Online business blogging

The Grocery Industry Confronts a New Problem: Only 10% of Americans Love Cooking
The supermarket and grocery business is likely to suffer strong headwinds in the future, due to long-term shifts in consumer behavior. Although many people don’t realize it yet, grocery shopping and cooking are in a long-term decline. They are shifting from a mass category, based on a daily activity, to a niche activity that a few people do only some of the time. I’ve spent two decades consulting extensively for consumer packaged goods companies. Early in my career I gathered some data for a client on cooking. This research found that consumers fell in [...]
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Prioritize Your Opportunities with This Checklist
Photo by Cris Dinoto How do you evaluate a business opportunity? The world is replete with SWOT mechanisms for evaluating a prospective new product offering, as well as with opportunity assessment templates for evaluating a project against overall business goals, customer impact, strategic potential, and competitive urgency. These instruments play a vital role in acquisitions, new products and features, and even the new divisions of business you’d like to deploy. But how do you evaluate the myriad smaller opportunities you come across every day? Should you speak at that event? Aut [...]
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Equifax and Why It’s So Hard to Sue a Company for Losing Your Personal Information
After years of screaming headlines about data breaches, we all know the drill. A major company announces it has been hacked, a brief public outcry ensues, and then… not much happens. Down the road you might read about a government inquiry or a class-action suit being settled. People have become numb to these announcements. We assume our personal information has been compromised in some way, take reasonable precautions like canceling a credit card or instituting credit monitoring, and move on with our lives. The Equifax breach is different. It isn’t the largest (that would be the 20 [...]
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Do Tech Companies Really Need All That User Data?
Paul Garbett for HBR The online economy — from search to email to social media — is built in large part on the fact that consumers are willing to give away their data in exchange for products that are free and easy to use. The assumption behind this trade-off is that without giving up all that data, those products either couldn’t be so good or would have to come at a cost. But a new working paper, released this week by Lesley Chiou of Occidental College and Catherine Tucker of MIT, suggests that the trade-off may not always be necessary. By studying the [...]
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Toys ‘R’ Us Might Be Dying, but Physical Retail Isn’t
The recent bankruptcy filing at Toys “R” Us has roiled the toy industry. Yet the struggles at the company are not new. The firm was taken private in a $6.6 billion leveraged private equity buyout in 2005, with the aim of turning the chain around, but the resulting debt has proved to be unserviceable. The news is part of a larger trend of closings that some are calling the retail apocalypse. The rise of e-commerce, combined with a shift in consumer preference toward dining out over shopping and with years of overbuilding, has made for distinctly unattractive economics in tradit [...]
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Equifax, the Credit Reporting Industry, and What Congress Should Do Next
Even for the experts, the recent data breach at Equifax was staggering. The data that undergirds the credit records of 143 million consumers was compromised. Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and drivers’ license records are used to authenticate identity. It is not difficult to change a credit card number, but changing Social Security numbers and birth dates is a whole different matter. Data breaches are on the rise in the United States. It’s time for Congress to act. Why does this require action by Congress? There are at least five major reasons that the private s [...]
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What I Learned About Coaching After Losing the Ability to Speak
Marion Barraud for HBR I was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2001. By 2003 I could no longer speak intelligibly or walk, and any muscle control became more difficult as the disease progressed. I knew I couldn’t keep facilitating team meetings and giving strategy presentations — staples of the consulting services I had provided for many years. But I still loved my work and needed to stay active, and my clients were open to trying a new approach, so I began managing my coaching relationships exclusively through written dialogue in instant messages, emails, a [...]
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The Most Overused Negotiating Tactic Is Threatening to Walk Away
Professional negotiators and researchers alike hail the BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement, or “walk away” outcome) as a negotiator’s primary source of relative power. But relying on even the best of alternatives as leverage can be tricky business. Your relative power in a negotiation is your capacity to use resources to influence another’s circumstances; and a BATNA’s role in that regard can range anywhere from significant to non-existent. Consider the obvious challenge of a negotiator who thinks she has a very strong alternative, but discovers tha [...]
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Starting a Business Can Increase Older Workers’ Quality of Life (Even When It Doesn’t Pay Well)
Photo by Roman Kraft As a result of declining birth rates and increasing life expectancy, the average age of the global population is increasing. This demographic trend has important implications for the labor market. Aging individuals are not always able to find satisfactory outlets for their abilities. Moreover, finding sufficient funds to maintain the current level of pension and health-care benefits is a major concern for many countries. To investigate these issues, we looked at a group of late-career workers who chose to work for themselves or start small companies instead of retiring o [...]
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The 5 Skills Employers Seek in Today’s Digital Economy – SPONSOR CONTENT FROM HBX
Leading scholar Ernie Wilson on the surprising skills that employers look for when hiring and promoting employees. The global economic landscape is perpetually evolving, and companies are adjusting their hiring practices to better fit their needs. Are they searching for more engineers, data scientists, writers, or MBAs? According to research conducted by Ernie Wilson, Dean of the Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California, companies today are on the hunt for individuals who excel in soft skills; he calls these individuals “Third Space th [...]
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We Shouldn’t Always Need a “Business Case” to Do the Right Thing
I’ve been a consultant for almost 20 years, advising companies on complex challenges in ethics, risk, and responsibility. Each year several clients raise the same issue: the need to get buy-in from a skeptical senior executive in order to demonstrate a concrete benefit that will follow a proposed investment in an ethical business initiative or function. The executive needs a business case. And so I get asked questions like “What evidence can I provide that doing the right thing will make or save a company money?” and “How can I persuade the organization that embrac [...]
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Should Employers Fire Employees Who Attend White Supremacist Rallies?
In the aftermath of the recent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a social media campaign began circulating pictures of protestors in Nazi and Confederate regalia, asking the public to match names to the faces. As the protestors were identified, attention turned to their employers. These employers were faced with a question they probably never anticipated having to answer: Should we fire people who have been exposed as white supremacists? Some said “yes.” But if (or more likely, when) more rallies occur, should other employers follow [...]
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