• Why Mission Statements Suck

    by  • June 13, 2011

    I’m not arguing against a clear definition of where a company is going and what sets it apart. My beef is with the way the particular corporation’s guiding principle is expressed; it is generally verbose, convoluted and incapable of resonating with employees or inspiring them. I am not the first person to say this. Yet, companies large and small from start-ups to blue chippers continue to err in crafting compelling, focused mantras.
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    The Tragic Fall from Specialist to Generalist: Starbucks, the Latest Victim

    by  • June 6, 2011

    Last week,  legendary brand positioning expert Al Ries weighed in on Starbucks reported desire to move away from its powerful ‘specialist’ strategy. Al thinks the stock market is pressuring the company for more top-line growth. Hammered by Wall Street in 2008, the stock has finally crawled back to its 2006 highs. But, compared to last November, the share price is up by 30%. Here is an amazing business that has grown from scratch in 1971 to over $10 billion is revenue, $945 million in net income, 17,000 stores in 50 countries and 137,000 employees. And Wall Street is saying, “Not good enough?”

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    When to Give Up Your Pride

    by  • May 30, 2011

    One of my favorite ‘inspirational’ books is The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander. Though I read it 10 years ago, one passage still stands out in my mind. Ben, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, had been teaching a master class at a festival in Newcastle, filmed by the BBC. One of his students (Jeffrey) was a very serious, young tenor from the La Scala Opera Company. The tenor was trying to sing ‘Spring Dream’ from Schubert’s Die Winterreise, a song cycle that describes the depressive journey of a jilted lover through the cold days of the soul. Seemingly, he longs to have his lover in his arms again but of course that is not to be. She’s lost forever.

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    The Perfect Brand Slogan

    by  • May 23, 2011

    Most folks in the branding game will judge a proposed slogan or tag line by a defined set of objectives. In my day, I started with strategy. If a slogan did not communicate the brand’s strategic intent, it was a non-starter. But the assessment didn’t end with strategy. Also important: clever creative, brand image consistency, and the ability of the slogan to weather the cruel test of time. Ironically, a great slogan’s constraint to longevity can be the boredom of the marketer. Marketers like change, but often they make change for change’s sake.

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    Tough-Minded Ways to Innovate

    by  • May 16, 2011

    One of my best mentors during my CEO years was my monthly Harvard Business Review. Articles on strategy and culture were my favorites, many of which I scribed in pencil on a piece of paper that my secretary typed for posterity – oh my, that sounds archaic. I can tell you, the articles’ principles helped guide me as a CEO and later as a strategy consultant. I still have the notes I made from yesteryear and today’s blog post gives the gist of one of them.Thirty years ago, Andrall Pearson was listed by Fortune Magazine as one of America’s “10 toughest bosses.” That may have be so. But after Pearson’s corporate life atop PepsiCo, he became an insightful HBR contributor, particularly with regard to innovation. Pearson’s premise on corporate success was that two basic principles distinguish superior performance from mediocrity. Firstly, leaders understand that consistent innovation is the key to corporate survival and secondly, they realize that the most powerful changes they make create value.
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    One Young Doctor gives Prostate Cancer the Finger – by David Bell, Guest Blogger

    by  • May 10, 2011

    Before I can share the tale of Dr. Riley Senft’s cross-Canada run for cancer, you need to know what it took to get there. The eldest of 3 children, Riley grew up a high energy ADD kid, challenged by permanent hearing loss in one ear. Yet, with determination, and the support of his family, he learned to channel his energy.His goal in adolescence?Acceptance into a prestigious Ivy League school in the United States. To achieve this, Riley had to balance the tough academic demands and extracurricular endeavours required for entrance.Graduating Head Boy of Collingwood School, a member of its first 15 rugby team and a highly regarded YMCA councillor, Riley entered Yale University.

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    Do Vulture Cultures still prevail in Business?

    by  • May 2, 2011

    Vulture Culture, Alan Parson’s musical composition told the story of a person’s struggle for money, fame and power. Take a moment to read his lyrics of 1984.

    I witnessed plenty of vulture culture during my career. The most blatant was the Boards of Scott Paper and Sunbeam hiring ‘Chainsaw Al Dunlap’ as their CEO despite his reputation as a corporate sociopath. Tell me if Parson’s sentiments are prelevant in today’s Corporate America. Which companies, organizations or industries are known to accept, even reward this type of behavoir?  I’d love to hear your point of view; why not include an example.

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    The Genius behind Toblerone

    by  • April 18, 2011

    Everyone likes to hear a ‘tale out of school’ or a bit of ‘inside information’. Here’s a rather fascinating little anecdote about a very famous global brand, Toblerone.
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    Pursuing Entrepreneurial Companies: Grad Advice

    by  • April 11, 2011

    My view on entrepreneurship within the corporation is this: With the exception of a few new-age notables, university graduates are not going to find entrepreneurial thinking within giant enterprises. That’s because the competitive advantage of the giant is scale. When a company has clout, there isn’t much incentive to re-invent. To ‘entrepreneurs in waiting’ who want to begin their careers in a corporation, I suggest the following:
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    Why Leaders Should Do Less . . . Better

    by  • March 28, 2011

    Most CEOs want their companies to do things right because that’s a sign of good management. But good management isn’t necessarily good leadership; good leaders are obsessed with doing right things. Good leadership creates strategic change, the forerunner to strategic advantage. CEO’s have plenty of generic strategic choices to drive a business forward. Most run the store by trying to do more of the same, but better. Yet, when things get tough, they soon revert to doing more of the same with less. I prefer specialist strategies—in other words, doing less, better.

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