billion in sales in 2015? How was it able to transform itself from a nearly bankrupt firm to a multinational corporation with locations all around the world? You might conclude that it was the company’s products, such as the Apple I and II, the Macintosh, or more recently its wildly popular iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Or, you could decide that it was its dedicated employees, management’s wiliness to take calculated risks, or just plain luck – that Apple simply was in the right place at the right time.
Before we draw any conclusions about what made Apple what it is today and what will propel it into a successful future, you might like to learn more about Steve Jobs, the company’s cofounder and former CEO. Jobs was instrumental in the original design of the Apple I and, after being ousted from his position with the company, returned to save the firm from destruction and lead it onto its current path. Growing up, Jobs had an interest in computers. He attended lectures at Hewlett-Packard after school and worked for the company during the summer months. He took a job at Atari after graduating from high school and saved his money to make a pilgrimage to India in search of spiritual enlightenment. Following his India trip, he attended Steve Wozniak’s “Homebrew Computer Club” meetings, where the idea for building a personal computer surfaced.2 “Many colleagues describe Jobs as a brilliant man who could be a great motivator and positively charming. At the same time his drive for perfection was so strong that employees who did not meet his demands [were] faced with blistering verbal attacks.”3 Not everyone at Apple appreciated Jobs’ brilliance and ability to motivate. Nor did they all go along with his willingness to do whatever it took to produce an innovative, attractive, high-quality product. So at age thirty, Jobs found himself ousted from Apple by John Sculley, whom Jobs himself had hired as president of the company several years earlier. It seems that Sculley wanted to cut costs and thought it would be easier to do so without Jobs around. Jobs sold $20 million of his stock and went on a two-month vacation to figure out what he would do for the rest of his life. His solution: start a new personal computer company called NextStep. In 1993, he was invited back to Apple (a good thing, because neither his new company nor Apple was doing well).
Steve Jobs was definitely not known for humility, but he was a visionary and had a right to be proud of his accomplishments. Some have commented that “Apple’s most successful days occurred with Steve Jobs at the helm.”4
Jobs did what many successful CEOs and managers do: he learned, adjusted, and improvised.5 Perhaps the most important statement that can be made about him is this: he never gave up on the company that once turned its back on him. So now you have the facts. Here’s a multiple-choice question that you’ll likely get right: Apple’s success is due to (a) its products, (b) its customers, (c) luck, (d) its willingness to take risks, (e) Steve Jobs, or (f) some combination of these options.
As the story of Apple suggests, today is an interesting time to study business. Advances in technology are bringing rapid changes in the ways we produce and deliver goods and services. The Internet and other improvements in communication (such as smartphones, video conferencing, and social networking) now affect the way we do business. Companies are expanding international operations, and the workforce is more diverse than ever. Corporations are being held responsible for the behavior of their executives, and more people share the opinion that companies should be good corporate citizens. Because of the role they played in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, businesses today face increasing scrutiny and negative public sentiment.6
Economic turmoil that began in the housing and mortgage industries as a result of troubled subprime mortgages quickly spread to the rest of the economy. In 2008, credit markets froze up and banks stopped making loans. Lawmakers tried to get money flowing again by passing a $700 billion Wall Street bailout, now-cautious banks became reluctant to extend credit. Without money or credit, consumer confidence in the economy dropped and consumers cut back on spending. Unemployment rose as troubled companies shed the most jobs in five years, and 760,000 Americans marched to the unemployment lines.7 The stock market reacted to the financial crisis and its stock prices dropped by 44 percent while millions of Americans watched in shock as their savings and retirement accounts took a nose dive. In fall 2008, even Apple, a company that had enjoyed strong sales growth over the past five years, began to cut production of its popular iPhone. Without jobs or cash, consumers would no longer flock to Apple’s fancy retail stores or buy a prized iPhone.8 Since then, things have turned around for Apple, which continues to report blockbuster sales and profits. But not all companies or individuals are doing so well. The economy is still struggling, unemployment is high (particularly for those ages 16 to 24), and home prices have not fully rebounded from the crisis.
As you go through the course with the aid of this text, you’ll explore the exciting world of business. We’ll introduce you to the various activities in which business people engage—accounting, finance, information technology, management, marketing, and operations. We’ll help you understand the roles that these activities play in an organization, and we’ll show you how they work together. We hope that by exposing you to the things that businesspeople do, we’ll help you decide whether business is right for you and, if so, what areas of business you’d like to study further.
A business is any activity that provides goods or services to consumers for the purpose of making a profit. Be careful not to confuse the terms revenue and profit. Revenue represents the funds an enterprise receives in exchange for its goods or services. Profit is what’s left (hopefully) after all the bills are paid. When Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak launched the Apple I, they created Apple Computer in Jobs’ family garage in the hope of making a profit. Before we go on, let’s make a couple of important distinctions concerning the terms in our definitions. First, whereas Apple produces and sells goods (Mac, iPhone, iPod, iPad, Apple Watch), many businesses provide services. Your bank is a service company, as is your Internet provider. Hotels, airlines, law firms, movie theaters, and hospitals are also service companies. Many companies provide both goods and services. For example, your local car dealership sells goods (cars) and also provides services (automobile repairs). Second, some organizations are not set up to make profits. Many are established to provide social or educational services. Such not-for profit (or nonprofit), organizations include the United Way of America, Habitat for Humanity, the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Sierra Club, the American Red Cross, and many colleges and universities. Most of these organizations, however, function in much the same way as a business. They establish goals and work to meet them in an effective, efficient manner. Thus, most of the business principles introduced in this text also apply to nonprofits.
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Let’s begin our discussion of business by identifying the main participants of business and the functions that most businesses perform. Then we’ll finish this section by discussing the external factors that influence a business’ activities.
Every business must have one or more owners whose primary role is to invest money in the business. When a business is being started, it’s generally the owners who polish the business idea and bring together the resources (money and people) needed to turn the idea into a business. The owners also hire employees to work for the company and help it reach its goals. Owners and employees depend on a third group of participants— customers. Ultimately, the goal of any business is to satisfy the needs of its customers in order to generate a profit for the owners.
Consider your favorite restaurant. It may be an outlet or franchise of a national chain (more on franchises in a later chapter) or a local “mom and pop” without affiliation to a larger entity. Whether national or local, every business has stakeholders – those with a legitimate interest in the success or failure of the business and the policies it adopts. Stakeholders include customers, vendors, employees, landlords, bankers, and others (see Figure 2.2). All have a keen interest in how the business operates, in most cases for obvious reasons. If the business fails, employees will need new jobs, vendors will need new customers, and banks may have to write off loans they made to the business. Stakeholders do not always see things the same way – their interests sometimes conflict with each other. For example, lenders are more likely to appreciate high profit margins that ensure the loans they made will be repaid, while customers would probably appreciate the lowest possible prices. Pleasing stakeholders can be a real balancing act for any company.
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The activities needed to operate a business can be divided into a number of functional areas. Examples include: management, operations, marketing, accounting, and finance. Let’s briefly explore each of these areas.
Managers are responsible for the work performance of other people. Management involves planning for, organizing, leading, and controlling a company’s resources so that it can achieve its goals. Managers plan by setting goals and developing strategies for achieving them. They organize activities and resources to ensure that company goals are met and staff the organization with qualified employees and managers lead them to accomplish organizational goals. Finally, managers design controls for assessing the success of plans and decisions and take corrective action when needed.
All companies must convert resources (labor, materials, money, information, and so forth) into goods or services. Some companies, such as Apple, convert resources into tangible products—Macs, iPhones, etc. Others, such as hospitals, convert resources into intangible products — e.g., health care. The person who designs and oversees the transformation of resources into goods or services is called an operations manager. This individual is also responsible for ensuring that products are of high quality.
Marketing consists of everything that a company does to identify customers’ needs (i.e. market research) and design products to meet those needs. Marketers develop the benefits and features of products, including price and quality. They also decide on the best method of delivering products and the best means of promoting them to attract and keep customers. They manage relationships with customers and make them aware of the organization’s desire and ability to satisfy their needs.
Managers need accurate, relevant and timely financial information, which is provided by accountants. Accountants measure, summarize, and communicate financial and managerial information and advise other managers on financial matters. There are two fields of accounting. Financial accountants prepare financial statements to help users, both inside and outside the organization, assess the financial strength of the company. Managerial accountants prepare information, such as reports on the cost of materials used in the production process, for internal use only.
Finance involves planning for, obtaining, and managing a company’s funds. Financial managers address such questions as the following: How much money does the company need? How and where will it get the necessary money? How and when will it pay the money back? What investments should be made in plant and equipment? How much should be spent on research and development? Good financial management is particularly important when a company is first formed, because new business owners usually need to borrow money to get started.
Apple and other businesses don’t operate in a vacuum; they’re influenced by a number of external factors. These include the economy, government, consumer trends, technological developments, public pressure to act as good corporate citizens, and other factors. Collectively, these forces constitute what is known as the “macro environment” – essentially the big picture world external to a company over which the business exerts very little if any control. Figure 2.3 “Business and Its Environment” sums up the relationship between a business and the outside forces that influence its activities. One industry that’s clearly affected by all these factors is the fast-food industry. Companies such as Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Cook-Out and others all compete in this industry. A strong economy means people have more money to eat out. Food standards are monitored by a government agency, the Food and Drug Administration. Preferences for certain types of foods are influenced by consumer trends (fast food companies are being pressured to make their menus healthier). Finally, a number of decisions made by the industry result from its desire to be a good corporate citizen. For example, several fast-food chains have responded to environmental concerns by eliminating Styrofoam containers.9
Of course, all industries are impacted by external factors, not just the food industry. As people have become more conscious of the environment, they have begun to choose new technologies, like all-electric cars to replace those that burn fossil fuels. Both established companies, like Nissan with its Nissan Leaf, and brand new companies like Tesla have entered the market for all-electric vehicles. While the market is still small, it is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 19.2% between 2013 and 2019.10
One useful tool for analyzing the external environment in which an industry or company operates is the PESTEL model. PESTEL is an acronym, with each of the letters representing an aspect of the macro-environment that a business needs to consider in its planning. Let’s briefly run through the meaning of each letter.
P stands for the political environment. Governments influence the environment in which businesses operate in many ways, including taxation, tariffs, trade agreements, labor regulations, and environmental regulations.
E represents the economic environment. As we will see in detail in a later chapter, whether the economy is growing or not is a major concern to business. Numerous economic indicators have been created for the specific purpose of measuring the health of the economy.
S indicates the sociocultural environment, which is a category that captures societal attitudes, trends in national demographics, and even fashion trends. The term demographics applies to any attribute that can be used to describe people, such as age, income level, gender, race, and so on. As a society’s attitudes or its demographics change, the market for goods and services can shift right along with it.
T is for technological factors. In the last several decades, perhaps no force has impacted business more than the emergence of the internet. Nearly instantaneous access to information, e-commerce, social media, and even the ability to control physical devices from remote locations have all come about due to technological forces.
The second E stands for environmental forces, which in this case means natural resources, pollution levels, recycling, etc. While the attitudes of a society towards the natural environment would be considered a sociocultural force, the level of pollution, the supply of oil, etc. would be grouped under this second E for environment.
Finally the L represents legal factors. These forces often coincide with the political factors already discussed, because it is politicians (i.e., government) that enacts laws. However, there are other legal factors that can impact businesses as well, such as decisions made by courts that may have broad implications beyond the case being decided.
When conducting PESTEL analysis, it is important to remember that there can be considerable overlap from category to category. It’s more important that businesses use the model to thoroughly assess its external environment, and much less important that they get all the forces covered under the “right” category. It is also important to remember that an individual force, in itself, is not inherently positive or negative but rather presents either an opportunity or a threat to different businesses. For example, societal attitudes moving in favor of green energy are an opportunity for those with capabilities in wind, solar, and other renewables, while presenting a threat, or at least a need to change, to companies whose business models depend exclusively on fossil fuels.
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Figure 2.1: “Steve Jobs.” (2011) CC by 2.0. Image retrieved from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/8010717@N02/6216457030
To appreciate how a business functions, we need to know something about the economic environment in which it operates. We begin with a definition of economics and a discussion of the resources used to produce goods and services.
Economics is the study of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. Resources are the inputs used to produce outputs. Resources may include any or all of the following:
Resources are combined to produce goods and services. Land and natural resources provide the needed raw materials. Labor transforms raw materials into goods and services. Capital (equipment, buildings, vehicles, cash, and so forth) are needed for the production process. Entrepreneurship provides the skill, drive and creativity needed to bring the other resources together to produce a good or service to be sold to the marketplace.
Because a business uses resources to produce things, we also call these resources factors of production. The factors of production used to produce a shirt would include the following:
Many of the factors of production are provided to businesses by households. For example, households provide businesses with labor (as workers), land and buildings (as landlords), and capital (as investors). In turn, businesses pay households for these resources by providing them with income, such as wages, rent, and interest. The resources obtained from households are then used by businesses to produce goods and services, which are sold to provide businesses with revenue. The revenue obtained by businesses is then used to buy additional resources, and the cycle continues. This is described in Figure 3.1 “The Circular Flow of Inputs and Outputs”, which illustrates the dual roles of households and businesses:
Economists study the interactions between households and businesses and look at the ways in which the factors of production are combined to produce the goods and services that people need. Basically, economists try to answer three sets of questions:
The answers to these questions depend on a country’s economic system—the means by which a society (households, businesses, and government) makes decisions about allocating resources to produce products and about distributing those products. The degree to which individuals and business owners, as opposed to the government, enjoy freedom in making these decisions varies according to the type of economic system.
Generally speaking, economic systems can be divided into two systems: planned systems and free market systems.
In a planned system, the government exerts control over the allocation and distribution of all or some goods and services. The system with the highest level of government control is communism. In theory, a communist economy is one in which the government owns all or most enterprises. Central planning by the government dictates which goods or services are produced, how they are produced, and who will receive them. In practice, pure communism is practically nonexistent today, and only a few countries (notably North Korea and Cuba) operate under rigid, centrally planned economic systems.
Under socialism, industries that provide essential services, such as utilities, banking, and health care, may be government owned. Some businesses may also be owned privately. Central planning allocates the goods and services produced by government-run industries and tries to ensure that the resulting wealth is distributed equally. In contrast, privately owned companies are operated for the purpose of making a profit for their owners. In general, workers in socialist economies work fewer hours, have longer vacations, and receive more health care, education, and child-care benefits than do workers in capitalist economies. To offset the high cost of public services, taxes are generally steep. Examples of countries that lean towards a socialistic approach include Venezuela, Sweden, and France.
The economic system in which most businesses are owned and operated by individuals is the free market system, also known as capitalism. In a free market economy, competition dictates how goods and services will be allocated. Business is conducted with more limited government involvement concentrated on regulations that dictate how businesses are permitted to operate. A key aspect of a free market system is the concept of private property rights, which means that business owners can expect to own their land, buildings, machines, etc., and keep the majority of their profits, except for taxes. The profit incentive is a key driver of any free market system. The economies of the United States and other countries, such as Japan, are based on capitalism. However, a purely capitalistic economy is as rare as one that is purely communist. Imagine if a service such as police protection, one provided by government in the United States, were instead allocated based on market forces. The ability to pay would then become a key determinant in who received these services, an outcome that few in American society would consider to be acceptable.
In comparing economic systems, it can be helpful to think of a continuum with communism at one end and pure capitalism at the other, as in Figure 3.2 on the next page. As you move from left to right, the amount of government control over business diminishes. So, too, does the level of social services, such as health care, child-care services, social security, and unemployment benefits. Moving from left to right, taxes are correspondingly lower as well.
Though it’s possible to have a pure communist system, or a pure capitalist (free market) system, in reality many economic systems are mixed. A mixed market economy relies on both markets and the government to allocate resources. In practice, most economies are mixed, with a leaning towards either free market or socialistic principles, rather than being purely one or the other. Some previously communist economies, such as those of Eastern Europe and China, are becoming more mixed as they adopt more capitalistic characteristics and convert businesses previously owned by the government to private ownership through a process called privatization. By contrast, Venezuela is a country that has moved increasingly towards socialism, taking control of industries such as oil and media through a process called nationalization.
Like most countries, the United States features a mixed market system: though the U.S. economic system is primarily a free market system, the federal government controls some basic services, such as the postal service and air traffic control. The U.S. economy also has some characteristics of a socialist system, such as providing social security retirement benefits to retired workers.
The free market system was espoused by Adam Smith in his book The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776. According to Smith, competition alone would ensure that consumers received the best products at the best prices. In the kind of competition he assumed, a seller who tries to charge more for his product than other sellers would not be able to find any buyers. A job-seeker who asks more than the going wage won’t be hired. Because the “invisible hand” of competition will make the market work effectively, there won’t be a need to regulate prices or wages. Almost immediately, however, a tension developed among free market theorists between the principle of laissez-faire—leaving things alone—and government intervention. Today, it’s common for the U.S. government to intervene in the operation of the economic system. For example, government exerts influence on the food and pharmaceutical industries through the Food and Drug Administration, which protects consumers by preventing unsafe or mislabeled products from reaching the market.
To appreciate how businesses operate, we must first get an idea of how prices are set in competitive markets. The next section, “Perfect Competition and Supply and Demand,” begins by describing how markets establish prices in an environment of perfect competition.
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Under a mixed economy, such as we have in the United States, businesses make decisions about which goods to produce or services to offer and how they are priced. Because there are many businesses making goods or providing services, customers can choose among a wide array of products. The competition for sales among businesses is a vital part of our economic system. Economists have identified four types of competition—perfect competition, monopolistic competition, oligopoly, and monopoly. We’ll introduce the first of these—perfect competition—in this section and cover the remaining three in the following section.
Perfect competition exists when there are many consumers buying a standardized product from numerous small businesses. Because no seller is big enough or influential enough to affect price, sellers and buyers accept the going price. For example, when a commercial fisher brings his fish to the local market, he has little control over the price he gets and must accept the going market price.
To appreciate how perfect competition works, we need to understand how buyers and sellers interact in a market to set prices. In a market characterized by perfect competition, price is determined through the mechanisms of supply and demand. Prices are influenced both by the supply of products from sellers and by the demand for products by buyers.
To illustrate this concept, let’s create a supply and demand schedule for one particular good sold at one point in time. Then we’ll define demand and create a demand curve and define supply and create a supply curve. Finally, we’ll see how supply and demand interact to create an equilibrium price—the price at which buyers are willing to purchase the amount that sellers are willing to sell.
Demand is the quantity of a product that buyers are willing to purchase at various prices. The quantity of a product that people are willing to buy depends on its price. You’re typically willing to buy less of a product when prices rise and more of a product when prices fall. Generally speaking, we find products more attractive at lower prices, and we buy more at lower prices because our income goes further.
Using this logic, we can construct a demand curve that shows the quantity of a product that will be demanded at different prices. Let’s assume that the diagram in Figure 3.3 “The Demand Curve” represents the daily price and quantity of apples sold by farmers at a local market. Note that as the price of apples goes down, buyers’ demand goes up. Thus, if a pound of apples sells for $0.80, buyers will be willing to purchase only fifteen hundred pounds per day. But if apples cost only $0.60 a pound, buyers will be willing to purchase two thousand pounds. At $0.40 a pound, buyers will be willing to purchase twenty-five hundred pounds.
Supply is the quantity of a product that sellers are willing to sell at various prices. The quantity of a product that a business is willing to sell depends on its price. Businesses are more willing to sell a product when the price rises and less willing to sell it when prices fall. Again, this fact makes sense: businesses are set up to make profits, and there are larger profits to be made when prices are high.
Now we can construct a supply curve that shows the quantity of apples that farmers would be willing to sell at different prices, regardless of demand. As you can see in Figure 3.4 “The Supply Curve”, the supply curve goes in the opposite direction from the demand curve: as prices rise, the quantity of apples that farmers are willing to sell also goes up. The supply curve shows that farmers are willing to sell only a thousand pounds of apples when the price is $0.40 a pound, two thousand pounds when the price is $0.60, and three thousand pounds when the price is $0.80.
We can now see how the market mechanism works under perfect competition. We do this by plotting both the supply curve and the demand curve on one graph, as we’ve done in Figure 3.5 “The Equilibrium Price”. The point at which the two curves intersect is the equilibrium price.
You can see in Figure 3.5 “The Equilibrium Price” that the supply and demand curves intersect at the price of $0.60 and quantity of two thousand pounds. Thus, $0.60 is the equilibrium price: at this price, the quantity of apples demanded by buyers equals the quantity of apples that farmers are willing to supply. If a single farmer tries to charge more than $0.60 for a pound of apples, he won’t sell very many because other suppliers are making them available for less. As a result, his profits will go down. If, on the other hand, a farmer tries to charge less than the equilibrium price of $0.60 a pound, he will sell more apples but his profit per pound will be less than at the equilibrium price. With profit being the motive, there is no incentive to drop the price.
What have we learned in this discussion? Without outside influences, markets in an environment of perfect competition will arrive at an equilibrium point at which both buyers and sellers are satisfied. But we must be aware that this is a very simplistic example. Things are more complex in the real world. For one thing, markets don’t always operate without outside influences. For example, if a government set an artificially low price ceiling on a product to keep consumers happy, we would not expect producers to produce enough to satisfy demand, resulting in a shortage. If government set prices high to assist an industry, sellers would likely supply more of a product than buyers need; in that case, there would be a surplus.
Circumstances also have a habit of changing. What would happen, for example, if incomes rose and buyers were willing to pay more for apples? The demand curve would change, resulting in an increase in equilibrium price. This outcome makes intuitive sense: as demand increases, prices will go up. What would happen if apple crops were larger than expected because of favorable weather conditions? Farmers might be willing to sell apples at lower prices rather than letting part of the crop spoil. If so, the supply curve would shift, resulting in another change in equilibrium price: the increase in supply would bring down prices.
As mentioned previously, economists have identified four types of competition—perfect competition, monopolistic competition, oligopoly, and monopoly. Perfect competition was discussed in the last section; we’ll cover the remaining three types of competition here.
In monopolistic competition, we still have many sellers (as we had under perfect competition). Now, however, they don’t sell identical products. Instead, they sell differentiated products—products that differ somewhat, or are perceived to differ, even though they serve a similar purpose. Products can be differentiated in a number of ways, including quality, style, convenience, location, and brand name. An example in this case might be toothpaste. Although many people are fiercely loyal to their favorites, most products in this category are quite similar and address the same consumer need. But what if there was a substantial price difference among products? In that case, many buyers would likely be persuaded to switch brands, at least on a trial basis.
How is product differentiation accomplished? Sometimes, it’s simply geographical; you probably buy gasoline at the station closest to your home regardless of the brand. At other times, perceived differences between products are promoted by advertising designed to convince consumers that one product is different from an- other—and better than it. Regardless of customer loyalty to a product, however, if its price goes too high, the seller will lose business to a competitor. Under monopolistic competition, therefore, companies have only limited control over price.
Oligopoly means few sellers. In an oligopolistic market, each seller supplies a large portion of all the products sold in the marketplace. In addition, because the cost of starting a business in an oligopolistic industry is usually high, the number of firms entering it is low. Companies in oligopolistic industries include such large-scale enterprises as automobile companies and airlines. As large firms supplying a sizable portion of a market, these companies have some control over the prices they charge. But there’s a catch: because products are fairly similar, when one company lowers prices, others are often forced to follow suit to remain competitive. You see this practice all the time in the airline industry: When American Airlines announces a fare decrease, Continental, United Airlines, and others do likewise. When one automaker offers a special deal, its competitors usually come up with similar promotions.
In terms of the number of sellers and degree of competition, a monopoly lies at the opposite end of the spectrum from perfect competition. In perfect competition, there are many small companies, none of which can control prices; they simply accept the market price determined by supply and demand. In a monopoly, however, there’s only one seller in the market. The market could be a geographical area, such as a city or a regional area, and doesn’t necessarily have to be an entire country.
There are few monopolies in the United States because the government limits them. Most fall into one of two categories: natural and legal. Natural monopolies include public utilities, such as electricity and gas suppliers. Such enterprises require huge investments, and it would be inefficient to duplicate the products that they provide. They inhibit competition, but they’re legal because they’re important to society. In exchange for the right to conduct business without competition, they’re regulated. For instance, they can’t charge whatever prices they want, but they must adhere to government-controlled prices. As a rule, they’re required to serve all customers, even if doing so isn’t cost efficient.
A legal monopoly arises when a company receives a patent giving it exclusive use of an invented product or process. Patents are issued for a limited time, generally twenty years.1 During this period, other companies can’t use the invented product or process without permission from the patent holder. Patents allow companies a certain period to recover the heavy costs of researching and developing products and technologies. A classic example of a company that enjoyed a patent-based legal monopoly is Polaroid, which for years held exclusive ownership of instant-film technology.2 Polaroid priced the product high enough to recoup, over time, the high cost of bringing it to market. Without competition, in other words, it enjoyed a monopolistic position in regard to pricing.
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Every day, we are bombarded with economic news (at least if you watch the business news stations). We’re told about things like unemployment, home prices, and consumer confidence trends. As a student learning about business, and later as a business manager, you need to understand the nature of the U.S. economy and the terminology that we use to describe it. You need to have some idea of where the economy is heading, and you need to know something about the government’s role in influencing its direction.
The world’s economies share three main goals:
Let’s take a closer look at each of these goals, both to find out what they mean and to show how we determine whether they’re being met.
One purpose of an economy is to provide people with goods and services—cars, computers, video games, houses, rock concerts, fast food, amusement parks. One way in which economists measure the performance of an economy is by looking at a widely used measure of total output called the gross domestic product (GDP). The GDP is defined as the market value of all goods and services produced by the economy in a given year. The GDP includes only those goods and services produced domestically; goods produced outside the country are excluded. The GDP also includes only those goods and services that are produced for the final user; intermediate products are excluded. For example, the silicon chip that goes into a computer (an intermediate product) would not count directly because it is included when the finished computer is counted. By itself, the GDP doesn’t necessarily tell us much about the direction of the economy. But change in the GDP does. If the GDP (after adjusting for inflation, which will be discussed later) goes up, the economy is growing. If it goes down, the economy is contracting.
The economic ups and downs resulting from expansion and contraction constitute the business cycle. A typical cycle runs from three to five years but could last much longer. Though typically irregular, a cycle can be divided into four general phases of prosperity, recession, depression (which the cycle generally skips), and recovery:
To keep the economy going strong, people must spend money on goods and services. A reduction in personal expenditures for things like food, clothing, appliances, automobiles, housing, and medical care could severely reduce GDP and weaken the economy. Because most people earn their spending money by working, an important goal of all economies is making jobs available to everyone who wants one. In principle, full employment occurs when everyone who wants to work has a job. In practice, we say that we have full employment when about 95 percent of those wanting to work are employed.
The U.S. Department of Labor tracks unemployment and reports the unemployment rate: the percentage of the labor force that’s unemployed and actively seeking work. The unemployment rate is an important measure of economic health. It goes up during recessionary periods because companies are reluctant to hire workers when demand for goods and services is low. Conversely, it goes down when the economy is expanding and there is high demand for products and workers to supply them.
Figure 3.6 “The U.S. Unemployment Rate, 1970–2010” traces the U.S. unemployment rate between 1970 and 2010. Please be aware that there are multiple measures of unemployment and that this graph is based on what is known as U3, the most commonly used measurement. Another measurement, U6, is considered to provide a broader picture of unemployment in the United States. It includes two groups of people that U3 doesn’t: those who are not actively looking for work but would like a job and have looked for one in the last 12 months; and those who would like to work full-time jobs but have settled for part-time positions because full-time work was not available to them. Since by definition, U6 is always higher than U3, it is likely that U3 is discussed more often because it paints a more favorable, if not completely accurate, picture.
A third major goal of all economies is maintaining price stability. Price stability occurs when the average of the prices for goods and services either doesn’t change or changes very little. Rapidly rising prices are troublesome for both individuals and businesses. For individuals, rising prices mean people have to pay more for the things they need. For businesses, rising prices mean higher costs, and, at least in the short run, businesses might have trouble passing on higher costs to consumers. When the overall price level goes up, we have inflation. Figure 3.7 “The U.S. Inflation Rate, 1960–2010” shows inflationary trends in the U.S. economy since 1960. When the price level goes down (which rarely happens), we have deflation. A deflationary situation can also be damaging to an economy. When purchasers believe they can expect lower prices in the future, they may defer making purchases, which has the effect of slowing economic growth. Japan experienced a long period of deflation which contributed to economic stagnation in that country from which it is only now beginning to recover.
The most widely publicized measure of inflation is the consumer price index (CPI), which is reported monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The CPI measures the rate of inflation by determining price changes of a hypothetical basket of goods, such as food, housing, clothing, medical care, appliances, automobiles, and so forth, bought by a typical household.
The CPI base period is 1982 to 1984, which has been given an average value of 100. Figure 3.8 “Selected CPI Values, 1950–2010” gives CPI values computed for selected years. The CPI value for 1950, for instance, is 24. This means that $1 of typical purchases in 1982 through 1984 would have cost $0.24 in 1950. Conversely, you would have needed $2.18 to purchase the same $1 worth of typical goods in 2010. The difference registers the effect of inflation. In fact, that’s what an inflation rate is—the percentage change in a price index.
In the previous section, we introduced several measures that economists use to assess the performance of the economy at a given time. By looking at changes in the GDP, for instance, we can see whether the economy is growing. The CPI allows us to gauge inflation. These measures help us understand where the economy stands today. But what if we want to get a sense of where it’s headed in the future? To a certain extent, we can forecast future economic trends by analyzing several leading economic indicators.
An economic indicator is a statistic that provides valuable information about the economy. There’s no shortage of economic indicators, and trying to follow them all would be an overwhelming task. So in this chapter, we’ll only discuss the general concept and a few of the key indicators.
Statistics that report the status of the economy a few months in the past are called lagging economic indicators. One such indicator is average length of unemployment. If unemployed workers have remained out of work for a long time, we may infer that the economy has been slow. Indicators that predict the status of the economy three to twelve months into the future are called leading economic indicators. If such an indicator rises, the economy is more likely to expand in the coming year. If it falls, the economy is more likely to contract.
It is also helpful to look at indicators from various sectors of the economy— labor, manufacturing, and housing. One useful indicator of the outlook for future jobs is the number of new claims for unemployment insurance. This measure tells us how many people recently lost their jobs. If it’s rising, it signals trouble ahead because unemployed consumers can’t buy as many goods and services as they could if they had paychecks.
To gauge the level of goods to be produced in the future (which will translate into future sales), economists look at a statistic called average weekly manufacturing hours. This measure tells us the average number of hours worked per week by production workers in manufacturing industries. If it’s on the rise, the economy will probably improve. For assessing the strength of the housing market, housing starts is often a good indicator. An increase in this statistic—which tells us how many new housing units are being built—indicates that the economy is improving. Why? Because increased building brings money into the economy not only through new home sales but also through sales of furniture and appliances to furnish them.
Since employment is such a key goal in any economy, the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks total non-farm payroll employment from which the number of net new jobs created can be determined.
The Conference Board also publishes a consumer confidence index based on results of a monthly survey of five thousand U.S. households. The survey gathers consumers’ opinions on the health of the economy and their plans for future purchases. It’s often a good indicator of consumers’ future buying intent.
An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
Monetary policy is exercised by the Federal Reserve System (“the Fed”), which is empowered to take various actions that decrease or increase the money supply and raise or lower short-term interest rates, making it harder or easier to borrow money. When the Fed believes that inflation is a problem, it will use contractionary policy to decrease the money supply and raise interest rates. When rates are higher, borrowers have to pay more for the money they borrow, and banks are more selective in making loans. Because money is “tighter”—more expensive to borrow—demand for goods and services will go down, and so will prices. In any case, that’s the theory.
The Fed will typically tighten or decrease the money supply during inflationary periods, making it harder to borrow money.
To counter a recession, the Fed uses expansionary policy to increase the money supply and reduce interest rates. With lower interest rates, it’s cheaper to borrow money, and banks are more willing to lend it. We then say that money is “easy.” Attractive interest rates encourage businesses to borrow money to expand production and encourage consumers to buy more goods and services. In theory, both sets of actions will help the economy escape or come out of a recession.
Fiscal policy relies on the government’s powers of spending and taxation. Both taxation and government spending can be used to reduce or increase the total supply of money in the economy—the total amount, in other words, that businesses and consumers have to spend. When the country is in a recession, government policy is typically to increase spending, reduce taxes, or both. Such expansionary actions will put more money in the hands of businesses and consumers, encouraging businesses to expand and consumers to buy more goods and services. When the economy is experiencing inflation, the opposite policy is adopted: the government will decrease spending or increase taxes, or both. Because such contractionary measures reduce spending by businesses and consumers, prices come down and inflation eases.
If, in any given year, the government takes in more money (through taxes) than it spends on goods and services (for things such as defense, transportation, and social services), the result is a budget surplus. If, on the other hand, the government spends more than it takes in, we have a budget deficit (which the government pays off by borrowing through the issuance of Treasury bonds). Historically, deficits have occurred much more often than surpluses; typically, the government spends more than it takes in. Consequently, the U.S. government now has a total national debt of more than $19 trillion (Note: This number is moving too quickly for the authors to keep the graph current – you can see the current debt at ).
This video presents a balanced view of capitalism and socialism and reinforces key points within the chapter. Since it is rather dry, it would be fine to watch only the first seven minutes or so.
Figure 3.6: “The U.S. Unemployment Rate, 1970-2014.” Data source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000.
Figure 3.7: “The U.S. Inflation Rate, 1960-2014.” Data source: The World Bank. Retrieved from: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/FP.CPI.TOTL.ZG.
Figure 3.8: “Selected CPI Values, 1950-2014.” Data source: U.S. Infaltion Calculator. Retrieved from: http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/consumer-price-index-and-annual-percent-changes-from-1913-to-2008/.
Figure 3.9: “The National Debt, 1940-2014.” Data Source: Treasury Direct. Retrieved from: https://www.treasurydirect.gov/govt/reports/pd/histdebt/histdebt.htm.
Seralius, Guyus. “Capitalism vs Socialism-A Balanced Approach.” February 20, 2013. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBIXmXJwIuk
Do you wear Nike shoes or Timberland boots? Buy groceries at Giant Stores or Stop & Shop? Listen to Beyoncé, Kenrick Lamar, Twenty One Pilots, or The Neighbourhood on Spotify? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re a global business customer. Both Nike and Timberland manufacture most of their products overseas. The Dutch firm Royal Ahold owns all three supermarket chains. And Spotify is a Swedish enterprise.
Take an imaginary walk down Orchard Road, the most fashionable shopping area in Singapore. You’ll pass department stores such as Tokyo-based Takashimaya and London’s very British Marks & Spencer, both filled with such well-known international labels as Ralph Lauren Polo, Burberry, and Chanel. If you need a break, you can also stop for a latte at Seattle-based Starbucks.
When you’re in the Chinese capital of Beijing, don’t miss Tiananmen Square. Parked in front of the Great Hall of the People, the seat of Chinese government, are fleets of black Buicks, cars made by General Motors in Flint, Michigan. If you’re adventurous enough to find yourself in Faisalabad, a medium-size city in Pakistan, you’ll see Hamdard University, located in a refurbished hotel. Step inside its computer labs, and the sensation of being in a faraway place will likely disappear: on the computer screens, you’ll recognize the familiar Microsoft flag—the same one emblazoned on screens in Microsoft’s hometown of Seattle and just about everywhere else on the planet.
The globalization of business is bound to affect you. Not only will you buy products manufactured overseas, but it’s highly likely that you’ll meet and work with individuals from various countries and cultures as customers, suppliers, colleagues, employees, or employers. The bottom line is that the globalization of world commerce has an impact on all of us. Therefore, it makes sense to learn more about how globalization works.
Never before has business spanned the globe the way it does today. But why is international business important? Why do companies and nations engage in international trade? What strategies do they employ in the global marketplace? How do governments and international agencies promote and regulate international trade? These questions and others will be addressed in this chapter. Let’s start by looking at the more specific reasons why companies and nations engage in international trade.
Why does the United States import automobiles, steel, digital phones, and apparel from other countries? Why don’t we just make them ourselves? Why do other countries buy wheat, chemicals, machinery, and consulting services from us? Because no national economy produces all the goods and services that its people need. Countries are importers when they buy goods and services from other countries; when they sell products to other nations, they’re exporters. (We’ll discuss importing and exporting in greater detail later in the chapter.) The monetary value of international trade is enormous. In 2010, the total value of worldwide trade in merchandise and commercial services was $18.5 trillion.1
To understand why certain countries import or export certain products, you need to realize that every country (or region) can’t produce the same products. The cost of labor, the availability of natural resources, and the level of know-how vary greatly around the world. Most economists use the concepts of absolute advantage and comparative advantage to explain why countries import some products and export others.
A nation has an absolute advantage if (1) it’s the only source of a particular product or (2) it can make more of a product using fewer resources than other countries. Because of climate and soil conditions, for example, France had an absolute advantage in wine making until its dominance of worldwide wine production was challenged by the growing wine industries in Italy, Spain, and the United States. Unless an absolute advantage is based on some limited natural resource, it seldom lasts. That’s why there are few, if any, examples of absolute advantage in the world today.
How can we predict, for any given country, which products will be made and sold at home, which will be imported, and which will be exported? This question can be answered by looking at the concept of comparative advantage, which exists when a country can produce a product at a lower opportunity cost compared to another nation. But what’s an opportunity cost? Opportunity costs are the products that a country must forego making in order to produce something else. When a country decides to specialize in a particular product, it must sacrifice the production of another product. Countries benefit from specialization – focusing on what they do best, and trading the output to other countries for what those countries do best. The United States, for instance, is increasingly an exporter of knowledge-based products, such as software, movies, music, and professional services (management consulting, financial services, and so forth). America’s colleges and universities, therefore, are a source of comparative advantage, and students from all over the world come to the United States for the world’s best higher-education system.
France and Italy are centers for fashion and luxury goods and are leading exporters of wine, perfume, and designer clothing. Japan’s engineering expertise has given it an edge in such fields as automobiles and consumer electronics. And with large numbers of highly skilled graduates in technology, India has become the world’s leader in low- cost, computer-software engineering.
To evaluate the nature and consequences of its international trade, a nation looks at two key indicators. We determine a country’s balance of trade by subtracting the value of its imports from the value of its exports. If a country sells more products than it buys, it has a favorable balance, called a trade surplus. If it buys more than it sells, it has an unfavorable balance, or a trade deficit.
For many years, the United States has had a trade deficit: we buy far more goods from the rest of the world than we sell overseas. This fact shouldn’t be surprising. With high income levels, we not only consume a sizable portion of our own domestically produced goods but enthusiastically buy imported goods. Other countries, such as China and Taiwan, which manufacture high volumes for export, have large trade surpluses because they sell far more goods overseas than they buy.
Are trade deficits a bad thing? Not necessarily. They can be positive if a country’s economy is strong enough both to keep growing and to generate the jobs and incomes that permit its citizens to buy the best the world has to offer. That was certainly the case in the United States in the 1990s. Some experts, however, are alarmed at our trade deficit. Investment guru Warren Buffet, for example, cautions that no country can continuously sustain large and burgeoning trade deficits. Why not? Because creditor nations will eventually stop taking IOUs from debtor nations, and when that happens, the national spending spree will have to cease. “Our national credit card,” he warns, “allows us to charge truly breathtaking amounts. But that card’s credit line is not limitless.”2
By the same token, trade surpluses aren’t necessarily good for a nation’s consumers. Japan’s export-fueled economy produced high economic growth in the 1970s and 1980s. But most domestically made consumer goods were priced at artificially high levels inside Japan itself—so high, in fact, that many Japanese traveled overseas to buy the electronics and other high-quality goods on which Japanese trade was dependent.
CD players and televisions were significantly cheaper in Honolulu or Los Angeles than in Tokyo. How did this situation come about? Though Japan manufactures a variety of goods, many of them are made for export. To secure shares in international markets, Japan prices its exported goods competitively. Inside Japan, because competition is limited, producers can put artificially high prices on Japanese-made goods. Due to a number of factors (high demand for a limited supply of imported goods, high shipping and distribution costs, and other costs incurred by importers in a nation that tends to protect its own industries), imported goods are also expensive.3
The second key measure of the effectiveness of international trade is balance of payments: the difference, over a period of time, between the total flow of money coming into a country and the total flow of money going out. As in its balance of trade, the biggest factor in a country’s balance of payments is the money that flows as a result of imports and exports. But balance of payments includes other cash inflows and outflows, such as cash received from or paid for foreign investment, loans, tourism, military expenditures, and foreign aid. For example, if a U.S. company buys some real estate in a foreign country, that investment counts in the U.S. balance of payments, but not in its balance of trade, which measures only import and export transactions. In the long run, having an unfavorable balance of payments can negatively affect the stability of a country’s currency. The United States has experienced unfavorable balances of payments since the 1970s which has forced the government to cover its debt by borrowing from other countries.4 Figure 5.2 provides a brief historical overview to illustrate the relationship between the United States’ balance of trade and its balance of payments.
The fact that nations exchange billions of dollars in goods and services each year demonstrates that international trade makes good economic sense. For a company wishing to expand beyond national borders, there are a variety of ways it can get involved in international business. Let’s take a closer look at the more popular ones.
Importing (buying products overseas and reselling them in one’s own country) and exporting (selling domestic products to foreign customers) are the oldest and most prevalent forms of international trade. For many companies, importing is the primary link to the global market. American food and beverage wholesalers, for instance, import for resale in U.S. supermarkets the bottled waters Evian and Fiji from their sources in the French Alps and the Fiji Islands respectively.5 Other companies get into the global arena by identifying an international market for their products and becoming exporters. The Chinese, for instance, are fond of fast foods cooked in soybean oil. Because they also have an increasing appetite for meat, they need high-protein soybeans to raise livestock.6 American farmers now export over $9 billion worth of soybeans to China every year.7
A company that wants to get into an international market quickly while taking only limited financial and legal risks might consider licensing agreements with foreign companies. An international licensing agreement allows a foreign company (the licensee) to sell the products of a producer (the licensor) or to use its intellectual property (such as patents, trademarks, copyrights) in exchange for what is known as royalty fees. Here’s how it works: You own a company in the United States that sells coffee-flavored popcorn. You’re sure that your product would be a big hit in Japan, but you don’t have the resources to set up a factory or sales office in that country. You can’t make the popcorn here and ship it to Japan because it would get stale. So you enter into a licensing agreement with a Japanese company that allows your licensee to manufacture coffee-flavored popcorn using your special process and to sell it in Japan under your brand name. In exchange, the Japanese licensee would pay you a royalty fee – perhaps a percentage of each sale or a fixed amount per unit.
Another popular way to expand overseas is to sell franchises. Under an international franchise agreement, a company (the franchiser) grants a foreign company (the franchisee) the right to use its brand name and to sell its products or services. The franchisee is responsible for all operations but agrees to operate according to a business model established by the franchiser. In turn, the franchiser usually provides advertising, training, and new-product assistance. Franchising is a natural form of global expansion for companies that operate domestically according to a franchise model, including restaurant chains, such as McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken, and hotel chains, such as Holiday Inn and Best Western.
Because of high domestic labor costs, many U.S. companies manufacture their products in countries where labor costs are lower. This arrangement is called international contract manufacturing, a form of outsourcing. A U.S. company might contract with a local company in a foreign country to manufacture one of its products. It will, however, retain control of product design and development and put its own label on the finished product. Contract manufacturing is quite common in the U.S. apparel business, with most American brands being made in a number of Asian countries, including China, Vietnam, Indonesia, and India.8
Thanks to twenty-first-century information technology, nonmanufacturing functions can also be outsourced to nations with lower labor costs. U.S. companies increasingly draw on a vast supply of relatively inexpensive skilled labor to perform various business services, such as software development, accounting, and claims processing. For years, American insurance companies have processed much of their claims-related paperwork in Ireland. With a large, well-educated population with English language skills, India has become a center for software development and customer-call centers for American companies. In the case of India, as you can see in Figure 5.4, the attraction is not only a large pool of knowledge workers but also significantly lower wages.
|Occupation||U.S. Wage per Hour (per year)||Indian Wage per Hour (per year)|
|Accountant||$22.12 per hour (~$44,240 per year)||$3.15 per hour (~$6,300 per year)|
|Information Technology Consultant||$40.70 per hour (~$81,400 per year)||$22.40 per hour (~$44,800 per year)|
|Cleaner||$8.70 per hour (~$17,400 per year)||$2.10 per hour (~$4,200 per year)|
What if a company wants to do business in a foreign country but lacks the expertise or resources? Or what if the target nation’s government doesn’t allow foreign companies to operate within its borders unless it has a local partner? In these cases, a firm might enter into a strategic alliance with a local company or even with the government itself.
A strategic alliance is an agreement between two companies (or a company and a nation) to pool resources in order to achieve business goals that benefit both partners. For example, Viacom (a leading global media company) has a strategic alliance with Beijing Television to produce Chinese-language music and entertainment programming.9
An alliance can serve a number of purposes:
Alliances range in scope from informal cooperative agreements to joint ventures— alliances in which the partners fund a separate entity (perhaps a partnership or a corporation) to manage their joint operation. Magazine publisher Hearst, for example, has joint ventures with companies in several countries. So, young women in Israel can read Cosmo Israel in Hebrew, and Russian women can pick up a Russian-language version of Cosmo that meets their needs. The U.S. edition serves as a starting point to which nationally appropriate material is added in each different nation. This approach allows Hearst to sell the magazine in more than fifty countries.10
Many of the approaches to global expansion that we’ve discussed so far allow companies to participate in international markets without investing in foreign plants and facilities. As markets expand, however, a firm might decide to enhance its competitive advantage by making a direct investment in operations conducted in another country. Foreign direct investment (FDI) refers to the formal establishment of business operations on foreign soil—the building of factories, sales offices, and distribution networks to serve local markets in a nation other than the company’s home country. On the other hand, offshoring occurs when the facilities set up in the foreign country replace U.S. manufacturing facilities and are used to produce goods that will be sent back to the United States for sale. Shifting production to low-wage countries is often criticized as it results in the loss of jobs for U.S. workers.11
FDI is generally the most expensive commitment that a firm can make to an overseas market, and it’s typically driven by the size and attractiveness of the target market. For example, German and Japanese automakers, such as BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, and Honda, have made serious commitments to the U.S. market: most of the cars and trucks that they build in plants in the South and Midwest are destined for sale in the United States.
A common form of FDI is the foreign subsidiary: an independent company owned by a foreign firm (called the parent). This approach to going international not only gives the parent company full access to local markets but also exempts it from any laws or regulations that may hamper the activities of foreign firms. The parent company has tight control over the operations of a subsidiary, but while senior managers from the parent company often oversee operations, many managers and employees are citizens of the host country. Not surprisingly, most very large firms have foreign subsidiaries. IBM and Coca-Cola, for example, have both had success in the Japanese market through their foreign subsidiaries (IBM-Japan and Coca-Cola–Japan). FDI goes in the other direction, too, and many companies operating in the United States are in fact subsidiaries of foreign firms. Gerber Products, for example, is a subsidiary of the Swiss company Novartis, while Stop & Shop and Giant Food Stores belong to the Dutch company Royal Ahold. Where does most FDI capital end up? Figure 5.5 provides an overview of amounts, destinations (high to low income countries), and trends.
An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
All these strategies have been employed successfully in global business. But success in international business involves more than finding the best way to reach international markets. Global business is a complex, risky endeavor. Over time, many large companies reach the point of becoming truly multi-national.
|Company||Industry||Headquarters||Revenue in 2014 (in billions of dollars)||Profits in 2014 (in billions of dollars)|
|1. Wal Mart||General Merchandise||USA||$485.7||$16.4|
|2. Sinopec Group||Petroleum||China||$446.8||$5.2|
|3. Royal Dutch Shell||Petroleum||Netherlands/Great Britain||$431.3||$14.9|
|4. China National Petroleum||Petroleum||China||$428.6||$16.4|
|6. BP||Petroleum||Great Britain||$358.7||$3.8|
|7. State Grid||Utilities||China||$339.4||$9.8|
|10. Glencore||Mining||Switzerland/Great Britain||$221.0||$2.3|
|13. Samsung||Electronics||South Korea||$195.8||$21.9|
|14. Berkshire Hathaway||Insurance||USA||$194.7||$19.9|
A company that operates in many countries is called a multinational corporation (MNC). Fortune magazine’s roster of the top 500 MNCs speaks for the growth of non-U.S. businesses. Only two of the top ten MNCs are headquartered in the U.S.(see Figure 5.6 above): Wal-Mart (number 1) and Exxon (number 5). Three others are in the top 15: Chevron, Berkshire Hathaway, and Apple. The others are non-U.S. firms. Interestingly, of the fifteen top companies, ten are energy suppliers, two are motor vehicle companies, and two are consumer electronics or computer companies. Also interesting is the difference between company revenues and profits: the list would look quite different arranged by profits instead of revenues!
MNCs often adopt the approach encapsulated in the motto “Think globally, act locally.” They often adjust their operations, products, marketing, and distribution to mesh with the environments of the countries in which they operate. Because they understand that a “one-size-fits-all” mentality doesn’t make good business sense when they’re trying to sell products in different markets, they’re willing to accommodate cultural and economic differences. Increasingly, MNCs supplement their mainstream product line with products designed for local markets. Coca-Cola, for example, produces coffee and citrus-juice drinks developed specifically for the Japanese market.12 When Nokia and Motorola design cell phones, they’re often geared to local tastes in color, size, and other features. For example, Nokia introduced a cell phone for the rural Indian consumer that has a dust-resistant keypad, anti-slip grip, and a built-in flashlight.13 McDonald’s provides a vegetarian menu in India, where religious convictions affect the demand for beef and pork.14 In Germany, McDonald’s caters to local tastes by offering beer in some restaurants and a Shrimp Burger in Hong Kong and Japan.15
Likewise, many MNCs have made themselves more sensitive to local market conditions by decentralizing their decision making. While corporate headquarters still maintain a fair amount of control, home-country managers keep a suitable distance by relying on modern telecommunications. Today, fewer managers are dispatched from headquarters; MNCs depend instead on local talent. Not only does decentralized organization speed up and improve decision making, but it also allows an MNC to project the image of a local company. IBM, for instance, has been quite successful in the Japanese market because local customers and suppliers perceive it as a Japanese company. Crucial to this perception is the fact that the vast majority of IBM’s Tokyo employees, including top leadership, are Japanese nationals.16
The global reach of MNCs is a source of criticism as well as praise. Critics argue that they often destroy the livelihoods of home-country workers by moving jobs to developing countries where workers are willing to labor under poor conditions and for less pay. They also contend that traditional lifestyles and values are being weakened, and even destroyed, as global brands foster a global culture of American movies; fast food; and cheap, mass-produced consumer products. Still others claim that the demand of MNCs for constant economic growth and cheaper access to natural resources do irreversible damage to the physical environment. All these negative consequences, critics maintain, stem from the abuses of international trade—from the policy of placing profits above people, on a global scale. These views surfaced in violent street demonstrations in Seattle in 1999 and Genoa, Italy, in 2000, and since then, meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank have regularly been assailed by protestors.
Supporters of MNCs respond that huge corporations deliver better, cheaper products for customers everywhere; create jobs; and raise the standard of living in developing countries. They also argue that globalization increases cross-cultural understanding. Anne O. Kruger, first deputy managing director of the IMF, says the following:
“The impact of the faster growth on living standards has been phenomenal. We have observed the increased well-being of a larger percentage of the world’s population by a greater increment than ever before in history. Growing incomes give people the ability to spend on things other than basic food and shelter, in particular on things such as education and health. This ability, combined with the sharing among nations of medical and scientific advances, has transformed life in many parts of the developing world.
Infant mortality has declined from 180 per 1,000 births in 1950 to 60 per 1,000 births. Literacy rates have risen from an average of 40 percent in the 1950s to over 70 percent today. World poverty has declined, despite still-high population growth in the developing world.”17
In the classic movie The Wizard of Oz, a magically misplaced Midwest farm girl takes a moment to survey the bizarre landscape of Oz and then comments to her little dog, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto.” That sentiment probably echoes the reaction of many businesspeople who find themselves in the midst of international ventures for the first time. The differences between the foreign landscape and the one with which they’re familiar are often huge and multifaceted. Some are quite obvious, such as differences in language, currency, and everyday habits (say, using chopsticks instead of silverware). But others are subtle, complex, and sometimes even hidden.
Success in international business means understanding a wide range of cultural, economic, legal, and political differences between countries. Let’s look at some of the more important of these differences.
Even when two people from the same country communicate, there’s always a possibility of misunderstanding. When people from different countries get together, that possibility increases substantially. Differences in communication styles reflect differences in culture: the system of shared beliefs, values, customs, and behaviors that govern the interactions of members of a society. Cultural differences create challenges to successful international business dealings. Let’s look at a few of these challenges.
English is the international language of business. The natives of such European countries as France and Spain certainly take pride in their own languages and cultures, but nevertheless English is the business language of the European community.
Whereas only a few educated Europeans have studied Italian or Norwegian, most have studied English. Similarly, on the South Asian subcontinent, where hundreds of local languages and dialects are spoken, English is the official language. In most corners of the world, English-only speakers—such as most Americans—have no problem finding competent translators and interpreters. So why is language an issue for English speakers doing business in the global marketplace? In many countries, only members of the educated classes speak English. The larger population—which is usually the market you want to tap—speaks the local tongue. Advertising messages and sales appeals must take this fact into account. More than one English translation of an advertising slogan has resulted in a humorous (and perhaps serious) blunder. Some classics are listed on the next page in Figure 5.7.
Furthermore, relying on translators and interpreters puts you as an international businessperson at a disadvantage. You’re privy only to interpretations of the messages that you’re getting, and this handicap can result in a real competitive problem. Maybe you’ll misread the subtler intentions of the person with whom you’re trying to conduct business. The best way to combat this problem is to study foreign languages. Most people appreciate some effort to communicate in their local language, even on the most basic level. They even appreciate mistakes you make resulting from a desire to demonstrate your genuine interest in the language of your counterparts in foreign countries. The same principle goes doubly when you’re introducing yourself to non- English speakers in the United States. Few things work faster to encourage a friendly atmosphere than a native speaker’s willingness to greet a foreign guest in the guest’s native language.
Americans take for granted many of the cultural aspects of our business practices. Most of our meetings, for instance, focus on business issues, and we tend to start and end our meetings on schedule. These habits stem from a broader cultural preference: we don’t like to waste time. (It was an American, Benjamin Franklin, who coined the phrase “Time is money.”) This preference, however, is by no means universal. The expectation that meetings will start on time and adhere to precise agendas is common in parts of Europe (especially the Germanic countries), as well as in the United States, but elsewhere—say, in Latin America and the Middle East—people are often late to meetings.
Likewise, don’t expect businesspeople from these regions—or businesspeople from most of Mediterranean Europe, for that matter—to “get down to business” as soon as a meeting has started. They’ll probably ask about your health and that of your family, inquire whether you’re enjoying your visit to their country, suggest local foods, and generally appear to be avoiding serious discussion at all costs. For Americans, such topics are conducive to nothing but idle chitchat, but in certain cultures, getting started this way is a matter of simple politeness and hospitality.
Different cultures have different communication styles—a fact that can take some getting used to. For example, degrees of animation in expression can vary from culture to culture. Southern Europeans and Middle Easterners are quite animated, favoring expressive body language along with hand gestures and raised voices. Northern Europeans are far more reserved. The English, for example, are famous for their understated style and the Germans for their formality in most business settings. In addition, the distance at which one feels comfortable when talking with someone varies by culture. People from the Middle East like to converse from a distance of a foot or less, while Americans prefer more personal space.
Finally, while people in some cultures prefer to deliver direct, clear messages, others use language that’s subtler or more indirect. North Americans and most Northern Europeans fall into the former category and many Asians into the latter. But even within these categories, there are differences. Though typically polite, Chinese and Koreans are extremely direct in expression, while Japanese are indirect: They use vague language and avoid saying “no” even if they do not intend to do what you ask. They worry that turning someone down will result in their “losing face”, i.e., an embarrassment or loss of credibility, and so they avoid doing this in public.
In summary, learn about a country’s culture and use your knowledge to help improve the quality of your business dealings. Learn to value the subtle differences among cultures, but don’t allow cultural stereotypes to dictate how you interact with people from any culture. Treat each person as an individual and spend time getting to know what he or she is about.
If you plan to do business in a foreign country, you need to know its level of economic development. You also should be aware of factors influencing the value of its currency and the impact that changes in that value will have on your profits.
If you don’t understand a nation’s level of economic development, you’ll have trouble answering some basic questions, such as: Will consumers in this country be able to afford the product I want to sell? Will it be possible to make a reasonable profit? A country’s level of economic development can be evaluated by estimating the annual income earned per citizen. The World Bank, which lends money for improvements in underdeveloped nations, divides countries into four income categories:
World Bank Country and Lending Groups (by Gross National Income per Capita 2015)18
Note that that even though a country has a low annual income per citizen, it can still be an attractive place for doing business. India, for example, is a lower-middle-income country, yet it has a population of a billion, and a segment of that population is well educated—an appealing feature for many business initiatives.
The long-term goal of many countries is to move up the economic development ladder. Some factors conducive to economic growth include a reliable banking system, a strong stock market, and government policies to encourage investment and competition while discouraging corruption. It’s also important that a country have a strong infrastructure—its systems of communications (telephone, Internet, television, newspapers), transportation (roads, railways, airports), energy (gas and electricity, power plants), and social facilities (schools, hospitals). These basic systems will help countries attract foreign investors, which can be crucial to economic development.
If every nation used the same currency, international trade and travel would be a lot easier. Of course, this is not the case. There are around 175 currencies in the world: Some you’ve heard of, such as the British pound; others are likely unknown to you, such as the manat, the official currency of Azerbaijan. If you were in Azerbaijan you would exchange your U.S. dollars for Azerbaijan manats. The day’s foreign exchange rate will tell you how much one currency is worth relative to another currency and so determine how many manats you will receive. If you have traveled abroad, you already have personal experience with the impact of exchange rate movements.
One of the more difficult aspects of doing business globally is dealing with vast differences in legal and regulatory environments. The United States, for example, has an established set of laws and regulations that provide direction to businesses operating within its borders. But because there is no global legal system, key
areas of business law—for example, contract provisions and copyright protection—can be treated in different ways in different countries. Companies doing international business often face many inconsistent laws and regulations. To navigate this sea of confusion, American businesspeople must know and follow both U.S. laws and regulations and those of nations in which they operate.
Business history is filled with stories about American companies that have stumbled in trying to comply with foreign laws and regulations. Coca-Cola, for example, ran afoul of Italian law when it printed its ingredients list on the bottle cap rather than on the bottle itself. Italian courts ruled that the labeling was inadequate because most people throw the cap away.19
One approach to dealing with local laws and regulations is hiring lawyers from the host country who can provide advice on legal issues. Another is working with local businesspeople who have experience in complying with regulations and overcoming bureaucratic obstacles.
One U.S. law that creates unique challenges for American firms operating overseas is the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits the distribution of bribes and other favors in the conduct of business. Unfortunately, though they’re illegal in this country, such tactics as kickbacks and bribes are business-as-usual in many nations. According to some experts, American businesspeople are at a competitive disadvantage if they’re prohibited from giving bribes or undercover payments to foreign officials or business people who expect them. In theory, because the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act warns foreigners that Americans can’t give bribes, they’ll eventually stop expecting them.
Where are American businesspeople most likely and least likely to encounter bribe requests and related forms of corruption? Transparency International, an independent German-based organization, annually rates nations according to “perceived corruption,” (see Figure 5.8) which it defines as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.”20
According to the U.S. International Trade Administration, the travel and tourism industry in the United States generated $1.6 trillion in economic output and 7.8 million U.S. jobs in 2013, with nearly one in 18 Americans employed directly or indirectly in a travel or tourism-related industry.21 The Bureau of Labor of Labor Statistics indicates that an even higher percentage (11%) of U.S. jobs are in the Leisure and Hospitality sector.22
While the majority of travel, tourism and hospitality in the U.S. tourism industry is domestic, the U.S. leads the world in international travel and tourism exports (i.e., travelers from other countries visiting the U.S.) with 15% of global traveler spending. Travel and tourism ranks as the top services export, accounting for 31 percent of all U.S. services exports in 2014.
Expenditures by international visitors in the United States translate to economic impacts and jobs: including: $220.8 billion in sales, a $75.1 billion trade surplus, and 1.1 million total jobs in 2014.23 The sector is poised to grow: the latest U.S. Commerce Department international travel forecast estimates a 20% increase in international visitors in 2020 in comparison to 2014.24
The debate about the extent to which countries should control the flow of foreign goods and investments across their borders is as old as international trade itself. Governments continue to control trade. To better understand how and why, let’s examine a hypothetical case. Suppose you’re in charge of a small country in which people do two things—grow food and make clothes. Because the quality of both products is high and the prices are reasonable, your consumers are happy to buy locally made food and clothes. But one day, a farmer from a nearby country crosses your border with several wagonloads of wheat to sell. On the same day, a foreign clothes maker arrives with a large shipment of clothes. These two entrepreneurs want to sell food and clothes in your country at prices below those that local consumers now pay for domestically made food and clothes. At first, this seems like a good deal for your consumers: they won’t have to pay as much for food and clothes. But then you remember all the people in your country who grow food and make clothes. If no one buys their goods (because the imported goods are cheaper), what will happen to their livelihoods? And if many people become unemployed, what will happen to your national economy? That’s when you decide to protect your farmers and clothes makers by setting up trade rules. Maybe you’ll increase the prices of imported goods by adding a tax to them; you might even make the tax so high that they’re more expensive than your homemade goods. Or perhaps you’ll help your farmers grow food more cheaply by giving them financial help to defray their costs. The government payments that you give to the farmers to help offset some of their costs of production are called subsidies. These subsidies will allow the farmers to lower the price of their goods to a point below that of imported competitors’ goods. What’s even better is that the lower costs will allow the farmers to export their own goods at attractive, competitive prices.
The United States has a long history of subsidizing farmers. Subsidy programs guarantee farmers (including large corporate farms) a certain price for their crops, regardless of the market price. This guarantee ensures stable income in the farming community but can have a negative impact on the world economy. How? Critics argue that in allowing American farmers to export crops at artificially low prices, U.S. agricultural subsidies permit them to compete unfairly with farmers in developing countries. A reverse situation occurs in the steel industry, in which a number of countries—China, Japan, Russia, Germany, and Brazil—subsidize domestic producers.
U.S. trade unions charge that this practice gives an unfair advantage to foreign producers and hurts the American steel industry, which can’t compete on price with subsidized imports.
Whether they push up the price of imports or push down the price of local goods, such initiatives will help locally produced goods compete more favorably with foreign goods. Both strategies are forms of trade controls—policies that restrict free trade. Because they protect domestic industries by reducing foreign competition, the use of such controls is often called protectionism. Though there’s considerable debate over the pros and cons of this practice, all countries engage in it to some extent. Before debating the issue, however, let’s learn about the more common types of trade restrictions: tariffs, quotas, and, embargoes.
Tariffs are taxes on imports. Because they raise the price of the foreign-made goods, they make them less competitive. The United States, for example, protects domestic makers of synthetic knitted shirts by imposing a stiff tariff of 32.5 percent on imports.25 Tariffs are also used to raise revenue for a government. Shoe imports alone are worth $2.7 billion annually to the federal government.26
A quota imposes limits on the quantity of a good that can be imported over a period of time. Quotas are used to protect specific industries, usually new industries or those facing strong competitive pressure from foreign firms. U.S. import quotas take two forms. An absolute quota fixes an upper limit on the amount of a good that can be imported during the given period. A tariff-rate quota permits the import of a specified quantity and then adds a high import tax once the limit is reached.
Sometimes quotas protect one group at the expense of another. To protect sugar beet and sugar cane growers, for instance, the United States imposes a tariff-rate quota on the importation of sugar—a policy that has driven up the cost of sugar to two to three times world prices.27 These artificially high prices push up costs for American candy makers, some of whom have moved their operations elsewhere, taking high-paying manufacturing jobs with them. Life Savers, for example, were made in the United States for ninety years but are now produced in Canada, where the company saves $9 million annually on the cost of sugar.28
An extreme form of quota is the embargo, which, for economic or political reasons, bans the import or export of certain goods to or from a specific country. The U. S., for example, bans nearly every commodity originating in Cuba, although this may soon change.
A common political rationale for establishing tariffs and quotas is the need to combat dumping: the practice of selling exported goods below the price that producers would normally charge in their home markets (and often below the cost of producing the goods). Usually, nations resort to this practice to gain entry and market share in foreign markets, but it can also be used to sell off surplus or obsolete goods. Dumping creates unfair competition for domestic industries, and governments are justifiably concerned when they suspect foreign countries of dumping products on their markets. They often retaliate by imposing punitive tariffs that drive up the price of the imported goods.
Opinions vary on government involvement in international trade. Proponents of controls contend that there are a number of legitimate reasons why countries engage in protectionism. Sometimes they restrict trade to protect specific industries and their workers from foreign competition—agriculture, for example, or steel making. At other times, they restrict imports to give new or struggling industries a chance to get established. Finally, some countries use protectionism to shield industries that are vital to their national defense, such as shipbuilding and military hardware.
Despite valid arguments made by supporters of trade controls, most experts believe that such restrictions as tariffs and quotas—as well as practices that don’t promote level playing fields, such as subsidies and dumping—are detrimental to the world economy. Without impediments to trade, countries can compete freely. Each nation can focus on what it does best and bring its goods to a fair and open world market. When this happens, the world will prosper, or so the argument goes. International trade is certainly heading in the direction of unrestricted markets.
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A number of organizations work to ease barriers to trade, and more countries are joining together to promote trade and mutual economic benefits. Let’s look at some of these important initiatives.
Free trade is encouraged by a number of agreements and organizations set up to monitor trade policies. The two most important are the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the World Trade Organization.
After the Great Depression and World War II, most countries focused on protecting home industries, so international trade was hindered by rigid trade restrictions. To rectify this situation, twenty-three nations joined together in 1947 and signed the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which encouraged free trade by regulating and reducing tariffs and by providing a forum for resolving trade disputes.
The highly successful initiative achieved substantial reductions in tariffs and quotas, and in 1995 its members founded the World Trade Organization to continue the work of GATT in overseeing global trade.
Based in Geneva, Switzerland, with nearly 150 members, the World Trade Organization (WTO) encourages global commerce and lower trade barriers, enforces international rules of trade, and provides a forum for resolving disputes. It is empowered, for instance, to determine whether a member nation’s trade policies have violated the organization’s rules, and it can direct “guilty” countries to remove disputed barriers (though it has no legal power to force any country to do anything it doesn’t want to do). If the guilty party refuses to comply, the WTO may authorize the plaintiff nation to erect trade barriers of its own, generally in the form of tariffs.
Affected members aren’t always happy with WTO actions. In 2002, for example, the Bush administration imposed a three-year tariff on imported steel. In ruling against this tariff, the WTO allowed the aggrieved nations to impose counter-tariffs on some politically sensitive American products, such as Florida oranges, Texas grapefruits and computers, and Wisconsin cheese. Reluctantly, the administration lifted its tariff on steel.29
A key to helping developing countries become active participants in the global marketplace is providing financial assistance. Offering monetary assistance to some of the poorest nations in the world is the shared goal of two organizations: the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. These organizations, to which most countries belong, were established in 1944 to accomplish different but complementary purposes.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans money to countries with troubled economies, such as Mexico in the 1980s and mid-1990s and Russia and Argentina in the late 1990s. There are, however, strings attached to IMF loans: in exchange for relief in times of financial crisis, borrower countries must institute sometimes painful financial and economic reforms. In the 1980s, for example, Mexico received financial relief from the IMF on the condition that it privatize and deregulate certain industries and liberalize trade policies. The government was also required to cut back expenditures for such services as education, health care, and workers’ benefits.30
The World Bank is an important source of economic assistance for poor and developing countries. With backing from wealthy donor countries (such as the United States, Japan, Germany, and United Kingdom), the World Bank has committed $42.5 billion in loans, grants, and guarantees to some of the world’s poorest nations.31 Loans are made to help countries improve the lives of the poor through community-support programs designed to provide health, nutrition, education, infrastructure, and other social services.
So far, our discussion has suggested that global trade would be strengthened if there were no restrictions on it—if countries didn’t put up barriers to trade or perform special favors for domestic industries. The complete absence of barriers is an ideal state of affairs that we haven’t yet attained. In the meantime, economists and policymakers tend to focus on a more practical question: Can we achieve the goal of free trade on the regional level? To an extent, the answer is yes. In certain parts of the world, groups of countries have joined together to allow goods and services to flow without restrictions across their mutual borders. Such groups are called trading blocs. Let’s examine two of the most powerful trading blocs—NAFTA and the European Union.
The North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) is an agreement among the governments of the United States, Canada, and Mexico to open their borders to unrestricted trade. The effect of this agreement is that three very different economies are combined into one economic zone with almost no trade barriers. From the northern tip of Canada to the southern tip of Mexico, each country benefits from the comparative advantages of its partners: each nation is free to produce what it does best and to trade its goods and services without restrictions.
When the agreement was ratified in 1994, it had no shortage of skeptics. Many people feared, for example, that without tariffs on Mexican goods, more U.S. manufacturing jobs would be lost to Mexico, where labor is cheaper. Almost two decades later, most such fears have not been realized, and, by and large, NAFTA has been a success.
Since it went into effect, the value of trade between the United States and Mexico has grown substantially, and Canada and Mexico are now the United States’ top trading partners.
The forty-plus countries of Europe have long shown an interest in integrating their economies. The first organized effort to integrate a segment of Europe’s economic entities began in the late 1950s, when six countries joined together to form the European Economic Community (EEC). Over the next four decades, membership grew, and in the late 1990s, the EEC became the European Union. Today, the European Union (EU) is a group of twenty-seven countries that have eliminated trade barriers among themselves (see the map in Figure 5.10).
At first glance, the EU looks similar to NAFTA. Both, for instance, allow unrestricted trade among member nations. But the provisions of the EU go beyond those of NAFTA in several important ways. Most importantly, the EU is more than a trading organization: it also enhances political and social cooperation and binds its members into a single entity with authority to require them to follow common rules and regulations. It is much like a federation of states with a weak central government, with the effect not only of eliminating internal barriers but also of enforcing common tariffs on trade from outside the EU. In addition, while NAFTA allows goods and services as well as capital to pass between borders, the EU also allows people to come and go freely: if you possess an EU passport, you can work in any EU nation.
A key step toward unification occurred in 1999, when most (but not all) EU members agreed to abandon their own currencies and adopt a joint currency. The actual conversion occurred in 2002, when a common currency called the euro replaced the separate currencies of participating EU countries. The common currency facilitates trade and finance because exchange-rate differences no longer complicate transactions.32
Its proponents argued that the EU would not only unite economically and politically distinct countries but also create an economic power that could compete against the dominant players in the global marketplace. Individually, each European country has limited economic power, but as a group, they could be an economic superpower.33 Over time, the value of the euro has been questioned. Many of the “euro” countries (Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Ireland in particular) have been financially irresponsible, piling up huge debts and experiencing high unemployment and problems in the housing market. But because these troubled countries share a common currency with the other “euro countries”, they are less able to correct their economic woes.34 Many economists fear that the financial crisis precipitated by these financially irresponsible countries threaten the very survival of the euro.35 Keep a close eye on Greece because if an exit from the Euro occurs, it will likely start there.
Only time will tell whether the trend toward regional trade agreements is good for the world economy. Clearly, they’re beneficial to their respective participants; for one thing, they get preferential treatment from other members. But certain questions still need to be answered more fully. Are regional agreements, for example, moving the world closer to free trade on a global scale—toward a marketplace in which goods and services can be traded anywhere without barriers?
An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
Figure 5.4: “Selected Hourly Wages, United States and India.” Data from Rick Noack (2015). “Chart: See how much (or how little) you’d earn if you did the same job in another country.” The Washington Post. Retrieved from:
Figure 5.10 “The European Union” Designed for Virginia Tech Libraries by Brian Craig and Robert Browder. Adapted from European Union map.svg [public domain] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:European_Union_map.svg. Licensed CC BY 4.0.
Who would have thought it? Two ex-hippies with strong interests in social activism would end up starting one of the best-known ice cream companies in the country—Ben & Jerry’s. Perhaps it was meant to be. Ben Cohen (the “Ben” of Ben & Jerry’s) always had a fascination with ice cream. As a child, he made his own mixtures by smashing his favorite cookies and candies into his ice cream. But it wasn’t until his senior year in high school that he became an official “ice cream man,” happily driving his truck through neighborhoods filled with kids eager to buy his ice cream pops. After high school, Ben tried college but it wasn’t for him. He attended Colgate University for a year and a half before he dropped out to return to his real love: being an ice cream man. He tried college again—this time at Skidmore, where he studied pottery and jewelry making—but, in spite of his selection of courses, still didn’t like it.
In the meantime, Jerry Greenfield (the “Jerry” of Ben & Jerry’s) was following a similar path. He majored in pre-med at Oberlin College in the hopes of one day becoming a doctor. But he had to give up on this goal when he was not accepted into medical school. On a positive note, though, his college education steered him into a more lucrative field: the world of ice cream making. He got his first peek at the ice cream industry when he worked as a scooper in the student cafeteria at Oberlin. So, fourteen years after they first met on the junior high school track team, Ben and Jerry reunited and decided to go into ice cream making big time. They moved to Burlington, Vermont—a college town in need of an ice cream parlor—and completed a $5 correspondence course from Penn State on making ice cream. After getting an A in the course—not surprising, given that the tests were open book—they took the plunge: with their life savings of $8,000 and $4,000 of borrowed funds they set up an ice cream shop in a made-over gas station on a busy street corner in Burlington.1 The next big decision was which form of business ownership was best for them. This chapter introduces you to their options.
If you’re starting a new business, you have to decide which legal form of ownership is best for you and your business. Do you want to own the business yourself and operate as a sole proprietorship? Or, do you want to share ownership, operating as a partnership or a corporation? Before we discuss the pros and cons of these three types of ownership, let’s address some of the questions that you’d probably ask yourself in choosing the appropriate legal form for your business.
No single form of ownership will give you everything you desire. You’ll have to make some trade-offs. Because each option has both advantages and disadvantages, your job is to decide which one offers the features that are most important to you. In the following sections we’ll compare three ownership options (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation) on these eight dimensions.
In a sole proprietorship, as the owner, you have complete control over your business. You make all important decisions and are generally responsible for all day-to-day activities. In exchange for assuming all this responsibility, you get all the income earned by the business. Profits earned are taxed as personal income, so you don’t have to pay any special federal and state income taxes.
For many people, however, the sole proprietorship is not suitable. The flip side of enjoying complete control is having to supply all the different talents that may be necessary to make the business a success. And when you’re gone, the business dissolves. You also have to rely on your own resources for financing: in effect, you are the business and any money borrowed by the business is loaned to you personally. Even more important, the sole proprietor bears unlimited liability for any losses incurred by the business. The principle of unlimited personal liability means that if the business incurs a debt or suffers a catastrophe (say, getting sued for causing an injury to someone), the owner is personally liable. As a sole proprietor, you put your personal assets (your bank account, your car, maybe even your home) at risk for the sake of your business. You can lessen your risk with insurance, yet your liability exposure can still be substantial. Given that Ben and Jerry decided to start their ice cream business together (and therefore the business was not owned by only one person), they could not set their company up as a sole proprietorship.
A partnership (or general partnership) is a business owned jointly by two or more people. About 10 percent of U.S. businesses are partnerships2 and though the vast majority are small, some are quite large. For example, the big four public accounting firms are partnerships. Setting up a partnership is more complex than setting up a sole proprietorship, but it’s still relatively easy and inexpensive. The cost varies according to size and complexity. It’s possible to form a simple partnership without the help of a lawyer or an accountant, though it’s usually a good idea to get professional advice.
Professionals can help you identify and resolve issues that may later create disputes among partners.
The impact of disputes can be lessened if the partners have executed a well-planned partnership agreement that specifies everyone’s rights and responsibilities. The agreement might provide such details as the following:
A major problem with partnerships, as with sole proprietorships, is unlimited liability: in this case, each partner is personally liable not only for his or her own actions but also for the actions of all the partners. If your partner in an architectural firm makes a mistake that causes a structure to collapse, the loss your business incurs impacts you just as much as it would him or her. And here’s the really bad news: if the business doesn’t have the cash or other assets to cover losses, you can be personally sued for the amount owed. In other words, the party who suffered a loss because of the error can sue you for your personal assets. Many people are understandably reluctant to enter into partnerships because of unlimited liability. Certain forms of businesses allow owners to limit their liability. These include limited partnerships and corporations.
The law permits business owners to form a limited partnership which has two types of partners: a single general partner who runs the business and is responsible for its liabilities, and any number of limited partners who have limited involvement in the business and whose losses are limited to the amount of their investment.
The partnership has several advantages over the sole proprietorship. First, it brings together a diverse group of talented individuals who share responsibility for running the business. Second, it makes financing easier: the business can draw on the financial resources of a number of individuals. The partners not only contribute funds to the business but can also use personal resources to secure bank loans. Finally, continuity needn’t be an issue because partners can agree legally to allow the partnership to survive if one or more partners die.
Still, there are some negatives. First, as discussed earlier, partners are subject to unlimited liability. Second, being a partner means that you have to share decision making, and many people aren’t comfortable with that situation. Not surprisingly, partners often have differences of opinion on how to run a business, and disagreements can escalate to the point of jeopardizing the continuance of the business. Third, in addition to sharing ideas, partners also share profits. This arrangement can work as long as all partners feel that they’re being rewarded according to their efforts and accomplishments, but that isn’t always the case. While the partnership form of ownership is viewed negatively by some, it was particularly appealing to Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. Starting their ice cream business as a partnership was inexpensive and let them combine their limited financial resources and use their diverse skills and talents. As friends they trusted each other and welcomed shared decision making and profit sharing. They were also not reluctant to be held personally liable for each other’s actions.
A corporation (sometimes called a regular or C-corporation) differs from a sole proprietorship and a partnership because it’s a legal entity that is entirely separate from the parties who own it. It can enter into binding contracts, buy and sell property, sue and be sued, be held responsible for its actions, and be taxed. Once businesses reach any substantial size, it is advantageous to organize as a corporation so that its owners can limit their liability. Corporations, then, tend to be far larger, on average, than businesses using other forms of ownership. As Figure 6.2 shows, corporations account for 18 percent of all U.S. businesses but generate almost 82 percent of the revenues.3 Most large well-known businesses are corporations, but so are many of the smaller firms with which likely you do business.
Corporations are owned by shareholders who invest money in the business by buying shares of stock. The portion of the corporation they own depends on the percentage of stock they hold. For example, if a corporation has issued 100 shares of stock, and you own 30 shares, you own 30 percent of the company. The shareholders elect a board of directors, a group of people (primarily from outside the corporation) who are legally responsible for governing the corporation. The board oversees the major policies and decisions made by the corporation, sets goals and holds management accountable for achieving them, and hires and evaluates the top executive, generally called the CEO (chief executive officer). The board also approves the distribution of income to shareholders in the form of cash payments called dividends.
The corporate form of organization offers several advantages, including limited liability for shareholders, greater access to financial resources, specialized management, and continuity.
The most important benefit of incorporation is the limited liability to which shareholders are exposed: they are not responsible for the obligations of the corporation, and they can lose no more than the amount that they have personally invested in the company. Limited liability would have been a big plus for the unfortunate individual whose business partner burned down their dry cleaning establishment. Had they been incorporated, the corporation would have been liable for the debts incurred by the fire. If the corporation didn’t have enough money to pay the debt, the individual shareholders would not have been obligated to pay anything. They would have lost all the money that they’d invested in the business, but no more.
Incorporation also makes it possible for businesses to raise funds by selling stock. This is a big advantage as a company grows and needs more funds to operate and compete. Depending on its size and financial strength, the corporation also has an advantage over other forms of business in getting bank loans. An established corporation can borrow its own funds, but when a small business needs a loan, the bank usually requires that it be guaranteed by its owners.
Because of their size and ability to pay high sales commissions and benefits, corporations are generally able to attract more skilled and talented employees than are proprietorships and partnerships.
Another advantage of incorporation is continuity. Because the corporation has a legal life separate from the lives of its owners, it can (at least in theory) exist forever.
Transferring ownership of a corporation is easy: shareholders simply sell their stock to others. Some founders, however, want to restrict the transferability of their stock and so choose to operate as a privately-held corporation. The stock in these corporations is held by only a few individuals, who are not allowed to sell it to the general public.
Companies with no such restrictions on stock sales are called public corporations; stock is available for sale to the general public.
Like sole proprietorships and partnerships, corporations have both positive and negative aspects. In sole proprietorships and partnerships, for instance, the individuals who own and manage a business are the same people. Corporate managers, however, don’t necessarily own stock, and shareholders don’t necessarily work for the company. This situation can be troublesome if the goals of the two groups differ significantly.
Managers, for example, are often more interested in career advancement than the overall profitability of the company. Stockholders might care more about profits without regard for the well-being of employees. This situation is known as the agency problem, a conflict of interest inherent in a relationship in which one party is supposed to act in the best interest of the other. It is often quite difficult to prevent self-interest from entering into these situations.
Another drawback to incorporation—one that often discourages small businesses from incorporating—is the fact that corporations are more costly to set up. When you combine filing and licensing fees with accounting and attorney fees, incorporating a business could set you back by $1,000 to $6,000 or more depending on the size and scope of your business.4 Additionally, corporations are subject to levels of regulation and governmental oversight that can place a burden on small businesses. Finally, corporations are subject to what’s generally called “double taxation.” Corporations are taxed by the federal and state governments on their earnings. When these earnings are distributed as dividends, the shareholders pay taxes on these dividends. Corporate profits are thus taxed twice—the corporation pays the taxes the first time and the shareholders pay the taxes the second time.
Five years after starting their ice cream business, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield evaluated the pros and cons of the corporate form of ownership, and the “pros” won. The primary motivator was the need to raise funds to build a $2 million manufacturing facility. Not only did Ben and Jerry decide to switch from a partnership to a corporation, but they also decided to sell shares of stock to the public (and thus become a public corporation). Their sale of stock to the public was a bit unusual: Ben and Jerry wanted the community to own the company, so instead of offering the stock to anyone interested in buying a share, they offered stock to residents of Vermont only. Ben believed that “business has a responsibility to give back to the community from which it draws its support.”5 He wanted the company to be owned by those who lined up in the gas station to buy cones. The stock was so popular that one in every hundred Vermont families bought stock in the company.6 Eventually, as the company continued to expand, the stock was sold on a national level.
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In addition to the three commonly adopted forms of business organization—sole proprietorship, partnership, and regular corporations—some business owners select other forms of organization to meet their particular needs. We’ll look at two of these options:
How would you like a legal form of organization that provides the attractive features of the three common forms of organization (corporation, sole proprietorship and partnership) and avoids the unattractive features of these three organization forms? The limited-liability company (LLC) accomplishes exactly that. This form provides business owners with limited liability (a key advantage of corporations) and no “double taxation” (a key advantage of sole proprietorships and partnerships). Let’s look at the LLC in more detail.
In 1977, Wyoming became the first state to allow businesses to operate as limited-liability companies. Twenty years later, in 1997, Hawaii became the last state to give its approval to the new organization form. Since then, the limited-liability company has increased in popularity. Its rapid growth was fueled in part by changes in state statutes that permit a limited-liability company to have just one member. The trend to LLCs can be witnessed by reading company names on the side of trucks or on storefronts in your city. It is common to see names such as Jim Evans Tree Care, LLC, and For-Cats-Only Veterinary Clinic, LLC. But LLCs are not limited to small businesses. Companies such as Crayola, Domino’s Pizza, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, and iSold It (which helps people sell their unwanted belongings on eBay) are operating under the limited-liability form of organization.
In a limited-liability company, owners (called members rather than shareholders) are not personally liable for debts of the company, and its earnings are taxed only once, at the personal level (thereby eliminating double taxation).
We have touted the benefits of limited liability protection for an LLC. We now need to point out some circumstances under which an LLC member (or a shareholder in a corporation) might be held personally liable for the debts of his or her company. A business owner can be held personally liable if he or she:
A not-for-profit corporation (sometimes called a nonprofit) is an organization formed to serve some public purpose rather than for financial gain. As long as the organization’s activity is for charitable, religious, educational, scientific, or literary purposes, it can be exempt from paying income taxes. Additionally, individuals and other organizations that contribute to the not-for-profit corporation can take a tax deduction for those contributions. The types of groups that normally apply for nonprofit status vary widely and include churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship; museums; universities; and conservation groups.
There are more than 1.5 million not-for-profit organizations in the United States.7 Some are extremely well funded, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has an endowment of approximately $40 billion and has given away $36.7 billion since its inception.8 Others are nationally recognized, such as United Way, Goodwill Industries, Habitat for Humanity, and the Red Cross. Yet the vast majority is neither rich nor famous, but nevertheless makes significant contributions to society.
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The headline read, “Wanted: More than 2,000 in Google Hiring Spree.”9 The largest Web search engine in the world was disclosing its plans to grow internally and increase its workforce by more than 2,000 people, with half of the hires coming from the United States and the other half coming from other countries. The added employees will help the company expand into new markets and battle for global talent in the competitive Internet information providers industry. When properly executed, internal growth benefits the firm.
An alternative approach to growth is to merge with or acquire another company. The rationale behind growth through merger or acquisition is that 1 + 1 = 3: the combined company is more valuable than the sum of the two separate companies. This rationale is attractive to companies facing competitive pressures. To grab a bigger share of the market and improve profitability, companies will want to become more cost efficient by combining with other companies.
Though they are often used as if they’re synonymous, the terms merger and acquisition mean slightly different things. A merger occurs when two companies combine to form a new company. An acquisition is the purchase of one company by another. An example of a merger is the merging in 2013 of US Airways and American Airlines. The combined company, the largest carrier in the world, flies under the name American Airlines.
Another example of an acquisition is the purchase of Reebok by Adidas for $3.8 billion.10 The deal was expected to give Adidas a stronger presence in North America and help the company compete with rival Nike. Once this acquisition was completed, Reebok as a company ceased to exist, though Adidas still sells shoes under the Reebok brand.
Companies are motivated to merge or acquire other companies for a number of reasons, including the following.
Acquiring complementary products was the motivation behind Adidas’s acquisition of Reebok. As Adidas CEO Herbert Hainer stated in a conference call, “This is a once-in- a-lifetime opportunity. This is a perfect fit for both companies, because the companies are so complementary…. Adidas is grounded in sports performance with such products as a motorized running shoe and endorsement deals with such superstars as British soccer player David Beckham. Meanwhile, Reebok plays heavily to the melding of sports and entertainment with endorsement deals and products by Nelly, Jay-Z, and 50 Cent. The combination could be deadly to Nike.” Of course, Nike has continued to thrive, but one can’t blame Hainer for his optimism.11
Gaining new markets was a significant factor in the 2005 merger of US Airways and America West. US Airways was a major player on the East Coast, the Caribbean, and Europe, while America West was strong in the West. The expectations were that combining the two carriers would create an airline that could reach more markets than either carrier could do on its own.12
The purchase of Pharmacia Corporation (a Swedish pharmaceutical company) by Pfizer (a research-based pharmaceutical company based in the United States) in 2003 created one of the world’s largest drug makers and pharmaceutical companies, by revenue, in every major market around the globe.13 The acquisition created an industry giant with more than $48 billion in revenue and a research-and-development budget of more than $7 billion. Each day, almost forty million people around the globe are treated with Pfizer medicines.14 Its subsequent $68 billion purchase of rival drug maker Wyeth further increased its presence in the pharmaceutical market.15
In pursuing these acquisitions, Pfizer likely identified many synergies: quite simply, a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. There are many examples of synergies. A merger typically results in a number of redundant positions; the combined company does not likely need two vice-presidents of marketing, two chief financial officers, and so on. Eliminating the redundant positions leads to significant cost savings that would not be realized if the two companies did not merge. Let’s say each of the companies was operating factories at 50% of capacity, and by merging, one factory could be closed and sold. That would also be an example of a synergy. Companies bring different strengths and weaknesses into the merged entity. If the newly-combined company can take advantage of the marketing capabilities of the stronger entity and the distribution capabilities of the other (assuming they are stronger), the new company can realize synergies in both of these functions.
What happens, though, if one company wants to acquire another company, but that company doesn’t want to be acquired? The outcome could be a hostile takeover—an act of assuming control that’s resisted by the targeted company’s management and its board of directors. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield found themselves in one of these situations: Unilever—a very large Dutch/British company that owns three ice cream brands—wanted to buy Ben & Jerry’s, against the founders’ wishes. Most of the Ben & Jerry’s stockholders sided with Unilever. They had little confidence in the ability of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield to continue managing the company and were frustrated with the firm’s social-mission focus. The stockholders liked Unilever’s offer to buy their Ben & Jerry’s stock at almost twice its current market price and wanted to take their profits. In the end, Unilever won; Ben & Jerry’s was acquired by Unilever in a hostile takeover.16 Despite fears that the company’s social mission would end, it didn’t happen. Though neither Ben Cohen nor Jerry Greenfield are involved in the current management of the company, they have returned to their social activism roots and are heavily involved in numerous social initiatives sponsored by the company.
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Chapter Video: Business Structures
Here is a short video providing a simple and straightforward recap of the key points of each form of business ownership.
“Business Structures.” (Bean Counter). March 9, 2014. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-GLrHhuDEM
One balmy San Diego evening in 1993, Mary and Rick Jurmain were watching a TV program about teenage pregnancy.1 To simulate the challenge of caring for an infant, teens on the program were assigned to tend baby-size sacks of flour. Rick, a father of two young children, remarked that trundling around a sack of flour wasn’t exactly a true- to-life experience. In particular, he argued, sacks of flour simulated only abnormally happy babies—babies who didn’t cry, especially in the middle of the night. Half-seriously, Mary suggested that her husband—a between-jobs aerospace engineer— build a better baby, and within a couple of weeks, a prototype was born. Rick’s brainchild was a bouncing 6.5-pound bundle of vinyl-covered joy with an internal computer to simulate infant crying at realistic, random intervals. He also designed a drug-affected model to simulate tremors from withdrawal, and each model monitored itself for neglect or ill treatment.
The Jurmains patented Baby Think It Over and started production in 1994 as Baby Think It Over Inc. Their first “factory” was their garage, and the “office” was the kitchen table—“a little business in a house,” as Mary put it. With a boost from articles in USA Today, Newsweek, Forbes, and People—plus a “Product of the Year” nod from Fortune—news of the Jurmains’ “infant simulator” eventually spread to the new company’s targeted education market, and by 1998, some forty thousand simulators had been babysat by more than a million teenagers in nine countries. By that time, the company had moved to Wisconsin, where it had been rechristened BTIO Educational Products Inc. to reflect an expanded product line that now includes not only dolls and equipment, like the Shaken Baby Syndrome Simulator, but also simulator-based programs like START Addiction Education and Realityworks Pregnancy Profile. BTIO was retired and replaced by the new and improved RealCare Baby and, ultimately, by RealCare Baby II–Plus, which requires the participant to determine what the “baby” needs when it cries and downloads data to record misconduct. In 2003, the name of the Jurmains’ company was changed once again, this time to Realityworks Inc.
In developing BTIO and Realityworks Inc., the Jurmains were doing what entrepreneurs do (and doing it very well). In fact, Mary was nominated three times for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and named 2001 Wisconsin Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year by the National Association of Women Business Owners. So what, exactly, is an entrepreneur and what does one do? According to one definition, an entrepreneur is an “individual who starts a new business” – and that’s true. Another definition identifies an entrepreneur as someone who “uses resources to implement innovative ideas for new, thoughtfully planned ventures.”2 But an important component of a satisfactory definition is still missing. To appreciate fully what it is, let’s go back to the story of the Jurmains. In 1993, the Jurmains were both unemployed—Rick had been laid off by General Dynamics Corp., and Mary by the San Diego Gas and Electric Company. While they were watching the show about teenagers and flour sacks, they were living off a loan from her father and the returns from a timely investment in coffee futures. Rick recalls that the idea for a method of creating BTIO came to him while “I was awake in bed, worrying about being unemployed.” He was struggling to find a way to feed his family. He had to make the first forty simulators himself, and at the end of the first summer, BTIO had received about four hundred orders—a promising start, perhaps, but, at $250 per baby (less expenses), not exactly a windfall. “We were always about one month away from bankruptcy,” recalls Mary.
At the same time, it’s not as if the Jurmains started up BTIO simply because they had no “conventional” options for improving their financial prospects. Rick, as we’ve seen, was an aerospace engineer, and his résumé includes work on space-shuttle missions at NASA. Mary, who has not only a head for business but also a degree in industrial engineering, has worked at the Johnson Space Center. Therefore, the idea of replacing a sack of flour with a computer-controlled simulator wasn’t necessarily rocket science for the couple. But taking advantage of that idea—choosing to start a new business and to commit themselves to running it—was a risk. Risk taking is the missing component that we’re looking for in a definition of entrepreneurship, and so we’ll define an entrepreneur as someone who identifies a business opportunity and assumes the risk of creating and running a business to take advantage of it. To be successful, entrepreneurs must be comfortable accepting risk, and positive and confident that they can manage through it successfully.
If we look a little more closely at the definition of entrepreneurship, we can identify three characteristics of entrepreneurial activity:3
It is easy to recognize these characteristics in the entrepreneurial experience of the Jurmains. They certainly had an innovative idea. But was it a good business idea? In a practical sense, a “good” business idea has to become something more than just an idea. If, like the Jurmains, you’re interested in generating income from your idea, you’ll probably need to turn it into a product—something that you can market because it satisfies a need. If you want to develop a product, you’ll need some kind of organization to coordinate the resources necessary to make it a reality (in other words, a business). Risk enters the equation when you make the decision to start up a business and when you commit yourself to managing it.
Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook while a student at Harvard. By age 27 he built up a personal wealth of $13.5 billion. By age 31, his net worth was $37.5 billion.
So what about you? Do you ever wonder what it would be like to start your own business? You might even turn into a “serial entrepreneur” like Marcia Kilgore.4 After high school, she moved from Canada to New York City to attend Columbia University. But when her financial aid was delayed, Marcia abandoned her plans to attend college and took a job as a personal trainer (a natural occupation for a former bodybuilder and middleweight title holder). But things got boring in the summer when her wealthy clients left the city for the Hamptons. To keep busy, she took a skin care course at a Manhattan cosmetology institute. As a teenager, she was self-conscious about her complexion and wanted to know how to treat it herself. She learned how to give facials and work with natural remedies. She started giving facials to her fitness clients who were thrilled with the results. As demand for her services exploded, she started her first business—Bliss Spa—and picked up celebrity clients, including Madonna, Oprah Winfrey, and Jennifer Lopez. The business went international, and she sold it for more than $30 million.5
But the story doesn’t end here; she launched two more companies: Soap and Glory, a supplier of affordable beauty products sold at Target, and FitFlops, which sells sandals that tone and tighten your leg muscles as you walk. Oprah loves Kilgore’s sandals and plugged them on her show.6 You can’t get a better endorsement than that. Kilgore never did finish college, but when asked if she would follow the same path again, she said, “If I had to decide what to do all over again, I would make the same choices…I found by accident what I’m good at, and I’m glad I did.”
So, a few questions to consider if you want to go into business for yourself:
In this chapter, we’ll provide some answers to questions like these.
What sort of characteristics distinguishes those who start businesses from those who don’t? Or, more to the point, why do some people actually follow through on the desire to start up their own businesses? The most common reasons for starting a business are the following:
The Small Business Administration (SBA) points out, though, that these are likely to be advantages only “for the right person.” How do you know if you’re one of the “right people”? The SBA suggests that you assess your strengths and weaknesses by asking yourself a few relevant questions:7
Before we discuss why businesses fail we should consider why a huge number of business ideas never even make it to the grand opening. One business analyst cites four reservations (or fears) that prevent people from starting businesses:8
If you’re still interested in going into business for yourself, try to regard such drawbacks as mere obstacles to be overcome by a combination of planning and creative thinking.
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As noted above, many businesses fail, or never get started, due to a lack of funds. But where can an entrepreneur raise money to start a business? Many first-time entrepreneurs are financed by friends and family, at least in the very early stages. Others may borrow through their personal credit cards, though quite often, high interest rates make this approach unattractive or too expensive for the new business to afford.
An entrepreneur with a great idea may win funding through a pitch competition; localities and state agencies understand that economic growth depends on successful new businesses, and so they will often conduct such competitions in the hopes of attracting them.
Crowd funding has become more common as a means of raising capital. An entrepreneur using this approach would typically utilize a crowd-funding platform like Kickstarter to attract investors. The entrepreneur might offer tokens of appreciation in exchange for funds, or perhaps might offer an ownership stake for a substantial enough investment.
Some entrepreneurs receive funding from angel investors, affluent investors who provide capital to start-ups in exchange for an ownership position in the company. Many angels are successful entrepreneurs themselves and invest not only to make money, but also to help other aspiring business owners to succeed.
Venture capital firms also invest in start-up companies, although usually at a somewhat later stage and in larger dollar amounts than would be typical of angel investors. Like angels, venture firms also take an ownership position in the company. They tend to have a higher expectation of making a return on their money than do angel investors.
Though most entrepreneurial ventures begin as small businesses, not all small business owners are entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are innovators who start companies to create new or improved products. They strive to meet a need that’s not being met, and their goal is to grow the business and eventually expand into other markets.
In contrast, many people either start or buy small businesses for the sole purpose of providing an income for themselves and their families. They do not intend to be particularly innovative, nor do they plan to expand significantly. This desire to operate is what’s sometimes called a “lifestyle business.”9 The neighborhood pizza parlor or beauty shop, the self-employed consultant who works out of the home, and even a local printing company—many of these are typically lifestyle businesses.
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To assess the value of small businesses to the U.S. economy, we first need to know what constitutes a small business. Let’s start by looking at the criteria used by the Small Business Administration. According to the SBA, a small business is one that is independently owned and operated, exerts little influence in its industry, and (with a few exceptions) has fewer than five hundred employees.10
Small business constitutes a major force in the U.S. economy. There are more than 28 million small businesses in this country, and they generate about 54 percent of sales and 55 percent of jobs in the U.S.11 The millions of individuals who have started businesses in the United States have shaped the business world as we know it today. Some small business founders like Henry Ford and Thomas Edison have even gained places in history. Others, including Bill Gates (Microsoft), Sam Walton (Wal-Mart), Steve Jobs (Apple Computer), and Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google), have changed the way business is done today.
Aside from contributions to our general economic well-being, founders of small businesses also contribute to growth and vitality in specific areas of economic and socioeconomic development. In particular, small businesses do the following:
In addition, they complement the economic activity of large organizations by providing them with components, services, and distribution of their products. Let’s take a closer look at each of these contributions.
The majority of U.S. workers first entered the business world working for small businesses. Although the split between those working in small companies and those working in big companies is about even, small firms hire more frequently and fire more frequently than do big companies.12 Why is this true? At any given point in time, lots of small companies are started and some expand. These small companies need workers and so hiring takes place. But the survival and expansion rates for small firms is poor, and so, again at any given point in time, many small businesses close or contract and workers lose their jobs. Fortunately, over time more jobs are added by small firms than are taken away, which results in a net increase in the number of workers, as seen in Figure 7.2.
|New business opening (closings)||Business expansions (contractions)||Total|
The size of the net increase in the number of workers for any given year depends on a number of factors, with the economy being at the top of the list. A strong economy encourages individuals to start small businesses and expand existing small companies, which adds to the workforce. A weak economy does just the opposite: discourages start-ups and expansions, which decreases the workforce through layoffs. Figure 7.4 reports the job gains from start-ups and expansions and job losses from business closings and contractions.
Given the financial resources available to large businesses, you’d expect them to introduce virtually all the new products that hit the market. Yet according to the SBA, small companies develop more patents per employee than do larger companies. During a recent four-year period, large firms generated 1.7 patents per hundred employees, while small firms generated an impressive 26.5 patents per employee.13 Over the years, the list of important innovations by small firms has included the airplane, air-conditioning, DNA “fingerprinting”, and overnight national delivery.14
Small business owners are also particularly adept at finding new ways of doing old things. In 1994, for example, a young computer-science graduate working on Wall Street came up with the novel idea of selling books over the Internet. During the first year of operations, sales at Jeff Bezos’ new company—Amazon.com—reached half a million dollars. In less than twenty years, annual sales had topped $107 billion.15 Not only did his innovative approach to online retailing make Bezos enormously rich, but it also established a viable model for the e-commerce industry.
Why are small businesses so innovative? For one thing, they tend to offer environments that appeal to individuals with the talent to invent new products or improve the way things are done. Fast decision making is encouraged, their research programs tend to be focused, and their compensation structures typically reward top performers.
According to one SBA study, the supportive environments of small firms are roughly thirteen times more innovative per employee than the less innovation-friendly environments in which large firms traditionally operate.16
The success of small businesses in fostering creativity has not gone unnoticed by big businesses. In fact, many large companies have responded by downsizing to act more like small companies. Some large organizations now have separate work units whose purpose is to spark innovation. Individuals working in these units can focus their attention on creating new products that can then be developed by the company.
Small business is the portal through which many people enter the economic mainstream. Business ownership allows individuals, including women and minorities, to achieve financial success, as well as pride in their accomplishments. While the majority of small businesses are still owned by white males, the past two decades have seen a substantial increase in the number of businesses owned by women and minorities. Figure 7.4 gives you an idea of how many American businesses are owned by women and minorities, and indicates how much the numbers grew between 2007 and 2012.
|Business Owners||2007 % of all Businesses||2012 % of all Businesses||Increase|
If you want to start a new business, you probably should avoid certain types of businesses. You’d have a hard time, for example, setting up a new company to make automobiles or aluminum, because you’d have to make tremendous investments in property, plant, and equipment, and raise an enormous amount of capital to pay your workforce. These large, up-front investments present barriers to entry.
Fortunately, plenty of opportunities are still available. Many types of businesses require reasonable initial investments, and not surprisingly, these are the ones that usually present attractive small business opportunities.
Let’s define an industry as a group of companies that compete with one another to sell similar products. We’ll focus on the relationship between a small business and the industry in which it operates, dividing businesses into two broad types of industries, or sectors: the goods-producing sector and the service-producing sector.
About 20% of small businesses in the United States are concentrated in the goods-producing sector. The remaining 80% are in the service sector.17 The high concentration of small businesses in the service-producing sector reflects the makeup of the overall U.S. economy. Over the past fifty years, the service-producing sector has been growing at an impressive rate. In 1960, for example, the goods-producing sector accounted for 38 percent of GDP, the service-producing sector for 62 percent. By 2015, the balance had shifted dramatically, with the goods-producing sector accounting for only about 21 percent of GDP.18
The largest areas of the goods-producing sector are construction and manufacturing. Construction businesses are often started by skilled workers, such as electricians, painters, plumbers, and home builders, and they generally work on local projects. Though manufacturing is primarily the domain of large businesses, there are exceptions. BTIO/Realityworks, for example, is a manufacturing enterprise (components come from Ohio and China, and assembly is done in Wisconsin).
How about making something out of trash? Daniel Blake never followed his mother’s advice at dinner when she told him to eat everything on his plate. When he served as a missionary in Puerto Rico, Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao after his first year in college, he noticed that the families he stayed with didn’t either. But they didn’t throw their uneaten food into the trash. Instead they put it on a compost pile and used the mulch to nourish their vegetable gardens and fruit trees. While eating at an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet back home at Brigham Young University, Blake was amazed to see volumes of uneaten food in the trash. This triggered an idea: why not turn the trash into money? Two years later, he was running his company—EcoScraps—collecting 40 tons of food scraps a day from 75 grocers and turning it into high-quality potting soil that he sells online and to nurseries. His profit has reach almost half a million dollars on sales of $1.5 million.19
Many small businesses in this sector are retailers—they buy goods from other firms and sell them to consumers, in stores, by phone, through direct mailings, or over the Internet. In fact, entrepreneurs are turning increasingly to the Internet as a venue for start-up ventures. Take Tony Roeder, for example, who had a fascination with the red Radio Flyer wagons that many of today’s adults had owned as children. In 1998, he started an online store through Yahoo! to sell red wagons from his home. In three years, he turned his online store into a million-dollar business.20
Other small business owners in this sector are wholesalers—they sell products to businesses that buy them for resale or for company use. A local bakery, for example, is acting as a wholesaler when it sells desserts to a restaurant, which then resells them to its customers. A small business that buys flowers from a local grower (the manufacturer) and resells them to a retail store is another example of a wholesaler.
A high proportion of small businesses in this sector provide professional, business, or personal services. Doctors and dentists are part of the service industry, as are insurance agents, accountants, and lawyers. So are businesses that provide personal services, such as dry cleaning and hairdressing.
David Marcks, for example, entered the service industry about fourteen years ago when he learned that his border collie enjoyed chasing geese at the golf course where he worked. While geese are lovely to look at, they can make a mess of tees, fairways, and greens. That’s where Marcks’ company, Geese Police, comes in: Marcks employs specially trained dogs to chase the geese away. He now has twenty-seven trucks, thirty-two border collies, and five offices. Golf courses account for only about 5 percent of his business, as his dogs now patrol corporate parks and playgrounds as well.21 Figure 7.5 provides a more detailed breakdown of small businesses by industry.
Do you want to be a business owner someday? Before deciding, you might want to consider the following advantages and disadvantages of business ownership.22
Being a business owner can be extremely rewarding. Having the courage to take a risk and start a venture is part of the American dream. Success brings with it many advantages:
As the little boy said when he got off his first roller-coaster ride, “I like the ups but not the downs!” Here are some of the risks you run if you want to start a small business:
In spite of these and other disadvantages, most small business owners are pleased with their decision to start a business. A survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal and Cicco and Associates indicates that small business owners and top-level corporate executives agree overwhelmingly that small business owners have a more satisfying business experience. Interestingly, the researchers had fully expected to find that small business owners were happy with their choices; they were, however, surprised at the number of corporate executives who believed that the grass was greener in the world of small business ownership.23
Starting a business takes talent, determination, hard work, and persistence. It also requires a lot of research and planning. Before starting your business, you should appraise your strengths and weaknesses and assess your personal goals to determine whether business ownership is for you.24
If you’re interested in starting a business, you need to make decisions even before you bring your talent, determination, hard work, and persistence to bear on your project.
Here are the basic questions you’ll need to address:
After making these decisions, you’ll be ready to take the most important step in the entire process of starting a business: you must describe your future business in the form of a business plan—a document that identifies the goals of your proposed business and explains how these goals will be achieved. Think of a business plan as a blueprint for a proposed company: it shows how you intend to build the company and how you intend to make sure that it’s sturdy. You must also take a second crucial step before you actually start up your business: You need to get financing—the money that you’ll need to get your business off the ground.
For some people, coming up with a great business idea is a gratifying adventure. For most, however, it’s a daunting task. The key to coming up with a business idea is identifying something that customers want—or, perhaps more importantly, filling an unmet need. Your business will probably survive only if its purpose is to satisfy its customers—the ultimate users of its goods or services. In coming up with a business idea, don’t ask, “What do we want to sell?” but rather, “What does the customer want to buy?”25
To come up with an innovative business idea, you need to be creative. If your idea is innovative enough, it may be considered intellectual property, a right that can be protected under the law. Prior experience accounts for the bulk of new business idea and also increases your chances of success. Take Sam Walton, the late founder of Wal-Mart. He began his retailing career at JCPenney and then became a successful franchiser of a Ben Franklin five-and-dime store. In 1962, he came up with the idea of opening large stores in rural areas, with low costs and heavy discounts. He founded his first Wal-Mart store in 1962, and when he died thirty years later, his family’s net worth was $25 billion.26
Industry experience also gave Howard Schultz, a New York executive for a housewares company, his breakthrough idea. In 1981, Schultz noticed that a small customer in Seattle—Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spice—ordered more coffeemaker cone filters than Macy’s and many other large customers. So he flew across the country to find out why. His meeting with the owner-operators of the original Starbucks Coffee Co. resulted in his becoming part-owner of the company. Schultz’s vision for the company far surpassed that of its other owners. While they wanted Starbucks to remain small and local, Schultz saw potential for a national business that not only sold world-class-quality coffee beans but also offered customers a European coffee-bar experience. After attempting unsuccessfully to convince his partners to try his experiment, Schultz left Starbucks and started his own chain of coffee bars, which he called Il Giornale (after an Italian newspaper). Two years later, he bought out the original owners and reclaimed the name Starbucks.27
As we’ve already seen, you can become a small business owner in one of three ways— by starting a new business, buying an existing one, or obtaining a franchise. Let’s look more closely at the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
The most common—and the riskiest—option is starting from scratch. This approach lets you start with a clean slate and allows you to build the business the way you want. You select the goods or services that you’re going to offer, secure your location, and hire your employees, and then it’s up to you to develop your customer base and build your reputation. This was the path taken by Andres Mason who figured out how to inject hysteria into the process of bargain hunting on the Web. The result is an overnight success story called Groupon.28 Here is how Groupon (a blend of the words “group” and “coupon”) works: A daily email is sent to 6.5 million people in 70 cities across the United States offering a deeply discounted deal to buy something or to do something in their city. If the person receiving the email likes the deal, he or she commits to buying it. But, here’s the catch, if not enough people sign up for the deal, it is cancelled. Groupon makes money by keeping half of the revenue from the deal. The company offering the product or service gets exposure. But stay tuned: the “daily deals website isn’t just unprofitable—it’s bleeding hundreds of millions of dollars.”29 As with all start-ups cash is always a challenge.
If you decide to buy an existing business, some things will be easier. You’ll already have a proven product, current customers, active suppliers, a known location, and trained employees. You’ll also find it much easier to predict the business’s future success.
There are, of course, a few bumps in this road to business ownership. First, it’s hard to determine how much you should pay for a business. You can easily determine how much things like buildings and equipment are worth, but how much should you pay for the fact that the business already has steady customers?
In addition, a business, like a used car, might have performance problems that you can’t detect without a test drive (an option, unfortunately, that you don’t get when you’re buying a business). Perhaps the current owners have disappointed customers; maybe the location isn’t as good as it used to be. You might inherit employees that you wouldn’t have hired yourself. Careful study called due diligence is necessary before going down this road.
Lastly, you can buy a franchise. A franchiser (the company that sells the franchise) grants the franchisee (the buyer—you) the right to use a brand name and to sell its goods or services. Franchises market products in a variety of industries, including food, retail, hotels, travel, real estate, business services, cleaning services, and even weight-loss centers and wedding services. Figure 7.7 lists the top ten franchises according to Entrepreneur magazine for 2015 and 2016.
|1||Hampton by Hilton||Jimmy John’s|
|2||Anytime Fitness||Hampton by Hilton|
|4||Jack in the Box||Servpro|
As you can see from Figure 7.8 on the next page, the popularity of franchising has been growing quickly since 2011. Although the economic downturn decreased the number of franchises between 2008-11, note that the overall value of franchise outputs steadily increased. A new franchise outlet opens once every eight minutes in the United States, where one in ten businesses is now a franchise. Franchises employ eight million people (13 percent of the workforce) and account for 17 percent of all sales in the U.S. ($1.3 trillion).30
In addition to the right to use a company’s brand name and sell its products, the franchisee gets help in picking a location, starting and operating the business, and benefits from advertising done by the franchiser. Essentially, the franchisee buys into a ready-to-go business model that has proven successful elsewhere, also getting other ongoing support from the franchiser, which has a vested interest in her success.
Coming with so many advantages, franchises can be very expensive. KFC franchises, for example, require a total investment of $1.3 million to $2.5 million each. This fee includes the cost of the property, equipment, training, start-up costs, and the franchise fee—a one-time charge for the right to operate as a KFC outlet. McDonald’s is in the same price range ($1 million to $2.3 million). SUBWAY sandwich shops offer a more affordable alternative, with expected total investment ranging from $116,000 to $263,000.31
In addition to your initial investment, you’ll have to pay two other fees on a monthly basis—a royalty fee (typically from 3 to 12 percent of sales) for continued support from the franchiser and the right to keep using the company’s trade name, plus an advertising fee to cover your share of national and regional advertising. You’ll also be expected to buy your products from the franchiser.32
But there are disadvantages. The cost of obtaining and running a franchise can be high, and you have to play by the franchiser’s rules, even when you disagree with them. The franchiser maintains a great deal of control over its franchisees. For example, if you own a fast-food franchise, the franchise agreement will likely dictate the food and beverages you can sell; the methods used to store, prepare, and serve the food; and the prices you’ll charge. In addition, the agreement will dictate what the premises will look like and how they’ll be maintained. As with any business venture, you need to do your homework before investing in a franchise.
When someone mentions “entrepreneurship”, many people equate the term to “start up”, but entrepreneurial activity can also come from within established firms. However, it’s often the case that the entrepreneurial spirit is not fully unleashed until an independent entity is formed around a venture.
That’s exactly what happened in the case of Qualtrax, a company located in Blacksburg, Virginia.33 The company was spawned from a need for customers of CCS, Inc. to become compliant with the requirements of the International Standards Organization. CCS (now known as Foxguard Solutions) employees developed a software tool to simplify ISO compliance audits, and the auditors were so impressed that they suggested marketing the tool more broadly. Over a period of nearly twenty years, the business grew to ten dedicated employees, but Foxguard did not invest heavily in the software because the product was essentially a sideline business. Qualtrax shared sales and marketing resources with other business lines, so its growth was not necessarily a focal point for the company.
In 2011, CCS management appointed Amy Ankrum, an executive in their marketing department, to lead the Qualtrax business line with a simple mission in mind – determining whether Qualtrax could be scaled up or should be scaled down. Having the feeling that there was more to the business than had been achieved to date, Amy added Ryan Hagan as engineering manager for the software. Hagan quickly moved Qualtrax to an agile style of development, allowing for 5-6 new releases a year when annual releases had previously been the norm. This approach was much more responsive to customer needs, and in a business that depends on recurring revenue, it led to increased customer retention, which improved to over 95% each year. Revenue growth rates went up double digits.
In 2015, Qualtrax took its biggest leap of faith, moving out of Foxguard headquarters and becoming a separate legal entity. Ankrum located the offices near the campus of Virginia Tech, allowing the company to attract top-notch developers. The new location also allowed the company to take on its own culture – it’s more like a start-up company now than it was 23 years ago when it started! Employees enjoy flexible hours, short walks to downtown lunches, and a brightly-lit, open, and collaborative space with the company values painted right on the walls.
The move to a separate entity also allowed the company to attract new investor funding which will be used to push the company into new markets, such as the utility industry. Much of the new investor group is local and made up of former executives with significant experience in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Business-to-Business (B2B) relationships. These execs will offer expertise beyond what Qualtrax had in-house, and all involved share the objective of increasing job growth in the region.
Asked what was different before and after Qualtrax began its rapid growth, Ankrum said, “It takes focus for any business to reach its full potential.” Since becoming its own company, Qualtrax has certainly enhanced that focus, and the new funding will allow them to offer ownership options to its now 26 employees. Qualtrax now dominates in quality and compliance software for a number of industries, including forensic crime labs. Thanks to the foresight of management, the company’s best days most certainly lie ahead.
If you’ve paid attention to the occupancy of shopping malls over a few years, you’ve noticed that retailers come and go with surprising frequency. The same thing happens with restaurants—indeed, with all kinds of businesses. By definition, starting a business—small or large—is risky, and though many businesses succeed, a large proportion of them don’t. One-third of small businesses that have employees go out of business within the first two years. As shown in Figure 7.10, nearly half of small businesses have closed by the end of their fourth year, and 60-70 percent do not make it past their seventh year.34
As bad as these statistics on business survival are, some industries are worse than others. If you want to stay in business for a long time, you might want to avoid some of these risky industries. Even though your friends think you make the best pizza in the world, this doesn’t mean you can succeed as a pizza parlor owner. Opening a restaurant or a bar is one of the riskiest ventures (and, therefore, start-up funding is hard to get).
You might also want to avoid the transportation industry. Owning a taxi might appear lucrative until you find out what a taxi license costs. It obviously varies by city, but in New York City the price tag is upward of $400,000. No wonder taxi companies are resisting Uber and Lyft with all the energy they can muster. And setting up a shop to sell clothing can be challenging. Your view of “what’s in” may be off, and one bad season can kill your business. The same is true for stores selling communication devices: every mall has one or more cell phone stores so the competition is steep, and business can be very slow.35
Businesses fail for any number of reasons, but many experts agree that the vast majority of failures result from some combination of the following problems:
If you had your choice, which cupcake would you pick—vanilla Oreo, triple chocolate, or latte? In the last few years, cupcake shops are popping up in almost every city. Perhaps the bad economy has put people in the mood for small, relatively inexpensive treats.
Whatever the reason, you’re fascinated with the idea of starting a cupcake shop. You have a perfect location, have decided what equipment you need, and have tested dozens of recipes (and eaten lots of cupcakes). You are set to go with one giant exception: you don’t have enough savings to cover your start-up costs. You have made the round of most local banks, but they are all unwilling to give you a loan. So what do you do? Fortunately, there is help available. It is through your local Small Business Administration (SBA), which offers an array of programs to help current and prospective small business owners. The SBA won’t actually loan you the money, but it will increase the likelihood that you will get funding from a local bank by guaranteeing the loan.
Here’s how the SBA’s loan guarantee program works: You apply to a bank for financing. A loan officer decides if the bank will loan you the money without an SBA guarantee. If the answer is no (because of some weakness in your application), the bank then decides if it will loan you the money if the SBA guarantees the loan. If the bank decides to do this, you get the money and make payments on the loan. If you default on the loan, the government reimburses the bank for its loss, up to the amount of the SBA guarantee.
In the process of talking with someone at the SBA, you will discover other programs it offers that will help you start your business and manage your organization. For example, to apply for funding you will need a well-written business plan. Once you get the loan and move to the business start-up phase, you will have lots of questions that need to be answered. And you are sure you will need help in a number of areas as you operate your cupcake shop. Fortunately, the SBA can help with all of these management and technical-service tasks.
This assistance is available through a number of channels, including the SBA’s extensive website, online courses, and training programs. A full array of individualized services is also available. The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) assists current and prospective small business owners with business problems and provides free training and technical information on all aspects of small business management.
These services are available at approximately one thousand locations around the country, many housed at colleges and universities.36
If you need individualized advice from experienced executives, you can get it through the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). Under the SCORE program, a businessperson needing advice is matched with someone on a team of retired executives who work as volunteers. Together, the SBDC and SCORE help more than a million small businesspersons every year.37
An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
The video for this lesson features two VT students who were attempting to get funding for their business on the hit TV show Shark Tank. The VT students first appear at 13:25 and their segment runs about 10 minutes. You are free to fast forward to the 13:25 mark if you like.
Figure 7.9: Stephen Skipak (2017). “Amy Ankrum at the Qualtrax headquarters in Blacksburg, Virginia.”
“Shark Tank Season 6 Episode 20 LATEST FULL Micro-loans funded by money raised from backpacks made of fabrics from developing countries ABC.” (ABC). February 27, 2015. Retrieved from: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2iaij4
Consider this scenario: you’re halfway through the semester and ready for midterms. You open your class notes and declare them “pathetic.” You regret scribbling everything so carelessly and skipping class so many times. That’s when it hits you: what if there was a note-taking service on campus? When you were ready to study for a big test, you could buy complete and legible class notes. You’ve heard that there are class-notes services at some larger schools, but there’s no such thing on your campus. So you ask yourself, why don’t I start a note-taking business? Your upcoming set of exams may not be salvageable, but after that, you’d always have great notes. And in the process, you could learn how to manage a business (isn’t that what majoring in business is all about?).
You might begin by hiring a bunch of students to take class notes. Then the note takers will e-mail them to your assistant, who’ll get them copied (on a special type of paper that can’t be duplicated). The last step will be assembling packages of notes and, of course, selling them. You decide to name your company “Notes-4-You.”
It sounds like a great idea, but you’re troubled by one question: why does this business need you? Do the note takers need a boss? Couldn’t they just sell the notes themselves? This process could work, but it would work better if there was someone to oversee the operations: a manager—to make sure that the operations involved in preparing and selling notes were performed in both an effective and an efficient manner. You’d make the process effective by ensuring that the right things got done and that they all contributed to the success of the enterprise. You’d make the process efficient by ensuring that activities were performed in the right way and used the fewest possible resources.
The effective performance of your business will require solid management: the process of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling resources to achieve specific goals. A plan enables you to take your business concept beyond the idea stage. It does not, however, get the work done. For that to happen, you have to organize things effectively. You’ll have to put people and other resources in place to make things happen. And because your note-taking venture is supposed to be better off with you in charge, you need to be a leader who can motivate your people to do well. Finally, to know whether things are in fact going well, you’ll have to control your operations—that is, measure the results and compare them with the results that you laid out in your plan. Figure 8.2 summarizes the interrelationship between planning and the other functions that managers perform. This chapter will explore planning, leading, and controlling in some detail. Organizing is an especially complex topic, and will be discussed in Chapter 9.
Without a plan, it’s hard to succeed at anything. The reason is simple: if you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t move forward. Successful managers decide where they want to be and then figure out how to get there; they set goals and determine the best way to achieve them. As a result of the planning process, everyone in the organization knows what should be done, who should do it, and how to do it.
Coming up with an idea—say, starting a note-taking business—is a good start, but it’s only a start. Planning for it is a step forward. Planning begins at the highest level and works its way down through the organization. Step one is usually called strategic planning: the process of establishing an overall course of action. To begin this process, you should ask yourself a couple of very basic questions: why, for example, does the organization exist? What value does it create? Sam Walton posed these questions in the process of founding Wal-Mart: his new chain of stores would exist to offer customers the lowest prices with the best possible service.1
Once you’ve identified the purpose of your company, you’re ready to take the remaining steps in the strategic-planning process:
In the next few sections, we’ll examine these components of the strategic-planning process.
As we saw in an earlier chapter, the mission statement describes the purpose of your organization—the reason for its existence. It tells the reader what the organization is committed to doing. It can be very concise, like the one from Mary Kay Inc. (the cosmetics company): “To enrich the lives of women around the world.”2 Or it can be as detailed as the one from Harley-Davidson: “We fulfill dreams inspired by the many roads of the world by providing extraordinary motorcycles and customer experiences. We fuel the passion for freedom in our customers to express their own individuality.”3
A mission statement for Notes-4-You could be the following: “To provide high-quality class notes to college students.” On the other hand, you could prepare a more detailed statement that explains what the company is committed to doing, who its customers are, what its focus is, what goods or services it provides, and how it serves its customers.
It is worth noting that some companies no longer use mission statements, preferring to communicate their reason for being in other manners.
Whether or not your company has defined a mission, it is important to identify what your organization stands for in terms of its values and the principles that will guide its actions. In Chapter 3 on Business Ethics and Social Responsibility, we explained that the small set of guiding principles that you identify as crucial to your company are known as core values—fundamental beliefs about what’s important and what is and isn’t appropriate in conducting company activities. Core values affect the overall planning processes and operations. At Volvo, three values— safety, quality, and environmental care—define the firm’s “approach to product development, design and production.”4 Core values should also guide the behavior of every individual in the organization. At Coca-Cola, for instance, the values of leadership, collaboration, integrity, accountability, passion, diversity and quality tell employees exactly what behaviors are acceptable.5 Companies communicate core values to employees and hold them accountable for putting them into practice by linking their values to performance evaluations and compensation.
In choosing core values for Notes-4-You, you’re determined to be unique. After some thought, you settle on teamwork, trust, and dependability. Why these three? As you plan your business, you realize that it will need a workforce that functions as a team, trusts each other, and can be depended on to satisfy customers. In building your workforce, you’ll seek employees who’ll embrace these values.
The next step in the strategic-planning process is to assess your company’s fit with its environment. A common approach to environmental analysis is matching the strengths of your business with the opportunities available to it. It’s called SWOT analysis because it calls for analyzing an organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It begins with an examination of external factors that could influence the company in either a positive or a negative way. These could include economic conditions, competition, emerging technologies, laws and regulations, and customers’ expectations.
One purpose of assessing the external environment is to identify both opportunities that could benefit the company and threats to its success. For example, a company that manufactures children’s bicycle helmets would view a change in federal law requiring all children to wear helmets as an opportunity. The news that two large sports-equipment companies were coming out with bicycle helmets would be a threat.
The next step is to evaluate the company’s strengths and weaknesses, internal factors that could influence company performance in either a positive or negative way. Strengths might include a motivated workforce, state-of-the-art technology, impressive managerial talent, or a desirable location. The opposite of any of these strengths could signal a potential weakness (poor workforce, obsolete technology, incompetent management, or poor location). Armed with a good idea of internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as external opportunities and threats, managers will be better positioned to capitalize on opportunities and strengths. Likewise, they want to improve on any weak areas and protect the organization from external threats.
For example, Notes-4-You might say that by providing excellent service at a reasonable price while we’re still small, it can solidify its position on campus. When the market grows due to increases in student enrollment, the company will have built a strong reputation and be in a position to grow. So even if a competitor comes to campus (a threat), the company expects to be the preferred supplier of class notes. This strategy will work only if the note-takers are dependable and if the process does not alienate the faculty or administration.
Your mission statement affirms what your organization is generally committed to doing, but it doesn’t tell you how to do it. So the next step in the strategic-planning process is establishing goals and objectives. Goals are major accomplishments that the company wants to achieve over a long period. Objectives are shorter-term performance targets that direct the activities of the organization toward the attainment of a goal. They should be clearly stated, achievable, and measurable: they should give target dates for the completion of tasks and stipulate who’s responsible for taking necessary actions.6
An organization will have a number of goals and related objectives. Some will focus on financial measures, such as profit maximization and sales growth. Others will target operational efficiency or quality control. Still others will govern the company’s relationships with its employees, its community, its environment, or all three.
Finally, goals and objectives change over time. As a firm reassesses its place in its business environment, it rethinks not only its mission but also its approach to fulfilling it. The reality of change was a major theme when the late McDonald’s CEO Jim Cantalupo explained his goal to revitalize the company:
“The world has changed. Our customers have changed. We have to change too. Growth comes from being better, not just expanding to have more restaurants. The new McDonald’s is focused on building sales at existing restaurants rather than on adding new restaurants. We are introducing a new level of discipline and efficiency to all aspects of the business and are setting a new bar for performance.”7
This change in focus was accompanied by specific performance objectives—annual sales growth of 3 to 5 percent and income growth of 6 to 7 percent at existing restaurants, plus a five-point improvement (based on customer surveys) in speed of service, friendliness, and food quality.
In setting strategic goals and performance objectives for Notes-4-You, you should keep things simple. Because you need to make money to stay in business, you could include a financial goal (and related objectives). Your mission statement promises “high-quality, dependable, competitively priced class notes,” so you could focus on the quality of the class notes that you’ll be taking and distributing. Finally, because your mission is to serve students, one goal could be customer oriented. Your list of goals and objectives might look like this:
The overall plan is broken down into more manageable, shorter-term components called tactical plans. These plans specify the activities and allocation of resources (people, equipment, money) needed to implement the strategic plan over a given period. Often, a long-range strategic plan is divided into several tactical plans; a five-year strategic plan, for instance, might be implemented as five one-year tactical plans.
The tactical plan is then broken down into various operational components that provide detailed action steps to be taken by individuals or groups to implement the tactical and strategic plans. Operational plans cover only a brief period—say, a month or two. At Notes-4-You, note-takers might be instructed to submit typed class notes five hours earlier than normal on the last day of the semester (an operational guideline). The goal is to improve the customer-satisfaction score on dependability (a tactical goal) and, as a result, to earn the loyalty of students through attention to customer service (a strategic goal).
Even with great planning, things don’t always turn out the way they’re supposed to. Perhaps your plans were flawed, or maybe something in the environment shifted unexpectedly. Successful managers anticipate and plan for the unexpected. Dealing with uncertainty requires contingency planning and crisis management.
With contingency planning, managers identify those aspects of the business that are most likely to be adversely affected by change. Then, they develop alternative courses of action in case an anticipated change does occur. You engage in contingency planning any time you develop a backup or fallback plan.
Organizations also face the risk of encountering crises that require immediate attention. Rather than waiting until such a crisis occurs and then scrambling to figure out what to do, many firms practice crisis management. Some, for instance, set up teams trained to deal with emergencies. Members gather information quickly and respond to the crisis while everyone else carries out his or her normal duties. The team also keeps the public, the employees, the press, and government officials informed about the situation and the company’s response to it.8
An example of how to handle crisis management involves Wendy’s. After learning that a woman claimed she found a fingertip in a bowl of chili she bought at a Wendy’s restaurant in San Jose, California, the company’s public relations team responded quickly. Within a few days, the company announced that the finger didn’t come from an employee or a supplier. Soon after, the police arrested the woman and charged her with attempted grand larceny for lying about how the finger got in her bowl of chili and trying to extort $2.5 million from the company. But the crisis wasn’t over for Wendy’s. The incident was plastered all over the news as a grossed-out public sought an answer to the question, “Whose finger is (or was) it?” A $100,000 reward was offered by Wendy’s to anyone with information that would help the police answer this question. The challenge Wendy’s faced was how to entice customers to return to its fifty San Francisco–area restaurants (where sales had plummeted) while keeping a low profile nationally. Wendy’s accomplished this objective by giving out free milkshakes and discount coupons to customers in the affected regions and, to avoid calling attention to the missing finger, by making no changes in its national advertising. The crisis-management strategy worked and the story died down (though it flared up temporarily when the police arrested the woman’s husband, who allegedly bought the finger from a coworker who had severed it in an accident months earlier).9
Even with crisis-management plans in place, however, it’s unlikely that most companies will emerge from a potentially damaging episode as unscathed as Wendy’s did. For one thing, the culprits in the Wendy’s case were caught, and the public was willing to forgive an organization it viewed as a victim. Given the current public distrust of corporate behavior, however, companies whose reputations have suffered due to questionable corporate judgment usually don’t fare as well. These companies include the international oil company, BP, whose CEO, Tony Hayward, did a disastrous job handling the Gulf of Mexico crisis. A BP-controlled oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing eleven workers and creating the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Hayward’s lack of sensitivity will be remembered forever; particularly his response to a reporter’s question on what he would tell those whose livelihoods were ruined: “We’re sorry for the massive disruption it’s caused their lives. There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back.” His comment was obviously upsetting to the families of the eleven men who lost their lives on the rig.10 Then, there are the companies at which executives have crossed the line between the unethical to the downright illegal—Arthur Andersen, Enron, and Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, to name just a few. Given the high risk associated with a crisis, it should come as no surprise that contemporary managers spend more time anticipating crises and practicing their crisis-management responses.
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The third management function is leading—providing focus and direction to others and motivating them to achieve organizational goals. As owner and president of Notes-4-You, you might think of yourself as an orchestra leader. You have given your musicians (employees) their sheet music (plans). You’ve placed them in sections (departments) and arranged the sections (organizational structure) so the music will sound as good as possible. Now your job is to tap your baton and lead the orchestra so that its members make beautiful music together.11
It’s fairly easy to pick up a baton, cue each section, and strike up the band; but it doesn’t mean the music will sound good. What if your cues are ignored or misinterpreted or ambiguous? Maybe your musicians don’t like your approach to making music and will just walk away. On top of everything else, you don’t simply want to make music: you want to inspire your musicians to make great music. How do you accomplish this goal? How do you become an effective leader, and what style should you use to motivate others to achieve organizational goals?
Unfortunately, there are no definitive answers to questions like these. Over time, every manager refines his or her own leadership style, or way of interacting with and influencing others. Despite a vast range of personal differences, leadership styles tend to reflect one of the following approaches to leading and motivating people: the autocratic, the democratic (also known as participative), or the free rein.
At first glance, you’d probably not want to work for an autocratic leader. After all, most people don’t like to be told what to do without having any input. Many like the idea of working for a democratic leader; it’s flattering to be asked for your input. And though working in a free rein environment might seem a little unsettling at first, the opportunity to make your own decisions is appealing to many people. Each leadership style can be appropriate in certain situations.
To illustrate, let’s say that you’re leading a group of fellow students in a team project for your class. Are there times when it would be best for you to use an autocratic leadership style? What if your team was newly formed, unfamiliar with what needs to be done, under a tight deadline, and looking to you for direction? In this situation, you might find it appropriate to follow an autocratic leadership style (on a temporary basis) and assign tasks to each member of the group. In an emergency situation, such as a fire, or in the final seconds of a close ball game, there is generally not time for debate – the leader or coach must make a split second decision that demands an autocratic style.
But since most situations are non-emergency and most people prefer the chance to give input, the democratic leadership style is often favored. People are simply more motivated and feel more ownership of decisions (i.e., buy-in) when they have had a chance to offer input. Note that when using this style, the leader will still make the decision in most cases. As long as their input is heard, most people accept that it is the leader’s role to decide in cases where not everyone agrees.
How about free rein leadership? Many people function most effectively when they can set their own schedules and do their work in the manner they prefer. It takes a great deal of trust for a manager to employ this style. Some managers start with an assumption of trust that is up to the employee to maintain through strong performance. In other cases, this trust must be earned over a period of time. Would this approach always work with your study group? Obviously not. It will work if your team members are willing and able to work independently and welcome the chance to make decisions. On the other hand, if people are not ready to work responsibly to their best of their abilities, using the free rein style could cause the team to miss deadlines or do poorly on the project.
The point being made here is that no one leadership style is effective all the time for all people or in all corporate cultures. While the democratic style is often viewed as the most appropriate (with the free rein style a close second), there are times when following an autocratic style is essential. Good leaders learn how to adjust their styles to fit both the situation and the individuals being directed.
Theories on what constitutes effective leadership evolve over time. One theory that has received a lot of attention in the last decade contrasts two leadership styles: transactional and transformational. So-called transactional leaders exercise authority based on their rank in the organization. They let subordinates know what’s expected of them and what they will receive if they meet stated objectives. They focus their attention on identifying mistakes and disciplining employees for poor performance. By contrast, transformational leaders mentor and develop subordinates, providing them with challenging opportunities, working one-on-one to help them meet their professional and personal needs, and encouraging people to approach problems from new perspectives. They stimulate employees to look beyond personal interests to those of the group.
So, which leadership style is more effective? You probably won’t be surprised by the opinion of most experts. In today’s organizations, in which team building and information sharing are important and projects are often collaborative in nature, transformational leadership has proven to be more effective. Modern organizations look for managers who can develop positive relationships with subordinates and motivate employees to focus on the interests of the organization. Leaders who can be both transactional and transformational are rare, and those few who have both capacities are very much in demand.12
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Let’s pause for a minute and reflect on the management functions that we’ve discussed so far—planning, organizing, and leading. As founder of Notes-4-You, you began by establishing plans for your new company. You defined its mission and set objectives, or performance targets, which you needed to meet in order to achieve your mission. Then, you organized your company by allocating the people and resources required to carry out your plans. Finally, you provided focus and direction to your employees and motivated them to achieve organizational objectives. Is your job finished? Can you take a well-earned vacation? Unfortunately, the answer is no: your work has just begun. Now that things are rolling along, you need to monitor your operations to see whether everything is going according to plan. If it’s not, you’ll need to take corrective action. This process of comparing actual to planned performance and taking necessary corrective action is called controlling.
You can think of the control function as the five-step process outlined in Figure 8.7. Let’s see how this process might work at Notes-4-You. Let’s assume that, after evaluating class enrollments, you estimate that you can sell one hundred notes packages per month to students taking a popular sophomore-level geology course. So you set your standard at a hundred units. At the end of the month, however, you look over your records and find that you sold only eighty. In talking with your salespeople, you learn why you came up twenty packages short: it turns out that the copy machine broke down so often that packages frequently weren’t ready on time. You immediately take corrective action by increasing maintenance on the copy machine.
Now, let’s try a slightly different scenario. Let’s say that you still have the same standard (one hundred packages) and that actual sales are still eighty packages. In investigating the reason for the shortfall, you find that you overestimated the number of students taking the geology course. Calculating a more accurate number of students, you see that your original standard—estimated sales—was too high by twenty packages. In this case, you should adjust your standards to reflect expected sales of eighty packages.
In both situations, your control process has been helpful. In the first instance, you were alerted to a problem that cut into your sales. Correcting this problem would undoubtedly increase sales and, therefore, profits. In the second case, you encountered a defect in your planning and learned a good managerial lesson: plan more carefully.
Benchmarking could be considered as a specialized kind of control activity. Rather than controlling a particular aspect of performance (say, defects for a specific product), benchmarking aims to improve a firm’s overall performance. The process of benchmarking involves comparisons to other organizations’ practices and processes with the objective of learning and improvement in both efficiency and effectiveness. Benchmarking exercises can be conducted in a number of ways:
To be a successful manager, you’ll have to master a number of skills. To get an entry- level position, you’ll have to be technically competent at the tasks you’re asked to perform. To advance, you’ll need to develop strong interpersonal and conceptual skills. The relative importance of different skills varies from job to job and organization to organization, but to some extent, you’ll need them all to forge a managerial career.
Throughout your career, you’ll also be expected to communicate ideas clearly, use your time efficiently, and reach sound decisions.
You’ll probably be hired for your first job based on your technical skills—the ones you need to perform specific tasks—and you’ll use them extensively during your early career. If your college major is accounting, you’ll use what you’ve learned to prepare financial statements. If you have a marketing degree and you join an ad agency, you’ll use what you know about promotion to prepare ad campaigns. Technical skills will come in handy when you move up to a first-line managerial job and oversee the task performance of subordinates. Technical skills, though developed through job training and work experience, are generally acquired during the course of your formal education.
As you move up the corporate ladder, you’ll find that you can’t do everything yourself: you’ll have to rely on other people to help you achieve the goals for which you’re responsible. That’s why interpersonal skills, also known as relational skills—the ability to get along with and motivate other people—are critical for managers in mid-level positions. These managers play a pivotal role because they report to top-level managers while overseeing the activities of first-line managers. Thus, they need strong working relationships with individuals at all levels and in all areas. More than most other managers, they must use “people skills” to foster teamwork, build trust, manage conflict, and encourage improvement.13
Managers at the top, who are responsible for deciding what’s good for the organization from the broadest perspective, rely on conceptual skills—the ability to reason abstractly and analyze complex situations. Senior executives are often called on to “think outside the box”—to arrive at creative solutions to complex, sometimes ambiguous problems. They need both strong analytical abilities and strong creative talents.
Effective communication skills are crucial to just about everyone. At all levels of an organization, you’ll often be judged on your ability to communicate, both orally and in writing. Whether you’re talking informally or making a formal presentation, you must express yourself clearly and concisely. Talking too loudly, rambling, and using poor grammar reduce your ability to influence others, as does poor written communication. Confusing and error-riddled documents (including e-mails) don’t do your message any good, and they will reflect poorly on you.14
Managers face multiple demands on their time, and their days are usually filled with interruptions. Ironically, some technologies that were supposed to save time, such as voicemail and e-mail, have actually increased workloads. Unless you develop certain time-management skills, you risk reaching the end of the day feeling that you’ve worked a lot but accomplished little. What can managers do to ease the burden? Here are a few common-sense suggestions:
Every manager is expected to make decisions, whether alone or as part of a team. Drawing on your decision-making skills is often a process in which you must define a problem, analyze possible solutions, and select the best outcome. As luck would have it, because the same process is good for making personal decisions, we’ll use a personal example to demonstrate the process approach to decision making. Consider the following scenario: you’re upset because your midterm grades are much lower than you’d hoped. To make matters worse, not only are you in trouble academically, but also the other members of your business-project team are annoyed because you’re not pulling your weight. Your lacrosse coach is very upset because you’ve missed too many practices, and members of the mountain-biking club of which you’re supposed to be president are talking about impeaching you if you don’t show up at the next meeting. And your significant other is feeling ignored.
Assuming that your top priority is salvaging your GPA, let’s tackle your problem by using a six-step approach to solving problems that don’t have simple solutions. We’ve summarized this model in Figure 8.816
Step one is getting to know your problem, which you can formulate by asking yourself a basic question: how can I improve my grades?
Step two is gathering information that will shed light on the problem. Let’s rehash some of the relevant information that you’ve already identified: (a)you did poorly on your finals because you didn’t spend enough time studying; (b) you didn’t study because you went to see your girlfriend (who lives about three hours from campus) over the weekend before your exams (and on most other weekends, as a matter of fact); (c) what little studying you got in came at the expense of your team project and lacrosse practice; and (d) while you were away for the weekend, you forgot to tell members of the mountain-biking club that you had to cancel the planned meeting.
Once you review all the given facts, you should see that your problem is bigger than simply getting your grades up; your life is pretty much out of control. You can’t handle everything to which you’ve committed yourself. Something has to give. You clarify the problem by summing it up with another basic question: what can I do to get my life back in order?
Let’s say that you’ve come up with the following possible solutions to your problem: (a) quit the lacrosse team, (b) step down as president of the mountain-biking club, (c) let team members do your share of work on the business project, and (d) stop visiting your significant other so frequently. The solution to your main problem—how to get your life back in order—will probably require multiple actions.
This is clearly the toughest part of the process. Working your way through your various options, you arrive at the following conclusions: (a) you can’t quit the lacrosse team because you’d lose your scholarship; (b) you can resign your post in the mountain-biking club, but that won’t free up much time; (c) you can’t let your business-project team down (and besides, you’d just get a low grade); and (d) she wouldn’t like the idea, but you could visit your girlfriend, say, once a month rather than once a week. So what’s the most feasible (if not necessarily perfect) solution? Probably visiting your significant other once a month and giving up the presidency of the mountain-biking club.
When you call your girlfriend, you’re pleasantly surprised to find that she understands. The vice president is happy to take over the mountain-biking club. After the first week, you’re able to attend lacrosse practice, get caught up on your team business project, and catch up in all your other classes. The real test of your solution will be the results of the semester’s finals.
In a previous chapter, we described the decisions made by Foxguard Solutions about its Qualtrax business, a new business venture developed inside the company. The decisions Foxguard made track quite well with the process described above. Consider the following:
Problem Identification— Foxguard had a business line that wasn’t an exact fit with its other business and was not performing up to the potential management believed it held.
Gather Relevant Data— When Amy Ankrum was promoted, one of her first priorities was to determine what information would help her to understand the potential for the business and the resources needed to improve it.
Clarify the Problem— Qualtrax had a definite market and potential to grow, but the parent company hadn’t invested time/energy into doing that. Would more focus grow the business?
Generate Possible Solutions— Management could have continued to try to grow the business in-house, sell it to another company, or spin it off
Select Best Option— After a careful evaluation, management decided the spin-off was the best option to unleash the full potential of Qualtrax
Implement and Monitor— The decision to spin-off Qualtrax could be measured on metrics such as growth in revenue, profits, and employee satisfaction. Based on the results to-date, it certainly seems like they made the right decision.
So, what types of skills will managers at Notes-4-You need? To oversee note-taking and copying operations, first-line managers will require technical skills, probably in operations and perhaps in accounting. Middle managers will need strong interpersonal skills to maintain positive working relationships with subordinates and to motivate them. As president (the top manager), you’ll need conceptual skills to solve problems and come up with creative ways to keep the business growing. And everyone will have to communicate effectively: after all, because you’re in the business of selling written notes, it would look pretty bad if your employees wrote poorly. Finally, everyone will have to use time efficiently and call on problem-solving skills to handle the day-to-day crises that seem to plague every new company.
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Roselinde Torres is an extremely accomplished leadership expert, and her TED Talk shares her insights on what it takes to be a great leader. If you have not seen TED Talks before, you will likely see a great many more before you graduate.
(Video license: CC BY NC ND 4.0)
Figure 8.5: The U.S. Coast Guard (2010). “The Deepwater Horizon Offshore Drilling Unit on Fire.” Public domain. Retrieved from:
Torres, Roselinde. “What it Takes to be a Great Leader.” (TED). October 2013. Retrieved from: https://www.ted.com/talks/roselinde_torres_what_it_takes_to_be_a_great_leader?language=en
If you read our chapter on Management and Leadership, you will recall developing a strategic plan for your new company, Notes-4-You. Once a business has completed the planning process, it will need to organize the company so that it can implement that plan. A manager engaged in organizing allocates resources (people, equipment, and money) to achieve a company’s objectives. Successful managers make sure that all the activities identified in the planning process are assigned to some person, department, or team and that everyone has the resources needed to perform assigned activities.
A typical organization has several layers of management. Think of these layers as forming a pyramid like the one in Figure 9.1, with top managers occupying the narrow space at the peak, first-line managers the broad base, and middle-managers the levels in between. As you move up the pyramid, management positions get more demanding, but they carry more authority and responsibility (along with more power, prestige, and pay). Top managers spend most of their time in planning and decision making, while first-line managers focus on day-to-day operations. For obvious reasons, there are far more people with positions at the base of the pyramid than there are at the other two levels. Let’s look at each management level in more detail.
Top managers are responsible for the health and performance of the organization. They set the objectives, or performance targets, designed to direct all the activities that must be performed if the company is going to fulfill its mission. Top-level executives routinely scan the external environment for opportunities and threats, and they redirect company efforts when needed. They spend a considerable portion of their time planning and making major decisions. They represent the company in important dealings with other businesses and government agencies, and they promote it to the public. Job titles at this level typically include chief executive officer (CEO), chief financial officer (CFO), chief operating officer (COO), president, and vice president.
Middle managers are in the center of the management hierarchy: they report to top management and oversee the activities of first-line managers. They’re responsible for developing and implementing activities and allocating the resources needed to achieve the objectives set by top management. Common job titles include operations manager, division manager, plant manager, and branch manager.
First-line managers supervise employees and coordinate their activities to make sure that the work performed throughout the company is consistent with the plans of both top and middle management. It’s at this level that most people acquire their first managerial experience. The job titles vary considerably but include such designations as manager, group leader, office manager, foreman, and supervisor.
Let’s take a quick survey of the management hierarchy at Notes-4-You. As president, you are a member of top management, and you’re responsible for the overall performance of your company. You spend much of your time setting performance targets, to ensure that the company meets the goals you’ve set for it— increased sales, higher-quality notes, and timely distribution.
Several middle managers report to you, including your operations manager. As a middle manager, this individual focuses on implementing two of your objectives: producing high-quality notes and distributing them to customers in a timely manner. To accomplish this task, the operations manager oversees the work of two first-line managers—the note-taking supervisor and the copying supervisor. Each first-line manager supervises several non-managerial employees to make sure that their work is consistent with the plans devised by top and middle management.
Building an organizational structure engages managers in two activities: job specialization (dividing tasks into jobs) and departmentalization (grouping jobs into units). An organizational structure outlines the various roles within an organizational, which positions report to which, and how an organization will departmentalize its work. Take note than an organizational structure is an arrangement of positions that’s most appropriate for your company at a specific point in time. Given the rapidly changing environment in which businesses operate, a structure that works today might be outdated tomorrow. That’s why you hear so often about companies restructuring—altering existing organizational structures to become more competitive once conditions have changed. Let’s now look at how the processes of specialization and departmentalization are accomplished.
Organizing activities into clusters of related tasks that can be handled by certain individuals or groups is called specialization. This aspect of designing an organizational structure is twofold:
Specialization has several advantages. First and foremost, it leads to efficiency. Imagine a situation in which each department was responsible for paying its own invoices; a person handling this function a few times a week would likely be far less efficient than someone whose job was to pay the bills. In addition to increasing efficiency, specialization results in jobs that are easier to learn and roles that are clearer to employees. But the approach has disadvantages, too. Doing the same thing over and over sometimes leads to boredom and may eventually leave employees dissatisfied with their jobs. Before long, companies may notice decreased performance and increased absenteeism and turnover (the percentage of workers who leave an organization and must be replaced).
The next step in designing an organizational structure is departmentalization—grouping specialized jobs into meaningful units. Depending on the organization and the size of the work units, they may be called divisions, departments, or just plain groups.
Traditional groupings of jobs result in different organizational structures, and for the sake of simplicity, we’ll focus on two types—functional and divisional organizations.
A functional organization groups together people who have comparable skills and perform similar tasks. This form of organization is fairly typical for small to medium-size companies, which group their people by business functions: accountants are grouped together, as are people in finance, marketing and sales, human resources, production, and research and development. Each unit is headed by an individual with expertise in the unit’s particular function. Examples of typical functions in a business enterprise include human resources, operations, marketing, and finance. Also, business colleges will often organize according to functions found in a business.
There are a number of advantages to the functional approach. The structure is simple to understand and enables the staff to specialize in particular areas; everyone in the marketing group would probably have similar interests and expertise. But homogeneity also has drawbacks: it can hinder communication and decision making between units and even promote interdepartmental conflict. The marketing department, for example, might butt heads with the accounting department because marketers want to spend as much as possible on advertising, while accountants want to control costs.
Large companies often find it unruly to operate as one large unit under a functional organizational structure. Sheer size makes it difficult for managers to oversee operations and serve customers. To rectify this problem, most large companies are structured as divisional organizations. They are similar in many respects to stand-alone companies, except that certain common tasks, like legal work, tends to be centralized at the headquarters level. Each division functions relatively autonomously because it contains most of the functional expertise (production, marketing, accounting, finance, human resources) needed to meet its objectives. The challenge is to find the most appropriate way of structuring operations to achieve overall company goals. Toward this end, divisions can be formed according to products, customers, processes, or geography.
Product division means that a company is structured according to its product lines. General Motors, for example, has four product-based divisions: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC.1 Each division has its own research and development group, its own manufacturing operations, and its own marketing team. This allows individuals in the division to focus all their efforts on the products produced by their division. A downside is that it results in higher costs as corporate support services (such as accounting and human resources) are duplicated in each of the four divisions.
Some companies prefer a customer division structure because it enables them to better serve their various categories of customers. Thus, Johnson & Johnson’s two hundred or so operating companies are grouped into three customer-based business segments: consumer business (personal-care and hygiene products sold to the general public), pharmaceuticals (prescription drugs sold to pharmacies), and professional business (medical devices and diagnostics products used by physicians, optometrists, hospitals, laboratories, and clinics).2
If goods move through several steps during production, a company might opt for a process division structure. This form works well at Bowater Thunder Bay, a Canadian company that harvests trees and processes wood into newsprint and pulp. The first step in the production process is harvesting and stripping trees. Then, large logs are sold to lumber mills and smaller logs are chopped up and sent to Bowater’s mills. At the mill, wood chips are chemically converted into pulp. About 90 percent is sold to other manufacturers (as raw material for home and office products), and the remaining 10 percent is further processed into newspaper print. Bowater, then, has three divisions: tree cutting, chemical processing, and finishing (which makes newsprint).3
Geographical division enables companies that operate in several locations to be responsive to customers at a local level. Adidas, for example, is organized according to the regions of the world in which it operates. They have eight different regions, and each one reports its performance separately in their annual reports.4
There are pluses and minuses associated with divisional organization. On the one hand, divisional structure usually enhances the ability to respond to changes in a firm’s environment. If, on the other hand, services must be duplicated across units, costs will be higher. In addition, some companies have found that units tend to focus on their own needs and goals at the expense of the organization as a whole.
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Once an organization has set its structure, it can represent that structure in an organization chart: a diagram delineating the interrelationships of positions within the organization. An example organization chart is shown in Figure 9.3, using our “Notes-4-You” example from Chapter 8.
Imagine putting yourself at the top of the chart, as the company’s president. You would then fill in the level directly below your name with the names and positions of the people who work directly for you—your accounting, marketing, operations, and human resources managers. The next level identifies the people who work for these managers. Because you’ve started out small, neither your accounting manager nor your human resources manager will be currently managing anyone directly. Your marketing manager, however, will oversee one person in advertising and a sales supervisor (who, in turn, oversees the sales staff). Your operations manager will oversee two individuals—one to supervise note-takers and one to supervise the people responsible for making copies. The lines between the positions on the chart indicate the reporting relationships; for example, the Note-Takers Supervisor reports directly to the Operations Manager.
Although the structure suggests that you will communicate only with your four direct reports, this isn’t the way things normally work in practice. Behind every formal communication network there lies a network of informal communications—unofficial relationships among members of an organization. You might find that over time, you receive communications directly from members of the sales staff; in fact, you might encourage this line of communication.
Now let’s look at the chart of an organization that relies on a divisional structure based on goods or services produced—say, a theme park. The top layers of this company’s organization chart might look like the one in Figure 9.4a (left side of the diagram). We see that the president has two direct reports—a vice president in charge of rides and a vice president in charge of concessions. What about a bank that’s structured according to its customer base? The bank’s organization chart would begin like the one in Figure 9.4b. Once again, the company’s top manager has two direct reports, in this case a VP of retail-customer accounts and a VP of commercial-customer accounts.
Over time, companies revise their organizational structures to accommodate growth and changes in the external environment. It’s not uncommon, for example, for a firm to adopt a functional structure in its early years. Then, as it becomes bigger and more complex, it might move to a divisional structure—perhaps to accommodate new products or to become more responsive to certain customers or geographical areas. Some companies might ultimately rely on a combination of functional and divisional structures. This could be a good approach for a credit card company that issues cards in both the United States and Europe. An outline of this firm’s organization chart might look like the one in Figure 9.5.
The vertical connecting lines in the organization chart show the firm’s chain of command: the authority relationships among people working at different levels of the organization. That is to say, they show who reports to whom. When you’re examining an organization chart, you’ll probably want to know whether each person reports to one or more supervisors: to what extent, in other words, is there unity of command? To understand why unity of command is an important organizational feature, think about it from a personal standpoint. Would you want to report to more than one boss? What happens if you get conflicting directions? Whose directions would you follow?
There are, however, conditions under which an organization and its employees can benefit by violating the unity-of-command principle. Under a matrix structure, for example, employees from various functional areas (product design, manufacturing, finance, marketing, human resources, etc.) form teams to combine their skills in working on a specific project or product. This matrix organization chart might look like the one in the following figure.
Nike sometimes uses this type of arrangement. To design new products, the company may create product teams made up of designers, marketers, and other specialists with expertise in particular sports categories—say, running shoes or basketball shoes. Each team member would be evaluated by both the team manager and the head of his or her functional department.
Another thing to notice about a firm’s chain of command is the number of layers between the top managerial position and the lowest managerial level. As a rule, new organizations have only a few layers of management—an organizational structure that’s often called flat. Let’s say, for instance, that a member of the Notes-4-You sales staff wanted to express concern about slow sales among a certain group of students. That person’s message would have to filter upward through only two management layers—the sales supervisor and the marketing manager—before reaching the president.
As a company grows, however, it tends to add more layers between the top and the bottom; that is, it gets taller. Added layers of management can slow down communication and decision making, causing the organization to become less efficient and productive. That’s one reason why many of today’s organizations are restructuring to become flatter.
There are trade-offs between the advantages and disadvantages of flat and tall organizations. Companies determine which trade-offs to make according to a principle called span of control, which measures the number of people reporting to a particular manager. If, for example, you remove layers of management to make your organization flatter, you end up increasing the number of people reporting to a particular supervisor. If you refer back to the organization chart for Notes-4-You, you’ll recall that, under your present structure, four managers report to you as the president: the heads of accounting, marketing, operations, and human resources. In turn, two of these managers have positions reporting to them: the advertising manager and sales supervisor report to the marketing manager, while the notetakers supervisor and the copiers supervisor report to the operations manager. Let’s say that you remove a layer of management by getting rid of the marketing and operations managers. Your organization would be flatter, but what would happen to your workload? As president, you’d now have six direct reports rather than four: accounting manager, advertising manager, sales manager, notetaker supervisor, copier supervisor, and human resources manager.
So what’s better—a narrow span of control (with few direct reports) or a wide span of control (with many direct reports)? The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including frequency and type of interaction, proximity of subordinates, competence of both supervisor and subordinates, and the nature of the work being supervised. For example, you’d expect a much wider span of control at a nonprofit call center than in a hospital emergency room.
Given the tendency toward flatter organizations and wider spans of control, how do managers handle increased workloads? They must learn how to handle delegation—the process of entrusting work to subordinates. Unfortunately, many managers are reluctant to delegate. As a result, they not only overburden themselves with tasks that could be handled by others, but they also deny subordinates the opportunity to learn and develop new skills.
As owner of Notes-4-You, you’ll probably want to control every aspect of your business, especially during the start-up stage. But as the organization grows, you’ll have to assign responsibility for performing certain tasks to other people. You’ll also have to accept the fact that responsibility alone—the duty to perform a task—won’t be enough to get the job done. You’ll need to grant subordinates the authority they require to complete a task—that is, the power to make the necessary decisions. (And they’ll also need sufficient resources.) Ultimately, you’ll also hold your subordinates accountable for their performance.
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If and when your company expands (say, by offering note-taking services at other schools), you’ll have to decide whether most decisions should still be made by individuals at the top or delegated to lower-level employees. The first option, in which most decision making is concentrated at the top, is called centralization. The second option, which spreads decision making throughout the organization, is called decentralization.
Centralization has the advantage of consistency in decision-making. Since in a centralized model, key decisions are made by the same top managers, those decisions tend to be more uniform than if decisions were made by a variety of different people at lower levels in the organization. In most cases, decisions can also be made more quickly provided that top management does not try to control too many decisions. However, centralization has some important disadvantages. If top management makes virtually all key decisions, then lower-level managers will feel under-utilized and will not develop decision-making skills that would help them become promotable. An overly centralized model might also fail to consider information that only front-line employees have or might actually delay the decision-making process. Consider a case where the sales manager for an account is meeting with a customer representative who makes a request for a special sale price; the customer offers to buy 50% more product if the sales manager will reduce the price by 5% for one month. If the sales manager had to obtain approval from the head office, the opportunity might disappear before she could get approval – a competitor’s sales manager might be the customer’s next meeting.
An overly decentralized decision model has its risks as well. Imagine a case in which a company had adopted a geographically-based divisional structure and had greatly decentralized decision making. In order to expand its business, suppose one division decided to expand its territory into the geography of another division. If headquarters approval for such a move was not required, the divisions of the company might end up competing against each other, to the detriment of the organization as a whole. Companies that wish to maximize their potential must find the right balance between centralized and decentralized decision making.
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Figures 9.3 “An organizational chart for “Notes-4-Young.” Designed for Virginia Tech Libraries by Brian Craig. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Figures_from_Fundamentals_of_Business_by_Skripak. Licensed CC BY 4.0.
Figure 9.4a-b “Organizational charts for divisional structures” Designed for Virginia Tech Libraries by Brian Craig. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Figures_from_Fundamentals_of_Business_by_Skripak. Licensed CC BY 4.0.
Figure 9.5 “An organization with a combination of functional and divisional structures” Designed for Virginia Tech Libraries by Brian Craig. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Figures_from_Fundamentals_of_Business_by_Skripak. Licensed CC BY 4.0.
Figure 9.6 “A chart of a matrix structure” Designed for Virginia Tech Libraries by Brian Craig. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Figures_from_Fundamentals_of_Business_by_Skripak. Licensed CC BY 4.0.
The product development process can be complex and lengthy. It took sixteen years for Bob Montgomery and others at his company to develop the PowerSki Jetboard, and this involved thousands of design changes. It was worth it, though: the Jetboard was an exciting, engine-propelled personal watercraft – a cross between a high-performance surfboard and a competition water-ski/wakeboard that received extensive media attention and rave reviews. It was showered with honors, including Time magazine’s “Best Invention of the Year” award.1 Stories about the Jetboard appeared in more than fifty magazines around the world, and it was featured in several movies, over twenty-five TV shows, and on YouTube.2
Montgomery and his team at PowerSki enjoyed taking their well-deserved bows for the job they did designing the product, but having a product was only the beginning for the company. The next step was developing a system that would produce high-quality Jetboards at reasonable prices. Before putting this system in place, PowerSki managers had to address several questions.
Answering these and other questions helped PowerSki set up a manufacturing system through which it could accomplish the most important task that it had set for itself: efficiently producing quality Jetboards.
Like PowerSki, every organization—whether it produces goods or provides services— sees Job 1 as furnishing customers with quality products. Thus, to compete with other organizations, a company must convert resources (materials, labor, money, information) into goods or services as efficiently as possible. The upper-level manager who directs this transformation process is called an operations manager. The job of operations management (OM) consists of all the activities involved in transforming a product idea into a finished product. In addition, operations managers are involved in planning and controlling the systems that produce goods and services. In other words, operations managers manage the process that transforms inputs into outputs. Figure 10.2 illustrates these traditional functions of operations management.
Like PowerSki, all manufacturers set out to perform the same basic function: to transform resources into finished goods. To perform this function in today’s business environment, manufacturers must continually strive to improve operational efficiency. They must fine-tune their production processes to focus on quality, to hold down the costs of materials and labor, and to eliminate all costs that add no value to the finished product. Making the decisions involved in the effort to attain these goals is another job of operations managers. Their responsibilities can be grouped as follows:
Let’s take a closer look at each of these responsibilities.
The decisions made in the planning stage have long-range implications and are crucial to a firm’s success. Before making decisions about the operations process, managers must consider the goals set by marketing managers. Does the company intend to be a low-cost producer and to compete on the basis of price? Or does it plan to focus on quality and go after the high end of the market? Many decisions involve trade-offs. For example, low cost doesn’t normally go hand in hand with high quality. All functions of the company must be aligned with the overall strategy to ensure success.
With these thoughts in mind, let’s look at the specific types of decisions that have to be made in the production planning process. We’ve divided these decisions into those dealing with production methods, site selection, facility layout, and components and materials management.
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The first step in production planning is deciding which type of production process is best for making the goods that your company intends to manufacture. In reaching this decision, you should answer such questions as:
One way to appreciate the nature of this decision is by comparing three basic types of processes or methods: make-to-order, mass production, and mass customization. The task of the operations manager is to work with other managers, particularly marketers, to select the process that best serves the needs of the company’s customers.
At one time, most consumer goods, such as furniture and clothing, were made by individuals practicing various crafts. By their very nature, products were customized to meet the needs of the buyers who ordered them. This process, which is called a make-to-order strategy, is still commonly used by such businesses as print or sign shops that produce low-volume, high-variety goods according to customer specifications. This level of customization often results in a longer production and delivery cycle than other approaches.
By the early twentieth century, a new concept of producing goods had been introduced: mass production (or make-to-stock strategy), the practice of producing high volumes of identical goods at a cost low enough to price them for large numbers of customers. Goods are made in anticipation of future demand (based on forecasts) and kept in inventory for later sale. This approach is particularly appropriate for standardized goods ranging from processed foods to electronic appliances and generally result in shorter cycle times than a make-to-order process.
There is at least one big disadvantage to mass production: customers, as one old advertising slogan put it, can’t “have it their way.” They have to accept standardized products as they come off assembly lines. Increasingly, however, customers are looking for products that are designed to accommodate individual tastes or needs but can still be bought at reasonable prices. To meet the demands of these consumers, many companies have turned to an approach called mass customization, which combines the advantages of customized products with those of mass production.
This approach requires that a company interact with the customer to find out exactly what the customer wants and then manufacture the good, using efficient production methods to hold down costs. One efficient method is to mass-produce a product up to a certain cut-off point and then to customize it to satisfy different customers.
One of the best-known mass customizers is Nike, which has achieved success by allowing customers to configure their own athletic shoes, apparel, and equipment through Nike’s iD program. The Web has a lot to do with the growth of mass customization. Levi’s, for instance, lets customers find a pair of perfect fitting jeans by going through an online fitting process. Oakley offers customized sunglasses, goggles, watches, and backpacks, while Mars, Inc. can make M&M’s in any color the customer wants (say, school colors) as well as add text and even pictures to the candy.
Naturally, mass customization doesn’t work for all types of goods. Most people don’t care about customized detergents or paper products. And while many of us like the idea of customized clothes, footwear, or sunglasses, we often aren’t willing to pay the higher prices they command.
After selecting the best production process, operations managers must then decide where the goods will be manufactured, how large the manufacturing facilities will be, and how those facilities will be laid out.
In site selection (choosing a location for the business), managers must consider several factors:
Managers rarely find locations that meet all these criteria. As a rule, they identify the most important criteria and aim at satisfying them. In deciding to locate in San Clemente, California, for instance, PowerSki was able to satisfy three important criteria: (1) proximity to the firm’s suppliers, (2) availability of skilled engineers and technicians, and (3) favorable living conditions. These factors were more important than operating in a low-cost region or getting financial incentives from local government. Because PowerSki distributes its products throughout the world, proximity to customers was also unimportant.
Now that you know where you’re going to locate, you have to decide on the quantity of products that you’ll produce. You begin by forecasting demand for your product, which isn’t easy. To estimate the number of units that you’re likely to sell over a given period, you have to understand the industry that you’re in and estimate your likely share of the market by reviewing industry data and conducting other forms of research.
Once you’ve forecasted the demand for your product, you can calculate the capacity requirements of your production facility—the maximum number of goods that it can produce over a given time under normal working conditions. In turn, having calculated your capacity requirements, you’re ready to determine how much investment in plant and equipment you’ll have to make, as well as the number of labor hours required for the plant to produce at capacity.
Like forecasting, capacity planning is difficult. Unfortunately, failing to balance capacity and projected demand can be seriously detrimental to your bottom line. If you set capacity too low (and so produce less than you should), you won’t be able to meet demand, and you’ll lose sales and customers. If you set capacity too high (and turn out more units than you should), you’ll waste resources and inflate operating costs.
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Operations managers engage in the daily activities of materials management, which encompasses the activities of purchasing, inventory control, and work scheduling.
The process of acquiring the materials and services to be used in production is called purchasing (or procurement). For many products, the costs of materials make up about 50 percent of total manufacturing costs. Not surprisingly, materials acquisition gets a good deal of the operations manager’s time and attention. As a rule, there’s no shortage of vendors willing to supply materials, but the trick is finding the best suppliers. Operations managers must consider questions such as:
Getting the answers to these questions and making the right choices—a process known as supplier selection—is a key responsibility of operations management.
Technology has changed the way businesses buy things. Through e-procurement, companies use the Internet to interact with suppliers. The process is similar to the one you’d use to find a consumer good—say, a high-definition TV—over the Internet. To choose a TV, you might browse the websites of manufacturers like Sony then shop prices and buy at Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer.
If you were a purchasing manager using the Internet to buy parts and supplies, you’d follow basically the same process. You’d identify potential suppliers by going directly to private websites maintained by individual suppliers or to public sites that collect information on numerous suppliers. You could do your shopping through online catalogs, or you might participate in an online marketplace by indicating the type and quantity of materials you need and letting suppliers bid. Finally, just as you paid for your TV electronically, you could use a system called electronic data interchange (EDI) to process your transactions and transmit all your purchasing documents.
The Internet provides an additional benefit to purchasing managers by helping them communicate with suppliers and potential suppliers. They can use the Internet to give suppliers specifications for parts and supplies, encourage them to bid on future materials needs, alert them to changes in requirements, and give them instructions on doing business with their employers. Using the Internet for business purchasing cuts the costs of purchased products and saves administrative costs related to transactions. It’s also faster for procurement and fosters better communications.
If a manufacturer runs out of the materials it needs for production, then production stops. In the past, many companies guarded against this possibility by keeping large inventories of materials on hand. It seemed like the thing to do at the time, but it often introduced a new problem—wasting money. Companies were paying for parts and other materials that they wouldn’t use for weeks or even months, and in the meantime, they were running up substantial storage and insurance costs. If the company redesigned its products, some parts might become obsolete before ever being used.
Most manufacturers have since learned that to remain competitive, they need to manage inventories more efficiently. This task requires that they strike a balance between two threats to productivity: losing production time because they’ve run out of materials and wasting money because they’re carrying too much inventory. The process of striking this balance is called inventory control, and companies now regularly rely on a variety of inventory-control methods.
One method is called just-in-time (JIT) production: the manufacturer arranges for materials to arrive at production facilities just in time to enter the manufacturing process. Parts and materials don’t sit unused for long periods, and the costs of “holding” inventory are significantly cut. JIT, however, requires considerable communication and cooperation between the manufacturer and the supplier. The manufacturer has to know what it needs and when. The supplier has to commit to supplying the right materials, of the right quality, at exactly the right time.
A software tool called material requirements planning (MRP), relies on sales forecasts and ordering lead times for materials to calculate the quantity of each component part needed for production and then determine when they should be ordered or made. The detailed sales forecast is turned into a master production schedule (MPS), which MRP then explodes into a forecast for the needed parts based on the bill of materials for each item in the forecast. A bill of materials is simply a list of the various parts that make up the end product. The role of MRP is to determine the anticipated need for each part based on the sales forecast and to place orders so that everything arrives just in time for production.
To control the timing of all operations, managers set up schedules: they select jobs to be performed during the production process, assign tasks to work groups, set timetables for the completion of tasks, and make sure that resources will be available when and where they’re needed. There are a number of scheduling techniques. We’ll focus on two of the most common—Gantt and PERT charts.
A Gantt chart, named after the designer, Henry Gantt, is an easy-to-use graphical tool that helps operations managers determine the status of projects. Let’s say that you’re in charge of making the “hiking bear” offered by the Vermont Teddy Bear Company. Figure 10.3 is a Gantt chart for the production of one hundred of these bears. As you can see, it shows that several activities must be completed before the bears are dressed: the fur has to be cut, stuffed, and sewn; and the clothes and accessories must be made. Our Gantt chart tells us that by day six, all accessories and clothing have been made. The sewing and stuffing, however (which must be finished before the bears are dressed), isn’t scheduled for completion until the end of day eight. As operations manager, you’ll have to pay close attention to the progress of the sewing and stuffing operations to ensure that finished products are ready for shipment by their scheduled date.
Gantt charts are useful when the production process is fairly simple and the activities aren’t interrelated. For more complex schedules, operations managers may use PERT charts. PERT (which stands for Program Evaluation and Review Technique) is designed to diagram the activities required to produce a good, specify the time required to perform each activity in the process, and organize activities in the most efficient sequence. It also identifies a critical path: the sequence of activities that will entail the greatest amount of time. Figure 10.4 is a PERT diagram showing the process for producing one “hiker” bear at Vermont Teddy Bear.
Our PERT chart shows how the activities involved in making a single bear are related. It indicates that the production process begins at the cutting station. Next, the fur that’s been cut for this particular bear moves first to the sewing and stuffing stations and then to the dressing station. At the same time that its fur is moving through this sequence of steps, the bear’s clothes are being cut and sewn and its T-shirt is being embroidered. Its backpack and tent accessories are also being made at the same time. Note that fur, clothes, and accessories all meet at the dressing station, where the bear is dressed and outfitted with its backpack. Finally, the finished bear is packaged and shipped to the customer’s house.
What was the critical path in this process? The path that took the longest amount of time was the sequence that included cutting, stuffing, dressing, packaging, and shipping—a sequence of steps taking sixty-five minutes. If you wanted to produce a bear more quickly, you’d have to save time on this path. Even if you saved the time on any of the other paths, you still wouldn’t finish the entire job any sooner: the finished clothes would just have to wait for the fur to be sewn and stuffed and moved to the dressing station. We can gain efficiency only by improving our performance on one or more of the activities along the critical path.
PowerSki founder and CEO Bob Montgomery spent sixteen years designing the Jetboard and bringing it to production. At one point, in his efforts to get the design just right, he’d constructed thirty different prototypes. Montgomery thought that he could handle the designing of the engine without the aid of a computer. Before long, however, he realized that it was impossible to keep track of all the changes.
That’s when Montgomery turned to computer technology for help and began using a computer-aided design (CAD) software package to design not only the engine but also the board itself and many of its components. The CAD program enabled Montgomery and his team of engineers to test the product digitally and work out design problems before moving to the prototype stage.
The sophisticated CAD software allowed Montgomery and his team to put their design paper in a drawer and to start building both the board and the engine on a computer screen. By rotating the image on the screen, they could even view the design from every angle. Having used their CAD program to make more than four hundred design changes, they were ready to test the Jetboard in the water. During the tests, onboard sensors transmitted data to computers, allowing the team to make adjustments from the shore while the prototype was still in the water. Nowadays, PowerSki uses collaboration software to transmit design changes to the suppliers of the 340 components that make up the Jetboard. In fact, a majority of design work these days is done with the aid of computers, which add speed and precision to the process.
For many companies, the next step is to link CAD to the manufacturing process. A computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software system determines the steps needed to produce the component and instructs the machines that do the work. Because CAD and CAM programs can “talk” with each other, companies can build components that satisfy exactly the requirements set by the computer-generated model. CAD/CAM systems permit companies to design and manufacture goods faster, more efficiently, and at a lower cost, and they’re also effective in helping firms monitor and improve quality. CAD/CAM technology is used in many industries, including the auto industry, electronics, and clothing. If you have ever seen how a 3-D printer works, you have a pretty good idea of how CAM works too.
By automating and integrating all aspects of a company’s operations, computer- integrated manufacturing (CIM) systems have taken the integration of computer-aided design and manufacturing to a higher level—and are in fact revolutionizing the production process. CIM systems expand the capabilities of CAD/CAM. In addition to design and production applications, they handle such functions as order entry, inventory control, warehousing, and shipping. In the manufacturing plant, the CIM system controls the functions of industrial robots—computer-controlled machines used to perform repetitive tasks that are also hard or dangerous for human workers to perform.
As the U.S. economy has changed from a goods producer to a service provider over the last sixty years, the dominance of the manufacturing sector has declined substantially. Today, only about 8 percent of U.S. workers are employed in manufacturing,3 in contrast to 30 percent in 1950.4 Most of us now hold jobs in the service sector, which accounts for 80 percent of U.S. jobs.5 In 2013, Wal-Mart was America’s largest employer, followed by McDonald’s, United Parcel Service (UPS), Target and Kroger. Not until we drop down to the ninth-largest employer—Hewlett Packard—do we find a company with a manufacturing component.6
Though the primary function of both manufacturers and service providers is to satisfy customer needs, there are several important differences between the two types of operations. Let’s focus on three of them:
Here is just one of the over twelve thousand Burger King restaurants across the globe. Not surprisingly, operational efficiency is just as important in service industries as it is in manufacturing. To get a better idea of the role of operations management in the service sector, we’ll look closely at Burger King (BK), the world’s fourth-largest restaurant chain.7 BK has grown substantially since selling the first Whopper (for $0.37) almost half a century ago. The instant success of the fire-grilled burger encouraged the Miami founders of the company to expand by selling franchises.
When starting or expanding operations, businesses in the service sector must make a number of decisions quite similar to those made by manufacturers:
Let’s see how service firms like BK answer questions such as these.10
Service organizations succeed by providing services that satisfy customers’ needs. Companies that provide transportation, such as airlines, have to get customers to their destinations as quickly and safely as possible. Companies that deliver packages, such as FedEx, must pick up, sort, and deliver packages in a timely manner. Companies that provide both services and goods, such as Domino’s Pizza, have a dual challenge: they must produce a quality good and deliver it satisfactorily.
Service providers that produce goods can adopt either a make-to-order or a make-to-stock approach to producing them. BK, which encourages patrons to customize burgers and other menu items, uses a make-to-order approach, building sandwiches one at a time. Meat patties, for example, go from the grill to a steamer for holding until an order comes in. Although many fast food restaurants have adopted the make-to-order model, a few continue to make-to-stock. For example, Dunkin’ Donuts does not customize doughnuts, and so they do not have to wait for customer orders before making them.
Like manufacturers, service providers must continuously look for ways to improve operational efficiency. Throughout its sixty-year history, BK has introduced a number of innovations that have helped make the company (as well as the fast-food industry itself) more efficient. BK, for example, was the first to offer drive-through service (which now accounts for over 50 percent of its sales11).
It was also a BK vice president, David Sell, who came up with the idea of moving the drink station from behind the counter so that customers could take over the time-consuming task of filling cups with ice and beverages. BK was able to cut back one employee per day at every one of its more than eleven thousand restaurants. Material costs also went down because customers usually fill cups with more ice, which is cheaper than a beverage. Moreover, there were savings on supply costs because most customers don’t bother with lids, and many don’t use straws. On top of everything else, most customers liked the system (for one thing, it allowed them to customize their own drinks by mixing beverages), and as a result, customer satisfaction went up. Overall, the new process was a major success and quickly became the industry standard.
When starting or expanding a service business, owners and managers must invest a lot of time in selecting a location, determining its size and layout, and forecasting demand. A poor location or a badly designed facility can cost customers, and inaccurate estimates of demand for products can result in poor service, excessive costs, or both.
Site selection is also critical in the service industry, but not for the same reasons as in the manufacturing industry. Service businesses need to be accessible to customers. Some service businesses, such as cable-TV providers, package-delivery services, and e-retailers, go to their customers. Many others, however—hotels, restaurants, stores, hospitals, and airports—have to attract customers to their facilities. These businesses must locate where there’s a high volume of available customers. In picking a location, BK planners perform a detailed analysis of demographics and traffic patterns; the most important factor is usually traffic count—the number of cars or people that pass by a specific location in the course of a day. In the United States, where we travel almost everywhere by car, so BK looks for busy intersections, interstate interchanges with easy off and on ramps, or such “primary destinations” as shopping malls, tourist attractions, downtown business areas, or movie theaters. In Europe, where public transportation is much more common, planners focus on subway, train, bus, and trolley stops.
Once planners find a site with an acceptable traffic count, they apply other criteria. It must, for example, be easy for vehicles to enter and exit the site, which must also provide enough parking to handle projected dine-in business. Local zoning must permit standard signage, especially along interstate highways. Finally, expected business must be high enough to justify the cost of the land and building.
In the service sector, most businesses must design their facilities with the customer in mind: they must accommodate the needs of their customers while keeping costs as low as possible. Let’s see how BK has met this challenge.
For its first three decades, almost all BK restaurants were pretty much the same. They all sat on one acre of land (located “through the light and to the right”), had about four thousand square feet of space, and held seating for seventy customers. All kitchens were roughly the same size. As long as land was cheap and sites were readily available, this system worked well. By the early 1990s, however, most of the prime sites had been taken, if not by BK itself, then by one of its fast-food competitors or other businesses needing a choice spot, including gas stations and convenience stores. With everyone bidding on the same sites, the cost of a prime acre of land had increased from $100,000 to over $1 million in a few short years.
To continue growing, BK needed to change the way it found and developed its locations. Planners decided that they had to find ways to reduce the size of a typical BK restaurant. For one thing, they could reduce the number of seats, because the business at a typical outlet had shifted over time from 90 percent inside dining to a 50-50 split between drive through and eat-in service.
David Sell (the same executive who had recommended letting customers fill their own drink cups) proposed to save space by wrapping Whoppers in paper instead of serving them in the cardboard boxes that took up more space. So BK switched to a single paper wrapper with the label “Whopper” on one side and “Cheese Whopper” on the other. To show which product was inside, employees just folded the wrapper in the right direction. Ultimately, BK replaced pallets piled high with boxes with just a few boxes of wrappers.
Ideas like these helped BK trim the size of a restaurant from four thousand square feet to as little as one thousand. In turn, smaller facilities enabled the company to enter markets that were once cost prohibitive. Now BK could locate profitably in airports, food courts, strip malls, center-city areas, and even schools.
Estimating capacity needs for a service business isn’t the same thing as estimating those of a manufacturer. Service providers can’t store their products for later use: hairdressers can’t “inventory” haircuts, and amusement parks can’t “inventory” roller-coaster rides. Service firms have to build sufficient capacity to satisfy customers’ needs on an “as-demanded” basis. Like manufacturers, service providers must consider many variables when estimating demand and capacity:
Forecasting demand is easier for companies like BK, which has a long history of planning facilities, than for brand-new service businesses. BK can predict sales for a new restaurant by combining its knowledge of customer-service patterns at existing restaurants with information collected about each new location, including the number of cars or people passing the proposed site and the effect of nearby competition.
Overseeing a service organization puts special demands on managers, especially those running firms, such as hotels, retail stores, and restaurants, who have a high degree of contact with customers. Service firms provide customers with personal attention and must satisfy their needs in a timely manner. This task is complicated by the fact that demand can vary greatly over the course of any given day. Managers, therefore, must pay particular attention to employee work schedules and, in many cases, inventory management.
Managing service operations is about more than efficiency of service. It is about finding a balance between profitability, customer satisfaction and associate satisfaction, sometimes referred to as the balanced scorecard.
In his book titled Moments of Truth, Jan Carlzon, former Chief Executive Office of SAS Group, refers to those moments when an employee interacts with a customer.12 Moments can range from calling a help line, checking in at an airline counter, the greeting from a hostess in a restaurant to having a maintenance problem resolved in a hotel guest room. The quality of staff a company hires, how they train their employees, and the focus management places on creating a culture of service will determine how successful the company is in service delivery and maximizing the impact of these moments of truth.
The Ritz-Carlton hotel company maximizes their moments of truth by living their motto, “We are Ladies and Gentleman serving Ladies and Gentleman”. Ritz-Carlton Three Steps of Service are:
Ritz-Carlton reinforces this service culture daily in short meetings with all staff at the beginning of each shift.
Chick-fil-A is recognized as an industry leader in service for the fast food industry. Chick-fil-A uses the term “my pleasure” which founder S. Truett Cathy credits to Ritz-Carlton.14 The company follows customer-centered leadership. Staff focus on being swift and attentive to customer needs. Chick-fil-A uses this You Tube video as part of their employee orientation and training: .
Well-known blogger and marketing consultant Marcus Sheridan explains his view of the success of Chick-Fil-A in this blog post:15
Dang I love it when I see great people and great businesses kicking butt at what they do. Such was the case recently when the fam and I stopped into a local Chick-fil-A restaurant here in Virginia and I was treated to a free course entitled, “This is How To Run a Business that Kicks Butt and Takes Names….”, or at least that something like that …..
As the kids were all eating their food and I was busy being blown away by this perfect company and business model, I decided to ask my 9 year old daughter a simple question:
Me: Danielle, what do you notice about this restaurant that’s different than others?
Danielle (by now used to weird business questions from her father): Well, first of all everyone that works here is happy.
Me: Yes, they are, aren’t they? How’s that make you feel to see them smiling?
Danielle: It makes me feel good inside.
Me: I agree…What else do you notice?
Danielle: There are pictures everywhere. And writings on the walls. And it’s really clean.
Me: Good observations dear. Danielle, you’re looking at the most well run business in America.
For any of you that have been to Chick-fil-A before, you may already understand and appreciate what I’m talking about. If you haven’t gone to one and would like 4 years’ worth of business school wrapped up in 45 minutes, then take a stroll on over to one of their restaurants for lunch and just sit, watch, and observe.
But to make what could be a long blog much shorter, allow me to quickly list the 8 reasons why Chick-fil-A has the best business model in America.
Happy Employees/Service: It’s unbelievable what type of employees this company has. Heck, while we were eating our meal the other day, an employee with a big smile came over and asked us if we’d like refills on our drinks. For a fast food company, this is utterly unheard of in our society these days. It’s obvious that Chick-fil-A doesn’t go cheap on their people nor their way of doing things. I’m sure they pay decent wages but they also create an atmosphere that attracts great people. What a wonderful model this is for any business.
They’re Clean!: Somewhere along the lines sanitation and cleanliness became a lost art in the fast food industry. Notwithstanding this trend, Chick-fil-A has bucked the system and their restaurants, as well as their bathrooms, are almost always immaculate. I don’t know about you, but I’ll pay more for clean any day of the week.
They Know What They’re GREAT At: Most businesses try to be a jack of all trades, which ends up causing them to be master of none. That’s why Chick-fil-A will never have a burger on their menu. Why? Because they don’t care. They know they’ll never be the best at beef but they sure as heck have created a culture around the chicken sandwich. Wow, what a lesson this is for those businesses out there with no identity, niche, or individual greatness.
They Ain’t Cheap: Yep, having high prices is actually a GOOD business model. I don’t know about you, but the idea of having to sell a lot to make a little stinks. Chick-fil-A has prices a good bit higher than most of their fast food competitors, notwithstanding they are always full of smiling customers, just waiting to spend the extra green stamps. These higher prices lead to better employees, service, food quality, customers, etc. I’m sure never once has their management even asked, “How can we be the cheapest?” But I’d bet my home they’ve asked, “How can we be the best, regardless of what it costs?”
Ambiance: The next time you go to Chick-fil-A check out all the little things they do to make their restaurants warm and attractive. They have photos of employees, quotes on the walls, paintings from local children, etc. Everywhere you look in one of their stores you’ll find something that makes you smile.
Community Involvement: Wow do they do this better than any fast food company. In fact, this one isn’t even close. They are constantly doing promos within the community for youth teams, causes, etc. In fact, it’s like they’ve take social media to another level because for them it’s not just about using Facebook and the like, it’s about actually being involved and in the trenches. Huge props to Chick-fil-A for this.
Awesome Website: All of you that read this blog know how I feel about the importance of having a great website and web presence in order to be a successful business. If you want to see what a great business website looks like, head on over. Whether it’s bios of the employees, social media links, customers stories, etc—this site is spot-on.
The Food is Actually Good: Ahh yes, lest we forget this other forgotten trait of fast food restaurants—great food. Everybody likes Chick-fil-A. Nothing on their menu is poor quality. They’re proud of their food and they have every right to be.
So there you have it folks—the 8 qualities of the best business model in America. What’s great is that every business can copy the way Chick-fil-A has built their company. The qualities listed above are simply principles that can be applied to any business or any website for that matter. So if you’re lacking inspiration for your business, it might be time for a Chicken Sandwich and waffle fries.
**Author’s Note: It goes without saying that I have no affiliation with Chick-fil-A, I just happen to write about greatness when I see it.
In manufacturing, managers focus on scheduling the activities needed to transform raw materials into finished goods. In service organizations, they focus on scheduling workers so that they’re available to handle fluctuating customer demand. Each week, therefore, every BK store manager schedules employees to cover not only the peak periods of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but also the slower periods in between. If he or she staffs too many people, labor cost per sales dollar will be too high. If there aren’t enough employees, customers have to wait in lines. Some get discouraged, and even leave, and many may never come back.
Scheduling is made easier by information provided by a point-of-sale device built into every BK cash register. The register sends data on every sandwich, beverage, and side order sold by the hour, every hour of the day, every day of the week to a computer system that helps managers set schedules. To determine how many people will be needed for next Thursday’s lunch hour, the manager reviews last Thursday’s data, using sales revenue and a specific BK formula to determine the appropriate staffing level. Each manager can adjust this forecast to account for other factors, such as current marketing promotions or a local sporting event that will increase customer traffic.
Businesses that provide both goods and services, such as retail stores and auto-repair shops, have the same inventory control problems as manufacturers: keeping levels too high costs money, while running out of inventory costs sales. Technology, such as the point-of-sale registers used at BK, makes the job easier. BK’s system tracks everything sold during a given time and lets each store manager know how much of everything should be kept in inventory. It also makes it possible to count the number of burgers and buns, bags and racks of fries, and boxes of beverage mixes at the beginning or end of each shift. Because there are fixed numbers of supplies—say, beef patties or bags of fries—in each box, employees simply count boxes and multiply. In just a few minutes, the manager knows whether the inventory is correct (and should be able to see if any theft has occurred on the shift).
What do you do if your brand-new DVD player doesn’t work when you get it home? What if you were late for a test because it took you twenty minutes to get a burger and fries at a drive-through window? Like most people, you’d probably be more or less disgruntled. As a customer, you’re constantly assured that when products make it to market, they’re of the highest possible quality, and you tend to avoid brands that have failed to live up to your expectations or to producers’ claims.
But what is quality? According to the American Society for Quality, the term quality refers to “the characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs.”16 When you buy a DVD player, you expect it to play DVDs. When you go to a drive-through window, you expect to be served in a reasonable amount of time. If your expectations are not met, you’ll conclude that you’re the victim of poor-quality.
Total quality management (TQM), or quality assurance, includes all the steps that a company takes to ensure that its goods or services are of sufficiently high quality to meet customers’ needs. Generally speaking, a company adheres to TQM principles by focusing on three tasks:
Let’s take a closer look at these three principles.
Companies that are committed to TQM understand that the purpose of a business is to generate a profit though customer satisfaction. Thus, they let their customers define quality by identifying desirable product features and then offering them. They encourage customers to tell them how to offer services that work the right way.
Armed with this knowledge, they take steps to make sure that providing quality is a factor in every facet of their operations—from design, to product planning and control, to sales and service. To get feedback on how well they’re doing, many companies routinely use surveys and other methods to monitor customer satisfaction. By tracking the results of feedback over time, they can see where they need to improve.
Successful TQM requires that everyone in the organization, not simply upper-level management, commits to satisfying the customer. When customers wait too long at a drive-through window, it’s the responsibility of a number of employees, not the manager alone. A defective DVD isn’t solely the responsibility of the manufacturer’s quality control department; it’s the responsibility of every employee involved in its design, production, and even shipping. To get everyone involved in the drive for quality assurance, managers must communicate the importance of quality to subordinates and motivate them to focus on customer satisfaction. Employees have to be properly trained not only to do their jobs but also to detect and correct quality problems.
In many companies, employees who perform similar jobs work as teams, sometimes called quality circles, to identify quality, efficiency, and other work-related problems, to propose solutions, and to work with management in implementing their recommendations.
An integral part of TQM is continuous improvement: the commitment to making constant improvements in the design, production, and delivery of goods and services.
Improvements can almost always be made to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve customer service and satisfaction. Everyone in the organization is constantly on the lookout for ways to do things better.
Companies can use a variety of tools to identify areas for improvement. A common approach in manufacturing is called statistical process control. This technique monitors production quality by testing a sample of output to see whether goods in process are being made according to predetermined specifications. An example of a statistical process control method is Six Sigma. A Six-Sigma process is one in which 99.99966% of all opportunities to perform an operation are free of defects. This percentage equates to only 3.4 defects per million opportunities.
Assume for a moment that you work for Kellogg’s, the maker of Raisin Bran cereal. You know that it’s the company’s goal to pack two scoops of raisins in every box of cereal.
How can you test to determine whether this goal is being met? You could use a statistical process control method called a sampling distribution. On a periodic basis, you would take a box of cereal off the production line and measure the amount of raisins in the box. Then you’d record that amount on a control chart designed to compare actual quantities of raisins with the desired quantity (two scoops). If your chart shows that several samples in a row are low on raisins, you’d take corrective action.
PowerSki’s Web site states that “PowerSki International has been founded to bring a new watercraft, the PowerSki Jetboard, and the engine technology behind it, to market.”17 That goal was reached in May 2003, when the firm emerged from a lengthy design period. Having already garnered praise for its innovative product, PowerSki was ready to begin mass-producing Jetboards. At this juncture, the management team made a strategic decision; rather than producing Jetboards in-house, they opted for outsourcing: having outside vendors manufacture the engines, fiberglass hulls, and associated parts. Assembly of the final product took place in a manufacturing facility owned by All American Power Sports in Moses Lake, Washington. This decision doesn’t mean that the company relinquished control over quality; in fact, every component that goes into the PowerSki Jetboard is manufactured to exact specifications set by PowerSki. One advantage of outsourcing its production function is that the management team can thereby devote its attention to refining its product design and designing future products.
Outsourcing has become an increasingly popular option among manufacturers. For one thing, few companies have either the expertise or the inclination to produce everything needed to make a product. Today, more firms, like PowerSki, want to specialize in the processes that they perform best—and outsource the rest. Like PowerSki, they also want to take advantage of outsourcing by linking up with suppliers located in regions with lower labor costs. Outsourcing can be local, regional, or even international, and companies can outsource everything from parts for their products, like automobile manufacturers do, to complete manufacturing of their products, like Nike and Apple do.
Outsourcing is by no means limited to the manufacturing sector. Service providers also outsource many of their non-core functions. Some universities, for instance, outsource functions such as food services, maintenance, bookstore sales, printing, grounds keeping, security, and even residence operations. For example, there are several firms, like RGIS, who offer inventory services. They will send a team to your company to count your inventory for you. As RGIS puts it, “Our teams deliver the hands-on help needed to complete a wide variety of retail projects of all sizes, allowing your team to keep customer service as the number one priority.”18 Some software developers outsource portions of coding as a cost-saving measure. If you’ve ever had to get phone or chat assistance on your laptop, there’s a good chance you spoke with someone in an outsourced call center. The center itself may have even been located offshore. This kind of arrangement can present unique challenges in quality control as differences in accents and the use of slang words can sometimes inhibit understanding. Nevertheless, in this era of globalization, expect the trend towards outsourcing offshore to continue.
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This video presents operations from multiple perspectives including manufacturing, restaurant food preparation, and brewing. Pay attention to the level of automation, which is a key aspect of operational decisions as labor gets more expensive.
Figure 10.1: © HydroForce Group LLC. Permission granted for use in this and all future editions of this book.
Figure 10.2 “The Transformation Process” Designed for Virginia Tech Libraries by Brian Craig. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Figures_from_Fundamentals_of_Business_by_Skripak. Licensed CC BY 4.0.
Figure 10.3 “A Gantt chart for Vermont Teddy Bears.” Designed for Virginia Tech Libraries by Brian Craig. Adapted from http://www.saylor.org/site/textbooks/Exploring%20Business.docx CC BY NC SA 3.0
Figure 10.4 “A PERT chart for Vermont Teddy Bears” Designed for Virginia Tech Libraries by Brian Craig. Adapted from http://www.saylor.org/site/textbooks/Exploring%20Business.docx CC BY NC SA 3.0
“UniversityNow: Production and Operations Management Course Cover.” (University Now). October 7, 2013. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sL7hi5i9xMo&=&feature=youtu.be
Motivation refers to an internally generated drive to achieve a goal or follow a particular course of action. Highly motivated employees focus their efforts on achieving specific goals. It’s the manager’s job, therefore, to motivate employees—to get them to try to do the best job they can. Motivated employees call in sick less frequently, are more productive, and are less likely to convey bad attitudes to customers and co-workers. They also tend to stay in their jobs longer, reducing turnover and the cost of hiring and training employees. But what motivates employees to do well? How does a manager encourage employees to show up for work each day and do a good job? Paying them helps, but many other factors influence a person’s desire (or lack of it) to excel in the workplace. What are these factors, are they the same for everybody, and do they change over time? To address these questions, we’ll examine four of the most influential theories of motivation: hierarchy-of-needs theory, two-factor theory, expectancy theory, and equity theory.
Before we begin our discussion of the various theories of motivation, it is important to establish the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Simply put, intrinsic motivation comes from within: the enjoyment of a task, the satisfaction of a job well done, and the desire to achieve are all sources of intrinsic motivation. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation comes about because of external factors such as a bonus or another form of reward. Avoiding punishment or a bad outcome can also be a source of extrinsic motivation; fear, it is said, can be a great motivator.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory proposed that we are motivated by six initially unmet needs, arranged in the hierarchical order shown in Figure 11, which also lists specific examples of each type of need in both the personal and work spheres of life. Look, for instance, at the list of personal needs in the middle column. At the bottom are physiological needs (such life-sustaining needs as food and shelter). Working up the hierarchy we experience safety needs (financial stability, freedom from physical harm), social needs (the need to belong and have friends), esteem needs (the need for self-respect and status), and self-actualization needs (the need to reach one’s full potential or achieve some creative success). Late in his life, Maslow added self-transcendence to his model – the need to further a cause beyond the self.1 There are two key things to remember about Maslow’s model:
|Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs||Personal Fulfillment||Professional Fulfillment|
|Highest: Self- Transcendence||Devotion to a cause||Service to others|
|Self-Actualization||Creative success and achievement||Challenging work, leadership, professional achievement|
|Esteem||Status and respect||Authority, titles, recognition|
|Social||Family and friendships||Team membership and social activities|
|Safety||Financial stability||Seniority/Job security|
|Lowest: Physiological||Food and shelter||Salary|
Let’s say, for example, that for a variety of reasons that aren’t your fault, you’re broke, hungry, and homeless. Because you’ll probably take almost any job that will pay for food and housing (physiological needs), you go to work repossessing cars. Fortunately, your student loan finally comes through, and with enough money to feed yourself, you can go back to school and look for a job that’s not so risky (a safety need). You find a job as a night janitor in the library, and though you feel secure, you start to feel cut off from your friends, who are active during daylight hours. You want to work among people, not books (a social need). So now you join several of your friends selling pizza in the student center. This job improves your social life, but even though you’re very good at making pizzas, it’s not terribly satisfying. You’d like something that your friends will respect enough to stop teasing you about the pizza job (an esteem need). So you study hard and land a job as an intern in the governor’s office. On graduation, you move up through a series of government appointments and eventually run for state senator. As you’re sworn into office, you realize that you’ve reached your full potential (a self-actualization need) and you comment to yourself, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”
What implications does Maslow’s theory have for business managers? There are two key points: (1) Not all employees are driven by the same needs, and (2) the needs that motivate individuals can change over time. Managers should consider which needs different employees are trying to satisfy and should structure rewards and other forms of recognition accordingly. For example, when you got your first job repossessing cars, you were motivated by the need for money to buy food. If you’d been given a choice between a raise or a plaque recognizing your accomplishments, you’d undoubtedly have opted for the money. As a state senator, by contrast, you may prefer public recognition of work well done (say, election to higher office) to a pay raise.
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Another psychologist, Frederick Herzberg, set out to determine which work factors (such as wages, job security, or advancement) made people feel good about their jobs and which factors made them feel bad about their jobs. He surveyed workers, analyzed the results, and concluded that to understand employee satisfaction (or dissatisfaction), he had to divide work factors into two categories:
Motivation factors. Those factors that are strong contributors to job satisfaction
Hygiene factors. Those factors that are not strong contributors to satisfaction but that must be present to meet a worker’s expectations and prevent job dissatisfaction
Figure 11.2 illustrates Herzberg’s two-factor theory. Note that motivation factors (such as promotion opportunities) relate to the nature of the work itself and the way the employee performs it. Hygiene factors (such as physical working conditions) relate to the environment in which it’s performed.
We’ll ask the same question about Herzberg’s model as we did about Maslow’s: What does it mean for managers? Suppose you’re a senior manager in an accounting firm, where you supervise a team of accountants, each of whom has been with the firm for five years. How would you use Herzberg’s model to motivate the employees who report to you? Let’s start with hygiene factors. Are salaries reasonable? What about working conditions? Does each accountant have his or her own workspace, or are they crammed into tiny workrooms? Are they being properly supervised or are they left on their own to sink or swim? If hygiene factors like these don’t meet employees’ expectations, they may be dissatisfied with their jobs.
Fixing problems related to hygiene factors may alleviate job dissatisfaction, but it won’t necessarily improve anyone’s job satisfaction. To increase satisfaction (and motivate someone to perform better), you must address motivation factors. Is the work itself challenging and stimulating? Do employees receive recognition for jobs well done? Will the work that an accountant has been assigned help him or her to advance in the firm? According to Herzberg, motivation requires a twofold approach: eliminating “dissatisfiers” and enhancing satisfiers.
If you were a manager, wouldn’t you like to know how your employees decide whether to work hard or goof off? Wouldn’t it be nice to know whether a planned rewards program will have the desired effect—namely, motivating them to perform better in their jobs? These are the issues considered by psychologist Victor Vroom in his expectancy theory, which proposes that employees will work hard to earn rewards that they value and that they consider “attainable”.
As you can see from Figure 11.3, Vroom argues that an employee will be motivated to exert a high level of effort to obtain a reward under three conditions – the employee:
To apply expectancy theory to a real-world situation, let’s analyze an automobile- insurance company with one hundred agents who work from a call center. Assume that the firm pays a base salary of $2,000 a month, plus a $200 commission on each policy sold above ten policies a month. In terms of expectancy theory, under what conditions would an agent be motivated to sell more than ten policies a month?
Now let’s alter the scenario slightly. Say that the company raises prices, thus making it harder to sell the policies. How will agents’ motivation be affected? According to expectancy theory, motivation will suffer. Why? Because agents may be less confident that their efforts will lead to satisfactory performance. What if the company introduces a policy whereby agents get bonuses only if buyers don’t cancel policies within ninety days? Now agents may be less confident that they’ll get bonuses even if they do sell more than ten policies. Motivation will decrease because the link between performance and reward has been weakened. Finally, what will happen if bonuses are cut from $200 to $25? Obviously, the reward would be of less value to agents, and, again, motivation will suffer. The message of expectancy theory, then, is fairly clear: managers should offer rewards that employees value, set performance levels that they can reach, and ensure a strong link between performance and reward.
What if you spent thirty hours working on a class report, did everything you were supposed to do, and handed in an excellent assignment (in your opinion). Your roommate, on the other hand, spent about five hours and put everything together at the last minute. You know, moreover, that he ignored half the requirements and never even ran his assignment through a spell-checker. A week later, your teacher returns the reports. You get a C and your roommate gets a B+. In all likelihood, you’ll feel that you’ve been treated unfairly relative to your roommate.
Your reaction makes sense according to the equity theory of motivation, which focuses on our perceptions of how fairly we’re treated relative to others. Applied to the work environment, this theory proposes that employees analyze their contributions or job inputs (hours worked, education, experience, work performance) and their rewards or job outcomes (salary, bonus, promotion, recognition). Then they create a contributions/rewards ratio and compare it to those of other people. The basis of comparison can be any one of the following:
When individuals perceive that the ratio of their contributions to rewards is comparable to that of others, they perceive that they’re being treated fairly or equitably; when they perceive that the ratio is out of balance, they perceive inequity. Occasionally, people will perceive that they’re being treated better than others. More often, however, they conclude that others are being treated better (and that they themselves are being treated worse). This is what you concluded when you saw your grade in the previous example. You’ve calculated your ratio of contributions (hours worked, research and writing skills) to rewards (project grade), compared it to your roommate’s ratio, and concluded that the two ratios are out of balance.
What will an employee do if he or she perceives an inequity? The individual might try to bring the ratio into balance, either by decreasing inputs (working fewer hours, not taking on additional tasks) or by increasing outputs (asking for a raise). If this strategy fails, an employee might complain to a supervisor, transfer to another job, leave the organization, or rationalize the situation (e.g., deciding that the situation isn’t so bad after all). Equity theory advises managers to focus on treating workers fairly, especially in determining compensation, which is, naturally, a common basis of comparison.
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Howard Schultz has vivid memories of his father slumped on the couch with his leg in a cast.1 The ankle would heal, but his father had lost another job—this time as a driver for a diaper service. It was a crummy job; still, it put food on the table, and if his father couldn’t work, there wouldn’t be any money. Howard was seven, but he understood the gravity of the situation, particularly because his mother was seven months pregnant, and the family had no insurance.
This was just one of the many setbacks that plagued Schultz’s father throughout his life—an honest, hard-working man frustrated by a system that wasn’t designed to cater to the needs of common workers. He’d held a series of blue-collar jobs (cab driver, truck driver, factory worker), sometimes holding two or three at a time. Despite his willingness to work, he never earned enough money to move his family out of Brooklyn’s federally-subsidized housing projects. Schultz’s father died never having found fulfillment in his work life—or even a meaningful job. It was the saddest day of Howard’s life.
As a kid, did Schultz ever imagine that one day he’d be the founder and chairman of Starbucks Coffee Company? Of course not. But he did decide that if he was ever in a position to make a difference in the lives of people like his father, he’d do what he could. Remembering his father’s struggles and disappointments, Schultz has tried to make Starbucks the kind of company where he wished his father had worked. “Without even a high school diploma,” Schultz admits, “my father probably could never have been an executive. But if he had landed a job in one of our stores or roasting plants, he wouldn’t have quit in frustration because the company didn’t value him. He would have had good health benefits, stock options, and an atmosphere in which his suggestions or complaints would receive a prompt, respectful response.”2
Schultz is motivated by both personal and business considerations: “When employees have self-esteem and self-respect,” he argues, “they can contribute so much more: to their company, to their family, to the world.”3 His commitment to his employees is embedded in Starbuck’s mission statement, whose first objective is to “provide a great work environment and treat each other with respect and dignity.”4 Those working at Starbucks are called partners because Schultz believes working for his company is not just a job, it’s a passion.5
Employees at Starbucks are vital to the company’s success. They are its public face, and every dollar of sales passes through their hands.6 According to Howard Schultz, they can make or break the company. If a customer has a positive interaction with an employee, the customer will come back. If an encounter is negative, the customer is probably gone for good. That’s why it’s crucial for Starbucks to recruit and hire the right people, train them properly, motivate them to do their best, and encourage them to stay with the company. Thus, the company works to provide satisfying jobs, a positive work environment, appropriate work schedules, and fair compensation and benefits. These activities are part of Starbucks’s strategy to deploy human resources in order to gain competitive advantage. The process is called human resource management (HRM), which consists of all actions that an organization takes to attract, develop, and retain quality employees. Each of these activities is complex. Attracting talented employees involves the recruitment of qualified candidates and the selection of those who best fit the organization’s needs. Development encompasses both new-employee orientation and the training and development of current workers. Retaining good employees means motivating them to excel, appraising their performance, compensating them appropriately, and doing what’s possible to keep them.
How does Starbucks make sure that its worldwide retail locations are staffed with just the right number of committed employees? How does Norwegian Cruise Lines make certain that when the Norwegian Dawn pulls out of New York harbor, it has a complete, fully trained crew on board to feed, entertain, and care for its passengers? Managing these tasks is a matter of strategic human resource planning—the process of developing a plan for satisfying an organization’s human resources (HR) needs.
A strategic HR plan lays out the steps that an organization will take to ensure that it has the right number of employees with the right skills in the right places at the right times. HR managers begin by analyzing the company’s mission, objectives, and strategies. Starbucks’s objectives, for example, include the desire to “develop enthusiastically satisfied customers” as well as to foster an environment in which employees treat both customers and each other with respect.7 Thus, the firm’s HR managers look for people who are “adaptable, self-motivated, passionate, creative team members.”8 The main goal of Norwegian Cruise Lines—to lavish passengers with personal attention—determines not only the type of employee desired (one with exceptionally good customer-relation skills and a strong work ethic) but also the number needed (one for every two passengers on the Norwegian Dawn).9
To develop an HR plan, HR managers must be knowledgeable about the jobs that the organization needs performed. They organize information about a given job by performing a job analysis to identify the tasks, responsibilities, and skills that it entails, as well as the knowledge and abilities needed to perform it. Managers also use the information collected for the job analysis to prepare two documents:
Once they’ve analyzed the jobs within the organization, HR managers must forecast future hiring (or firing) needs. This is the three-step process summarized below.
Starbucks, for instance, might find that it needs three hundred new employees to work at stores scheduled to open in the next few months. Disney might determine that it needs two thousand new cast members to handle an anticipated surge in visitors. The Norwegian Dawn might be short two dozen restaurant workers because of an unexpected increase in reservations.
After calculating the disparity between supply and future demand, HR managers must draw up plans for bringing the two numbers into balance. If the demand for labor is going to outstrip the supply, they may hire more workers, encourage current workers to put in extra hours, subcontract work to other suppliers, or introduce labor-saving initiatives. If the supply is greater than the demand, they may deal with overstaffing by not replacing workers who leave, encouraging early retirements, laying off workers, or (as a last resort) firing workers.
Armed with information on the number of new employees to be hired and the types of positions to be filled, the HR manager then develops a strategy for recruiting potential employees. Recruiting is the process of identifying suitable candidates and encouraging them to apply for openings in the organization.
Before going any further, we should point out that in recruiting and hiring, managers must comply with antidiscrimination laws; violations can have legal consequences. Discrimination occurs when a person is treated unfairly on the basis of a characteristic unrelated to ability. Under federal law, it’s illegal to discriminate in recruiting and hiring on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability. (The same rules apply to other employment activities, such as promoting, compensating, and firing.)10 The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces a number of federal employment laws, including the following:
The first step in recruiting is to find qualified candidates. Where do you look for them, and how do you decide whether they’re qualified? Companies must assess not only the ability of a candidate to perform the duties of a job, but also whether he or she is a good “fit” for the company– i.e., how well the candidate’s values and interpersonal style match the company’s values and culture.
Where do you find people who satisfy so many criteria? Basically, you can look in two places: inside and outside your own organization. Both options have pluses and minuses. Hiring internally sends a positive signal to employees that they can move up in the company—a strong motivation tool and a reward for good performance. In addition, because an internal candidate is a known quantity, it’s easier to predict his or her success in a new position. Finally, it’s cheaper to recruit internally. On the other hand, you’ll probably have to fill the promoted employee’s position. Going outside gives you an opportunity to bring fresh ideas and skills into the company. In any case, it’s often the only alternative, especially if no one inside the company has just the right combination of skills and experiences. Entry-level jobs are usually filled from the outside.
Whether you search inside or outside the organization, you need to publicize the opening. If you’re looking internally in a small organization, you can alert employees informally. In larger organizations, HR managers generally post openings on bulletin boards (often online) or announce them in newsletters. They can also seek direct recommendations from various supervisors.
Recruiting people from outside is more complicated. It’s a lot like marketing a product to buyers: in effect, you’re marketing the virtues of working for your company. Starbucks uses the following outlets to advertise openings:
When asked what it takes to attract the best people, Starbucks’s senior executive Dave Olsen replied, “Everything matters.” Everything Starbucks does as a company bears on its ability to attract talent. Accordingly, everyone is responsible for recruiting, not just HR specialists. In fact, the best source of quality applicants is often the company’s own labor force.13
Recruiting gets people to apply for positions, but once you’ve received applications, you still have to select the best candidate—another complicated process.
The selection process entails gathering information on candidates, evaluating their qualifications, and choosing the right one. At the very least, the process can be time- consuming—particularly when you’re filling a high-level position—and often involves several members of an organization.
Let’s examine the selection process more closely by describing the steps that you’d take to become a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).14 Most business students don’t generally aspire to become FBI agents, but the FBI is quite interested in business graduates—especially if you have a major in accounting or finance. With one of these backgrounds, you’ll be given priority in hiring. Why?
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of white-collar crime that needs to be investigated, and people who know how to follow the money are well suited for the task.
The first step in a new graduate being hired as an FBI accountant is applying for the job. Make sure you meet the minimum qualifications they advertise. To provide factual information on your education and work background, you’ll submit an application, which the FBI will use as an initial screening tool.
Next comes a battery of tests (a lot more than you’d take in applying for an everyday business position). Like most organizations, the FBI tests candidates on the skills and knowledge entailed by the job. Unlike most businesses, however, the FBI will also measure your aptitude, evaluate your personality, and assess your writing ability. You’ll have to take a polygraph (lie-detector) test to determine the truthfulness of the information you’ve provided, uncover the extent of any drug use, and disclose potential security problems.
If you pass all these tests (with sufficiently high marks), you’ll be granted an interview. It serves the same purpose as it does for business recruiters: it allows the FBI to learn more about you and gives you a chance to learn more about your prospective employer and your possible future in the organization. The FBI conducts structured interviews—a series of standard questions. You’re judged on both your answers and your ability to communicate orally.
Let’s be positive and say you passed the interview. What’s next? You still have to pass a rigorous physical examination (including a drug test), as well as background and reference checks. Given its mission, the FBI sets all these hurdles a little higher than the average employer. Most businesses will ask you to take a physical exam, but you probably won’t have to meet the fitness standards set by the FBI. Likewise, many businesses check references to verify that applicants haven’t lied about (or exaggerated) their education and work experience. The FBI goes to great lengths to ensure that candidates are suitable for law-enforcement work.
The last stage in the process is out of your control. Will you be hired or not? This decision is made by one or more people who work for the prospective employer. For a business, the decision maker is generally the line manager who oversees the position being filled. At the FBI, the decision is made by a team at FBI headquarters.
Though most people hold permanent, full-time positions, there’s a growing number of individuals who work at temporary or part-time jobs. Many of these are contingent workers hired to supplement a company’s permanent workforce. Most of them are independent contractors, consultants, or freelancers who are paid by the firms that hire them. Others are on-call workers who work only when needed, such as substitute teachers. Still others are temporary workers (or “temps”) who are employed and paid by outside agencies or contract firms that charge fees to client companies.
The use of contingent workers provides companies with a number of benefits. Because they can be hired and fired easily, employers can better control labor costs. When things are busy, they can add temps, and when business is slow, they can release unneeded workers. Temps are often cheaper than permanent workers, particularly because they rarely receive costly benefits. Employers can also bring in people with specialized skills and talents to work on special projects without entering into long-term employment relationships. Finally, companies can “try out” temps: if someone does well, the company can offer permanent employment; if the fit is less than perfect, the employer can easily terminate the relationship. There are downsides to the use of contingent workers, including increased training costs and decreased loyalty to the company. Also, many employers believe that because temps are usually less committed to company goals than permanent workers, productivity suffers.
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Because companies can’t survive unless employees do their jobs well, it makes economic sense to train them and develop their skills. This type of support begins when an individual enters the organization and continues as long as he or she stays there.
Have you ever started your first day at a new job feeling upbeat and optimistic only to walk out at the end of the day thinking that maybe you’ve taken the wrong job? If this happens too often, your employer may need to revise its approach to orientation—the way it introduces new employees to the organization and their jobs. Starting a new job is a little like beginning college; at the outset, you may be experiencing any of the following feelings:
The employer who understands how common such feelings are is more likely not only to help newcomers get over them but also to avoid the pitfalls often associated with new-employee orientation:
A good employer will take things slowly, providing you with information about the company and your job on a need-to-know basis while making you feel as comfortable as possible. You’ll get to know the company’s history, traditions, policies, and culture over time. You’ll learn more about salary and benefits and how your performance will be evaluated. Most importantly, you’ll find out how your job fits into overall operations and what’s expected of you.
It would be nice if employees came with all the skills they need to do their jobs. It would also be nice if job requirements stayed the same: once you’ve learned how to do a job, you’d know how to do it forever. In reality, new employees must be trained; moreover, as they grow in their jobs or as their jobs change, they’ll need additional training. Unfortunately, training is costly and time-consuming.
How costly? Training magazine reported that businesses spent over $55 billion on training in 2013.17 At Darden Restaurants, the parent company to restaurants such as Olive Garden and Red Lobster, training focuses on diversity skills.18 What’s the payoff? Why are such companies willing to spend so much money on their employees? Darden has been recognized by Fortune magazine as a “Diversity Champion,” ranking it as one of the Top 20 employers on their list of diverse workforces.19 At Booz Allen Hamilton, consultants specialize in finding innovative solutions to client problems, and their employer makes sure that they’re up-to-date on all the new technologies by maintaining a “technology petting zoo” at its training headquarters. It’s called a “petting zoo” because employees get to see, touch, and interact with new and emerging technologies. For example, a Washington Post reporter visiting the “petting zoo” in 2007 saw fabric that could instantly harden if struck by a knife or bullet, and “smart” clothing that could monitor a wearer’s health or environment.20
At Booz Allen Hamilton’s technology “petting zoo,” employees are receiving off-the-job training. This approach allows them to focus on learning without the distractions that would occur in the office. More common, however, is informal on-the-job training, which may be supplemented with formal training programs. This is the method, for example, by which you’d move up from mere coffee maker to a full-fledged “barista” if you worked at Starbucks.21 You’d begin by reading a large spiral book (titled Starbucks University) on the responsibilities of the barista, pass a series of tests on the reading, then get hands-on experience in making drinks, mastering one at a time.22 Doing more complex jobs in business will likely require even more training than is required to be a barista.
The makeup of the U.S. workforce has changed dramatically over the past 50 years. In the 1950s, more than 60 percent was composed of white males.23 Today’s workforce reflects the broad range of differences in the population—differences in gender, race, ethnicity, age, physical ability, religion, education, and lifestyle. As you can see in Figure 12.5, more women and minorities have entered the workforce, and white males now make up only 36 percent of the workforce.24
Most companies today strive for diverse workforces. HR managers work hard to recruit, hire, develop, and retain a diverse workforce. In part, these efforts are motivated by legal concerns: discrimination in recruiting, hiring, advancement, and firing is illegal under federal law and is prosecuted by the EEOC.25 Companies that violate antidiscrimination laws are subject to severe financial penalties and also risk reputational damage. In November 2004, for example, the EEOC charged that recruiting policies at Abercrombie & Fitch, a national chain of retail clothing stores, had discriminated against minority and female job applicants between 1999 and 2004. The EEOC alleged that A&F had hired a disproportionate number of white salespeople, placed minorities and women in less visible positions, and promoted a virtually all-white image in its marketing efforts. Six days after the EEOC filed a lawsuit, the company settled the case at a cost of $50 million, but the negative publicity may hamper both recruitment and sales for some time.26
Reasons for building a diverse workforce go well beyond mere compliance with legal standards. It even goes beyond commitment to ethical standards. It’s good business. People with diverse backgrounds bring fresh points of view that can be invaluable in generating ideas and solving problems. In addition, they can be the key to connecting with an ethnically diverse customer base. If a large percentage of your customers are Hispanic, it might make sense to have a Hispanic marketing manager. In short, capitalizing on the benefits of a diverse workforce means that employers should view differences as assets rather than liabilities.
Every year, the Great Places to Work Institute analyzes comments from thousands of employees and compiles a list of “The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America®,” which is published in Fortune magazine. Having compiled its list for more than twenty years, the institute concludes that the defining characteristic of a great company to work for is trust between managers and employees. Employees overwhelmingly say that they want to work at a place where employees “trust the people they work for, have pride in what they do, and enjoy the people they work with.”27 They report that they’re motivated to perform well because they’re challenged, respected, treated fairly, and appreciated. They take pride in what they do, are made to feel that they make a difference, and are given opportunities for advancement.28 The most effective motivators, it would seem, are closely aligned with Maslow’s higher-level needs and Herzberg’s motivating factors. The top ten companies are listed in Figure 12.7.
|3||Boston Consulting Group|
|4||Wegman’s Food Markets|
|6||Robert W. Baird & Co.|
|9||Camden Property Trust|
The average employee spends more than two thousand hours a year at work. If the job is tedious, unpleasant, or otherwise unfulfilling, the employee probably won’t be motivated to perform at a very high level. Many companies practice a policy of job redesign to make jobs more interesting and challenging. Common strategies include job rotation, job enlargement, and job enrichment.
Specialization promotes efficiency because workers get very good at doing particular tasks. The drawback is the tedium of repeating the same task day in and day out. The practice of job rotation allows employees to rotate from one job to another on a systematic basis, often but not necessarily cycling back to their original tasks. A computer maker, for example, might rotate a technician into the sales department to increase the employee’s awareness of customer needs and to give the employee a broader understanding of the company’s goals and operations. A hotel might rotate an accounting clerk to the check- in desk for a few hours each day to add variety to the daily workload. Through job rotation, employees develop new skills and gain experience that increases their value to the company. So great is the benefit of this practice that many companies have established rotational training programs that include scheduled rotations during the first 2-3 years of employment. Companies benefit because cross-trained employees can fill in for absentees, thus providing greater flexibility in scheduling, offer fresh ideas on work practices, and become promotion-ready more quickly.
Instead of a job in which you performed just one or two tasks, wouldn’t you prefer a job that gave you many different tasks? In theory, you’d be less bored and more highly motivated if you had a chance at job enlargement—the policy of enhancing a job by adding tasks at similar skill levels. The job of sales clerk, for example, might be expanded to include gift-wrapping and packaging items for shipment. The additional duties would add variety without entailing higher skill levels.
Merely expanding a job by adding similar tasks won’t necessarily “enrich” it by making it more challenging and rewarding. Job enrichment is the practice of adding tasks that increase both responsibility and opportunity for growth. It provides the kinds of benefits that, according to Maslow and Herzberg, contribute to job satisfaction: stimulating work, sense of personal achievement, self-esteem, recognition, and a chance to reach your potential.
Consider, for example, the evolving role of support staff in the contemporary office. Today, employees who used to be called “secretaries” assume many duties previously in the domain of management, such as project coordination and public relations. Information technology has enriched their jobs because they can now apply such skills as word processing, desktop publishing, creating spreadsheets, and managing databases. That’s why we now use a term such as administrative assistant instead of secretary.29
Building a career requires a substantial commitment in time and energy, and most people find that they aren’t left with much time for non-work activities. Fortunately, many organizations recognize the need to help employees strike a balance between their work and home lives.30 By helping employees combine satisfying careers and fulfilling personal lives, companies tend to end up with a happier, less-stressed, and more productive workforce. The financial benefits include lower absenteeism, turnover, and health care costs.
The accounting firm KPMG, which has made the list of the “100 Best Companies for Working Mothers” for nineteen years,31 is committed to promoting a balance between its employees’ work and personal lives. KPMG offers a variety of work arrangements designed to accommodate different employee needs and provide scheduling flexibility.32
Employers who provide for flextime set guidelines that allow employees to designate starting and quitting times. Guidelines, for example, might specify that all employees must work eight hours a day (with an hour for lunch) and that four of those hours must be between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Thus, you could come in at 7 a.m. and leave at 4 p.m., while coworkers arrive at 10 a.m. and leave at 7 p.m. With permission you could even choose to work from 8 a.m to 2 p.m., take two hours for lunch, and then work from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Rather than work eight hours a day for five days a week, you might elect to earn a three-day weekend by working ten hours a day for four days a week.
Under job sharing, two people share one full-time position, splitting the salary and benefits of the position as each handles half the job. Often they arrange their schedules to include at least an hour of shared time during which they can communicate about the job.
Telecommuting means that you regularly work from home (or from some other non-work location). You’re connected to the office by computer, fax, and phone. You save on commuting time, enjoy more flexible work hours, and have more opportunity to spend time with your family. A study of 5,500 IBM employees (one-fifth of whom telecommute) found that those who worked at home not only had a better balance between work and home life but also were more highly motivated and less likely to leave the organization.33
Though it’s hard to count telecommuters accurately, Global Workplace Analytics estimates that, in 2016, “at least 3.7 million people (2.8 percent of the workforce) work from home at least half the time.”34 Telecommuting isn’t for everyone. Working at home means that you have to discipline yourself to avoid distractions, such as TV, personal phone calls, and home chores and also not be impacted by feeling isolated from the social interaction in the workplace.
In addition to alternative work arrangements, many employers, including KPMG, offer programs and benefits designed to help employees meet family and home obligations while maintaining busy careers. KPMG offers each of the following benefits.35
Caring for dependents—young children and elderly parents—is of utmost importance to some employees, but combining dependent-care responsibilities with a busy job can be particularly difficult. KPMG provides on-site child care during tax season (when employees are especially busy) and offers emergency backup dependent care all year round, either at a provider’s facility or in the employee’s home. To get referrals or information, employees can call KPMG’s LifeWorks Resource and Referral Service.
KPMG is by no means unique in this respect: more than 7 percent of U.S. companies maintained on-site day care in 2012,36 and 17 percent of all U.S. companies offered child-care resources or referral services.37
The United States is one of only two countries in the world that does not guarantee paid leave to new mothers (or fathers), although California, Rhode Island and New Jersey are implementing state programs, and many employers offer paid parental leave as an employee benefit.38 Any KPMG employee (whether male or female) who becomes a parent can take two weeks of paid leave. New mothers may also get time off through short-term disability benefits.
Like many companies, KPMG allows employees to aggregate all paid days off and use them in any way they want. In other words, instead of getting, say, ten sick days, five personal days, and fifteen vacation days, you get a total of thirty days to use for anything. If you’re having personal problems, you can contact the Employee Assistance Program. If staying fit makes you happier and more productive, you can take out a discount membership at one of more than nine thousand health clubs. In fact, many employers, like North Carolina software company SAS, now have on-site fitness centers for employee use.39
You’ve undoubtedly noticed by now that many programs for balancing work and personal lives target married people, particularly those with children. Single individuals also have trouble striking a satisfactory balance between work and non-work activities, but many single workers feel that they aren’t getting equal consideration from employers.40 They report that they’re often expected to work longer hours, travel more, and take on difficult assignments to compensate for married employees with family commitments.
Needless to say, requiring singles to take on additional responsibilities can make it harder for them to balance their work and personal lives. It’s harder to plan and keep personal commitments while meeting heavy work responsibilities. Frustration can lead to increased stress and job dissatisfaction. In several studies of stress in the accounting profession, unmarried workers reported higher levels of stress than any other group, including married people with children.41
With singles, as with married people, companies can reap substantial benefits from programs that help employees balance their work and non-work lives. PepsiCo, for example, offers a “concierge service,” which maintains a dry cleaner, travel agency, convenience store, and fitness center on the premises of its national office in Somers, New York.42 Single employees seem to find these services helpful, but what they value most of all is control over their time. In particular, they want predictable schedules that allow them to plan social and personal activities. They don’t want employers assuming that being single means that they can change plans at the last minute. It’s often more difficult for singles to deal with last-minute changes because, unlike married coworkers, they don’t have the at-home support structure to handle such tasks as tending to elderly parents or caring for pets.
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Though paychecks and benefits packages aren’t the only reasons why people work, they do matter. Competitive pay and benefits also help organizations attract and retain qualified employees. Companies that pay their employees more than their competitors generally have lower turnover. Consider, for example, The Container Store, which regularly appears on Fortune magazine’s list of “The 100 Best Companies to Work For.”43 The retail chain staffs its stores with fewer employees than its competitors but pays them more—in some cases, three times the industry average for retail workers. This strategy allows the company to attract extremely talented workers who, moreover, aren’t likely to leave the company. Low turnover is particularly valuable in the retail industry because it depends on service-oriented personnel to generate repeat business. In addition to salary and wages, compensation packages often include other financial incentives, such as bonuses and profit-sharing plans, as well as benefits, such as medical insurance, vacation time, sick leave, and retirement accounts.
The largest, and most important, component of a compensation package is the payment of wages or salary. If you’re paid according to the number of hours you work, you’re earning wages. Counter personnel at McDonald’s, for instance, get wages, which are determined by multiplying an employee’s hourly wage rate by the number of hours worked during the pay period. On the other hand, if you’re paid for fulfilling the responsibilities of a position—regardless of the number of hours required to do it— you’re earning a salary. The McDonald’s manager gets a salary for overseeing the operations of the restaurant. He or she is expected to work as long as it takes to get the job done, without any adjustment in compensation.
Sometimes it makes more sense to pay workers according to the quantity of product that they produce or sell. Byrd’s Seafood, a crab-processing plant in Crisfield, Maryland, pays workers on piecework: workers’ pay is based on the amount of crabmeat that’s picked from recently cooked crabs. (A good picker can produce fifteen pounds of crabmeat an hour and earn about $100 a day.)44 On the other hand, if you’re working on commission, you’re probably getting paid a percentage of the total dollar amount you sell. If you were a sales representative for an insurance company, like The Hartford, you’d get a certain amount of money for each automobile or homeowner policy you sold.45
In addition to regular paychecks, many people receive financial rewards based on performance, whether their own, their employer’s, or both. Other incentive programs designed to reward employees for good performance include bonus plans and stock options.
Texas Instruments’ (TI) year-end bonuses—annual income given in addition to salary—are based on individual and company-wide performance. If the company has a profitable year, and if you contributed to that success, you’ll get a bonus.46 If the company doesn’t do well, you may be out of luck – regardless of your personal performance, you might not receive a bonus.
Bonus plans have become quite common, and the range of employees eligible for bonuses has widened in recent years. In the past, bonus plans were usually reserved for managers above a certain level. Today, companies have realized the value of extending plans to include employees at virtually every level. The magnitude of bonuses still favors those at the top. High-ranking officers often get bonuses ranging from 30 percent to 50 percent of their salaries. Upper-level managers may get from 15 percent to 25 percent and middle managers from 10 percent to 15 percent. At lower levels, employees may expect bonuses from 3 percent to 5 percent of their annual compensation.47
TI’s plan is also pretty generous—as long as the company has a good year. Here’s how it works. An employee’s profit share depends on the company’s operating profit for the year. If profits from operations reach 10 percent of sales, the employee gets a bonus worth 2 percent of his or her salary. In 2011, TI’s operating profit was 22 percent, and employee bonuses were 7.9 percent of salary. But if operating profits are below 10 percent, nobody gets anything.51
The TI compensation plan also gives employees the right to buy shares of company stock at a 15% discount four times a year.52 So, if the price of the stock goes up, the employee benefits. Say, for example, that the stock was selling for $30 a share when the option was granted in 2007. The employee would be entitled to buy shares at a price of $25.50, earning them an immediate 15% gain in value. Any increase in share price would add to that gain.53
At TI, stock options are used as an incentive to attract and retain top people.54 Starbucks, by contrast, isn’t nearly as selective in awarding stock options. At Starbucks, all employees can earn “Bean Stock”—the Starbucks employee stock-option plan. Both full- and part-time employees get Starbucks shares based on their earnings and their time with the company. If the company does well and its stock goes up, employees make a profit. CEO Howard Schultz believes that Bean Stock pays off because employees are rewarded when the company does well, they have a stronger incentive to add value to the company (and so drive up its stock price). Starbucks has a video explaining their employee stock option program on this .55
Another major component of an employee’s compensation package is benefits— compensation other than salaries, hourly wages, or financial incentives. Types of benefits include the following:
The cost of providing benefits is staggering. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it costs an average employer about 30 percent of a worker’s salary to provide the same worker with benefits. If you include pay for time not worked (while on vacation or sick and so on), the percentage increases to 37 percent. The most money goes for paid time off (6.9% of salary costs), health care (8.1%), and retirement benefits (3.8%).56
Some workers receive only the benefits required by law while part-timers often receive no benefits at all.57 Again, Starbucks is generous in offering benefits. The company provides benefits even to the part-timers who make up two-thirds of the company’s workforce; anyone working at least twenty hours a week is eligible to participate in group medical coverage.58
Employees generally want their managers to tell them three things: what they should be doing, how well they’re doing it, and how they can improve their performance. Good managers address these issues on an ongoing basis. On a semiannual or annual basis, they also conduct formal performance appraisals to discuss and evaluate employees’ work performance.
Appraisal systems vary both by organization and by the level of the employee being evaluated, but as you can see in Figure 12.8, it’s generally a three-step process:
It sounds fairly simple, but why do so many managers report that, except for firing people, giving performance appraisals is their least favorite task?59 To get some perspective on this question, we’ll look at performance appraisals from both sides, explaining the benefits and identifying potential problems with some of the most common practices.
Among other benefits, formal appraisals provide the following:
As for disadvantages, most stem from the fact that appraisals are often used to determine salaries for the upcoming year. Consequently, meetings to discuss performance tend to take on an entirely different dimension: the manager may appear judgmental (rather than supportive), and the employee may get defensive. This adversarial atmosphere can make many managers not only uncomfortable with the task but also less likely to give honest feedback. (They may give higher marks in order to avoid delving into critical evaluations.) HR professionals disagree about whether performance appraisals should be linked to pay increases. Some experts argue that the connection eliminates the manager’s opportunity to use the appraisal to improve an employee’s performance. Others maintain that it increases employee satisfaction with the process and distributes raises on the basis of effort and results.61
Instead of being evaluated by one person, how would you like to be evaluated by several people—not only those above you in the organization but those below and beside you? The approach is called 360-degree feedback, and the purpose is to ensure that employees (mostly managers) get feedback from all directions—from supervisors, reporting subordinates, coworkers, and even customers. If it’s conducted correctly, this technique furnishes managers with a range of insights into their performance in a number of roles.
Some experts, however, regard the 360-degree approach as too cumbersome. An alternative technique, called upward feedback, requires only the manager’s subordinates to provide feedback. Computer maker Dell uses this approach as part of its manager-development plan. Every year, forty thousand Dell employees complete a survey in which they rate their supervisors on a number of dimensions, such as practicing ethical business principles and providing support in balancing work and personal life. Dell uses survey results for development purposes only, not as direct input into decisions on pay increases or promotions.62
When a valued employee quits, the loss to the employer can be serious. Not only will the firm incur substantial costs to recruit and train a replacement, but it also may suffer temporary declines in productivity and lower morale among remaining employees who have to take on heavier workloads. Given the negative impact of turnover—the permanent separation of an employee from a company—most organizations do whatever they can to retain qualified employees. Compensation plays a key role in this effort: companies that don’t offer competitive compensation packages tend to lose employees. Other factors also come into play, such as training and development, as well as helping employees achieve a satisfying work/non-work balance. In the following sections, we’ll look at a few other strategies for reducing turnover and increasing productivity.63
Employees who are happy at work are more productive, provide better customer service, and are more likely to stay with the company. A study conducted by Sears, for instance, found a positive relationship between customer satisfaction and employee attitudes on ten different issues: a 5 percent improvement in employee attitudes results in a 1.3 percent increase in customer satisfaction and a 0.5 percent increase in revenue.64
What sort of things improve employee attitudes? The 12,000 employees of software maker SAS Institute fall into the category of “happy workers.” They choose the furniture and equipment in their offices, eat subsidized meals at one of three on-site restaurants, and enjoy other amenities like a 77,000 square-foot fitness center. They also have job security: no one’s ever been laid off because of an economic downturn. The employee-friendly work environment helps SAS employees focus on their jobs and contribute to the attainment of company goals.65 Not surprisingly, it also results in very low 3 percent turnover.
Thanking people for work done well is a powerful motivator. People who feel appreciated are more likely to stay with a company than those who don’t.66 While a personal thank-you is always helpful, many companies also have formal programs for identifying and rewarding good performers. The Container Store rewards employee accomplishments in a variety of ways. For example, employees with 20 years of service are given a “dream trip”—one employee went on a seven day Hawaiian cruise.67 The company is known for its supportive environment and in 2016 celebrated its seventeenth year on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For®.68
Companies have found that involving employees in decisions saves money, makes workers feel better about their jobs, and reduces turnover. Some have found that it pays to take their advice. When General Motors asked workers for ideas on improving manufacturing operations, management was deluged with more than forty-four thousand suggestions during one quarter. Implementing a few of them cut production time on certain vehicles by 15 percent and resulted in sizable savings.69
Similarly, in 2001, Edward Jones, a personal investment company, faced a difficult situation during the stock-market downturn. Costs had to be cut, and laying off employees was one option. Instead, however, the company turned to its workforce for solutions. As a group, employees identified cost savings of more than $38 million. At the same time, the company convinced experienced employees to stay with it by assuring them that they’d have a role in managing it.70
As important as such initiatives can be, one bad boss can spoil everything. The way a person is treated by his or her boss may be the primary factor in determining whether an employee stays or goes. People who have quit their jobs cite the following behavior by superiors:
Holding managers accountable for excessive turnover can help alleviate the “bad-boss” problem, at least in the long run. In any case, whenever an employee quits, it’s a good idea for someone—other than the individual’s immediate supervisor—to conduct an exit interview to find out why. Knowing why people are quitting gives an organization the opportunity to correct problems that are causing high turnover rates.
Before we leave this section, we should say a word or two about termination—getting fired. Though turnover—voluntary separations—can create problems for employers, they’re not nearly as devastating as the effects of involuntary termination on employees. Losing your job is what psychologists call a “significant life change,” and it’s high on the list of “stressful life events” regardless of the circumstances. Sometimes, employers lay off workers because revenues are down and they must resort to downsizing—to cutting costs by eliminating jobs. Sometimes a particular job is being phased out, and sometimes an employee has simply failed to meet performance requirements.
Is it possible for you to get fired even if you’re doing a good job and there’s no economic justification for your being laid off? In some cases, yes—especially if you’re not working under a contract. Without a formal contract, you’re considered to be employed at will, which means that both you and your employer have the right to terminate the employment relationship at any time. You can quit whenever you want, but your employer can also fire you whenever they want.
Fortunately for employees, over the past several decades, the courts have made several decisions that created exceptions to the employment-at-will doctrine.72 Since managers generally prefer to avoid the expense of fighting wrongful discharge claims in court, many no longer fire employees at will. A good practice in managing terminations is to maintain written documentation so that employers can demonstrate just cause when terminating an employee. If it’s a case of poor performance, the employee would be warned in advance that his or her current level of performance could result in termination and then be permitted an opportunity to improve performance. When termination is necessary, communication should be handled in a private conversation, with the manager explaining precisely why the action is being taken.
An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
Figure 12.5: Data for the table from: Bureau of Labor Statistics (2016). “Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey: Table 10 Employed persons by occupation, race, Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, and sex.” Retrieved from:
As we saw in Chapter 11, Maslow believed that individuals are motivated to satisfy five levels of unmet needs (physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization). From this perspective, employees hope that full-time work will satisfy at least the two lowest-level needs: they want to be paid wages that are sufficient for them to feed, house, and clothe themselves and their families, and they expect safe working conditions and hope for some degree of job security.
Organizations also have needs: they need to earn profits that will satisfy their owners. They need to keep other stakeholders satisfied as well, which can cost money. Consider a metal-plating business that uses dangerous chemicals in its manufacturing processes; waste-water treatment is essential – and expensive. Sometimes, the needs of employees and employers are consistent: the organization can pay decent wages and provide workers with safe working conditions and job security while still making a satisfactory profit. At other times, there is a conflict—real, perceived, or a little bit of both—between the needs of employees and those of employers. In such cases, workers may be motivated to join a labor union—an organized group of workers that bargains with employers to improve its members’ pay, job security, and working conditions.
Figure 13.1 on the next page graphs labor-union density—union membership as a percentage of payrolls—in the United States from 1930 to 2015. As you can see, there’s been a steady decline since the middle part of the 1950s. Recently, only about 11 percent of U.S. workers have taken steps to belong to unions.1 Only union membership among public workers (those employed by federal, state, and local governments, such as teachers, police, and firefighters) has grown. In the 1940s, 10 percent of public workers and 34 percent of those in the private sector belonged to unions. Today, this has reversed: 36 percent of public workers and 7 percent of those in the private sector are union members.2
Why the decline in private sector unionization? Many factors come into play. The relatively weak economy has reduced the number of workers who have the confidence to go through a union organizing campaign; many workers are content just to have jobs and do not want to be seen as “rocking the boat.” In addition, the United States has shifted from a manufacturing-based economy characterized by large, historically unionized companies to a service-based economy made up of many small firms that are harder to unionize.3
Unions have a pyramidal structure much like that of large corporations. At the bottom are locals that serve workers in a particular geographical area. Certain members are designated as shop stewards to serve as go-betweens in disputes between workers and supervisors. Locals are usually organized into national unions that assist with local contract negotiations, organize new locals, negotiate contracts for entire industries, and lobby government bodies on issues of importance to organized labor. In turn, national unions may be linked by a labor federation, such as the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), which provides assistance to member unions and serves as a principal political organ for organized labor.
In a non-union environment, the employer makes largely unilateral, i.e., one-sided decisions on issues affecting its labor force, such as salary and benefits. Typically, employees are in no position to bargain for better deals. At the same time, however, employers have a vested interest in treating workers fairly. As we saw in Chapter 10, a reputation for treating employees well, for example, is a key factor in attracting talented people. Most employers want to avoid the costs involved in managing a unionized workforce; as a result, many offer generous pay and benefit packages in the hopes of keeping their workers happy – and un-unionized.
The process of setting pay and benefit levels is a lot different in a unionized environment. Union workers operate on a contract which usually covers some agreed-upon, multi-year period. When a given contract period begins to approach expiration, union representatives determine with members what they want in terms of salary increases, benefits, working conditions, and job security in their next contract. Union officials then tell the employer what its workers want and ask what they’re willing to offer. When there’s a discrepancy between what workers want and what management is willing to give—as there usually is—union officials serve as negotiators on behalf of their workforce, with the objective of extracting the best package of salary, benefits, and other conditions possible. The process of settling differences and establishing mutually agreeable conditions under which employees will work is called collective bargaining.
Negotiations start when each side states its position and presents its demands. As in most negotiations, these opening demands simply stake out starting positions. Both parties usually expect some give-and-take and realize that the final agreement will fall somewhere between the two positions. If everything goes smoothly, a tentative agreement can be reached and then voted on by union members. If they accept the agreement, the process is complete and a contract is put into place to govern labor-management relations for a stated period. If workers reject the agreement, negotiators from both sides must go back to the bargaining table.
If negotiations stall, the sides may call in outsiders. One option for engaging outside parties is called mediation, under which an impartial third party assesses the situation and makes recommendations for reaching an agreement. A mediator’s advice can be accepted or rejected by either side. If mediation does not result in an agreement, because one or both sides are unwilling to accept the decision of the third party, they may opt instead for arbitration, under which the third party studies the situation and arrives at a binding agreement. The key difference between mediation and arbitration is the word “binding” – whatever the third party says goes, because both the union and management have agreed to accept the decision of the third party as a condition of entering into the arbitration process.
Another difference between union and non-union environments is the handling of grievances—worker complaints on contract-related matters. When non-union workers feel that they’ve been treated unfairly, they can take up the matter with supervisors, who may or may not satisfy their complaints. When unionized workers have complaints (such as being asked to work more hours than stipulated under their contract), they can call on union representatives to resolve the problem, in conjunction with supervisory personnel, who are part of company management. If the outcome isn’t satisfactory to the worker, the union can choose to take the problem to higher-level management on his or her behalf. If there is still no resolution, the union may submit the grievance to an arbitrator.
At times, labor and management can’t resolve their differences through collective bargaining or formal grievance procedures. When this happens, each side may resort to a variety of tactics to win support for its positions and force the opposition to agree to its demands.
Unions have several options at their disposal to pressure company management into accepting the terms and conditions union members are demanding. The tactics available to the union include striking, picketing, and boycotting. When they go on strike, workers walk away from their jobs and refuse to return until the issue at hand has been resolved. As undergraduates at Yale discovered when they arrived on campus in fall 2003, the effects of a strike can engulf parties other than employers and strikers: with four thousand dining room workers on strike, students had to scramble to find food at local minimarkets. The strike—the eighth at the school since 1968—lasted twenty-three days, and in the end, the workers got what they wanted: better pension plans.4
Though a strike sends a strong message to management, it also has consequences for workers, who don’t get paid when they’re on strike. Unions often ease the financial pressure on strikers by providing cash payments, which are funded from the dues members pay to the unions. It is important to note that some unionized workers may not have the right to strike. For example, strikes by federal employees, such as air-traffic controllers, can be declared illegal if they jeopardize the public interest.
When you see workers parading with signs outside a factory or an office building (or even a school), they’re probably using the tactic known as picketing (see Figure 13.2). The purpose of picketing is informative—to tell people that a workforce is on strike or to publicize some management practice that is unacceptable to the union. In addition, because other union workers typically won’t cross picket lines, marchers can sometimes interrupt the daily activities of the targeted organization. In April 2001, faculty at the University of Hawaii, unhappy about salaries, went on strike for thirteen days. Initially, many students cheerfully headed for the beach, but before long, many more—particularly graduating seniors—began to worry about finishing the semester with the credits they needed to keep their lives on schedule.5
The final tactic available to unions is boycotting, in which union workers refuse to buy a company’s products and try to get other people to follow suit. The tactic is often used by the AFL-CIO, which maintains a national “Don’t Buy or Patronize” boycott list. In 2003, for example, at the request of two affiliates, the Actor’s Equity Association and the American Federation of Musicians, the AFL-CIO added the road show of the Broadway musical Miss Saigon to the list. Why? The unions objected to the use of non-union performers who worked for particularly low wages and to the use of a “virtual orchestra,” an electronic apparatus that can replace a live orchestra with software-generated orchestral accompaniment.6
Management doesn’t typically sit by passively, especially if the company has a position to defend or a message to get out. One available tactic is the lockout—closing the workplace to workers—though it’s rarely used because it’s legal only when unionized workers pose a credible threat to the employer’s financial viability. If you are a fan of professional basketball, you may remember the NBA lockout in 2011 (older fans may remember a similar scenario that took place in 1999) which took place because of a dispute regarding the division of revenues and the structure of the salary cap.
Lockout tactics were also used in the 2011 labor dispute between the National Football League (NFL) and the National Football League Players Association when club owners and players failed to reach an agreement on a new contract. Prior to the 2011 season, the owners imposed a lockout, which prevented the players from practicing in team training facilities. Both sides had their demands: the players wanted a greater percentage of the revenues, which the owners were against. The owners wanted the players to play two additional regular season games, which the players were against. With the season drawing closer, an agreement was finally reached in July 2011 bringing the 130-day lockout to an end and ensuring that the 2011 football season would begin on time.7
Another management tactic is replacing striking workers with strikebreakers—non-union workers who are willing to cross picket lines to replace strikers. Though the law prohibits companies from permanently replacing striking workers, it’s often possible for a company to get a court injunction that allows it to bring in replacement workers. For example, the NFL employed replacement referees in 2012, a move which led to a number of very questionable calls on the field.8
No union organizing campaign ever started with the premise that by unionizing, employees would receive lower wages or weaker benefit programs. To the contrary, unions approach prospective members with promises like higher pay, better health insurance, and more vacation time. Not surprisingly, then, business managers resist unions because they generally add to the cost of doing business. Higher costs can be addressed in several ways. Managers could accept lower profits, though such an outcome is unlikely given that owners/shareholders benefit from higher profits. They could raise prices and pass the higher costs along to customers, but doing so could hurt their competitiveness in the marketplace. Alternatively. they could find other ways to offset the increase in costs, but since managers are already supposed to be paying attention to costs, finding offsets can be quite difficult.
Another reason managers sometimes resist unionization is that unions often attempt to negotiate work rules that are to the benefit of their members. Business people who have worked in union environments have often complained of the lack of flexibility and the difficulty unions sometimes create in dealing with poor performing union employees. The grievance process can sometimes be long, cumbersome, and costly to administer.
Some companies find working with unions to be so unpleasant that they decide to voluntarily increase pay and benefits to preempt unions in advertising these benefits.
As we noted earlier, union membership in the United States has been declining for some time. So will membership continue to decline causing unions to lose even more power? The AFL-CIO is optimistic about union membership, pointing out recent gains in membership among women and immigrants, as well as health care workers, graduate students, and professionals.9
Convincing workers to unionize is still more difficult than it used to be and could become even harder in the future. Given their resistance to being unionized, employers have developed strategies for dissuading workers from unionizing—in particular, tactics for withholding job security. If unionization threatens higher costs for wages and benefits, management can resort to part-time or contract workers. They can also outsource work, eliminating jobs entirely. Many employers are now investing in technology designed to reduce the amount of human labor needed to produce goods or offer services. While it is impossible to predict the future, it is likely that unions and managers will remain adversaries for the foreseeable future.
An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
There are two videos for this chapter, in order to present two opposing points of view as well as some useful history. Pay attention for the historical benefits we take for granted today but that came about as a result of efforts by unions.
Figure 13.1: Data sources: Gerald Mayer (2004). “Union Membership Trends in the United States.”Cornell University International Labor Relations School (Digital Commons). Retrieved from: and Bureau of Labor Statistics (2016). “Economic News Release: Table 1. Union affiliation of employed wage and salary workers by selected characteristics.” BLS.gov. Retrieved from:
“Managing in a Union Environment.” (Thomson Reuters Compliance Learning). November 6, 2009. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPqS-HdqnUg
“The Labor Movement in the United States.” (History). September 26, 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewu-v36szlE&=&feature=youtu.be
Mark Tilden used to build robots for NASA that ended up being destroyed on Mars, but after seven years of watching the results of his work meet violent ends thirty-six million miles from home, he decided to specialize in robots for earthlings. He left the space world for the toy world and teamed up with Wow Wee Toys Ltd. to create “Robosapien,” an intelligent robot with an attitude.1 The fourteen-inch-tall robot, which is operated by remote control, has great moves. In addition to walking forward, backward, and turning, he dances, raps, and gives karate chops. He can pick up small objects and even fling them across the room, and he does everything while grunting, belching, and emitting other “bodily” sounds.
Robosapien gave Wow Wee Toys a good head start in the toy robot market: in the first five months, more than 1.5 million Robosapiens were sold.2 The company expanded the line to more than a dozen robotics and other interactive toys, including FlyTech Bladestar, a revolutionary indoor flying machine that won a Popular Mechanics magazine Editor’s Choice Award in 2008).3
What does Robosapien have to do with marketing? The answer is fairly simple: though Mark Tilden is an accomplished inventor who has created a clever product, Robosapien wouldn’t be going anywhere without the marketing expertise of Wow Wee. In this chapter, we’ll look at the ways in which marketing converts product ideas like Robosapien into commercial successes.
When you consider the functional areas of business—accounting, finance, management, marketing, and operations—marketing is the one you probably know the most about. After all, as a consumer and target of all sorts of advertising messages, you’ve been on the receiving end of marketing initiatives for most of your life. What you probably don’t appreciate, however, is the extent to which marketing focuses on providing value to the customer. According to the American Marketing Association, “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”4
In other words, marketing isn’t just advertising and selling. It includes everything that organizations do to satisfy customer needs:
Think about a typical business—a local movie theater, for example. It’s easy to see how the person who decides what movies to show is involved in marketing: he or she selects the product to be sold. It’s even easier to see how the person who puts ads in the newspaper works in marketing: he or she is in charge of advertising—making people aware of the product and getting them to buy it. What about the ticket seller and the person behind the counter who gets the popcorn and soda or the projectionist? Are they marketing the business? Absolutely. The purpose of every job in the theater is satisfying customer needs, and as we’ve seen, identifying and satisfying customer needs is what marketing is all about. Marketing is a team effort involving everyone in the organization.
If everyone is responsible for marketing, can the average organization do without an official marketing department? Not necessarily: most organizations have marketing departments in which individuals are actively involved in some marketing-related activity—product design and development, pricing, promotion, sales, and distribution. As specialists in identifying and satisfying customer needs, members of the marketing department manage—plan, organize, lead, and control—the organization’s overall marketing efforts.
Figure 14.2 is designed to remind you that to achieve company profitability goals, you need to start with three things:
At the same time, you need to achieve organizational goals, such as profitability and growth. This basic philosophy—satisfying customer needs while meeting organizational goals—is called the marketing concept, and when it’s effectively applied, it guides all of an organization’s marketing activities.
The marketing concept puts the customer first: as your most important goal, satisfying the customer must be the goal of everyone in the organization. But this doesn’t mean that you ignore the bottom line; if you want to survive and grow, you need to make some profit. What you’re looking for is the proper balance between the commitments to customer satisfaction and company survival. Consider the case of Medtronic, a manufacturer of medical devices, such as pacemakers and defibrillators. The company boasts more than 50 percent of the market in cardiac devices and is considered the industry standard setter.5 Everyone in the organization understands that defects are intolerable in products that are designed to keep people alive. Thus, committing employees to the goal of zero defects is vital to both Medtronic’s customer base and its bottom line. “A single quality issue,” explains CEO Arthur D. Collins Jr., “can deep-six a business.”6
Businesses earn profits by selling goods or providing services. It would be nice if everybody in the marketplace was interested in your product, but if you tried to sell it to everybody, you’d probably spread your resources too thin. You need to identify a specific group of consumers who should be particularly interested in your product, who would have access to it, and who have the means to buy it. This group represents your target market, and you need to aim your marketing efforts at its members.
How do marketers identify target markets? First, they usually identify the overall market for their product—the individuals or organizations that need a product and are able to buy it. This market can include either or both of two groups:
You might focus on only one market or both. A farmer, for example, might sell blueberries to individuals on the consumer market and, on the industrial market, to bakeries that will use them to make muffins and pies.
The next step in identifying a target market is to divide the entire market into smaller portions, or market segments—groups of potential customers with common characteristics that influence their buying decisions. An especially narrow market segment is known as a niche market, for example, extreme luxury goods that less than 1% of people can afford. Let’s look at some of the most useful categories in detail.
Demographic segmentation divides the market into groups based on such variables as age, marital status, gender, ethnic background, income, occupation, and education.
Age, for example, will be of interest to marketers who develop products for children, retailers who cater to teenagers, colleges that recruit students, and assisted-living facilities that promote services among the elderly. Lifetime Television for Women targets female viewers, while Telemundo networks targets Hispanics. When Hyundai offers recent college graduates a $400 bonus towards leasing or buying a new Hyundai, the company’s marketers are segmenting the market according to education level.7
Geographic segmentation—dividing a market according to such variables as climate, region, and population density (urban, suburban, small-town, or rural)—is also quite common. Climate is crucial for many products: snow shovels would not sell in Hawaii. Consumer tastes also vary by region. That’s why McDonald’s caters to regional preferences, offering a breakfast of Spam and rice in Hawaii, 8 tacos in Arizona, and lobster rolls in Massachusetts.9 Outside the United States, menus diverge even more widely (you can get seaweed burgers or, if you prefer, seasoned seaweed fries in Japan).10
Likewise, differences between urban and suburban life can influence product selection. For example, it’s a hassle to parallel park on crowded city streets. Thus, Toyota engineers have developed a product especially for city dwellers. The Japanese version of the Prius, Toyota’s hybrid gas-electric car, can automatically parallel park itself. Using computer software and a rear-mounted camera, the parking system measures the spot, turns the steering wheel, and swings the car into the space (making the driver—who just sits there—look like a master of parking skills).11 After its success in the Japanese market, the self-parking feature was brought to the United States.
Dividing consumers by such variables as attitude toward the product, user status, or usage rate is called behavioral segmentation. Companies selling technology-based products might segment the market according to different levels of receptiveness to technology. They could rely on a segmentation scale developed by Forrester Research that divides consumers into two camps: technology optimists, who embrace new technology, and technology pessimists, who are indifferent, anxious, or downright hostile when it comes to technology.12
Some companies segment consumers according to user status, distinguishing among nonusers, potential users, first-time users, and regular users of a product. Depending on the product, they can then target specific groups, such as first-time users. Credit-card companies use this approach when they offer membership points to potential customers in order to induce them to get their card.
Psychographic segmentation classifies consumers on the basis of individual lifestyles as they’re reflected in people’s interests, activities, attitudes, and values. Do you live an active life and love the outdoors? If so, you may be a potential buyer of hiking or camping equipment or apparel. If you’re a risk taker, you might catch the attention of a gambling casino. The possibilities are limited only by the imagination.
Typically, marketers determine target markets by combining, or “clustering,” segmenting criteria. What characteristics does Starbucks look for in marketing its products? Three demographic variables come to mind: age, geography, and income. Buyers are likely to be males and females ranging in age from about twenty-five to forty (although college students, aged eighteen to twenty-four, are moving up in importance). Geography is a factor as customers tend to live or work in cities or upscale suburban areas. Those with relatively high incomes are willing to pay a premium for Starbucks specialty coffee and so income—a socioeconomic factor—is also important.
An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
After identifying a target market, your next step is developing and implementing a marketing program designed to reach it. As Figure 14.4 shows, this program involves a combination of tools called the marketing mix, often referred to as the “four P’s” of marketing:
Pricing will be covered in more detail in its own dedicated chapter.
The development of Robosapien was a bit unusual for a company that was already active in its market.13 Generally, product ideas come from people within the company who understand its customers’ needs. Internal engineers are then challenged to design the product. In the case of Robosapien, the creator, Mark Tilden, had conceived and designed the product before joining Wow Wee Toys. The company gave him the opportunity to develop the product for commercial purposes, and Tilden was brought on board to oversee the development of Robosapien into a product that satisfied Wow Wee’s commercial needs.
Robosapien is not a “kid’s toy,” though kids certainly love its playful personality. It’s a home-entertainment product that appeals to a broad audience—children, young adults, older adults, and even the elderly. It’s a big gift item, and it has developed a following of techies and hackers who take it apart, tinker with it, and even retrofit it with such features as cameras and ice skates.
Before settling on a strategy for Robosapien, the marketers at Wow Wee did some homework. First, to zero in on their target market, they had to find out what various people thought of the product. More precisely, they needed answers to questions like the following:
The last question would be left up to Wow Wee management, but, given the size of the investment needed to bring Robosapien to market, Wow Wee couldn’t afford to make the wrong decision. Ultimately, the company was able to make an informed decision because its marketing team provided answers to key questions through marketing research—the process of collecting and analyzing the data that are relevant to a specific marketing situation. This data had to be collected in a systematic way. Market research seeks two types of data:
Secondary data can come from inside or outside the organization. Internally available data includes sales reports and other information on customers. External data can come from a number of sources. The U.S. Census Bureau, for example, posts demographic information on American households (such as age, income, education, and number of members), both for the country as a whole and for specific geographic areas.
Population data helped Wow Wee estimate the size of its potential U.S. target market. Other secondary data helped the firm assess the size of foreign markets in regions around the world, such as Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, and the Pacific Rim. This data helped position the company to sell Robosapien in eighty-five countries, including Canada, England, France, Germany, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Japan.
Using secondary data that is already available (and free) is a lot easier than collecting your own information. Unfortunately, however, secondary data didn’t answer all the questions that Wow Wee was asking in this particular situation. To get these answers, the marketing team had to conduct primary research, working directly with members of their target market. First they had to decide exactly what they needed to know, then determine who to ask and what methods would be most effective in gathering the information.
We know what they wanted to know—we’ve already listed example questions. As for whom to talk to, they randomly selected representatives from their target market. There is a variety of tools for collecting information from these people, each of which has its advantages and disadvantages. To understand the marketing-research process fully, we need to describe the most common of these tools:
Wow Wee used focus groups and personal interviews because both approaches had the advantage of allowing people to interact with Robosapien. In particular, focus-group sessions provided valuable opinions about the product, proposed pricing, distribution methods, and promotion strategies.
Researching your target market is necessary before you launch a new product, but the benefits of marketing research don’t extend merely to brand-new products. Companies also use it when they’re deciding whether or not to refine an existing product or develop a new marketing strategy for an existing product. Kellogg’s, for example, conducted online surveys to get responses to a variation on its Pop-Tarts brand—namely, Pop-Tarts filled with a mixture of traditional fruit filling and yogurt. Marketers had picked out four possible names for the product and wanted to know which one kids and mothers liked best. They also wanted to know what they thought of the product and its packaging. Both mothers and kids liked the new Pop-Tarts (though for different reasons) and its packaging, and the winning name for the product launched in the spring of 2011 was “Pop-Tarts Yogurt Blasts.” The online survey of 175 mothers and their children was conducted in one weekend by an outside marketing research group.14
An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
Armed with positive feedback from their research efforts, the Wow Wee team was ready for the next step: informing buyers—both consumers and retailers—about their product. They needed a brand—some word, letter, sound, or symbol that would differentiate their product from similar products on the market. They chose the brand name Robosapien, hoping that people would get the connection between homo sapiens (the human species) and Robosapien (the company’s coinage for its new robot “species”). To prevent other companies from coming out with their own “Robosapiens,” they took out a trademark: a symbol, word, or words legally registered or established by use as representing a company or product. Trademarking requires registering the name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Though this approach—giving a unique brand name to a particular product—is a bit unusual, it isn’t unprecedented. Mattel, for example, established a separate brand for Barbie, and Anheuser-Busch sells beer under the brand name Budweiser. Note, however, that the more common approach, which is taken by such companies as Microsoft, Dell, and Apple, calls for marketing all the products made by a company under the company’s brand name.
Companies can adopt one of three major strategies for branding a product:
Branding is used in hotels to allow chains (Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton) to offer hotel brands that meet various customers’ travel needs while still maintaining their loyalty to the chain. The same customer who would choose an Extended Stay hotel with a full kitchen when on a long term assignment might stay at a convention hotel when attending a trade show and then stay in a resort property when traveling with their family. By segmenting different types of hotel locations, amenities, room sizes and décor, hotel chains can meet the needs of a wide variety of travelers. In the past decade “soft” branding has become common to allow unique hotels to take advantage of being part of a chain reservation system and loyalty program. For example, Marriott has over 100 affiliated independent hotels in its Autograph Collection.15
|Type of Hotel||Mariott||Hilton||Hyatt|
|Independent||Autograph Collection||Curio Collection||Unbound Collection|
|Select Service||Courtyard by Marriott
|Hilton Garden Inn
|Extended Stay||Residence Inn||Homewood Suites||Hyatt House|
Loyalty programs are heavily used in the hospitality industry, especially airlines and hotels, as part of their Customer Relationship Management programs. Loyalty programs are often targeted to high value business travelers with less price sensitivity. They achieve loyalty status and perks while traveling as well as earning points to use for personal travel rewards. Once a loyalty program member obtains elite status with significant associated perks such as guaranteed room availability, airport club lounge access, etc., the customer is much less likely to use other brands.
Wow Wee went with the multibranding approach, deciding to market Robosapien under the robot’s own brand name. Was this a good choice? The answer would depend, at least in part, on how well the product sells. Another consideration is the impact on Wow Wee’s other brands. If Robosapien fared poorly, its failure would not reflect badly on Wow Wee’s other products. On the other hand, if customers liked Robosapien, they would have no reason to associate it with other Wow Wee products. In this case, Wow Wee wouldn’t gain much from its brand equity—any added value generated by favorable consumer experiences with Robosapien. To get a better idea of how valuable brand equity is, think for a moment about the effect of the name Dell on a product. When you have a positive experience with a Dell product—say, a laptop or a printer—you come away with a positive opinion of the entire Dell product line and will probably buy more Dell products. Over time, you may even develop brand loyalty: you may prefer—or even insist on—Dell products. Not surprisingly, brand loyalty can be extremely valuable to a company. Because of customer loyalty, Apple’s brand tops Interbrand’s Best Global Brands ranking with a value of over $170 billion. Google’s brand is valued at $120 billion, the Coca-Cola brand is estimated at more than $78 billion, and Microsoft and IBM round out the top five, with brands valued at over $65 billion each.16
Packaging can influence a consumer’s decision to buy a product or pass it up. Packaging gives customers a glimpse of the product, and it should be designed to attract their attention, with consideration given to color choice, style of lettering, and many other details. Labeling not only identifies the product but also provides information on the package contents: who made it and where or what risks are associated with it (such as being unsuitable for small children).
How has Wow Wee handled the packaging and labeling of Robosapien? The robot is fourteen inches tall, and is also fairly heavy (about seven pounds), and because it’s made out of plastic and has movable parts, it’s breakable. The easiest, and least expensive, way of packaging it would be to put it in a square box of heavy cardboard and pad it with Styrofoam. This arrangement would not only protect the product from damage during shipping but also make the package easy to store. However, it would also eliminate any customer contact with the product inside the box (such as seeing what it looks like). Wow Wee, therefore, packages Robosapien in a container that is curved to his shape and has a clear plastic front that allows people to see the whole robot. Why did Wow Wee go to this much trouble and expense? Like so many makers of so many products, it has to market the product while it’s still in the box.
Meanwhile, the labeling on the package details some of the robot’s attributes. The name is highlighted in big letters above the descriptive tagline “A fusion of technology and personality.” On the sides and back of the package are pictures of the robot in action with such captions as “Dynamic Robotics with Attitude” and “Awesome Sounds, Robo-Speech & Lights.” These colorful descriptions are conceived to entice the consumer to make a purchase because its product features will satisfy some need or want.
Packaging can serve many purposes. The Robosapien package attracts attention to the product’s features. For other products, packaging serves a more functional purpose. Nabisco packages some of its snacks— Oreos, Chips Ahoy, and Lorna Doone’s—in “100 Calorie Packs.” The packaging makes life simpler for people who are keeping track of calories.
An interactive or media element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
A great deal is involved in getting a product to the place in which it is ultimately sold. If you’re a fast food retailer, for example, you’ll want your restaurants to be in high-traffic areas to maximize your potential business. If your business is selling beer, you’ll want it to be offered in bars, restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores, and even stadiums. Placing a product in each of these locations requires substantial negotiations with the owners of the space, and often the payment of slotting fees, an allowance paid by the manufacturer to secure space on store shelves.
Retailers are marketing intermediaries that sell products to the eventual consumer. Without retailers, companies would have a much more difficult time selling directly to individual consumers, no doubt at a substantially higher cost. The most common types of retailers are summarized in Figure 14.7 below. You will likely recognize many of the examples provided. It is important to note that many retailers do not fit neatly into only one category. For example, WalMart, which began as a discount store, has added groceries to many of its outlets, also placing it in competition with supermarkets.
|Type of Retailer||Description||Examples|
|Category Killer||Sells a wide variety of products of a particular type, selling at a low price due to their large scale||Dick’s Sporting Goods|
|Convenience Store||Offers food, beverages, and other products, typically in individual servings, at a higher price, and geared to fast service||7-Eleven|
|Department Store||Offers a wide assortment of products grouped into different departments (e.g., jewelry, apparel, perfume)||Nordstrom, Macy’s|
|Discount Store||Organized into departments, but offer a range of merchandise generally seen as lower quality and at a much lower price||Target, Wal Mart|
|Specialty Store||Offers goods typically confined to a narrow category; high level of personal service and higher prices than other retailers||Local running shops or jewelry stores|
|Supermarket||Offers mostly consumer staples such as food and other household items||Kroger, Food Lion|
|Warehouse Club Stores||Offers a wide variety of products in a warehouse-style setting; sells many products in bulk; usually requires membership fee||Costco, Sam’s Club|
Your promotion mix—the means by which you communicate with customers—may include advertising, personal selling, sales promotion, and publicity. These are all tools for telling people about your product and persuading potential customers to buy it. Before deciding on an appropriate promotional strategy, you should consider a few questions:
To promote a product, you need to imprint a clear image of it in the minds of your target audience. What do you think of, for instance, when you hear “Ritz-Carlton”? What about “Motel 6”? They’re both hotel chains, that have been quite successful in the hospitality industry, but they project very different images to appeal to different clienteles. The differences are evident in their promotions. The Ritz-Carlton web site describes “luxury hotels” and promises that the chain provides “the finest personal service and facilities throughout the world.”17 Motel 6, by contrast, characterizes its facilities as “discount hotels” and assures you that you’ll pay “the lowest price of any national chain.”18
We’ll now examine each of the elements that can go into the promotion mix— advertising, personal selling, sales promotion, and publicity. Then we’ll see how Wow Wee incorporated them into a promotion mix to create a demand for Robosapien.
Advertising is paid, non-personal communication designed to create an awareness of a product or company. Ads are everywhere—in print media (such as newspapers, magazines, the Yellow Pages), on billboards, in broadcast media (radio and TV), and on the Internet. It’s hard to escape the constant barrage of advertising messages; it’s estimated that the average consumer is confronted by about 5,000 ad messages each day (compared with about 500 ads a day in the 1970s).19 For this very reason, ironically, ads aren’t as effective as they used to be. Because we’ve learned to tune them out, companies now have to come up with innovative ways to get through to potential customers. A New York Times article20 claims that “anywhere the eye can see, it’s likely to see an ad.” Subway turnstiles are plastered with ads for GEICO auto insurance, Chinese food containers are decorated with ads for Continental Airways, and parking meters display ads for Campbell’s Soup21 Advertising is still the most prevalent form of promotion.
The choice of advertising media depends on your product, target audience, and budget. A travel agency selling spring-break getaways to college students might post flyers on campus bulletin boards or run ads in campus newspapers. The cofounders of Nantucket Nectars found radio ads particularly effective. Rather than pay professionals, they produced their own ads themselves.22 As unprofessional as this might sound, the ads worked, and the business grew.
Personal selling refers to one-on-one communication with customers or potential customers. This type of interaction is necessary in selling large-ticket items, such as homes, and it’s also effective in situations in which personal attention helps to close a sale, such as sales of cars and insurance policies.
Many retail stores depend on the expertise and enthusiasm of their salespeople to persuade customers to buy. Home Depot has grown into a home-goods giant in large part because it fosters one-on-one interactions between salespeople and customers. The real difference between Home Depot and everyone else isn’t the merchandise; it’s the friendly, easy-to-understand advice that sales people give to novice homeowners, according to one of its cofounders.23 Best Buy’s knowledgeable sales associates make them “uniquely positioned to help consumers navigate the increasing complexity of today’s technological landscape” according to CEO Hubert Joly.24
It’s likely that at some point, you have purchased an item with a coupon or because it was advertised as a buy-one-get-one special. If so, you have responded to a sales promotion – one of the many ways that sellers provide incentives for customers to buy. Sales promotion activities include not only those mentioned above but also other forms of discounting, sampling, trade shows, in-store displays, and even sweepstakes. Some promotional activities are targeted directly to consumers and are designed to motivate them to purchase now. You’ve probably heard advertisers make statements like “limited time only” or “while supplies last”. If so, you’ve encountered a sales promotion directed at consumers. Other forms of sales promotion are directed at dealers and intermediaries. Trade shows are one example of a dealer-focused promotion. Mammoth centers such as McCormick Place in Chicago host enormous events in which manufacturers can display their new products to retailers and other interested parties. At food shows, for example, potential buyers can sample products that manufacturers hope to launch to the market. Feedback from prospective buyers can even result in changes to new product formulations or decisions not to launch.
Free publicity—say, getting your company or your product mentioned or pictured in a newspaper or on TV—can often generate more customer interest than a costly ad. When Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine were finalizing the development of their Beats headphones, they sent a pair to LeBron James. He liked them so much he asked for 15 more pairs, and they “turned up on the ears of every member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic basketball team when they arrived in Shanghai. ‘Now that’s marketing,’ says Iovine.”25 It wasn’t long before the pricey headphones became a must-have fashion accessory for everyone from celebrities to high school students.
Consumer perception of a company is often important to a company’s success. Many companies, therefore, manage their public relations in an effort to garner favorable publicity for themselves and their products. When the company does something noteworthy, such as sponsoring a fund-raising event, the public relations department may issue a press release to promote the event. When the company does something negative, such as selling a prescription drug that has unexpected side effects, the public relations department will work to control the damage to the company. Each year the Hay Group and Korn Ferry survey more than a thousand company top executives, directors, and industry leaders in twenty countries to identify companies that have exhibited exceptional integrity or commitment to corporate social responsibility. The rankings are publishes annually as Fortune magazine’s “World’s Most Admired Companies.®”26 Topping the list in 2016 are Apple, Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and Walt Disney.27
Now let’s look more closely at the strategy that Wow Wee pursued in marketing Robosapien in the United States. The company’s goal was ambitious: to promote the robot as a must-have item for kids of all ages. As we know, Wow Wee intended to position Robosapien as a home-entertainment product, not as a toy. The company rolled out the product at Best Buy, which sells consumer electronics, computers, entertainment software, and appliances. As marketers had hoped, the robot caught the attention of consumers shopping for TV sets, DVD players, home and car audio equipment, music, movies, and games. Its $99 price tag was a little lower than the prices of other merchandise, and that fact was an important asset: shoppers were willing to treat Robosapien as an impulse item—something extra to pick up as a gift or as a special present for children, as long as the price wasn’t too high.
Meanwhile, Robosapien was also getting lots of free publicity. Stories appeared in newspapers and magazines around the world, including the New York Times, the Times of London, Time magazine, and National Parenting magazine. Commentators on The Today Show, The Early Show, CNN, ABC News, and FOX News all covered it. The product received numerous awards, and experts predicted that it would be a hot item for the holidays.
At Wow Wee, Marketing Director Amy Weltman (who had already had a big hit with the Rubik’s Cube) developed a gala New York event to showcase the product. From mid- to late August, actors dressed in six-foot robot costumes roamed the streets of Manhattan, while the fourteen-inch version of Robosapien performed in venues ranging from Grand Central Station to city bars. Everything was recorded, and film clips were sent to TV stations.
The stage was set for expansion into other stores. Macy’s ran special promotions, floating a twenty-four-foot cold-air robot balloon from its rooftop and lining its windows with armies of Robosapien’s. Wow Wee trained salespeople to operate the product so that they could help customers during in-store demonstrations. Other retailers, including The Sharper Image, Spencer’s, and Toys “R” Us, carried Robosapien, as did e-retailers such as Amazon.com. The product was also rolled out (with the same marketing flair) in Europe and Asia.
When national advertising hit in September, all the pieces of the marketing campaign came together—publicity, sales promotion, personal selling, and advertising. Wow Wee ramped up production to meet anticipated fourth-quarter demand and waited to see whether Robosapien would live up to commercial expectations.
Customers are the most important asset that any business has. Without enough good customers, no company can survive. Firms must not only attract new customers but also retain current customers. In fact, repeat customers are more profitable. It’s estimated that it costs as much as five times more to attract and sell to a new customer than to an existing one.28 Repeat customers also tend to spend more, and they’re much more likely to recommend you to other people.
Retaining customers is the purpose of customer-relationship management—a marketing strategy that focuses on using information about current customers to nurture and maintain strong relationships with them. The underlying theory is fairly basic: to keep customers happy, you treat them well, give them what they want, listen to them, reward them with discounts and other loyalty incentives, and deal effectively with their complaints.
Take Caesars Entertainment Corporation, which operates more than fifty casinos under several brands, including Caesars, Harrah’s, Bally’s, and Horseshoe. Each year, it sponsors the World Series of Poker with a top prize in the millions. Caesars gains some brand recognition when the twenty-two-hour event is televised on ESPN, but the real benefit derives from the information cards filled out by the seven thousand entrants who put up $10,000 each. Data from these cards is fed into Caesars database, and almost immediately every entrant starts getting special attention, including party invitations, free entertainment tickets, and room discounts. The program is all part of Harrah’s strategy for targeting serious gamers and recognizing them as its best customers.29
Sheraton Hotels uses a softer approach to entice return customers. Sensing that its resorts needed both a new look and a new strategy for attracting repeat customers, Sheraton launched its “Year of the Bed” campaign; in addition to replacing all its old beds with luxurious new mattresses and coverings, it issued a “service promise guarantee”—a policy that any guest who’s dissatisfied with his or her Sheraton stay will be compensated. The program also calls for a customer-satisfaction survey and discount offers, both designed to keep the hotel chain in touch with its customers.30
Another advantage of keeping in touch with customers is the opportunity to offer them additional products. Amazon.com is a master at this strategy. When you make your first purchase at Amazon.com, you’re also making a lifelong “friend”—one who will suggest (based on what you’ve bought before) other things that you might like to buy. Because Amazon.com continually updates its data on your preferences, the company gets better at making suggestions.
In the last several years, the popularity of social media marketing has exploded. You already know what social media is — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and any number of other online sites that allow you to network, share your opinions, ideas, photos, etc. Social media marketing is the practice of including social media as part of a company’s marketing program.
Why do businesses use social media marketing? Before responding, ask yourself these questions: how much time do I spend watching TV? When I watch TV, do I sit through the ads? Do I read newspapers or magazines and flip right past the ads? Now, put yourself in the place of Annie Young-Scrivner, global chief marketing officer of Starbucks. Does it make sense for her to spend millions of dollars to place an ad for Starbucks on TV or in a newspaper or magazine? Or should she instead spend the money on social media marketing initiatives that have a high probability of connecting to Starbucks’s market?
For companies like Starbucks, the answer is clear. The days of trying to reach customers through ads on TV, in newspapers, or in magazines are over. Most television watchers skip over commercials, and few Starbucks’s customers read newspapers or magazines, and even if they do, they don’t focus on the ads. Social media marketing provides a number of advantages to companies, including enabling them to:31
To get an idea of the power of social media marketing, think of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. According to the ALS Association: “the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge started in the summer of 2014 and became the world’s largest global social media phenomenon. More than 17 million people uploaded their challenge videos to Facebook; these videos were watched by 440 million people a total of 10 billion times.”32 The ALS Association raised $115 million in six weeks (their usual annual budget was only $20 million).33 To see how companies try to harness this power, let’s look at social media campaigns of two leaders in this field: PepsiCo (Mountain Dew) and Starbucks.
When PepsiCo announced it wouldn’t show a television commercial during the 2010 Super Bowl game, it came as a surprise (probably a pleasant one to its competitor, Coca-Cola, who had already signed on to show several Super Bowl commercials). What PepsiCo planned to do instead was invest $20 million into social media marketing campaigns. One of PepsiCo’s most successful social media initiatives has been the DEWmocracy campaign, which two years earlier, resulted in the launch of product—Voltage—created by Mountain Dew fans.34 Now called DEWcision, the 2016 campaign asks fans to vote between two rival flavors of Mountain Dew. The campaign engages a number of social media outlets with challenges for fans to earn votes for their favorite flavor, including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.35 The example in Figure 14.14 is for a challenge to dye your hair the color of your favorite flavor, then Tweet the picture with the hashtag #DewDye. According to Mountain Dew’s director of marketing, “PepsiCo looks at social media as the best way to get direct dialog with their fans and for the company to hear from those fans without filters. ‘It’s been great for us to have this really unique dialogue that we normally wouldn’t have,’ he said. ‘It really has opened our eyes up.’”36
One of most enthusiastic users of social media marketing is Starbucks. Let’s look at a few of their promotions: a discount for “Foursquare” mayors and free coffee on Tax Day via Twitter’s promoted tweets and a free pastry day promoted through Twitter and Facebook.37
This promotion was a joint effort of Foursquare and Starbucks. Foursquare is a mobile social network, and in addition to the handy “friend finder” feature, you can use it to find new and interesting places around your neighborhood to do whatever you and your friends like to do. It even rewards you for doing business with sponsor companies, such as Starbucks. The individual with the most “check in’s” at a particular Starbucks holds the title of mayor. For a period of time, the mayor of each store got $1 off a Frappuccino. Those who used Foursquare were particularly excited about Starbucks’s nationwide mayor rewards program because it brought attention to the marketing possibilities of the location-sharing app.38
Starbucks was not the only company to give away freebies on Tax Day, April 15, 2010. Lots of others did.39 But it was the only company to spread the message of their giveaway on the then-new Twitter’s Promoted Tweets platform (which went into operation on April 13, 2010). Promoted Tweets are Twitter’s means of making money by selling sponsored links to companies.40 Keeping with Twitter’s 140 characters per tweet rule, Starbucks’s Promoted Tweet read, “On 4/15 bring a reusable tumbler and we’ll fill it with brewed coffee for free. Let’s all switch from paper cups.” The tweet also linked to a page that detailed Starbucks’s environmental initiatives.41
Starbucks’s “free pastry day” was promoted on Facebook and Twitter.42 As the word spread from person to person in digital form, the wave of social media activity drove more than a million people to Starbucks’s stores around the country in search of free food.43
As word of the freebie offering spread, Starbucks became the star of Twitter, with about 1 percent of total tweets commenting on the brand. That’s almost ten times the number of mentions on an average day. It performed equally well on Facebook’s event page where almost 600,000 people joined their friends and signed up as “attendees.”44 This is not surprising given that Starbucks is the most popular brand on Facebook and has over 36 million “likes” in 2016.45
How did Starbucks achieve this notoriety on Facebook? According to social media marketing experts, Starbucks earned this notoriety by making social media a central part of its marketing mix, distributing special offers, discounts, and coupons to Facebook users and placing ads on Facebook to drive traffic to its page. As explained by the CEO of Buddy Media, which oversees the brand’s social media efforts, “Starbucks has provided Facebook users a reason to become a fan.”46
The main challenge of social media marketing is that it can be very time consuming. It takes determination and resources to succeed. Small companies often lack the staff to initiate and manage social media marketing campaigns.47 Even large companies can find the management of media marketing initiates overwhelming. A recent study of 1,700 chief marketing officers indicates that many are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of customer data available on social sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.48 This is not surprising given that in 2016, Facebook had more than 1.6 billion active users,49 and five hundred million tweets are sent each day.50 The marketing officers recognize the potential value of this data but are not always capable of using it. A chief marketing officer in the survey described the situation as follows: “The perfect solution is to serve each consumer individually. The problem? There are 7 billion of them.”51 In spite of these limitations, 82 percent of those surveyed plan to increase their use of social media marketing over the next 3 to 5 years. To understand what real-time information is telling them, companies will use analytics software, which is capable of analyzing unstructured data. This software is being developed by technology companies, such as IBM, and advertising agencies.
The bottom line: what is clear is that marketing, and particularly advertising, has changed forever. As Simon Pestridge, Nike’s global director of marketing for Greater China, said about Nike’s marketing strategy, “We don’t do advertising any more. Advertising is all about achieving awareness, and we no longer need awareness. We need to become part of people’s lives, and digital allows us to do that.”52
The 4 P’s have served marketers well for generations, but new innovations can disrupt even the most established concepts. A new framework is taking hold in marketing – the 4 C’s. In this model, each of the C words replaces one of the P’s, flipping the model from the perspective of the marketer to that of the customer. In the new model:
The 4 C’s framework appears to be gaining traction, and it may eventually replace the 4 P’s altogether. If so, we will no doubt find ourselves rewriting this entire chapter!
Marketing is unfortunately not always truthful or entirely accurate. This video features some examples of misleading advertising which persists in business because it often works.