Month 2 on food and retail - what I've learned so far ~ Sounds + Food 'n' Retail

month2.JPGIt's time for another monthly summary (a few days late). This time, rather than the rather unattractive list-view which I used for my month 1-summary, I'm going to try turning the past month's posts into a little story. As I wrote, this blog is my way of learning about this industry, so let's take a look at what I've covered so far.

The Human element
I started the first post of month 2 with one related to self-development, and I kept that thread going for a while. This post was on the the way that leadership has evolved throughout society, from an individualistic to a social kind of leading. A lot of developments today, in business, politics, or other arenas, are so complex, that a form of collaboration is more constructive than tyrannical leadership. This is perhaps made clearest in in the example of Ikea and eBay, who—often by necessity—used collaborative methods to develop and introduce new features and innovations.

Again related to self-development, I also looked at particular careers in retail (with a nice chart) and in knowledge-based firms. Apart from simply researching the functions out there, my conclusions were that different roles require different talents, and that a manager/founder/entrepreneur should take care to surround himself with a diverse kinds of people. A similar point was made in a post on doing what you do best. Again, in the eBay-post, I discussed professionalising your firm quickly, by bringing in talent that can help in growing the business.

The strategic lens
A second big thread last month was business strategy. I started with the coffee-business, mentioning some examples like Coca-Cola, who is expanding into canned coffee, and Leonidas, a chocolatier, who is starting coffee-shops. Later, in two follow-up posts (1 and 2), I drew the conclusion that the coffee-arena is pretty crowded and that I wasn't sure if that was the best area to start a business in.

I also looked at the area of value chains and Porter's five forces, using examples like Ikea, Apple, and Amazon, and before that China and the issue of meeting it's exploding beef-demand. Generally, and the same applies to coffee, I think it's useful to take a horizontal and vertical view at how the industry is organised and find opportunities that way. In the case of China, which imposes some barriers to beef-imports, the answer was to import methodologies and grow beef on Chinese land. Other examples are mentioned in my five-forces post.

Another big topic is climate-change and it again helps to analyse this in terms of the value-chain, i.e. looking at all the internal and external activities related to your company and related to bringing value towards customers. And optimising those to take the cost of climate-change into account, which can later be turned into a significant competitive advantage over your competitors.

And I looked at some examples of Franchising in Germany, noting that retail is clearly leading in that field, and that a big challenge is to transmit tacit knowledge down your (largely decentralised) organisation.

Branding & marketing
Another large topic this month was the issue of customers, and how you market to them. IBM presented a nice white paper, of which I discussed the Well Curve as a possible methodology to understand the customer decision process, which was a second post on this topic.

I also looked at the way some business interact with customers, including T-Mobile and Harvard Business Review, and observed that conversational marketing is definitely a way to increase price-elasticity.

I have not looked much at food-business so far, but I did manage to discuss two restaurants: a pancake-place, where I discussed methods on how to make me remember its damn name, and a restaurant in Germany, which I thought received excellent advice in a show called "Rach - the restaurant tester," in regards to geographic marketing and building a brand.

Finally, even though my forte is not advertising, I came up with a—possibly stupid, but fun—idea on how to advertise a new concept coming to a town near you.

Somewhat of a micro-topic, I looked at the way that music-media and money evolved and how that illustrated that customers love convenience, as well as how the Ford SYN-US was developed from start to finish. The latter is very interesting for thinking about what it takes to come up with new innovations.

Another micro-topic, which I will have to spend more time on in the future. I approached this in two posts. In the first, "other people's money," I reflected on some of the different types of investors there are and how some can add considerable value to growing your business. Also, in the eBay post, I looked at why it was so important for eBay to involve venture capitalists, even though it didn't need the money. The right kind of investor for your business will help you professionalise your business, by helping you find more talent, setting targets to meet, pressuring you to grow, and (hopefully) much more, all besides investing in your business, and taking shares.

Final thoughts
So, pretty diverse stuff I think, and while I could be writing more about food and retail—which will happen—I'm happy to have written and learned about all of these interesting topics.

For the future, I hope to look more at franchising, in-store activities, and particularly at supply chain topics, such as lean manufacturing, logistics, and anything dealing with the supplier-perspective. My future reading-list includes: The Disney Way, The Great Good Place, and The Toyota Way, as well as countless articles, pdf's, blogs, HBR-magazines, and so much more.

Well, here we are. Another month flew by! I enjoyed writing this post, and hope you enjoyed reading it too! For past coverage, you can check my slightly less aesthetically-presented month 1 summary. For more in the area of food and retail, I do encourage people to check my blog-roll on the right, and my bookmarks, updated 24/7.

The picture is an exercise of drawing a (my) hand in 5 min. or less.


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