Business Strategy Monday: Microsoft and Lemons

Today’s

Vocabulary

(1) Commodity: A product like sugar or oil. All sellers have exactly the same product.

The price of commodities is a good indicator of the overall economy.

(2) To bundle: To sell one or more products together.

In the 1990s, companies had to bundle Microsoft Windows with their computers. Otherwise, no one would buy them.

(3) Network effects: The ways things change when many people use the same thing

Network effects are the main reason Facebook is so popular. Everyone uses it, so you use it too.

Today’s

Questions

1. Which part of a computer was a commodity in the 1990s?

a. The hardware

b. The software

c. The retail store

2. After initial development costs, how much did it cost Microsoft to continue producing Windows?

a. It varied greatly by country

b. Almost nothing. Copying software is free

c. Nearly 50% of their operating budget

3. How did Apple’s strategy differ from Microsoft’s?

a. They only sold software

b. They only sold hardware

c. They bundled hardware and software

7 ________________________

BUSINESS STRATEGY MONDAY

________________________

Cartoon by XKCD.com

By Jeremy Schaar

Imagine this situation. You want to sell lemonade. You need sugar and lemons. Lots of people sell sugar, so the price of sugar goes down. But only one person sells lemons, so the price of lemons goes up.

Today on the blog you’ll learn about Microsoft. You’ll learn the strategy that made them so successful. In the process, you’ll learn some great strategy vocabulary and be better able to discuss the strategy at your company.

Why was Microsoft was so successful in the 1990s? Because Microsoft was a lemon seller. They understood that the hardware of a computer was a commodity. The software, however, depended on network effects. It meant that the makers of computer hardware would have many competitors. But the makers of the software would have no competitors.

In the 1980s it wasn’t clear if Microsoft or Apple would win the computer wars. Apple had a different strategy. They bundled their software and hardware. The result was that if you bought a Macintosh computer, then you used Macintosh software. If you bought almost any other computer, you used Microsoft software. Because it was hard to learn new software and easy to share information if everyone was using the same software, Microsoft dominated.

And that was great for Microsoft. If you wanted to sell a computer, you needed Microsoft. Customers wouldn’t buy computers without it. This let Microsoft demand very high prices.

In addition, Microsoft was able to make an infinite number of copies of their product at almost no cost. Microsoft has had piracy problems over the years, but the ability to copy their software has basically been a huge competitive advantage.

So, what’s changed? I’ll answer that question next week on the blog.

In the meantime, think about your company. Do you sell lemons or sugar? Do your customers demand your product or is it easy for them to choose something else? Is there any way for you to use network effects to make your product more valuable?

Got questions or comments? How about practicing some new vocabulary and posting your thoughts on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter?

CHECK YOUR ANSWERS!

Answers To Today’s Questions

A, B, C

——————————————

You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Free Form Friday: Finding Resources

Today’s

Vocabulary

(1) Resource: A useful thing

The consulting group has many resources for helping companies succeed.

(2) Trade Show: An event where people in a specific industry meet to show their products

The trade show is a great opportunity for us to meet potential buyers.

(3) Supply Chain: The movement of stuff from the start to the consumer

Our supply chain begins in China and ends right here in New York City.

Today’s

Questions

1. How can you use LinkedIn?

a. To find a job

b. To find an employee

c. A and B

2. Why should you join groups on LinkedIn?

a. To network

b. To see discussions about your industry that will help you learn

c. A and B

3. How can you easily find blogs about your industry?

a. Search on Google

b. Go to company sites

c. Look for links from your country sites

7 ________________________

Free Form Friday

________________________

By Jeremy Schaar

The hardest thing about studying Business English is that most Business English lessons have nothing to do with your job. It’s just general English. It might be helpful, but not really. The English you need for your job is different. So, how can you get better? Fortunately, there are many resources online that can help you. Today, you’ll learn about some different ways to study English that will really help you. I’ll share two resources and give an example for a specific industry.

LinkedIn

You probably know about LinkedIn. If you’re not a member, you should join now. You create a profile that’s like a resume. It’s great for searching for new jobs or finding new employees. But, it’s so much more. It’s an excellent place to study English. You can find a group that’s about your industry. After you join the group, you’ll receive emails from the group. You’ll see lots of great discussions.

Reading is the best way to improve your English. This is a great resource for reading about your industry. You’ll find the vocabulary and grammar that you need. And if you have problems, you can ask the people in the group to explain things to you. It’s also a great way to network.

I have some students in the Trade Show industry, so I joined a Trade Show group. Here’s an example of an email I got. (Click on it to make it bigger.)

Trade Show News Group

Blogs

Blogs are a second great resource and finding them is easy. Just do a Google search for [your industry]+blogs. You’ll find a lot of great reading material.

Some more of my students are in the supply chain industry, so I like to read supply chain blogs. Here’s a link for a ton of great supply chain blogs.

Kinaxis Blogs

Learning English can be hard. You’ll need specific language for your industry. LinkedIn and blogs are a great place to start.

And, by the way, if you have trouble understanding the blogs or LinkedIn groups, send me a message. I’ll be happy to help with lessons.

As always, if you have any questions, please post them on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

CHECK YOUR ANSWERS!

Answers To Today’s Questions

C, C, A

——————————————

You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Writing Great Emails: Useful Phrases #1

Today’s

Vocabulary

(1) Extension: When you get more time to do something

We got an extension to finish because the raw materials arrived so late.

(2) Fast-paced: Moving quickly, with lots of things happening

Working on a television show is a very fast-paced environment. We’re always really busy.

(3) To avoid: To try not to do or see something

She’s been avoiding me all week. Do you think she’s angry with me?

Today’s

Questions

1. Which is NOT a way to use I’m good?

a. To say you’re satisfied

b. To say you’re free

c. To say you’re excited

2. Why would you say maybe that would be best?

a. You’re unsure what is best

b. You’re angry and want to delay

c. You want to accept but you feel bad

3. In the last example, why does the person feel bad?

a. The person is being unreasonable

b. He doesn’t feel bad

c. He’s late with a proposal

7________________________

Writing Great Emails

________________________

En-velop_bleu By Jeremy Schaar

This week on the blog I’ll introduce two useful phrases. You’ll learn what they mean and read a few examples of how you might use them.

1. I’m good

This means I’m OK or I’m satisfied. We can use it in a few different ways. One is to say that a time period will be OK.

Q: When are you available for a meeting?

A: I’m good after 3pm.

This means that before 3pm you’re busy. But after 3pm you have time and can meet.

Q: Do you need more evidence?

A: No, I’m good. We can move on.

In this case, I’m good means that you’re satisfied.

In either situation I’m good is very casual and direct. You can use it in fast-paced conversations, but should avoid it when you want to be more formal.

2. Maybe that would be best

This is a very polite way of accepting a suggestion.

Q: I think Susan has really done a bad job. Should we fire her?

A: Maybe that would be best.

We use maybe that would be best when, for some reason, an idea feels bad, but we want to do it anyway. In this case, the person doesn’t want to fire Susan, but thinks it’s necessary.

That’s a very serious example, but maybe that would be best can be used in less serious situations. For instance:

Q: You were supposed to email me the proposal yesterday, but I still haven’t received it. Would you like to change the deadline and send it to me next week?

A: Maybe that would be best.

In this case, the person feels bad because he missed the deadline. He’s ashamed, but he accepts the generous extension.

Want more practice? Got questions? Comment on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

CHECK YOUR ANSWERS!

Answers To Today’s Questions

C, C, C

——————————————

You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Business Strategy Monday: SWOT Analysis

Today’s

Vocabulary

(1) Customer base: The people who might buy your product

Restaurants have a huge customer base, but also huge competition.

(2) Breakthrough: A sudden advance

The world really needs a breakthrough in battery technology. .

(3) Product line: A company’s list of products

Apple has a small line of products, but each one is excellent.

Today’s

Questions

1. Which of these might be a strength?

a. Many suppliers

b. Low entry barriers

c. Economic recession

2. Which of these might be a threat?

a. Many suppliers

b. Low entry barriers

c. Economic recession

3. Which of these might be a weakness?

a. Many suppliers

b. Low entry barriers

c. Economic recession

7 ________________________

BUSINESS STRATEGY MONDAY

________________________

By Jeremy Schaar

Before a company can begin any strategy, they should understand their industry. The most popular way to do this is to create a SWOT. SWOT stands for: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Today on the blog, you’ll learn what a SWOT is and how to create one for your industry. You’ll learn the vocabulary associated with making a SWOT and be better prepared to discuss your industry in English.

SWOT charts are often created for specific companies, but this post is about industries. It’s important to understand your own company, but you should always begin by understanding your industry.

Strengths

These are the things that are good for your industry.

Examples of Strengths: large customer base, high margins, many suppliers, few competitors, high barriers to entry

Weaknesses

These are the things that make life hard in your industry

Examples of Weaknesses: low switching costs for customers, intense competition, few barriers to entry, high production costs

Opportunities

These are things that might help your industry improve in the future. They’re like future strengths.

Examples of Opportunities: Potential markets, technology breakthroughs, expanding the product line, expanding the customer base

Threats

Threats are like future weaknesses. They’re the things that might make life in your industry harder in the future.

Examples of Threats: fewer entry barriers, political problems, more powerful suppliers,

Here are two simple SWOT charts

Car Industry SWOT

 

Restaurant Industry SWOT

So, can you think of additional items for these industries? Leave your ideas in the comments.

Got questions or comments? How about practicing some new vocabulary and posting your thoughts on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter?

CHECK YOUR ANSWERS!

Answers To Today’s Questions

A, C, B

——————————————

You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Writing Great Emails–Causative Have

Today’s

Vocabulary

(1) To rephrase: To say something in a different way

I don’t understand your English. Could you rephrase that sentence?

(2) To cause: To make something happen

When the CEO suddenly retired, it caused stock prices to fall dramatically.

(3) To take responsibility: To accept that you’re in charge of something

I can’t take responsibility for the sales in Japan and China. I need to focus on one market.

Today’s

Questions

1. What is the grammatical form of causative have?

a. Subject + have + object + past participle of the verb

b. Indirect subject + have + past participle of the verb

c. Subject + have + object

2. Which sentence has a mistake?

a. I’m having you all fired!

b. I’ll have you all fired!

c. I had you all fire!

3. What’s one good use of causative have?

a. For making the subject clear

b. For when the actor doesn’t matter

c. For when someone caused someone else to act

7________________________

Writing Great Emails

________________________

En-velop_bleu By Jeremy Schaar

I had my car stolen.

I had my hair cut.

He’s having his shoes shined.

She had the tumor removed.

What do all these sentences have in common? It’s some high level grammar that you may not use in your emails, but which is very useful. Today, you’ll learn about something called “causative have” and how you can use it to make your emails stronger.

Let’s start by rephrasing the sentences from above to make sure you understand them.

I had my car stolen = Someone stole my car.

I had my hair cut = Someone cut my hair.

He’s having his shoes shined. = Someone is shining his shoes.

She had the tumor removed. = A doctor removed the tumor.

In English, you should usually use the main actor of a sentence as the subject. For example, “Mike read the book.” is better than “The book was read by Mike.”

Mike does the action (reading) so he comes at the beginning of the sentence and is followed by a clear verb.

But sometimes the actor doesn’t matter. In those cases, we often use the passive voice and also often delete the actor.

For example, we might say, “The report was written on Tuesday.” We don’t care who wrote it. The report is what’s important.

So what’s causative have and why is it useful? Imagine a situation where it’s important for someone to be the subject of the sentence, but they don’t do the important action. Instead, they cause the action in some way. In that case, we want to hide the actor, but we don’t want to put the object at the start.

For instance, if Mike’s car is stolen, it’s important that the sentence start with Mike. He’s the most important. We also care about the car. However, we don’t know who stole it, so we say:

Mike had his car stolen!

Crimes are a common use for causative have. Another is with services.

I had my nails done.

We don’t care who the nail technician was. You and your nails are the important things. But note that you cause the action. You went to the nail salon and paid for the service. You caused your nails to be done.

Now let’s look at some business examples:

Situation: Mike is writing. He told someone to change the time for the deadline. What’s important is that he acted and that the deadline has changed. He can say:

I had the deadline pushed back to give us some more time.

Situation: Karen is writing. She told Bill to write a report, but she wants to take responsibility.

I had the report written up. Bill will give it to us later.

Want more practice? Got questions? Comment on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

CHECK YOUR ANSWERS!

Answers To Today’s Questions

A, C, C

——————————————

You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

« Previous Entries Next Entries »