Bring Back the General Manager

Harvard Business Review

Two decades ago, organizations were designed around stand-alone business units, so all managers had to understand finance, technology, manufacturing, sales, marketing, strategy, human resources, and more. GE, for example, went from hundreds of discrete BU 's to a dozen large businesses with each one having strong, centralized finance, HR, engineering, marketing, and manufacturing units. It also will force the functional service providers to be more market-driven.

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Case Study: Time for a Unified Campaign?

Harvard Business Review

You're responsible for your own P&L, just like all the other hotel managers, and that includes promotional spending of any kind. In fact, we barely have a marketing budget at the corporate level. The source for that must have been Ana Montoya, the company's chief marketing officer. Marco Bertini is an assistant professor of marketing at London Business School. Advertising Marketing Strategy

The $2,000 Car

Harvard Business Review

For example, GE developed an ultra-low-cost ultrasound for rural China which is now marketed in over 100 countries. Logitech developed an affordable mouse for the China market which sells for (the Chinese equivalent of) $19.99 Deere & Company developed a small tractor, the 35-horsepower Krish, built and priced specifically for the India market, competing head on with the Indian market leader, Mahindra & Mahindra. They take a "market-back" perspective.

How Retailers Can Appeal to Lower-Income Shoppers

Harvard Business Review

These lower-income shoppers think like savvy CFOs and are willing to pay more for categories that provide a usage benefit as well as a variety of economic benefits for their own "household P&L.". Retailers must understand the role that a particular category plays not only in its shoppers' lives but also in its shoppers' financial context and their household P&L. This blog post is part of the HBR Online Forum The Future of Retail.

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Why Verizon's iPhone Could Be Good for AT&T

Harvard Business Review

They do this by building consumer P&Ls through cross-functional teams across marketing, sales, supply chain and finance, much like some companies have built account and product P&Ls. A consumer P&L is a powerful tool in the face of a competitive threat, as it enables them to proactively lock up their most valuable Super Consumers and avoid expensive over-reactions to losing Divas and Deal Chasers.

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Scaling Is Hard. Here's How Akamai Did It.

Harvard Business Review

But once the company has honed in on a strong value proposition and found initial product-market fit, what is the best approach to scaling it? To help shine some light on this topic, I've decided to do a series of blog posts of case studies of companies founded in the last 10-15 years that have made the transition from finding initial product-market fit to building a large, scalable, platform company. I have been thinking lately about how hard it is to scale start-ups.

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Is It Heresy to Make Salespeople Pay Their Expenses? An HBR Management Puzzle

Harvard Business Review

In fact it's not mainly about cost management at all — though that's certainly important in these market conditions.

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Three Diversity "Best Practices" That Hurt Women

Harvard Business Review

It's about learning enough about the differences between men and women to be able to effectively access and connect with the majority of today's talent and markets. The issue of gender balance in corporations often seems unnecessarily complicated.

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Strategy Essentials You Ignore at Your Peril

Harvard Business Review

If you have a competitive advantage, it will show up on your P&L. Competition is about profits, not market share. But strategy is more than marketing. Michael Porter, the world's leading authority on competition and strategy, is sometimes the victim of his own success. We use his terminology every day — competitive advantage, the value chain, differentiation, value creation. We think, therefore, that we "know" his work. But in fact, most managers don't.

It's Harder than Ever to Be a Senior Executive

Harvard Business Review

The CIO has to know what's going on in finance and marketing, for instance, and P&L experience is important even for support functions like human resources. The job of the senior executive is much more complicated today than it was a decade or two ago — and that trend will continue, especially if you hope to play on a global stage (which is a nearly universal condition these days for many companies). Here are five reasons. Soft skills are more important than ever.

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Silver Linings for 2012

Harvard Business Review

But then the market slowed as companies moved their construction overseas and construction jobs disappeared. In a way," he says, "the slower market has been a blessing. Employees (and the more enlightened leaders I know) are realizing that happiness doesn't have much to do with endless "growth" or P&L sheets; it has much more to do with employees' personal fulfillment, if only for a few moments, each day at work and in life.

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Why Face-to-Face Meetings Make All the Difference

Harvard Business Review

In today's economy, where the fast growth of emerging markets outpaces America and the developed world, if you haven't gone global yet, it's time to get moving. By breaking down the geographic and psychological borders between subsidiaries and involving all of our senior managers in a regular, rigorous business analysis of each operation, we created a team that felt a sense of ownership not just of their P&L, but of the entire company.

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Warren Buffett's 2010 Shareholder Letter: What to Expect

Harvard Business Review

Berkshire's talented managers get the P&L independence to run their own businesses. In 2009, he confessed to developing an ill-conceived plan to market GEICO credit cards and also failed to rein in NetJets' debt, which had soared to $1.9 Rather than lament the post-2008 devastation in capital markets, Buffett rejoices. This Saturday, Feb. 26, many thousands of people around the world will download Warren Buffett's 2010 shareholder letter.

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Top 10 Green Business Stories of 2011

Harvard Business Review

While "running out" isn't really the right phrase, it's clear that delivering many commodities to market is getting harder and more expensive (we don't dig for oil a mile under the ocean for the heck of it). Markets have a remarkable way of sorting the wheat from the chaff. While the overall carbon emissions news is not good , the renewable energy market is growing very fast. and China are entering a trade battle over solar subsidies, which tells me it's a real market now.

Microsoft Taxes Itself

Harvard Business Review

Right now, the market price of carbon is very low, so Microsoft is charging a small amount per ton. Pricing carbon on your own, without a real market in place, is hard, which is why there are so few examples of companies doing it. And more recently, athletic apparel company Puma (working with my colleagues at PwC and the UK's TruCost) produced an " environmental P&L " which measured the "real" cost of carbon and other environmental inputs like water.

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How IBM's Sam Palmisano Redefined the Global Corporation

Harvard Business Review

When Palmisano retired this month, the media chronicled his success by focusing on IBM's 21% annual growth in earnings per share and its increase in market capitalization to $218 billion. He was comfortable making smart bets to position IBM for decades-long growth, such as creating the Emerging Business Organization to incubate new businesses and shield them from P&L pressures.

Case Study: When to Drop an Unprofitable Customer

Harvard Business Review

These deductions, which totaled 12% of sales, had previously been collapsed into a single line item in the P&L for each customer. It should be to win in every one of our chosen markets. Jane's smug expression said clearly, "Add this to your P&L, Tommy.". Editor's Note: This fictionalized case study will appear in a forthcoming issue of Harvard Business Review, along with commentary from experts and readers.