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Here are some practice BUSS4 Section B Essay Questions which could be used for revision / essay planning practice.
Here they are. If I come up with any more, I'll add them to this blog!read more...»
Sony’s embattled CEO Kazou Hirai and his Board have been reviewing their product portfolio in recent months and the result is a strategic choice to remove two “dogs”.read more...»
The announcement of Google's takeover of smart home-appliance maker Nest for $3.2bn is potentially hugely significant for Google.read more...»
These two pieces of video evidence on South Korean multinational giant Samsung are pure business studies gold - particularly for students preparing their evidence for AQA BUSS4.
Samsung is a highly diversified multinational that is the most significant firm in the South Korean economy. It has achieved a strong record of improved profitability, quarter after quarter, as demand for its product portfolio has grown, particularly mobile devices. However, in January 2014 it announced that it expected to suffer a fall in profits, It expects to make an operating profit of 8.3 trillion won ($7.8bn; £4.8bn) for the last quarter of 2013, down 18% from the previous three months.read more...»
The global pharmaceutical industry is under threat, like never before, for the way that it markets its products.read more...»
Do you have a set a core values? What deeply held beliefs shape the way you see the world and how you act?
Your core values underpin the way in which you behave, act, and how you live your life. So, if someone asked you to list your two most important values, what would they be?
I ask the question because the concept of core values is essential to understanding organisational culture.
Indeed I would hope that the role of core values would feature in many high-scoring BUSS4 essays for students answering questions about organisational culture – they are important!read more...»
If students are looking for a research example of a business that is truly built around a deliberate attempt to create and nurture a strong organisational culture, they need look no further than online shoe retailer Zappos.
Tony Hsieh - the founder of Zappos (bought by Amazon a couple of years ago) wanted to build a business based around a simple idea. That it - if you get the organisational culture right - then everything else that you need to be successful will fall into place.
Is he right?read more...»
“Our strategy is delivering. The transformation of Royal Mail is well underway”.
That’s the view of Moya Greene, CEO of Royal Mail, as she announced the full year results for Royal Mail to 31 March 2013 today.
As students who attended our BUSS4 Exam Coaching Workshops will recall, I think that Royal Mail is one of the very best research case studies to use for both Section A (organisational culture) and Section B essays in the BUSS4 exam.
The latest financial results of Royal Mail Group are packed full with useful insights and data which could be used effectively to support paragraph points in a BUSS4 essay.
Here are just a few examples:read more...»
We've previously highlighted the arrival of Harriet Green as the new CEO of Thomas Cook as a great research example for business students. New CEOs - particularly those recruited externally - tend to dive straight into "strategic reviews" which then result in changes in strategic direction, disposal of non-core businesses etc. Harriet Green is no exception. And in this YouTube clip, she outlines her proposed strategy for the ailing travel industry business.
The clip is almost two hours in length. However, it is the first section (from about 3 minutes 30 in) which is particularly interesting and relevant for business students. You get a strong sense of Harriet Green's personality from the presentation and a clear statement of her strategic objectives for the business.read more...»
I've become increasingly convinced from recent discussions with major accountancy firms and other major employers that workplace learning is going to challenge the preeminence of universities and colleges when it comes to obtaining higher level qualifications. The emergence of some industrial-strength Higher Apprenticeship programmes recently is a sign of that. And so to is the news that John Lewis Partnership is to extend its programme of workplace learning to offer Level 6 (university degree level) qualifications for some of its management.
This story would provide the basis for some excellent analysis by students exploring how and why John Lewis Partnership has decided to extend its internal training programmes.
Some clues can be found in extracts from the JLP press release: for example;
The so-called "University of John Lewis" will also offer a number of other development initiatives through its ‘skills programme’, which will include training in product knowledge, line management and leadership. read more...»
"Our partners give us our competitive edge, and if we want them to stay with us for the long term, we need to make sure that they have the right skills to meet the challenges we face in an evolving retail environment."
For Sony's CEO Kazou Hirai - a promise is a promise.
Back in April 2012, when Kazou Hirai took over as CEO from Sir Howard Stringer, he pledged to restore Sony's troubled Consumer Electronics division to profitability within one year.
In a significant programme of retrenchment, Sony has shed over 10,000 jobs (about 6% of the workforce), sold off major property assets and substantially cut production at the heavily loss-making Sony Television business (which is a significant part of the Consumer Electronics division). The result is expected to be Sony's first corporate profit for five years when it reports final result for the year to 31 March 2013 in May. However, the Consumer Electronics division remains unprofitable - Sony has not met its objective.
The reaction by Hirai? It is reported that forty of Sony’s top executives, including Hirai, are to give up bonuses worth between 30 and 50 per cent of their pay. The decision will save Sony around $10m, which is not particularly significant in financial terms.read more...»
It is often claimed that the organisational culture of a business is formed and developed in the "shadow of the leader". And perhaps nowhere is this more true than the organisational culture of Ikea which was founded by Ingvar Kamprad.
Here is a some evidence which helps explain the concept and also tells us more about the core values that have been used to build the Ikea business.read more...»
Let's face it. Nearly all of us associate Ikea with flatpack, affordable furniture. The Ikea brand has become a global success and, as we reported on the business blog recently, the Ikea format is well-positioned to achieve further success in key emerging markets.
However, Ikea's business portfolio is not just about furniture retailing.
In March 2013, Ikea announced that it is to partner with Marriott International to open a chain of three-star hotels. The chosen brand name for this joint venture between Marriott and Ikea is Moxy Hotels.read more...»
A superb article here from Reuters which examines the challenges facing Ikea as it accelerates its expansion into key emerging markets, notably China and India.
On the one hand, Ikea aims to exploit its global brand by applying the core retailing concept (epitomized by the store racetrack layout, flatpack goods etc) and core values that have enabled to it to become the world's largest furniture retailer.
However, Ikea also needs to be sensitive to the specific customer needs and wants in each national market if it is to meet customer expectations and compete effectively.read more...»
Kazou Hirai took over as CEO of Sony on 1 April 2012 replacing Howard Stringer. Hirai inherited a business with many problems and experiencing heavy losses. What has he done in his first year?read more...»
A simply stunning video here from the FT which is perfect for students wishing to gather some evidence on industries, firms and brands that have thrived despite the prolonged economic downturn in developed economies.read more...»
Has Nokia got a problem with its product portfolio? The market seems to think so. Nokia's shares down 13% today on news of disappointing sales for the first three months of 2013.
Nokia has enjoyed some recent success with its Lumia smartphone range. However, sales of its traditional more basic feature phones are very weak and facing intense competition in emerging markets against low-cost competitors.
So, Nokia's smartphones are doing well, but Nokia has only a small market share in a fast-growing market. If we were applying this to the Boston Matrix, Nokia's smartphones would probably be considered to be "problem children" or "question marks".
What about Nokia's feature phones. A falling market share (once the market leader) but in a low-growth market. That looks like a "Dog" in the Boston Matrix - or at least on the way to becoming a dog (maybe a puppy?).
Sony has sold part of its heritage and culture as part of Kazou Hirai's dramatic turnaround strategy with the sale and leaseback of one of its main buildings in Tokyo for 111.1 billion yen (£794m)
According to Sony's official press release regarding the property sale:
"Sony is transforming its business portfolio and reorganizing its assets in an effort to strengthen its corporate structure. This sale was conducted as a part of this reorganization."
This isn't the first time that Sony has opted for the use of sale and leaseback as a way of raising finance. in January 2013 Sony raised $1.1bn from the sale and leaseback of its corporate headquarters in New York.
The asset sales are designed to generate cash and repay Sony's high debts, which in turn are part of a major restructuring programme introduced by Hirai. He came into the job in Spring 2012 stating that "Sony must change: Sony will change".
A thought-provoking video from CNN here in which the interviewee (Adam Lashinsky from Fortune Magazine) explains how he sees the role of secrecy in the organisational culture of Apple. Of course, we have to take what he says with a pinch of salt - how well-informed is the journalist?read more...»
For students researching BUSS4 the arrival of a new CEO at a large, well-known business is great news!
Whether the candidate is an internal or external appointment (itself an interesting angle), the new CEO will undoubtedly generate lots of coverage in the business media as she/he takes charge. Just as inevitably, the new CEO will instigate a strategic review designed to analyse and evaluate the strategic position of the business and the options for change.read more...»
Do I sense a few green shoots emerging from Finland - the home of Nokia which recently lost its position as the world's largest maker of mobile phones (a position it had held for 14 years).
Readers of the business blog will be familiar with the story of Nokia in recent times. The arrival of a new CEO Stephen Elop and his famous "burning platform" speech which set out this new strategic direction for Nokia. We've documented the resulting strategy of retrenchment which led to the loss of 000's of jobs at Nokia around the world and Elop's decision to enter into a strategic partnership with Microsoft as he chose Windows 8 as the mobile operating system ("ecosystem") for Nokia's new range of smartphones.
2012 was a pretty bad year for Nokia in total. However, there is is some evidence that the launch of the Lumia smartphones may have heralded a change in fortunes for the business. The Guardian reports here about very strong sales for the Lumia phone over the crucial Christmas trading period. And in the short video interview with Stephen Elop below, you can sense the emergence of a quiet confidence that things might be getting better.read more...»
Sony is one of our favourite case study businesses and fantastic source of research insights for A2 students wanting to improve their understanding of business strategy. So we were pleased to spot this short video from the FT which evaluates the potential success of Sony's new smartphone - a so-called "super smartphone". Given that Sony only has a single digit market share in the smart phone market, can this new product provide Sony with something which will compete with Apple and Samsung?read more...»
Followers of the Business Blog and attendees at our BUSS4 revision workshops will know that we're big fans of Sony as a case study in business strategy. And this resource - an interview by BusinessWeek with Sony's CEO Kazou Hirai - provides another useful addition to the research resources which students ought to use if they want to develop their understanding of the strategic challenges facing Sony and the options Hirai is choosing.read more...»
Most businesses aim to grow - but not all succeed - and many are forced to reduce the scale and scope of their business activities as a deliberate act of strategy. This is known as “retrenchment” and A2 students should have an understanding of some examples of retrenchment in action. Which firms / brands were involved? What happened? And why? Here are some suggestions that students could add to their notes:read more...»
This is a good example of significant cost synergies being squeezed from a major takeover. Google, which acquired Motorola Mobility (a manufacturer of mobile phones) for $12.5bn, has decided to make 20% of Motorola’s workforce redundant. That’s around 4,000 employees who will lose their jobs.read more...»
When a global brand is forced to cut the selling price of its flagship product by 50% just three months after launch, you just know something is badly wrong!
That is what Nokia has done in the crucual US smartphone market. The price of the Lumia 900 Windows Phone (first released in April 2012) has been cut from $99 to $49.99.read more...»
A fascinating article here from Business Week which explains how Sony - struggling to build a tiny market share in smart phones - has used product placement to promote its product range (and block Apple) in the latest Spiderman blockbuster.read more...»
The appointment of a new CEO often arises when a business wants and/or needs to achieve a significant change in performance and strategic direction. Students writing about key topics such as leadership, internal causes of change, culture and strategic decision-making need to have some real-life examples in mind when they write their exam answers. This research buster will provide a series of examples of firms which had opted to seek new leadership as part of a strategic change programme. We’ll add additional examples and update relevant resource links as often as we can.read more...»
Starbucks has just made its largest-ever acquisition, paying $100m for San Francisco-based Bay Bread. The acquisition is part of Starbuck’s strategy of diversifying its product offering and boosting the importance of food at its 17,400 outlets worldwide.read more...»
A useful piece here in Forbes India Magazine about the impending launch of Starbucks in India. Looks like the first Starbucks outlets will open in Autumn 2012, a little behind schedule - but a significant event nonetheless.
We reported earlier on Starbucks’ chosen method of market entry in India - a joint venture with Tata Beverages.
In January 2012, Starbucks announced its objective to open 50 outlets in India by the end of 2012, through a 50-50 joint venture with Tata Global Beverages. The two partners will initially invest a total of $80million to establish the business.
The Forbes article emphasises the role of choosing the right locations for the first stores. Mumbai looks like the first choice and it sounds like prominent positions in mainly business districts are being sought, as well as in well-established shopping malls, alongside other well-known brands such as Hermes, Calvin Klein and Zara.
A simply fascinating piece of analysis by the respected Asymco website here which breaks down the costs of each individual element of what goes into an iPhone. Has there ever been a better example of added value to show students - though they may be somewhat surprised by how much contribution is made on each iPhone shipped!read more...»
A good article here which analyses the strategic challenges facing Sony and its new CEO Kazou Hirai.
As we’ve reported recently on the Blog, Sony is now undertaking a significant retrenchment strategy, including the loss of over 10,000 jobs (or 6 per cent of its global workforce) over the next 12 months. That sounds a lot, although it ought to be put in some context - Nokia has made over 30,000 job losses since Stephen Elop began his retrenchment strategy!read more...»
Our final business studies revision clinic takes place on Monday evening at 9pm - focusing on AQA BUSS4. Please login using your Facebook or Twitter account to participate. A full transcript of the session will be available on this blog entry once the clinic has finished.read more...»
Students can be forgiven for over-researching takeovers and mergers for Section A - an inevitable response given the nature of pre-release materials. However, it is important to remember that the Section B essay has exactly the same number of marks (40) as Section A. An essay of the same quality is required and it is important that students do it justice. Time management in particular is crucial - the Section B essay mustn’t be rushed.
Arguably, Section B can be harder for students because they are unlikely to have covered the remaining specification (i.e. everything other than M&A) to the same degree and their research evidence for Section B might feel a bit “thinner”!
Question-spotting is never to be recommended. However, for Section B, I do feel that students might usefully focus on a smaller number of core topics which can be relatively easily linked together in a logical chain of argument, and for which relevant research is readily available.read more...»
The problems facing Stephen Elop at Nokia just seem to get worse. His retrenchment strategy has been notched up another level with the announcement this morning of 10,000 further job losses (that’s about one fifth of the total at Nokia, excluding those who work at the joint venture with Siemens AG). Will this latest, dramatic move be enough to ensure Nokia’s survival?read more...»
Takeovers and mergers: Every merger deal that has ever occurred (explained in fewer than 1000 words)
With just two weeks to go before you wrestle with the BUSS4 paper no doubt you will be feeling somewhat saturated by the volume of information you are attempting to absorb as your revision peaks (or starts!)
It is my experience of this time of year that BUSS4 students run the risk of becoming so obsessed with remembering specific content (e.g. data & stats) that they neglect the context, and often very simple underlying principles, that explain the rationale behind business activity. Understanding why businesses choose to merge is vitally important as it is their specific motives which drive the actions that they take and the decisions that they make.
Thus, if you can appreciate the motives behind a merger I believe you are halfway towards making sense of any question that section A throws your way on the day of the exam. Understanding the reasons why businesses make the strategic choice to merge should be the starting point for any answer. Crack this and you have a great chance of picking up the bulk of the marks. “It can’t be that easy I hear you say?” The answer to your question is “yes it is” and I’m about to make it a whole lot easier!read more...»
As you have doubtless been told numerous times, success in BUSS4 depends on having carried out your own research - this year, with a particular focus on mergers and acquisitions. Did you realise you cannot get a good grade in the first part WITHOUT explicitly using your research in your response?read more...»
The topic of emerging markets is hugely important for BUSS4 students. The economic growth and large populations of the ‘BRIC’ nations (amongst others) has meant many businesses, including some of the tutor2u twelve: have been targeting these countries as part of their strategies for growth. Examples include Starbucks who plan to have 1,500 coffee shops in China by 2015, and Apple as their Shanghai store sells more iPhones per square foot than any other Apple store in the world.read more...»
A fascinating and detailed look here at working conditions at Apple’s main supplier in China. This 15 minute video raises a lot of issues which students can develop; particularly useful for any discussion around CSR, but also excellent for operations and HRM. In the video, ABC News Nightline goes behind the scenes of the FoxConn factory - the operation which makes iPads and iPhones.read more...»
Nokia has just announced some very poor financial results for the first three months of 2012, raising concerns that Stephen Elop’s turnaround strategy for the once market-leading mobile phone producer may be running into further trouble.read more...»
I like this short article from Channel 4 News which examines how Nokia’s competitive position has been severely weakened by the success of firms like Apple and Nokia.read more...»
A great example here of the role of competition legislation and regulation here - which involves everyone’s favourite A2 case study - Apple…read more...»
Just catching up on some research on Starbucks and I came across this nice short interview with Kris Engskov who has recently taken over as Managing Director of Starbucks UK…read more...»
The revenues achieved in 2011 by RIM, the owner of BlackBerry, fell by 25% compared with 2010. It looks like customers have fallen out of love with BlackBerry. Apple, HTC, Samsung and other operator have grabbed a large share of BlackBerry’s customer base, so it must be that BlackBerry has seen its competitiveness deteriorate.
This excellent video from the FT examines some key strategic issues facing Rim and its BlackBerry brand. Could the business be a takeover target now that the firm is trying to achieve a turnaround? But, if so, who would want to buy it? Can new product development save BlackBerry before it loses further market share in key markets like the US? A fantastic lesson resource for A2 students…read more...»
At our A2 Business revision workshops in March we predicted that Sony would quickly become an essential research case study for students in 2012 and perhaps beyond, as we anticipated the strategic review being carried out by Hirai Kazou as he took over as CEO of Sony from Sir Howard Stringer. Events over recent days have supported that view. Sony’s plight - and proposed turnaround strategy - is packed full with fantastic business strategy materials. Perfect for comparing and contrasting with the likes of Apple, Samsung, Google & HTC.
Hirai’s announcement has been well covered in all the business media, particularly the online business television channels. Here is a selection of clips which help explain the strategy and also provide some examples of experts analysing and evaluating the likely success of the turnaround:
Update: BBC news, May 2012: Sony shares tumble to 31-year low amid record lossesread more...»
Tuning into the news last week I was not surprised to see the Met Police once again under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-17636776). Described as suffering from ‘institutional racism’ by the MacPherson Report in 1999 it appears not a lot has changed at the Met police in the almost 20 years since the racially motivated murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence. So what exactly is going on?read more...»
A great article here for students researching the competitive environment in the consumer electronics industry. Students should certainly be familiar with the strategies of Apple, Samsung, Nokia, Sony and others. But have they heard of Huawei? It looks like they might soon, if Huawei is successful in its objective of grabbing a significant share of the smartphone and tablet markets.read more...»
Is this a good move by Google-owned YouTube? Well it might be - particularly for school or college IT technicians who still block student and teacher access to the treasure trove of educational materials contained on YouTube. However, the school librarian might end up a little annoyed with the regularly deliveries of new YouTube DVDs that are offered as part of the new service…read more...»
A great example to use here which combines takeovers/mergers and also Ansoff’s Matrix. Starbucks has used a recent takeover as the platform for the launch of a new store concept which it hopes will generate sales and profit growth outside of the core coffee market.read more...»
We’re now into our AQA BUSS2 and BUSS4 revision workshop tour and it’s really encouraging how many students and teachers are including Twitter as part of the their revision and teaching support package. The BUSS4 hashtag (#buss4) is well worth following so that you can see new resources being shared by the AQA business community. It’s also a great way for students to ask short questions or request help as they embark on their research activities. Here is the link to the hashtag and also to our tutor2u twitter account which features BUSS4 postings on a daily basis.read more...»