Date: December 14, 2007Publication: ST. Louis Post-Dispatch Section: Business Edition: Five Star Lift Page: B5
Chris Zook, head of Bain and Co.'s global strategy practice, is a seasoned consultant who has dedicated his career to studying why some companies thrive for seemingly an eternity while others fade into oblivion. In his new book, Zook provides a blueprint on how to look deep within organizations to identify hidden or underutilized assets. Zook claims that too many companies are becoming irrelevant and nearing extinction. These companies are unable to find their flaws, and their last resort is based on a hope that their company will become instantly innovative by neutralizing threats without confronting them.
"Unstoppable" boldly predicts that more companies are going to enter a period when their historic core no longer will be sufficient to continue profiting. So how can a company go from unsustainable to unstoppable?
It begins with asking a few simple questions: What is your organization's DNA? What are you really good at? Are you spiraling into crisis? Answering these questions will help define a company's strategic response.
•When followers become leaders. Zook says the best types of followers are those who participate broadly in the market with no differentiation and no sustaining core of their own, followed by those who are brilliant in identifying a growing niche and underserved segment in a market. The third type of followers are new entrants with a unique business model.
•Managing the strategic balance sheet. Zook warns that many companies discover too late that their once-successful growth formula is approaching its limit. Successful companies target new leadership opportunities in the new core instead of chasing hot markets. They seek repeatable formulas for growth and build on hidden assets. Many companies find no viable solution to the collapse of their profit pool, the attack of a disruptive technology or the finality with which their past growth formula suddenly runs out of runway.
•Finding hidden assets. Zook uses the case of the Apple iPod to illustrate how an organization with a declining market presence can be transformed using once-hidden assets. Apple's success came with the launch of the iTunes music store, which, when blended with iPod, enabled iPod sales to take off and attain a 70 percent market share for portable MP3 players, while the iTunes music stores captured 85 percent of the market for download. The combined products and services more than tripled Apple's worth from 2003 to 2006.
Why read "Unstoppable"? I offer four reasons.
•X-ray your organization for hidden assets. The book offers a guide on how to take a closer look at your organization to find your hidden assets.
•Think of capabilities as building blocks for renewal. Leverage your repertoire of hidden assets - undervalued business platforms, unexploited customer assets and underutilized capabilities.
•Give yourself a reality check. Zook claims that knowing where you stand in the market will enable you to find the launch pad for transformation and to appraise the odds of success.
•Don't underestimate the power of focus. Every organization must redefine its business model by moving its strongest capabilities into new markets, being self-aware and demonstrating a willingness to decline attractive opportunities that are traps.
'Unstoppable; Finding Hidden Assets to Renew the Core and Fuel Profitable Growth'
Harvard Business School Press, $29.95
BENJAMIN OLA. AKANDE, IS DEAN OF WEBSTER UNIVERSITY’S SCHOOL OF BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY. HIS REVIEW APPEARS ON THE SECOND FRIDAY OF EACH MONTH. READERS ARE INVITED TO JOIN WEBSTER UNIVERSITY’S NEW BIZTALK BOOK CLUB. TO JOIN GO TO WWW.WEBSTER.EDU/SBT/BOOKCLUB.