Over the course of the semester, you will do research (i.e. collect data) on a firm of your choice. You will analyze the internal, external, and strategic factors of your chosen firm and write a 15 – 20 page paper discussing your findings. Format and content requirements are below.
A Note on Firm Selection: Many students do not take firm selection seriously and then struggle throughout the semester because their firm is too big, too small, data is not available, etc. In the past, most individuals that ended up with a low project grade attributed it to poor firm selection. Take firm selection seriously. Some tips on firm selection include:
- Make sure the firm is publicly traded.
- Make sure the firm is a member of a well-defined industry
- g. General Electric is difficult to categorize into a single industry, so it would be challenging to identify GE’s competitors.
- New firms and non-diversified firms are poor choices
- Make sure that you understand the products of the firm.
I suggest that you skim chapters 8 – 11 of your textbook to get a sense of the strategic issues that are relevant for selecting an appropriate firm for this project. The issues boil down to: vertical and horizontal integration, outsourcing, diversification, mergers and acquisitions, corporate venturing, international expansion, alliances/joint ventures and corporate governance. Before you select a firm, make sure that it has encountered at least one of these strategic issues in the past, and should grapple with at least one of them in the future. You may not choose any firm that is the subject of one of the course cases. Also, if you have trouble choosing a company, I have a list of companies that are appropriate for this assignment.
You will need to email me a listing of your top 3 choices of firms (in order of preference) to analyze along with a short paragraph on the reasons why you want to study each of these firms by September 10th at 11:59PM. I will then assign you a company based on your choices. Please be advised that you may not receive your top choice, and that your reasons for choosing each company will play a role in my decision of assigning companies.
The project has 3 deliverables in addition to the firm selection sheet described above:
- Intro and SWOT analysis (Due on October 6th at 11:59PM– upload to BB)
- Presentations (Due on November 29th, December 1st, and 6th in class )
- Final report (Due on November 29th at 9:30 AM – Upload to BB)
- The report MUST be typed and submitted via BlackBoard. I will not accept hand written reports.
- Times New Roman 12 pt. font with 2.0 line spacing
- Use subheadings (sections) to enhance clarity and readability
- Ensure that the use of concepts from the course is explicit and appropriate
- Use only one term per concept or issue (e.g. if you use the word “company” do not interchange it throughout the paper with “firm” or “organization”)
- Be concise – avoid passive voice and long sentences
- Emphasize the evidence and build on it – eliminate unfounded speculation and opinion
- Narrative form should be used. Tables can be utilized in an Appendix for necessary facts.
- APA style should be used.
- Remember if you paraphrase information – source it. If you are copying word for word from your source – put quotes around the section then source it.
- PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD!!! Excessive grammatical errors will hurt your grade!
Introduction to your firm:
- Should describe the firm size (in sales, assets, or employees), age, market share in US, and CEO. These statistics should be from 2015 or 2016.
- Briefly discuss and summarize financials. Compare 5 year stock chart to S&P 500
- Briefly touch on history of firm
- Describe the mission and vision statements (use quotes and cite appropriately if quoting these statements. Also, a description should follow if quoting)
- Describe the firm’s global position (how many countries does it operate in? in which country does it have a large presence? Etc…)
- Briefly identify and define the industry.
- Which firms are in it? What do they do? What are their market shares, profit figures, size, etc.? How have these figures been changing over the past decade? Be sure to provide demand statistics and industry structure. Provide a sense of the industrial setting.
- Discuss at least two of Porter’s 5 forces. State whether the force is weak or strong, and how it is influencing industry profitability. Provide support for your arguments.
- Discuss at least one macroenvironmental trend that is effecting industry profitability.
- Describe your company’s opportunities and threats. USE SEPARATE SECTIONS (one for opportunities, and one for threats).
- Remember, this is the industry analysis. I should be able to read this section without knowing which firm you are covering.
- Identify your firm’s resources, capabilities, and distinctive competencies.
- Discuss one of the competitive advantage building blocks that your firm concentrates on, and how that fits into the firm’s value chain.
- Describe your company’s strengths and weaknesses. USE SEPARATE SECTIONS (one for strengths, and one for weaknesses). Do not be one sided in your report! Weaknesses may not be obvious, so do some serious research.
Strategic Action and Corporate Level Strategy:
- Discuss the firm’s portfolio of businesses and illustrate how the firm creates (or attempts to create) value with its corporate-level strategy.
- Then, provide an in-depth discussion of one or two recent corporate-level strategic actions. Peruse Chapters 9-10 and focus on one or two of the strategies covered therein. Do NOT attempt to address all the topics covered in the course or all the strategic actions the firm has taken. What I am looking for is not breadth but rather depth. Provide a list of the things that the company has done, and then pick something that is typical of the methods this firm uses for expanding its portfolio of businesses. For example, you may discuss an acquisition, a joint venture, an international expansion, or restructuring.
- Discuss the pros and cons of these actions – did they create value? Why or why not? Provide suggestions on how these actions could have been better handled. Conclude with your educated assessment of the appropriateness of the firm’s current corporate-level strategy. Remember to use facts (i.e. data) in support of your arguments throughout.
Recommendations to the CEO:
- Look to the future and offer your assessment of where the firm should go from here. In the first section, you identified the key success factors in this industry, and in the next two sections, you analyzed the firm’s current strategic positions – now extrapolate (based on appropriate facts & concepts) and suggest what future strategic actions the firm should take so that it is positioned to possess and maintain these key success factors.
- Your recommendations should “follow” from the preceding analysis such that it should help the firm exploit the opportunities or eliminate the threats that you have identified. Your recommendations should also be in line with the firm’s strengths and weaknesses such that they should leverage the firm’s strengths or compensate for the weaknesses that you have identified previously.
- Stay away from basic marketing suggestions, such as “Improve your reputation” or “Advertise more” or “Offer better customer service”, etc. Also, avoid discussions of minor tactical moves. Instead, suggest strategic actions such as specific countries to expand into, specific firms to acquire, etc. For example, if a firm repackages a product, changes prices, adds a new feature, etc., these are generally not major strategic actions. Instead, these are considered tactical actions – smaller actions that adjust a current strategy. While these types of adjustments are important, they’re simply not what we’re focusing on in this class. We’re focusing on strategic moves – moves that are much larger and significant in scope. For example, if a fast food company like Burger King sees a trend toward low-carb eating, that company may add a new item to its menu. That’s a tactical move. What you want to focus on in your report is something more along the lines of Burger King buying the Atkins company, or forming an alliance with Atkins, or expanding into other countries without a low-carb trend. You do NOT want to simply recommend that Burger King increase its advertising or start a new campaign to emphasize its low-carb options; sure, that’s part of it, but not our focus here.
- Whatever your recommendations, summarize the reasoning behind each recommendation, and then explain what the effects of implementing this recommendation are likely to be. What are the risks involved with implementing your recommendations? What are some issues that may make it difficult to implement? Bolster your arguments with strategy concepts and empirical facts—this is where most students struggle.