• About John

    Formerlife: Jacobs Suchard CEO (Kraft, Nabob), Strategy Consultant. Afterlife: Palgrave Macmillan Author, Business Blogger, Wannabe Novelist

    Sell It or Smell It

    by  • June 25, 2012 • Branding, Leadership, Marketing, Strategy

    TomatoesAfter leaving the C-Suite almost twenty years ago, I pursued a career as a strategy consultant. Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure the world needed another consultant. Seems others weren’t prepared to accept that notion, and I was fortunate to counsel such blue-chippers as Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, InBev, Pfizer, and Campbell Soup. Sure, I encountered bureaucracy at times, but I managed to navigate through the red tape by working within a cultural principal they all shared – the respect for great branding. Last year, I came out of retirement for six months to help a smaller company brand itself. The company is Houweling’s Tomatoes. I know – you’ve never heard of them.

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    The Strategy of Hustle

    by  • June 17, 2012 • Leadership, Strategy

    I’ve read a lot of books on strategy. The best ones influenced my mode of operation as an executive of Jacobs Suchard, the maker of coffee and chocolate brands, Jacobs, Nabob, Toblerone, Suchard and Côte d’Or. I was devoted to master strategies and “big play” innovations that ideally positioned the company to dominate their chosen market(s) and enjoy sustainable competitive advantage. The philosophy begins with a mindset obsessed with the competition. It worked well for me in my 17 years at Jacobs Suchard, although I am the first to admit that we created just two blockbuster innovations during that time – both were technical in nature, and both were strategic and well-marketed. In hingsight, two big, game-changing plays was a damn good record.

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    10 Insights from the 100 Most Creative People in Business

    by  • June 10, 2012 • Branding, Leadership, Marketing, Strategy

    Why is creativity so important in business? Because it is the idea, and not the money that drives entrepreneurship. This month’s Fast Company names the 100 Most Creative People in Business, with an emphasis on global leaders in technology, design, media, music, movies, marketing, television and sports. To be honest, I’d never heard of the vast majority on these people. That’s not important; their interesting and inspirational stories are what matters to those of us who value the power of creativity. Rather than file the list’s creative wisdom in the back of my mind, I’ve taken 10 quotes that provide insight into the creative thought process.

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    Bullied by a Monopoly: GS1

    by  • June 7, 2012 • Human Resources, Leadership, Marketing, Strategy

    blackbearA long time ago, I’d bought some jam and fruit syrup from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. The quality of the product was outstanding. The branding wasn’t nearly as good. So I approached the maker and negotiated a deal whereby they would produce for me under a brand that I would create for a niche market – the tourist and gourmet trade. To make a long story short, I created a little business under The Black Bear Fruit Company brand name. But due to other interests and priorities in my life, I didn’t work at developing this business, so it became a hobby.

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    The Difference between Strategists and Strategic Planners

    by  • June 4, 2012 • Human Resources, Leadership, Strategy

    I’ve met both over my long career as an executive, a consultant, and a board member. Strategists and Strategic Planners may read the same periodicals and have similar destinations in mind, but there is a difference between the two. Strategic Planners, at the outset, are disadvantaged by the definition of their role. They are staffers, not line managers. Strategic Planning positions exist inside companies, and in external consulting businesses.

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    The 5 Best Bargains in Business

    by  • May 30, 2012 • Human Resources, Leadership, Strategy

    If you think I’m going to list of a bunch of product bargains or discount sales, think again. This blog is about the side of business that drives superior performance at no extra cost. For now, I’d like you to forget about throwing heaps of cash at such initiatives as computer systems, advertising, equipment, recruiting – even training. And for a moment, stop worrying about low-cost foreign competition and the sluggish North American economy. The best bargains in business can help you deal with any setback. The good news is that these bargains can be unleashed from your existing overheads. People with the right mindsets create magic.

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    Signs of the Spineless Leader

    by  • May 24, 2012 • Leadership

    spinelessDo you have to meet a spineless leader to know one? Not necessarily. Recently, I unveiled a spineless leader upon learning how he handled a single set of circumstances – the orchestrating of an unfair and unjust hiring practice that covertly circumvented the promotion of the best candidate. This is all I needed to visualize the yellow stripe illuminating from the back of his neck to the base of his spine.

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    Is Business a Game of Poker or Chess?

    by  • May 21, 2012 • Leadership, Marketing, Strategy

    Chess.PokerHave you ever thought about business in the context of a game? Would that game be chess or poker? Had this question been asked during my years in the corner office, I would have curtly responded, “We are strategists. Strategists play chess, not poker – next question.” Twenty-five years later, I’m not nearly as dogmatic or single-minded on the topic. It’s not that I’m going to do a 360 on the value of strategy in business – strategy is part of my DNA; I attribute much of my corporate success to a strategic and creative mindset. The truth of the matter is that a master strategy without agile tactics diminishes the potential of a business.

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    The ‘Old Economy’ Needs a Rocket Man

    by  • May 6, 2012 • Human Resources, Leadership, Marketing, Strategy

    So much has been written about business innovation this past year. Those walking the talk are on Fast Company’s list of the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies. These are the businesses whose products and services are having an impact across their industries and our culture. Ninety percent of these organizations have yet to experience a mid-life crisis; they are still under the age of 40. Are we to deduce that innovation is the domain of new economy and early-stage life cycle businesses? Seems that way – but this isn’t necessarily the case.

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    Where (and When) the Magic Happens

    by  • May 1, 2012 • Human Resources, Leadership, Marketing, Strategy

    Magic2A picture is worth a thousand words; clichéd but true. This illustration may also become clichéd, but whenever I see it, I grin and nod. Although the Promised Land lies within that magic circle, most of us can’t break out of our comfort zone. Recently, the Apple Corporation has shown the world a glorious example of how big business creates magic. No doubt, many CEOs will try to replicate the principles that catapulted Apple to the most valuable company on the face of the earth. Will they be able to do it?

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