Operating Leverage


It is a financial thought quite similar to break-even analysis. Both fixed and variable costs are used in the production and marketing of products. The higher the operating leverage, the faster the speed of increase of total profits after the sales crosses the break-even volume. Likewise, those firms with high operational leverage will suffer losses at a faster rate after the sales volume drops under the break-even point.

Organizations with high operating leverage gain more from sales from organizations that have low operating leverage. Organizations with high operating leverage are more responsive to drop in sales volume, losses will occur at a faster speed.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Business Financial Strategy


Financial strategy examines the financial implications of corporate and business-level strategic options and identifies the best financial course of action. It can also provide competitive advantage through a lower cost of funds and a flexible ability to raise capital to support a business strategy. Financial strategy usually attempts to maximize the financial value of the firm.

The trade-off between advancing the desired debt-to-equity ratio and relying on internal long-term financing via cash flow is a key issue in financial strategy. Many small and medium-sized companies try to avoid all external sources of funds in order to avoid outside entanglements and to keep control of the company within the family. Many believe that only by financing through long-term debt can a corporation use financial leverage to boost earnings per share, thus raising stock price and the overall value of the company. Higher debt levels not only deter takeover by other firms (by making the company less attractive), but also leads to improved productivity and improved cash flows by forcing management to focus on core businesses.

A very popular financial strategy is the leveraged buy out—a company is acquired in a transaction financed largely by debt—usually obtained from a third party, such as an insurance company or an investment banker. Ultimately the debt is paid with money generated from the acquired company’s operations or by sales of its assets. The acquired company, in effect, pays for its own acquisition. Management of the leveraged buy out is then under tremendous pressure to keep the highly leveraged company profitable. Unfortunately the huge amount of debt on the acquired company’s books may actually cause its eventual decline by focusing management’s attention on short-term matters.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

The Human Context of Management


In addition to understanding the ongoing behavioral processes inherent in their own jobs, managers must understand the basic human element of their work. Organizational behavior offers three major perspectives for understanding this context: people as organizations, people as resources, and people as people.

Above all, organizations are people, and without people there would be no organizations. All organizations differ from each other dramatically in size, purpose, and structure, they have one thing in common: people. Thus, if managers are to understand the organizations in which they work, they must first understand the people who make up the organizations.

As resources, people are one of an organization’s most valuable assets. People create the organization, guide and direct its course, and vitalize and revitalize it. People make its decisions, solve its problems, and answer its questions. People are at the core of many of the possible contributors to this trend. To reverse declining productivity, many organizations have taken steps to boost the contribution from their human resources. Some companies have encouraged management and labor to cooperate better; others have increased employee participation in decision-making and problem-solving.

There is another perspective—people as people. People spend a large part of their lives in organizational settings, mostly as employees. They have a right to expect something in return beyond wages and employee benefits. Employees seek satisfaction, and many want the opportunity to grow and develop and to learn new skills. An understanding of organizational behavior can help managers better appreciate these needs and expectations.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Structural Unemployment


Structural unemployment refers to that unemployment caused by the restructuring of firms or by mismatch between the skills (or location) of job seekers and the requirements (or location)  of available jobs. A major cause of this type of unemployment is the decline of the manufacturing sector. Another cause is the replacement of workers by technology. Structural unemployment calls for industry retraining programs to move workers into growth industries.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Profitability Objectives


Many firms have some type of profitability objectives for their pricing strategy. Management knows that:

Profit = Revenue – Expenses

and that revenue is a result of the selling price times the quantity sold:

Total Revenue = Price x Quantity Sold

Some firms try to maximize profits by increasing their prices to the point where disproportionate decrease appears in the number of units sold. A 10 percent price hike that results in only an 8 percent volume decline increases profitability. But a 5 percent price rise that reduces the number of units sold by 6 percent is unprofitable.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

 

Product Knowledge


You have to be expert before you even start your business. The old saying, “We learn by our mistakes” will not do your business reputation any good if it applies to your lack of expertise. You have to know your products or service inside out. You may love a business for the product lines, but will your customers love the products too? When problems arise with a product, or when a customer asks technical questions, are you knowledgeable enough to resolve these problems and answer their questions competently and confidently?

One way to increase your product knowledge is to contact the manufacturers or local distributor. They are usually happy to send you product information and answer your questions. Some of the questions you should research about your product lines (or service) are these:

  • How long have these products been on the market?
  • Are they seasonal, and when do most sell?
  • How often are these products upgraded or changed?
  • Could you be caught unexpectedly with obsolete inventory?
  • What do the manufacturers’ warranties cover?
  • Are replacement parts readily available?
  • Are the products competitively priced?
  • Are buying trends increasing or decreasing?
  • Are the products high, medium, or low in quality?
  • How do the products compare to the competition?
  • What are groups do these products appeal to?
  • What is the life expectancy of the products?
  • Could the products become obsolete due to changing technology?

After these questions are answered, you may find that the business is not viable after all. The product pricing may be too high compared to the competition, or you may discover that over the previous five years, overall demand for the products is declining due to technological changes and shifts in consumer buying trends. In another five years, the demand could become substantially less. The products may appear high in quality on sight, but you may discover that they are poorly made and not something that you would feel confident selling. Perhaps the manufacturer’s guarantees are inadequate, or replacement parts are priced exorbitantly and hard to secure.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Just About Money


Strictly defined, money is anything generally accepted in exchange for goods and services. To be used as a medium of exchange, money must be acceptable, divisible, portable, stable in value, durable, and difficult to counterfeit.

Acceptability: To be effective, money must be readily acceptable for the purchase of goods and services and for the settlement of debts. Acceptability is probably the most important characteristic of money: If people do not trust the value of money, businesses will not accept it as a payment for goods and services, and consumers will have to find some other means of paying for their purchases.

Divisibility: Given the widespread use of quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies in the United States, it is no surprise that the principle of divisibility is an important one. With barter, the lack of divisibility often makes otherwise preferable trades impossible, as would be an attempt to trade a steer for a loaf of bread. For money to serve effectively as a measure of value, all items must be valued in terms of comparable units—dimes, for a piece of bubble gum, quarters for laundry machines, and dollars (or dollars and coins) for everything else.

Portability: Clearly, for money to function as a medium of exchange, it must be easily moved from one location to the next. Large colored rocks could be used as money, but you couldn’t carry them around in your wallet. Paper currency and metal coins, on the other hand, are capable of transferring vast purchasing power into small, easily carried bundles.

Stability: Money must be stable and maintain its declared face value. The principle of stability allows people who wish to postpone purchases and save their money to do so without fear that it will decline in value. Money declines its value during periods of inflation, when economic conditions cause prices to rise. Thus, the same amount of money buys fewer and fewer goods and services.

Durability: Money must be durable. The crisp new dollar bills you trade at the music store for the hottest new CD will make their way all around town for about 18 months before being replaced. Were the value of an old, faded bill to fall to line with the deterioration of its appearance, the principles of stability and universal acceptability would fail. Although metal coins, due to their much longer useful life, would appear to be an ideal form of money, paper currency is far more portable than metal because of its light weight. Today, coins are used primarily to provide divisibility.

Difficulty to Counterfeit: To remain stable and enjoy universal acceptance, it almost goes without saying that money must be very difficult to counterfeit—that is, to duplicate illegally. Every country takes steps to make counterfeiting difficult. Most use multicolored money, and many use specially watermarked papers that are virtually impossible to duplicate.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Context Learning


Companies that retain employees for new technology have an interest in minimizing the number who fail. Some companies have observed that the success of retraining is greater when trainees know beforehand what jobs they will be occupying, inside or outside the firm, and when they are familiar with the new work unit, its supervisor, and its employees. Accordingly, these companies help trainees acquire this context learning as early as possible.

For example, employees in declining jobs are told as much as possible about the new opportunities arising within the company, so that they can make informed choices. Or, retrainees are assigned to “mentors” from the work units that will employ them. Or, the retrainees’ current and future supervisors accept responsibility for monitoring their programs. Or, best of all, retrainees are transferred to their new work units either before or shortly after the start of the retraining process.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

The Product Life Cycle


Customer demands are constantly changing. There are many reasons for this, ranging from fashions to new regulations. Sometimes there are obvious patterns to demand. Another pattern comes from the product’s life cycle. Demand for just about every product follows a life cycle with five stages:

  1. Introduction. A new product appears and demand is low while people learn about it, try it and see if they like it—for example, palmtop computers and automated checkouts at supermarkets.
  2. Growth. New customers buy the product and demand rises quickly—for example, telephone banking and mobile phones.
  3. Maturity. Demand stabilizes when most people know about the product and are buying it in steady numbers—for example, color television sets and insurance.
  4. Decline. Sales fall as customers start buying new, alternative products—for example, tobacco and milk deliveries.
  5. Withdrawal. Demand declines to the point where it is no longer worth making the product—for example, black and white television sets and telegrams.

The length of the life cycle varies quite widely. Each edition of The Guardian completes its life cycle in a few hours; clothing fashions last months or even weeks; the life cycle of washing machines is several years; some basic commodities like Nescafe has stayed in the mature stage for decades.

Unfortunately, there are no reliable guidelines for the length of a cycle. Some products have an unexpectedly short life and disappear very quickly. Some products, like full cream milk stayed at the mature stage for years and then started to decline. Even similar products can have different life cycles – with Ford replacing small car models after 12 years and Honda replacing them after seven years. Some products appear to decline and then grow again—such as passenger train services which grew by 7 per cent in 1998 and cinemas where attendances fell from 1.64 billion in 1964 to 54 million in 1984, and then rose to 140 million in 1997.

One thing we can say is that product life cycles are generally getting shorter. Alvin Toffler says, ‘Fast-shifting preferences, flowing out of and interacting with high-speed technological change, not only lead to frequent changes in the popularity of products and brands, but also shorten the life-cycle of products.’

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

The Profit Economics


The following information is required, at a minimum, to understand the profit economics of a business:

  1. How many dollars of assets are committed in each stage of each product/market business (e.g., R&D, materials, plant and equipment, finished stock, post-sale support)?
  2. What is the fixed/variable cost relationship for each product/market business, that is, for each dollar of sales, how many cents are attributable to bedrock fixed costs, how many to structured or discretionary costs, and how many to out-of-pocket costs?
  3. How do costs and profit change with swings in volume?
  4. What is the break-even point at current volume and what actions could be taken to bring that break-even point down should volume potential decline?
  5. What is the rate of incremental profit on each added increment of volume? What are the volume points where new increments of structured cost must be added?

A net profit and loss statement (after all allocations) and a balance sheet for each product line are essential for generating answers to these questions. Despite their claim that “we know all that,” very few managers actually have this information readily available.

Actually, most accounting systems are not designed to provide these kinds of statements and the accountants will argue that you can’t get them because many products run over the same machines, a lot of indirect costs can’t be allocated, and so on. To which we say, baloney! Shared fixed and indirect charges often represent the most serious cost problems in business situations where a cost disadvantage exists. And they are impossible to attack in the aggregate. They must be broken down and assigned to a discrete business unit even if done arbitrarily. Then a manager with hands-on responsibility can argue about fairness and whether there is value received for the costs involved. Although this is obviously not a precise exercise, it is effective and essential. Without full cost profit and loss and balance sheet statements managers cannot really understand the profit economics of their business. Further, they can’t make the types of intelligent business decisions and plans so important in today’s environment.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Lectures, Line of Sight

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