*Quarterly* wrap-up: it's time to re-evaluate the past! ~ Sounds + Food 'n' Retail

Sounds  + Food _n_ Retail.jpgThis wrap-up covers material up to April 6th, 2008. I will dedicate another one to this month and then hopefully go back to a monthly schedule. Looking backwards is hard, but I find it useful…

Normally this would be a monthly wrap-up, except I postponed it by quite some time. In this post, I try to look back in order to see how far I've come and bring a general set of themes to what I've covered so far.

Tag: The internet
I spent a considerable amount of time writing about the internet, somewhat influenced by my thesis and that I've been blogging for longer on Tech IT Easy.

One thing I looked at extensively was social networking, because, hey, that's the age we're in. I looked at lifestyle-brands, which require a more contextual approach, and how the internet can act as a platform for business to communicate with customers more richly and bi-directionally. A related topic—social network as competitive advantage—was published on Tech IT Easy. At the same time, I don't completely embrace social networking like Facebook, which I'm bearish on and have, to a degree, sadly been proven right.

I also looked at the role of the internet in terms of physical retail, for which a company, called NearbyNow, is offering an interesting service to both retailers and consumers; they allow consumers to browse and reserve goods through the internet or their mobiles, and give more exposure to retailers. At the same time, my outlook for the physical retail of media is bleak, and I expect all of it to go via the internet soon.

Tags: Logistics & green tech
In terms of logistics, I looked at different methodologies of storing and transporting goods across the globe. Very interesting how each continent/country is getting around its disadvantages (e.g. high labour costs in Europe) and compensating with other factor (e.g. more technology in European warehouses = less labour dependancy).

Also green tech is another "trend," well, I expect it to stay around for quite some time. I outlined five reasons why I think business are and should be going green. The mirror-post on Tech IT Easy spawned some interesting discussions.

Tag: Business strategy
Of course, business strategy is somehow involved in all business-topics, nevertheless I did look at a number of issues specifically. One was on entry-strategies into difficult markets, which is something I can't really describe in a few words, but requires speed, stealth, and brains.

I also commented on new business developments in a number of retail-outlets, and how it is only those that are synergetic with a company's core-focus, and can reap advantages like scale & scope, that end up being worth the effort.

Not to forget, I wrote about IKEA again, first, in note-form, talking about the international moves that the company made and why; and second, a summary of the lessons that I learned from IKEA.

Finally, I looked at the social element, human resources, and how companies use coaching and social operating mechanisms to scale their strategy and passion across the organisation. Ford, again, makes an interesting case study for that.

Tag: Entrepreneurship
As always, and somewhat difficult to separate from the above. I looked at the interdependent components of strategy, and financial, organisational, and product-market strategies are really part of a greater whole, when writing your business-plan.

I also looked at some statistics in franchising, and the lower failure rates are one reason to consider it a worthwhile entry-point into the industry. Still, it's not risk-free; There's clearly a lot of work to do beforehand, in terms of choosing the right franchise with growth-potential, financial risk to fund your business, market-risk, when you launch, and competitive risk, after your up and running. Some of this should be overcome with the help of a franchiser, however. Related to this, I posted an overview of the week of a franchise-owner, which was quite diverse and exciting, as well as a look into the drugstore-industry in the Netherlands.

On a softer level, I believe that entrepreneurship is ultimately an exercise in focus, which goes so much easier when you love what you do, but also an exercise in believing in the impossible, even when "facts" may prove you wrong. Micheal Masterson also had some good tips for starting & running companies, more from an investor's perspective.

Tags: Branding & marketing
Again, I already linked to some related post under the internet-heading; I believe that social networking is a big deal in that area these days. Related to this is also the concept of referential marketing value, as opposed to direct marketing value, which wrote about a little here. Clearly this is a dimension that is fairly complex but which the figures show should not be ignored.

I also criticised cinemas' moves into the luxury-segment as faulty branding, because luxury isn't a big differentiating factor during the movie-viewing experience; technology and timing is.

Tags: Food and retail
I could've probably placed these in any of the above categories, but this is after all the food and retail blog. I still take a dual approach here, looking at food-retail through retailers, and then through actual food-venues, like restaurants. There is a difference, but I'm not sure whether I want to or should discriminate between them.

In terms of supermarkets, I discussed a number of worrying trends going on in that world, namely there's less consumer-spending on food and supermarkets are forced to respond by consolidating and pushing efficiency up on the agenda. But I also find the presence of supermarkets like Marqt encouraging and hope they do well.

Also, I recently summarised some points I got from a book on Ahold. It's an interesting company to follow as it's been around for about a century, and has survived several similar challenges, we are facing today (high fuel-prices, recession, etc.)

I also discussed snack-food, which I find particularly flawed in terms of health and which could use an influx of alternative, yet good-tasting snacks.

And I looked at restaurants, which I find scary, but I remain open to. Starbucks level of vertical integration is also a little worrying. It's a like a beast that, as soon as it had to retrench from the market, it eats up more companies from the supply-side, in order to gain a competitive edge over other coffee-retailers. There's just something that worries me about this move.

Finally, I took notes from a very interesting lecture by John Schneeberger, who offered some interesting insights into the world of vegetarianism, organics, and local produce.

Other topics that I didn't mention here, include my links (where I try to link to interesting stories) and my interludes (where I try to write about more fun and personal stuff).

Thoughts (written at the beginning of April!)
There's two challenges ahead, as far as my blogging goes. Topic-wise, I'm fairly open to both big-company and small-company problems, which may be too broad. I also perhaps don't focus enough on food & retail in particular, though that's because I'm a generalist and am still deciding on my passions.

Presentation-wise, I've been analysing some other people's blogs, e.g. TechCrunch's & Jeremy Fain's early days, to see what these guys did different. TechCrunch used a very mechanical approach, the same template for discussing companies, no colourful language, and a regular pattern of several posts a day. Jeremy also blogged a lot and brought information to the table that he himself came up with or that he got from discussions with people.

I do too little of that, because I don't make enough time for it and am more introverted in my approach. I can't really say whether my approach will change from now on, but I'll try to bring more of my personal experiences into posts. Those appear to get a better response (still working on that).


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