Lecture 1. Basics
History of the firm
Its current top management team
Main shareholders. Ownership concentration
Primary business model for the firm (How does the firm make most of its money?).
Search for a vision, mission statement, and statement of values for your chosen firm.
Identify the major goals of the company.
Major company goals are quite often available through the annual reports that each public firm must file with the SEC (free at
Trace any changes in strategy that you can identify over time.
Lecture 2. External Analysis
Apply the PESTEL framework to identify which factors may be the most important in your industry. What will be the effect on your industry?
Apply the five forces model to your industry. What does this model tell you about the nature of competition in the industry?
Identify any strategic groups that might exist in the industry. How does the intensity of competition differ across the strategic groups you have identified?
How dynamic is the industry in which your company is based? Is there evidence that industry structure is reshaping competition, or has done so in the recent past?
Identify, whether there has been periods in which a company has been cooperating with firms that has been previous competitors and/or they will be future competitors. Explain the logic of cooperation/ competition.
If there has not been situations of coopetition. Could you propose a potential coopetition with one of the competitors of the firm you are analyzing
Lecture 3. Internal analysis
List the tangible and intangible assets
Tangible Assets: Property, Plant, Equipment, etc.
Intangible: Brand, Knowledge, Stocks, etc.
Use the VRIO framework to identify the competitive position held by your firm. Which, if any, of these resources are helpful in sustaining the firm’s competitive advantage?
Identify the core competencies that are at the heart of the firm’s competitive advantage. (Remember, a firm will have only one, or at most a few, core competencies, by definition.)
Perform a SWOT analysis for your firm. Remember that strengths and weaknesses (S, W) are internal to the firm, and opportunities and threats (O, T) are external.
How dynamic is the industry in which your company is based? Is there evidence that the industry structure is reshaping competition, or has done so in the recent past?
Lecture 4. Competitive Advantage
Based on information in the annual reports or that published on the firm’s website, summarize what the firm views as the reasons for its successes (either past or expected in the future). Search for both quantitative and qualitative success factors provided in the report.
Does the firm seem most focused on the economic, accounting, or shareholder perspective of its competitive advantage? Give quotes or information from these sources to support your view.
Compute the Altman Zscore and the Interest Coverage ratio. Investigate on the web, how to do this. Do you think that the firm is a good financial strength?
Many firms are now including annual corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports on their websites. See whether your firm does so. If not, are there other indications of a triple-bottom-line approach, including social and ecological elements in the firm’s strategies?
Lecture 5. Business Level Strategies
Study the business strategy of the firm
Does your selected business have differentiated products or services? If so, what is the basis for this differentiation from the competition?
Does your firm have a cost-leadership position in this business? If so, can you identify which cost drivers it uses effectively to hold this position?
Financial analysis of the focal firm and key competitors is the clearest way to determine if the firm has cost leadership.
What is your firm’s approach to the market? If it segments the market, identify the scope of competition it is using.
Note: The market scope should be taken relative to the competitors in the industry of focus. For example, in the furniture industry IKEA is primarily appealing to college-aged consumers and young families just starting out, and has a narrower approach than other retailers such as Ashley Furniture or La-Z-Boy.
What suggestions do you have to improve the firm’s business strategy and strategic position?
Lectures 6. Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Where is your firm’s industry on the life cycle? What are the strategic implications?
What is the firm’s innovation strategy? Does it rely on incremental or radical innovations? Disruptive or architectural? What are the competitive implications of the firm’s innovation strategies?
Are intellectual property rights important for your firm? Can you find what strategies the firm is implementing to protect its proprietary position? Identify a recent innovation by your firm. What is your firm’s strategy to cross the chasm(s) to achieve mass market adoption of their innovation?
How does your firm organize for innovation? Does it use a closed or an open innovation approach? Is its current approach working out well, or does it need changing? If yes, how?
Has the innovation productivity been rising or falling? How has the firm performed on this measure versus rivals? Does the firm have a practice, like Google or 3M, of allowing employees some free time to work on projects of their choice?
Where does the firm do its research: a separate lab to develop a separate creative culture or integrated with manufacturing and engineering, a lab located in a knowledge cluster or near headquarters, at several locations around the globe (close to customers), or only in the headquarters company
Lecture 7. Corporate Level Strategies
Is your firm highly vertically integrated? If yes, does it also employ taper integration?
Are any of the vertical value chain operations off-shored? If so, list some of the pros and cons of having this part of the value chain outside the home country.
Use the preceding vertical value chain to identify the corporate strategy of the firm. In other words, where within the industry has the firm chosen to compete? Based on where it competes, describe what you now see as its corporate strategy.
In which segments is your company competing? Is it related or unrelated diversification?
In Lecture 1, you were asked to identify the mission and major goals for your selected company. Go back to that information now and compare the mission and goals to what you have found as the corporate strategy.
Are the mission, goal, and corporate strategy in alignment?
Do you see any holes or conflicts among these three elements?
Can you relate the performance of the firm to this finding in any way? (If all three are consistent, is this a well-performing unit?) If there is a conflict between the corporate strategy and the mission, does this lack of alignment contribute to performance problems? Why or why not?
Lecture 8. Corporate Strategies using Alliances and M&As
Use the Build/Borrow/Buy scheme (see above) to identify a strategic resource gap to study about the firm. Use the related questions to guide your thinking on the appropriate corporate strategy (build, borrow, or buy) to employ to close this gap and move the company forward.
Research what strategic alliances your firm has entered in the past three years. If there are several of these, choose the three you identify as the most important for further analysis. Based on company press releases and business journal reports for each alliance, what do you find to be the main reason the firm entered these alliances?
Do you think each of the three alliances achieves the original intent, and therefore is successful? Why or why not?
Has your firm participated in any mergers or acquisitions in the past three years? What was the nature of these actions? Did they result in a consolidation of competitors?
Lecture 9. Global Strategies
If your firm is already engaged in international activities, answer the following questions:
In which countries your company is operating? Are there culturally distant countries compared to the home country of the multinational? Use the Hofstede approach
Consider the Diamond’s Porter National Competitive Advantage and determine whether the sectors in which the company is competing have a competitive advantage in the home country.
Is your company varying its product or service to adapt to differences in countries? Is the marketing approach different among the nations involved? Should it be? Is your firm working internationally to access larger markets? To gain low-cost input factors? To develop new competencies?
Which of the four global strategies is the firm using? Is this the best strategy for it to use? Why or why not?
Evaluate the firm’s past or future entry strategies
If your firm is not now engaged internationally, answer the following questions:
Would your firm’s product or service need to be modified or marketed differently if it expanded beyond the home country? Does your firm have the potential to access larger markets by expanding internationally? Does it have the possibility of lowering input factors with such expansion? Please explain why or why not.
Lecture 10. Organizational Design
What is the structure of your organization? Do you find a trend toward either the mechanistic or organic organization?
From your knowledge of the firm, identify a major strategic change the firm should seriously consider. Briefly describe what the goal of the initiative is for the organization.
What type of culture characterizes your organization?
Work your way through the six stages (see below) answering as many of the questions as you can for the proposed strategic change. As you develop the project plans with specifics for each of the stages, the plan should provide flexibility, allowing for unexpected contingencies
Lecture 11: Corporate Governance and Ethics
Find a list of the members of the board of directors for your firm. How large is the board? How many independent (non-employee) members are on the board? Are any women or minorities on the board? Is the CEO also the chair of the board?
Who are the largest stockholders of your firm? Is there a high degree of employee ownership of the stock?
In reviewing press releases and news articles about your firm over the past year, can you find examples of any actions the firm has taken that, though legal, may be ethically questionable?
You have now completed 12 Lectures about your selected firm. You know a lot about its mission, strategies, competitive advantage, and organization. Is this a company you would like to work for? If you had $1,000 to invest in a firm, would you invest it in the stock of this firm? Why or why not?