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Profit from the Core: A Return to Growth in Turbulent Times [Kindle Edition]

James Allen Chris Zook

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In a new economic environment, where should executives look for the next wave of profitable growth? How can executives make the right choices for their businesses, even when faced with a new and different set of opportunities and challenges today? Achieving sustained and profitable growth is extremely difficult in any economy. But as the economy recovers and returns to a path of growth, building from a strong and differentiated core is even more critical now than ever. In this updated edition of "Profit from the Core", strategy expert Chris Zook shows that the most enduring growth pattern builds from a strong or dominant core business that benefits from continual reinvestment, constant adaptation to circumstances or business environment and persistent leveraging into new markets or geographies, applications or channels. In particular, Zook shows senior executives and their management teams how to rebuild the core business by following these four crucial steps: define the core business; identify the sources of differentiation that will continue to create market power and influence over customers, competitors and the industry profit pool; assess whether the core is operating at or near its full potential; and, use a strong core as a platform for expanding into adjacencies. Based on over ten years of Bain & Company research and analysis and fully updated with new research data and examples reflecting today's unique challenges, "Profit from the Core" is the bible for achieving profitable growth.

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Chris Zook and James G. Allen are co-leaders of Bain & Company’s global strategy practice.

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Amazon.com: 4.3 von 5 Sternen  12 Rezensionen
9 von 10 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen An operations manual, compass, and mine detector for achieving sustainable and profitable growth 28. April 2010
Von Robert Morris - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
In this Updated Edition of Profit from the Core published by Harvard Business Press (2010) and written with James Allen, Chris Zook provides updated key examples while adding new ones and renders "the lessons learned in a way that management teams can use can use as a tool to reflect on the way forward in today's economy."

Given what Zook characterizes as "the current structural crisis in business," referring to developments during the "turbulent times" since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, here are the key points he lists in the Preface:

* Sustained and profitable growth requires a strong, well-defined core.

* Most sustained profitable growth companies have leadership positions in their cores that form the epicenters of their strategies.

* The number-one rule of strategy is to discourage your customers from investing in your core.

* The greatest source of strategic error, he and associates [at Bain] find, stems from an inaccurate understanding of the core and its full potential.

* Strong cores often contain hidden assets that prove to be the seeds of the next wave of growth - the topic of his previous book, Unstoppable.

* The key to sustained and profitable growth is to find a repeatable formula that utilizes the most powerful and differentiated strengths in your core and applies them to a series of new "adjacent" markets.

Zook's concept of "core" bears striking resemblance to Jim Collins' concept of the "Three Circles"," introduced in Good to Great: (a) What a company can be the best in the world at (and equally important, what it cannot be the best in the world at), (2) What drives the company's economic engine, and (3) What those in the company care most passionately about. For Zook, a core business "as that set of products, capabilities, customers, channels, and geographies that defines the essence of what the company is or aspires to be to achieve its growth mission - that is, to grow its revenue sustainably and profitably...The essence of a company's growth strategy is to define the core business as we have defined it and to pour company resources into this core business until it achieves its full potential."

Of special interest to me is what Zook has to say about five paradoxes that most management teams encounter when seeking to revitalize the growth of their company. They usually focus on the underperforming units. Zook and Allen argue that "growth requires instead on increasing the performance of the best businesses, no matter how well they are doing at present. Why? Paradox #1: The better performing of business units are likely to be those operating the furthest below their full potential. When discussing adjacency expansion, they introduce Paradox #2: "The stronger your core business, the more opportunities you have both to move into profitable adjacencies and to lose focus." When addressing when and how to redefine a core business, they introduce Paradox #3: "The management teams that have been most successful in building a strong core business and that have benefited from adjacency expansion are also the most vulnerable to industry turbulence." In Chapter 5, they provide some guidelines for the process of developing and refining growth strategy, then introduce Paradox #4: "All organizations inhibit growth...Overlying all the analysis in this book is a final paradox: From focus comes growth; by narrowing growth one creates expansion."

In order to continue creating value, it is eventually necessary for any company to invest in adjacencies. There are three basic types: a direct move into an immediate opportunity (e.g. Enterprise Rent-a-Car); an "option" purchased in a business related to the core, functioning as a hedge against future uncertainties (e.g. Intel and Microsoft); and a series of sequential moves that expand the boundaries and capabilities of the core business (e.g. Cisco's acquisition of Pure Digital Technologies). Whichever approach is selected, there are certain "pitfalls" that must be avoided. They are identified in Chapter 5 and there are seven of them: expanding toward an entrenched position, overestimating the profit pool, false bundling (of products, services, or both), invaders from unexpected directions, failing to consider all adjacencies, missing a new segment, and single-mindedly (stubbornly?) pursuing high-end adjacencies. They are thoroughly discussed on Pages 97-105.

In the final chapter, Zook poses ten questions that he and Allen believe management teams should periodically ask themselves about their companies and at the start if every review of their basic growth strategy. Here are the first three:

1. What is the most rightly defined profitable core of our business, and is it gaining or losing strength?

2. What defines the boundaries of the business that we are competing for, and where are those boundaries going to shift in the future?

3. Are there new competitors currently at the fringe of our business that pose potential longer-term threats to the core?

Long ago during one of his first meetings with the Green Bay Packers, Coach Vince Lombardi stood next to a blackboard, held up a piece of chalk, and claimed, "I can beat any offense or defense with this." The same is true of asking questions such as those that Zook and Allen pose when concluding the final chapter. In football it is far more difficult to execute the right strategies than it is to present them on a blackboard but you need to do both. In business it is far more difficult to formulate the right answers than it is to ask the right question but, again, you must do both.

In this Updated Edition of a book first published in 2001, Chris Zook with James Allen provide a wealth of information and counsel that a management team needs in its quest for sustainable and profitable growth. I agree with them that turbulent conditions create "confusion, blurred boundaries, less time to react, less tolerance for error, and often fewer resources" but they also create "unique opportunities to strengthen and expand string cores, and even to invest to reshape the structure of [its] industry ahead of competitors." For those in need of an operations manual, compass, and mine detector, here it is.
1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Good example of the focus strategy 9. Januar 2015
Von Jackal - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Michael Porter introduced the focus/niche strategy in his 1980 book. The current book is a modern reincarnation of the idea and was published in 2001. The key argument is that the core of the organisation often has more growth opportunities that commonly perceived. This is a good and valid elaboration. I can recommend this well-written book with interesting examples. However, you should be aware that the book does not contain a lot of novelty. The author has a follow-up book Beyond the Core: Expand Your Market Without Abandoning Your Roots, which I cannot recommend at all. Its focus is on growth-areas outside the core. This is a great idea, except that the 2001 book already has a chapter on growing through adjacencies (i.e. related diversification.)
1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen One of my 3 favorite business books 16. September 2012
Von Rob L - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Profit From the Core is without a doubt one of my favorite business books. I rank it alongside Winning Decisions and The Goal.

This book is from the perspective of manager's wanting to achieve corporate growth, but the myriad concepts are so powerful they can be adapted to departmental strategies, evaluating corporations, mergers & acquisitions and even to designing one's own career strategy.

The updated edition from 2010 includes examples that are relevant in today's post financial meltdown world. No per-requisites should be required. It is a must read for those wanting to improve their business strategy acumen, and useful if you want to exercise your strategic thinking in general.
4.0 von 5 Sternen Useful tutorial from company doctor authors that worths hundreds of times of its price 10. April 2015
Von ServantofGod - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
My review title says it all. The authors had filled the book with plenty of good examples and practical questions that even the most pragmatic executives will find itt helpful. Recommended!

p.s. Below please find some of my favorite passages for your reference.

The lack of empirical data behind many business "cure-alls" has prompted one Oxford don to proclaim management science a "phony academic subject, a shallow contemporary shibboleth promoting noxious cant. Pg11

Alexander the Great ruled the largest area of the earth ever conquered by a single individual, stretching from Mount Olympus to Mount Everest. Although not everyone's idea of the model CEO, he amassed his kingdom in less than four years, covering more than four thousand miles by foot, and winning 100 percent of his battles - a remarkable record in such a short time. But did he create lasting value? Just a few years after his death, his empire had dissolved and the captured territory slipped away. Alexander's problem was not inadequate initial resources or poor execution. It was the lack of a long term strategy and the inability to exploit and consolidate his extraordinary short term gains throughout the Near East to Nepal, which stretched resources to govern too far beyond the Macedonian core. His sticking point - the failure to anchor in the core business (in his case, governance) and consolidate a rapid expansion - exemplifies the most common problem across all growth strategy. Pg63-4

The ten questions that we believe management teams should periodically ask themselves about their companies and should include at the start of every review of their basic growth strategy. Pg149-50
1. What is the most tightly defined profitable core of our business, and is it gaining or losing strength?
2. What defines the boundaries of the business that we are competing for, and where are those boundaries going to shift in the future?
3. Are there new competitors currently at the fringe of our business that pose potential longer term threats to the core?
4. Are we certain that we are achieving the full strategic and operating potential of our core business, the "hidden value: of the core?
5. What is the full set of potential adjacencies to our core business and possible adjacency moves (single or multiple moves)? Are we looking at these in a planned, logical sequence or piecemeal?
6. What is our point of view on the future of the industry? As a team, do we have consensus? How is this point of view shaping our adjacency strategy and point of arrival?
7. Should major new growth initiatives be pursued inside, next to, or outside the core? How should we decide?
8. Is industry turbulence changing the fundamental source of future competitive advantage? How? Through new models? New segments? New competitors? And what are we monitoring on a regular basis?
9. Are organizational enablers and inhibitors to growth in the right balance for the needed change?
10. What are the guiding strategic principles that should apply consistently to all of our major strategic and operating decisions?
2 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A Blueprint for Success 26. Mai 2010
Von Larry Underwood - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
These are indeed "turbulent times". Prior to the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression, many large and successful corporations seemed to embrace the philosophy of constantly expanding their operations, to foster "increased opportunities" for their employees; a very noble mission statement, indeed.

As a result, many corporations took their eye off the ball. Often, the new subsidiaries weren't nearly as profitable as their core business; they often required an inordinate amount of management time to keep them afloat, which in turn, resulted in diminished returns from the core business. It was a messy situation, at best.

Then came the global economic catastrophe, fueled by a housing bubble that finally burst, along with the disasters on Wall Street. Lehman Brothers & Bear Stearns were the most notable failures. Suddenly, every sector of business seemed to be on life support.

In a wonderfully crafted analysis of what businesses should do to once again foster growth, Chris Zook and James Allen have provided a fairly simple game plan: Stick to the core. Stick to what you do best while eliminating the waste.

The advice is really very simple; it's time to trim the fat, corporate America.
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