Sometimes Being First-To-Market Is The Last Thing You Want!

Posted by Leonard Fuld

Oct 21, 2014 9:30:00 AM

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SOMETIMES BEING FIRST-TO-MARKET IS THE LAST THING YOU WANT!

An interview with Will Ethridge, former CEO of Pearson Education North America

For many CEOs, driving their companies to be first-to-market is at the center of their strategy  and for good reason. According to innovation guru and Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen in his groundbreaking book, The Innovator's Dilemma, first movers in new or emerging markets have a distinct advantage over their rivals. Will Ethridge, former CEO of Pearson Education North America, a global education services company, appreciates Christensen's concepts but disagrees  at least in part  with Christensen's almost unconditional view of first mover advantage.

"I often believe it is useful being first-to-market  when it works  because you're ahead of the market," says Ethridge. "However, in certain circumstances it's often better to be second or third to market."

Ethridge does consider  at least in theory  Christensen's view that first-to-market can make customer switching costs difficult. First movers, Christensen believes, do indeed create stickiness with customers who have already invested in your system and do not want to reinvest in order to switch.

As former head of this Pearson division, Ethridge needed to also consider the innovator’s pressure – the need to execute well if you want to be first to market. Execution is a major challenge and one where you can often trip up, according to Ethridge. He sees “first mover” as a tale of two cities.

It was the best of times: “We were first-to-market with homework applications enabled by computer technology. In that instance, being first in the market gave us increasing returns. People got used to our homework system which also made it harder for others to take this market,” he recalls.

It was so-so times: Based on his experience with another product launch that did not achieve the same market trajectory as the tech-homework product, he urges caution when considering being first with a bold new market entry. In this instance, the product was aimed at an undefined, emerging market with no clear leader. “We did not implement well,” he says, “and someone else got to the market sooner and did a better job on execution.” 

He concedes that often you have a tough choice to make. You can try to become first mover and capture a healthy share of a high-growth market, or you can decide to be a strong second or even third entrant. By coming to market later you may initially cede the category to someone else but also benefit by learning from mistakes made by your predecessors. Apple and its iPod provide a shining example. Even though the iPod arrived late to the party, it greatly improved on the first generation set of MP3 players and became the defining product in the category.

This is exactly where Clayton Christensen and Will Ethridge begin to part ways. Christensen says that companies need to innovate and disrupt themselves in the quest to maintain market leadership. Ethridge generally agrees with Christensen’s innovation philosophy. Nonetheless, Ethridge raises a red flag of caution for all businesses who believe they can – and should – become first movers. Consider the rewards that being first mover can deliver and then balance them against your need to execute with precision and on time.

And there are other critical questions to consider:

  • Are you too cautious to be bold? Is there too much at risk – or at least your perception of risk – for you to become a first mover? 
  • What do you know about the new set of competitors you will encounter in this new market?
  • What is their market fortitude – their ability to withstand nail-biting and perhaps long-term financial losses?
  • How deep are their investment pockets or their expertise at converting ideas into innovative products or services?

First mover advantage sounds good, sounds smart, but is it for everyone? Rule-breaking innovation also sounds good but can you execute on all cylinders, from R&D to launch? Will Ethridge will tell you that beyond having a good product, first-mover advantage also hinges on good execution.

A note on Will Ethridge: Before he became CEO of Pearson Education North America, Will Ethridge also served as President and CEO of Pearson Higher Education, International, President of Prentice Hall’s Engineering and Science and Math Divisions, and Publisher, Business Publishing Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.

Topics: competitive intelligence, strategy, Market Share, Acquistions, Pricing Strategy, Strategically Irreverent, Mergers

Strategically Irreverent: Throw out market share!

Posted by Leonard Fuld

Sep 30, 2014 11:16:00 AM

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THROW OUT MARKET SHARE!

An interview and discussion with Pat O'Keefe, former CEO of Watts Water Technologies

 “I believe market share drives very little. Because five times in my career I got to buy the competitor, and in every case my management team overestimated our market share and their team overestimated their market share. Everyone overestimates their share. I am a harsh critic of market share.”

Those are the words of a plain-spoken Pat O’Keefe, retired CEO of Watts Water Technologies, who spent a decade growing his company through smart acquisitions and pricing strategy. Today Watts has net sales totaling more than $1.4 billion.

During his tenure, he saw pricing – not market share – as a reflection of value and market conditions. When necessary, he would raise prices to what he and his management team felt was appropriate – even if it meant losing share points.

“At Watts we took the market lead on pricing, generally pushing pricing increases according the cost of raw materials,” he says. “We would be the first to move and the rest of the industry trailed us. A number of our competitors would try to lower prices [to capture some share as a short-term gain] but eventually they would have to follow our lead.

“I knew,” he adds, “that in fact we were not the market leader in terms of market share.”

Share, O’Keefe concluded, can distract and impair management’s views of its competition, negotiation prowess, and even overall pricing strategy. Along those lines, he offers executives two other pieces of advice:

  • Ask your management team to challenge share estimates very carefully. “I nearly always went outside Watts to independently verify share,” he says. Even with these precautions, O’Keefe believes that easy access to internal estimates versus the nearly impossible access to a rival’s estimates certainly biases market share in favor of the home team’s own thinking. That is why O’Keefe strongly urges adjusting downward your team’s share estimate. “Don’t trust your management to give you accurate market share data,” he warns.

  • Beware of negotiation illusions. One plus one does not necessarily add up to two in terms of market share growth, according to Pat O’Keefe’s experience acquiring competitors and folding them into the Watts organization. Don’t get fooled by the often cited term “synergies,” promising a great gain in market share, as well as cost savings via acquisition.

"I have [acquired and merged companies into Watts] a number of times,” says O’Keefe. “The harder part of the acquisition equation is that you discover that the acquired company’s particular product may have had a better reputation than yours in the marketplace, or vice versa. As a result, you discover the buyers of those products just don’t switch."

"In the plumbing industry,” he explains, “you have habitual buyers who learned from their fathers or uncles to buy the Watts brand or another brand. So you have psychological barriers [among your client base that will prevent you] from achieving cost reductions. The acquirer tends to overestimate the savings they get by eliminating product lines – even though you do get the cost savings by reducing overhead."

Market share is just one measure of success and not a very good one, according to O’Keefe. He advises management to focus instead on value as reflected by margins and profitability, dynamics far more critical to success than pure share growth.

 

Topics: competitive intelligence, strategy, Market Share, Acquistions, Pricing Strategy, Strategically Irreverent, Mergers

Time to break the rules! Introducing "Strategically Irreverent"

Posted by Leonard Fuld

Sep 30, 2014 10:30:00 AM

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Occupants of the C-Suite often succeeded not because they followed the rules but because they broke them. We can learn a lot from these leaders and that is why I have chosen to interview former CEOs and former company presidents for this new blog, Strategically Irreverent.

Every executive has experienced crises that have tested his or her mettle. Most have emerged whole because they and their management have had to experiment with new models that solved a novel problem, one they had never before faced. These executives can teach us a lot about strategy, about marketing, about business fundamentals that you cannot learn in a classroom or from some best-selling advice book.

Every few weeks, I will be interviewing executives from around the globe from a variety of industries, both manufacturing and service. Some names you will recognize, others you will not. What you will recognize, though, is a pattern, a pattern of hard-won lessons and advice. You will read about the savvy, insightful views – sometimes iconoclastic – that helped shape their companies.

I invite you on this blogging journey and look forward to your comments.

All the best,

Leonard

 

Topics: competitive intelligence, strategy, Market Share, Pricing Strategy, Strategically Irreverent, Mergers, Acquisitions

Announcing the New, Insight-Rich Fuld + Company Website

Posted by Leonard Fuld

Aug 26, 2014 11:30:00 AM

It's here!  We are proud to announce the release of our brand new website for Fuld + Company. Visit www.fuld.com to see the fresh look, user friendly navigation, and to check out the latest in competitive intelligence and strategic insight events, services, and content. The insight-rich website will help decision makers find the resources they need when thinking about new markets and competitive options.


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Some of the new features include:

  • Unique thought pieces and Blogs.  Learn about the latest thinking in competitive intelligence, including such topics as how to anticipate long-term disruptions, acquisitions in life sciences, as well as how and why to embrace your competitor’s strategy.

  • Robust Cases Studies.  Select from dozens of cases specifically tailored to help you consider creative and practical solutions to the strategic challenges you face each day. 

  • Solutions-based Services.  From competitive and market intelligence, to brand insights, war games, market analysis and market sizing to long-term solutions centered around scenario planning, you will find concepts to help your company think about its market and competition in a new light.

  • Innovation Resource Center.  View our white papers, industry analyses and pinpoint articles on conversation-starting topics like, telemedicine, war games, and long-term competitive and strategic issues.

  • Coming Soon – “Strategically Irreverent,” a new, somewhat irreverent blog interviewing senior executives about where decision makers should dramatically bend the rules or break with strategic dogma.

Take a few minutes to tour around the site and subscribe to our blogs for the exciting ideas to come. I welcome your feedback. 

 

 

CEOs, Get to Know Your Rivals

Posted by Leonard Fuld

Jul 25, 2014 12:25:00 PM

Source: Harvard Business Review

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In an interview, Cisco CEO John Chambers once remarked on his intimate knowledge of rival CEOs. He claimed that based on this insight he could anticipate their market moves one or even two steps in advance. I thought he might be exaggerating, making good copy but lacking substance.

I decided to test his claim by interviewing current and former C-suite executives, including Bob Crandall, former CEO of American Airlines; David Norton, former CMO of Harrah’s casinos; Will Ethridge, CEO of Pearson Education; and Pat O’Keefe, former CEO of Watts Water Technologies. From plumbing equipment to casinos, these executives all agreed: what Chambers said was not only true but almost an understatement. In fact, I began to see four different strategies for keeping track of — and out-maneuvering — rivals:

Look for weaknesses that present opportunities. “It’s important to understand your rival’s weak spots and strategy,” says Will Ethridge, Pearson Education’s former CEO. “I knew one rival whose CEO was focused on driving profitability and bringing up margins. I knew that meant he would be relatively focused on short-term results while mostly ignoring product development. I also realized he would go after our top sales people to meet those short-term sales goals. So we worked extra hard to protect our key sales people. At the same time, we continued to invest in long-term product development and overseas markets, knowing it was unlikely he could follow us in the short term.”

Play to your strengths, not your rival’s. David Norton, former CMO and SVP of Harrah’s/Caesars points out that you must appreciate your counterpart’s competencies and weaknesses, as well as your own. Gary Loveman, then CEO of Harrah’s, was an MIT-trained economist. He had recruited other quant experts, such as Norton, formerly of American Express. They saw the casino business as a great numbers experiment. Among their rivals was Sheldon Adelson, CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, who they believed operated from gut feel. He made a killing by opening casinos in Macau and Singapore.

Adelson’s bold move in Asia had outflanked Harrah’s. But Norton says the executive team didn’t conclude that they should abandon their quantitative strengths in favor of big rolls of the dice. Instead, Loveman decided to apply their deep quantitative knowledge of customer behavior in casinos and double down on U.S. expansion, out-maneuvering Adelson in the domestic market.

“We used data to personalize our marketing and become more efficient in attracting and holding onto customers,” says Norton. “And when it came to expanding our presence in the U.S. market we knew no one else would go to the extent we did, investing heavily in analytics, training and so on to build a comprehensive loyalty program.”

Encourage employees to monitor rivals, too. Former American Airlines CEO Bob Crandall, like Chambers, watched his counterparts, but more broadly he encouraged the entire corporation to watch the competition at all levels.

“It’s like running a national intelligence network,” he says. “If you are running it right, everyone is aware that anything and everything is important, and lots of information trickles up to management. For example, if a ticket agent in Chicago hears from an agent at another airline that the rival airline is looking for additional gate space, she should tell the local manager, who calls the division head who feeds it up the line. Senior management could then make some guesses about what the rival is up to, and could either add flights to use existing gates more intensively or take other action to blunt the success of whatever the rival might do.”

Meet the competition in person. You don’t have to watch your rivals from afar – or engage in deception to get close to them. In fact, face to face contact can pay off in unexpected ways. Pat O’Keefe was CEO of Watts Water Technologies, a global plumbing, water safety, and control equipment company. According to O’Keefe, his mandate was to grow Watts, largely through acquisitions. He spent most of his time seeking out and learning about acquisition candidates.

“I was personally obsessed with looking at our competitors,” said O’Keefe. “I wanted to know more about them than other bidders, when and if the time came to make them an offer. But there was no point in deceiving them. Their CEOs all knew who I was and they would very willingly show me their products. I visited them regularly to ask if they might like to join the Watts family of companies.

No matter the industry, John Chambers is right. CEOs not only can, but should, be watching their counterparts closely, assessing their strengths, weaknesses and predilections, and developing counter-measures accordingly.

 

Read Original Article Here:
http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/07/ceos-get-to-know-your-rivals/

Topics: competitive intelligence, leonard fuld, blog, article, CI, Harvard Business Review, competitive strategy, marketing, customer service, sales, Fuld+Company

The BIG Leap (Part 2 of 2): What's Next for Life Sciences If Big Data Dominates the World?

Posted by Leonard Fuld

Jun 12, 2014 9:00:00 AM

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Imagine a future world in which technology companies would come to the rescue of the traditional life sciences industry. A world dominated by Big Data companies, such as Google, rather than a world of firms that live with lab benches and test tubes. A world like this might produce a highly efficient and cost-effective life sciences industry where virtual talent could easily supplant large supplies of scientists married to one location.

This scenario was previously detailed in a scenario planning discussion and blogpost here. Let’s say Google tries to “own” some part of the life sciences market, what strategic implications would a biotech or pharmaceutical firm need to consider? Below are a few strategic imperatives for this Big Data world.

  • More bets, smaller bets. Pharmaceuticals and biotechs will make smaller bets and more of them.  Private money – not government grants – will fuel these bets. Biotechs will take experiments and pre-market products, and then license them out to Big Pharma companies that still have the marketing organizations they need to become successful. 
  • Foundations could replace government as a funding source. There will be more R&D partnerships between Gates Foundation-type organizations and biotechs, as well as Big Pharma. Private foundations will only supplement, not totally replace, anemic government funding in the future.
  • Crowd sourcing will become a fundamental R&D engine. This will allow same or similar levels of R&D without corporations having to incur the overheads they do today.
  • Google and other Big Data companies will rethink and re-shape how science does R&D altogether, redirecting its labor from the lab bench to solving health challenges using computing power and mathematics.

On this last point, a number of voices around the room questioned a Google’s ability to go beyond the Big Data analytics. That is, could a Google develop the wherewithal to manage clinical trials, submit NDAs and generally learn the competencies needed to fully enter the healthcare, drug-development mainstream?   While a Google may not have these competencies today, most participants agreed at the end of this mini-debate that it is very possible for Google to not only could manage the administrative tasks needed to launch a drug but also likely find a way to rewrite the drug submission and launch rules altogether.

A parting message

You can be sure that no single future story will describe our world in ten years. In fact, our future will likely be a combination or more than one of these stories. That is exactly the point of our scenario planning workshops. If you are doing your job right as a strategist your goal is not to predict the future but rather to outline the boundaries – where our world can take us in five, ten or twenty years from now on a particular issue and understand the implications should they actually happen. If this world came to be in 2020, what are the strategic implications for you and your R&D operations over the coming decade? 

SEE RELATED ARTICLES:

The BIG Leap (Part 1 of 2): Will Tech Companies Replace Traditional Life Sciences Incumbents?

Fortune Magazine: America's tech talent shortage: Is it just myth?

Topics: competitive intelligence, fuld & company, leonard fuld, strategy, CI, competitive analysis, early warning, technology, scenario planning, STEM, life sciences

The BIG Leap (Part 1 of 2): Will Tech Companies Replace Traditional Life Sciences Incumbents?

Posted by Leonard Fuld

May 20, 2014 8:00:00 AM

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In a scenario planning discussion with life sciences experts from MIT, Big Pharma, and biotech entrepreneurs, we facilitated a number of future stories focusing on the availability of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) talent.  Scenario planning helps an organization envision a future very different from the present and develop concrete strategies that anticipate and prepare an organization for a change in future market and competitive conditions.

Considering where the discussion began, the group built a scenario that stood in sharp contrast to its initial assumptions about the future of STEM talent and the implications to the life sciences and biotech industries.  Here is their scenario:

A LIFE SCIENCES REBOOT:  BIG DATA COMPANIES REWRITE THE INDUSTRY

PALO ALTO, JANUARY 2, 2020 - Google has just launched its second blockbuster drug in the past three years, an almost unheard of accomplishment in the modern history of the pharmaceutical industry – except that only five years ago no one had ever thought to classify Google as a pharmaceutical company.   Amazon, Google, IBM and other high-tech behemoths have rapidly rewritten the rules of the life sciences business by collapsing the supposedly sacrosanct Discovery – Clinical Trials – Product Launch timetable by more than half.  As IBM’s Watson 10th generation computing systems have shown, the company’s disciplined and nearly bottomless R&D talent pool can trump the comparatively medieval and bureaucratically cumbersome approaches of Big Pharma that ruled this marketplace for over a century.

Despite a shortage of technical and scientific talent in the United States and a drop in Federal Government funding, the high-tech industry has taken up the slack in drug R&D – along with the support of private investment groups from around the globe.

As Google cofounder Sergei Brin stated in a keynote speech at a major oncology conference, “Google is never one to leave money on the table.  We saw a great efficiency gap in the pharmaceutical market and decided to take the lead in filling that gap and recognizing both the goodwill and the profits that we would enjoy….”

Do you believe in this story?  Can it happen based on what you know today? 

In part two of this blog post, I will report on some of the implications noted by the group - as they peered through the STEM filter - for the future of life sciences in the coming decade.   My bet is that some you already have considered a few of these future implications but that a few may be counter-intuitive surprises.

SEE RELATED ARTICLES – Fortune Magazine: America's tech talent shortage: Is it just myth?

Topics: competitive intelligence, fuld & company, leonard fuld, strategy, CI, competitive analysis, early warning, technology, scenario planning, STEM

Your Competition Doesn’t Wait To Turn Their Clocks Ahead So Why Should You?

Posted by Leonard Fuld

Mar 18, 2014 10:00:00 AM

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Last year, while monitoring clinical trials for a number of competitors in the oncology field, we spotted a Twitter announcement from a third-party patient advocate who wanted to see this company renew a particular set of trials it had dropped. The advocate was working with this biotech competitor to recruit new patients and announce a special recruiting event. This Twitter feed continued for a couple of weeks then suddenly stopped once the biotech likely filled its patient quota. Social media signals like this one are essentially a small spark of intelligence you have to notice when it occurs. Had we not been monitoring this company’s tweets, we would have missed this early warning signal on the clinical trial restart and in this instance there were no lingering leaflets pinned onto bulletin boards or mass mailings designed to recruit patients.

When I heard newscasters announce a week ago that we all must turn our clocks one-hour ahead, I chuckled, thinking how changing clocks has become largely an anachronism. Just as I don’t need to “change my clocks” anymore (my desktop computer and my phones all change automatically, as does my cable box which serves as our living room clock) your rival can just as easily alter its strategy and execution without most of the market seeing the shift. Today, time and your competition can march on without notifying us of the change. Competitors can do this because they are able to signal the market in a very discrete and targeted manner.

Consider how you and your competitors used to act in the market and how you informed that market. You advertised with new catalogs and product announcements by sending packages to your supply chain. You counted on trade shows to expose much of the customer base to your messaging and changes in market tactics. The process of communicating strategy was all very physical - all these signals started with printed materials, the post office, and eventually sales people knocking on doors.

In a similar fashion, pharmaceutical firms that work hard at crafting messages for their products increasingly rely on altering their websites and sending out daily email blasts. The changes to a company’s website may be subtle and you’re unlikely to see a big press release on the wire services. And yet, the message has simply and quietly changed, and in turn will be reflected in future sales tactics and messages the company offers at scientific congresses, social media, and so on.

With respect to watching for change in competitor strategy, the message for company strategists and the executive suite should be “don’t wait to turn your clocks ahead!” The changes may already have taken place. You need to pay attention to the subtle changes as they occur because they will be quiet and unless you remain alert to all the channels –real and virtual – a competitor’s strategic shift will happen right under your nose and you will wake up too late to do anything about it.

Topics: competitive intelligence, competitive threats, fuld & company, leonard fuld, strategy, CI, competitive strategy, monitoring, insight, market intelligence, competition, pharmaceuticals, dominate, early warning, twitter feeds, market signals, changing clocks, social media monitoring

Can you dominate in 2014?

Posted by Leonard Fuld

Jan 2, 2014 10:00:00 AM

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Now that is a loaded question! Dominate? No corporate counsel in his or her right mind would use that word in any correspondence concerning the company. Dominate is a word that can trigger anti-trust inquiries. Is that really how you want your company to begin 2014 with an anti-trust investigation by the American Department of Justice? I don't think so.   

You can relax because I am asking this question in a totally different context and that is in the way game theorists use the concept. For anyone who has played in the world of game theory knows a company should always apply its dominant strategy. That is because game theory states that "dominant strategy" means the dominance or strength of one of your firm's strategies over another – and not how you will dominate an opponent. Rather, it emphasizes how you need to play your strongest hand whenever you consider various strategic options.

 

Nearly every company has a dominant strategy. For instance Amazon’s online strategy will always be stronger than its retail strategy. Even though it has decided to plant storage lockers in local shops for direct store access to customers, its online shopping experience will remain its dominant strategy. Dell's customization of its laptops and online ordering system dominates its retail strategy – even though it now has an increasing retail presence via kiosks and displays at Best Buy and the like. Apple, on the other hand, offers a relatively simple online shopping experience with most of its online platform dedicated to selling content, not hardware. Apple's dominant strategy for selling hardware is through its high-concept retail stores. While Dell may not win more share in the market via its online ordering system, that remains its dominant strategy. Dell's battling Apple on the retail front will not be in Dell's best interests. Retail sales are not Dell's dominant strategy.

The list goes on and on. Every company in every industry has a dominant strategy, from financial services to life sciences and more.

You need to use your dominant strategy to at least maintain or eventually win in your market. You may not dominate a market with your dominate strategy but you will have the best chance at winning the most share or greatest margins by doing so.

Topics: competitive intelligence, fuld, competitive threats, survey, fuld & company, leonard fuld, blog, CI, competitive strategy, strategy research, monitoring, strategy game, competitor intelligence, consulting, insight, boiling the frog, management, dominate

Black Friday and Crossing the Risk Threshold

Posted by Leonard Fuld

Nov 27, 2013 4:00:00 PM

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Even as a little kid, I remember my father anxiously looking toward Black Friday (the day after America’s Thanksgiving holiday) and onto the end of the holiday season as the time his store made a large chunk of its profits for the year.  Looking at my father, I saw someone who worried about this make-it-or-break-it time each November and December.  A similar kind of threshold exists for those pursuing competitive knowledge but instead of a profit line it’s a risk line, the point after which you feel you have enough information to feel comfortable with your particular strategic or tactical decision.  Maybe if he had Excel back then and could easily do a year-to-year comparison that exercise might have eased the worry a bit.  But he was the co-owner of a small jewelry store and had all he could do to keep his customers happy and the store operating effectively.

Unlike Black Friday, though, this risk-comfort line is very much relative and not fixed to a particular calendar date.  For some corporate executives this line is very movable but maybe at the very far end of someone else’s comfort zone. In other words, some individuals can work with very little information to arrive at a conclusion, a decision with far less information than their counterparts.

 

 

 

 

All companies and all managements have their Black Friday risk-comfort thresholds. What makes these supposed market risks less threatening is worrying you have too little information when you may not. Indeed, the fear of what you don’t know can push the fear ahead of the reality. Certainly there are competitive threats and rivals that want your market share but very often knowing just enough information will allow you to make decisions far sooner than you otherwise expect. Trying to achieve “information perfection” by a cautious management does very little to allay the fear. Delaying that decision in hopes you will acquire more supporting evidence at times may be warranted but from my experience only exacerbates the fear and exaggerates the risk.

Here’s a final confession: No one in my family could truly lessen my father’s Black Friday anxiety. We could offer some consolation or assurances and that was all. Companies are merely extensions of the people who manage them. The big difference is that modern management does have many tools to mitigate this risk-comfort stress. Today’s management has the Internet, filled with useful insights. Many B2C or B2B firms have data mining technology (now listed under the label of Big Data) from which it can analyze a customer’s likely behavior and buying patterns. In addition, today’s corporation can use instant communication to dispatch its staff to ask questions on the ground, questions whose answers will shed light on those dark rumors. Use these tools to improve your knowledge and reduce Black Friday fears.

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