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Rethinking Retirement

21 Mar

Retirement to most people today means the end of working a job and living off of portfolio income (401k), a pension and social security. This concept, which is fairly new, is already obsolete. To understand this let’s examine its origins and progression.

Traditionally, in early America (from its founding until the mid 1880’s), when a family member was too old or physically unable to work, the other members of the extended family took care of him. However, four important demographic changes happened in America beginning in the mid-1880s that rendered the traditional systems of economic security obsolete: The Industrial Revolution, rapid urbanization, the disappearance of the extended family and a marked increase in life expectancy.

The Industrial Revolution transformed the majority of working people from self-employed agricultural workers into wage earners working for large industrial corporations. This meant mass migrations to urban centers where the work was to be found. In the crowded urban environments, family sizes were forced to get smaller. The cost of housing, clothing and feeding an extended family (grandparents, parents and children) was undoable in the new economy. This fostered the creation of the “nuclear family” (parents and children only) which most of us are accustomed to seeing today.

The final significant change happened in the early decades of the 20th century. Better health care, sanitation, and the development of public health programs, led Americans to live significantly longer. Between 1900 and 1930, average life spans increased by 10 years. This was the most rapid increase in life spans in recorded human history.

The net result of these historical demographic and social changes was that the traditional strategies for the providing for those no longer able to work quickly dissolved.

The decade of the 1930s found America facing the worst economic crisis in its modern history. Millions of people were unemployed, and the majority of the elderly lived in dependency. The traditional sources of economic security: assets, labor, family, and charity had all failed. Radical calls for action were being made by the public. President Franklin Roosevelt responded by signing into law The Social Security Act on August 14, 1935 to pay retired workers age 65 or older a continuing income after retirement.

Fast forward to today… Four major demographic changes have made that system obsolete as we emerge from the second worst economic crisis in US history. Change from the Industrial Age to the new Innovation Age, globalization, further dissolving of the nuclear family, and another marked increase in life expectancy.

The loss of manufacturing jobs, the increase of exportation of jobs, and importation of goods from the global economy has changed the face of the job market forever. Companies no longer promise work until retirement and a pension plan for your twilight years. Nuclear families have gotten even smaller and young people are more detached from their parents as this society celebrates individuality and independence over cooperative living. Finally, as medical technology improves, people are now outliving the age for which social security, their pensions and portfolios were designed to last.

The solution… the whole concept of retirement should be reevaluated. You only retire from a job (earned income) – especially a job you don’t enjoy. There is no retirement from passive income sources. With passive income sources that pay dividends (real estate, securities and business ownership), you work hard to acquire the asset and then it continues to pay you continuously until the market changes and it can no longer provide positive cash flow. You don’t retire; you simply shift your resources into a new cash producing asset.

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2012 Assessments for Recession Driven Riches

30 Dec

This article is an excerpt from the book, Recession Driven Riches by Heru Ur Nekhet, national Renowned Rags to Riches Guru.

Chapter 5
Make An Honest Assessment Without Judgment

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.”
-Will Rogers

“Don’t succumb to excuses. Go back to the job of making the corrections and forming habits that will make your goal possible.”
-Vince Lombardi

Despite the appearance of wealth created by the mass accumulation of material goods during the last boom (homes, cars, electronics, clothes, etc.), most Americans got into the habit of living on borrowed money. Still in denial and oftentimes overwhelmed by the gravity of their financial situation, the majority of those people now find themselves deep in debt with no feasible plan to get their heads back above water. Proper realignment requires you to perform an honest assessment of your current skills, confidence, resources, mental and physical health, time management, asset values, and soundness of potential business ventures or investments. It is easy to minimize or exaggerate your financial situation if you are judgmental about how you got into the situation.

In order to effectively create a plan of action to fix your current situation, you have to know exactly how much income you have from all sources (job, investments, business, etc.) as well as exactly how much money is being spent in that same amount of time. It sounds simple, however most people never take an accurate accounting of how much money passes through their hands each month or year. Be careful not to overlook any income or expense no matter how small it might seem. Even the small expenses add up over time. If you don’t want to use the old fashion pencil and paper method to create a balance sheet, you can use an online expense tracking website such as Wesabe.com or Mint.com.

It is important that you also check the current value of any assets that you currently own. These assets include your home value, investment property value, securities (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, IRAs, etc.) and any other holdings you might have. Oftentimes we invest in assets and just forget about monitoring them to make sure they are still worth keeping. For real estate values you can check propertyshark.com or zillow.com. For securities you can check morningstar.com to see if they are profitable. For other assets such as gold or silver you can go to goldprice.org, but for collectables you should get a professional appraisal.

How do you know if an asset is worth keeping? The answer is simple, if it is currently performing at a rate of return that meets your current needs, then it is worth keeping. If it is no longer performing to your standard and the prospect of a turn around is not imminent, then cut your losses and get rid of it. Let’s start with your home. If your current home value is less than the purchase price, then you are paying on a mortgage for the next few decades far more than the price will ever be again. You are financing something that will probably never be worth what you are paying. This raises a couple of issues. First, it will never gain equity so you cannot borrow against it. Second, you will never be able to sell it and recoup the money you put into it. If you have no desire to ever borrow against it (refinance) or to sell it, and you have no desire to take advantage of the fact that you can now get more home for less than what you are currently paying, then you don’t have to do anything. Enjoy your overpriced home.

After taking an assessment of your current assets, you must seriously evaluate what resources you currently have to work with. These resources might include cash reserves, creditworthiness, insurance, professional advisors (accountant, broker, financial consultant, attorney, etc.), support from family or friends, knowledge, skills, etc. If you find that you are lacking necessary resources, then part of your realignment plan must include gathering needed resources.

Some Things to Assess

  • Debts – credit cards, loans, mortgages, etc.

  • Investments – real estate, stocks, bonds, IRA, TDA, 401(K), bank account, Certificate of Deposit (CD), gold, collectibles, etc.

  • Asset Values – real estate equity, gold appreciation, stock prices, collectible value, etc.

  • Income Sources – job, business ownership, dividends, rental income, etc.

  • Relationships – partnerships, family, friends, dependants, etc. Are they supportive or detrimental?

  • Skills – relevance and market value of skills, obsolescence of skills, etc.

  • Resources – time, cash flow, credit, partnerships, professional team, etc.

  • Expenses (liabilities) – basic living expenses, appropriateness of expenses, where and how to minimize expenses, etc.

  • Insurance – appropriateness of coverage, lack of coverage, excessive coverage, cost of coverage, etc.

  • Taxes – appropriate shelters, deductions, structure, etc.

  • Information Sources –news sources, opportunities, networking events, clubs, organizations, advisors, mentors, etc.

Get You Copy of Recession Driven Riches Now at http://www.recessiondrivenriches.com/

Twitter Redesigns Its Site

12 Dec

DECEMBER 9, 2011

By AMIR EFRATI

Twitter Inc. on Thursday announced a redesign of the micro-blogging service and new features to help widen its appeal.

In the biggest announcement since Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s creator, returned to the company as an executive in March, the company said that when people first sign up to use the service, Twitter will help them discover information that might interest them, based on their location and other signals.

“It’s not just a visual redesign but a conceptual redesign to make Twitter more accessible to the next billion users,” said Satya Patel, a Twitter senior executive, at an event inside the San Francisco-based company’s future headquarters in an Art Deco building in a blighted neighborhood here.

The redesign, which will roll out globally over the next few weeks, will add a section to every Twitter user’s account called “Stories” that shows them content on Twitter they may find interesting. “It’s the first step to start to surface all the rich content that’s pouring into the platform for people who are experiencing it for the first time,” Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said.

Twitter announced a redesign of the micro-blogging service and new features to help widen its appeal, Amir Efrati reports on The News Hub. Photo: AFP / Getty Images.

Twitter, which lets people broadcast messages called “tweets” of up to 140 characters in length, is attempting to become an online-advertising powerhouse but still faces challenges including the perception that many people don’t understand how to use the service, which includes symbols such as “@” and “#,” and don’t know what kind of information they can view on it. People use Twitter to keep up with the latest news about everything from technology and politics to transportation delays and promotions by big retailers.

The company recently said more than 100 million people actively use Twitter. The majority of its accounts are based overseas, the company has said.

In August the company raised money at a valuation of more than $8 billion and now has more than 700 employees, who will move into the new headquarters in mid-2012. Its fledgling online-ad business is expected to generate around $145 million this year, according to research firm eMarketer, as brands such as Starbucks Corp., luxury-brand giant LVMH and others dip their toes into Twitter’s ad products, which aims to target ads based on people’s personal interests. That revenue figure is up from $45 million last year.

Mr. Dorsey, who was Twitter’s first chief executive and has long been chairman of its board, said that, on average, between 3% to 5% of people interact with, or “engage,” with ads they see on Twitter. That figure is higher than many other forms of online advertising.

Bloomberg NewsExecutive Jack Dorsey, in New York this year, oversees Twitter’s look.

The five-year-old Twitter is competing with other social media companies such as social network Facebook Inc. for the attention of marketers. Mr. Costolo said Thursday that the company is testing a long-awaited “self-serve” system that lets anyone buy ads on Twitter, similar to the kind of system that propelled Google Inc.’s growth, and that it would become available more broadly next year.

Twitter on Thursday also announced that brands such as American Express and organizations such as the American Red Cross will soon be able to customize their publicly-viewable Twitter pages to have more control of how they look.

The company has leased 220,000 square feet in its future headquarters, a space that “holds thousands of people,” Mr. Costolo said.

Alicia Keys Gets In A Global State of Mind

28 Nov

By Christopher John Farley
Alicia Keys proclaimed that she was in an “Empire State of Mind” in her hit anthem with rapper Jay-Z. But recently, her outlook has been more global.

Keys, a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, is the co-founder of Keep a Child Alive, a nonprofit that offers support to children and families affected by HIV and AIDS in Africa and India. The native New Yorker is featured in a new documentary called “Keep a Child Alive with Alicia Keys” for which she took five young Americans on a tour of places in South Africa that have been hit hard by HIV and AIDS. The documentary airs on Showtime on Dec. 1.

Keys also produced and wrote music for the new Broadway play “Stick Fly,” which tells the story of a wealthy African-American family on Martha’s Vineyard. The show opens Dec. 8. “It’s totally life,” she says about the production, which is not a musical but features her music between scenes. “And so the music will assist—I hope—in that energy and the emotion that you’ll get from seeing the show. I’m excited. I can’t wait for people to see it.”

Speakeasy talked to Keys about her most recent work.

In order to win a trip with you to South Africa as you filmed your documentary, people texted you words that they associate with the country. When you think of South Africa, what words come to your mind?

When I think of South Africa, I really think of…I guess I can only say one word, but the word that comes to mind is inspiration. The people that I meet, they are the most powerful people I’ve ever met. I’ve met kids who are 14, 15 years old who have lost everything but are still figuring out ways to care for a younger brother or a way to keep a roof over their heads or put food in their mouths, or figure out a way to still go to school which is so hard when you have to be the adult, the parent, the breadwinner, the caretaker. I feel like that’s so inspiring to see how strong the spirit of a human being can be, how much gratitude there can be for the simple things in life.

Have your experiences in Africa had an effect on your songwriting?

If affects me very deeply, and I have definitely always wanted to do a conceptual album, like my version of [Marvin Gaye’s 1971 album] “What’s Going On.” Those kinds of albums can be brilliant, but they’re not easy to do at all. Because there’s a particular way they need to be done so the audience feels the emotion of it as opposed to feeling like someone is telling you something you already know. I would really like to figure out my version of that.

There’s a striking moment in the documentary where children in South Africa who have been sexually assaulted write about the abuse on the body parts of a stuffed bear. When you first saw that, what were your emotions?

Operation Bobbi Bear is an incredible organization that was started by women that saw this large problem happening in their area and wanted to do something about it. Keep a Child Alive helps to fund NGOs like that who are on the ground, know exactly what is happening in their community, and refuse to let it go on any longer. And so Bobbi Bear saw that there were these young children who had lost parents to AIDS being raped, and would often times end up infected because there’s this terrible myth [in parts of Africa] that if you have sex with a virgin that you’ll be cured…The first time I saw the bear was when you saw it on the show. I was pregnant. You see that the bear represents the child’s emotions and what they went through during the assault. I felt so angry at anyone who had ever touched a child like that. The evidence is right there, and they’ve been able to put away a lot of offenders with it.

Young, jobless and dangerous

6 Sep
Sept. 6, 2011, 12:00 a.m. EDT

Why the young jobless will ruin your portfolio

Commentary: Wealth is frozen between idle generations

 By David Weidner, MarketWatch

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) – Happy Idle Labor Day.

For most Americans yesterday was a day to exhale. Not only do they have jobs, they had reason to celebrate: a paid day off.

But for more than 14 million Americans, Monday was just another day in the soul-crushing reality of unemployment. If you add in the truly despondent, the people who have simply quit looking for work, the number is roughly 23 million.

Jobs data spells bad news

Market Beat’s Mark Gongloff explains the disappointing jobs report numbers and how this will affect our economy, in the Markets Hub.

This is a national tragedy. Hardest hit are the Americans who can least afford to be out of work. The recession has hit minorities hard. The unemployment rate is 16.7% among blacks and 11.3% among hispanics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the work force is actually growing and yet more able-bodied and able-minded workers have nothing to do.

But there’s a bigger trend we should be worried about. What jobs exist are held by older Americans. The unemployment rate for teenagers is 25.4%. For younger workers aged 20 to 24, it’s 14.8%. Compare that to the 55-or-older category which is at 6.6% and hasn’t topped 7.5% since the recession began.

At this rate, the post-Baby Boom generations won’t need Social Security. After all, you need a job in order to contribute to payroll taxes and earn a return for retirement.

In other words, today’s younger Americans are bearing the brunt of the recession. But not only that, the economic slump is stealing important work experience from generations X, Y and the millennials.

In addition, now comes a troubling poll by Inc./WomanTrend that shows the financial and psychological toll this recession has taken on young Americans.

• More than a quarter, 27%, are delaying going back to school or getting more training.

• 28% are delaying saving for retirement.

• More than one out of five, 23%, are delaying starting a family and 18% are putting off getting married.

• And don’t expect younger Americans to bail out their parent’s housing mess. Nearly half, 44%, say they’re going to delay buying a home.

The upshot of the study, which included a margin of error of plus or minus 4%, is that the younger end of the work force is stalled — in numbers that suggest that even those who have jobs aren’t optimistic.

This should be raising alarm bells in Washington and on Wall Street too. It’s not only a matter of national policy, it’s an economic one. The leading edge of the Baby Boom is retiring this year. That means the primary holders of stocks and bonds and other securities will need to sell those securities for income.

Without a flourishing younger America, those securities aren’t going to have willing buyers. It’s a death spiral of market economics.

That means we’re all going to get poorer: young people with no money, older Americans with a bunch of securities they can’t sell. It’s going to get worse over time.

That is, of course, if recent trends hold up. As mentioned, more older Americans — those 55 or older — are working relative to other generations. Fearful of not being able to make ends meet in their golden years, they’re not letting go of their jobs.

By holding on, of course, they’re not passing the baton to younger Americans. So you can see the cycle: Older people keep working. More younger Americans are unemployed. The wealth is hoarded by the old folks. The wealth diminishes in value without anyone (younger Americans) to whom they can sell it.

That’s why we need a broad systemic fix to the system that focuses on getting younger Americans back or into the work force. Tax incentives for hiring younger workers is one obvious way. Government-sponsored work programs to build infrastructure is another.

Government and big business aren’t going to solve all of our problems. We need to ask younger and older Americans to accept less, be more entrepreneurial, be more resourceful. Both generations seem to be in a funk. Both are so worried about the future, they’re paralyzed.

And this is the real tragedy, one we don’t talk about. We’re all afraid. The problem is we’re not doing anything about it. Young people aren’t taking risks. Older people aren’t passing on the wealth.

When you’re stuck in idle, you’re not going to get anywhere.

David Weidner covers Wall Street for MarketWatch.

How to rescue the housing market: Foreclosures!

1 Sep

By Tami Luhby August 31, 2011: 5:27 AM ET

Delaying foreclosures is hurting the housing market, experts said.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — If the Obama administration really wants to save the housing market, it should speed up the foreclosure process — not prolong the inevitable, experts say.

Four years into the housing crisis, the real estate market is still teetering on the edge. The Obama administration has tried one program after another to stem the tide of foreclosures with limited success. And it is continuing to look for ways “to ease the burden on struggling homeowners,” though no new initiative is imminent, the White House said this week.

But some housing experts argue that the administration should go in a different direction than it has in the past. Instead, they say it’s time to focus on pushing many of those delinquent borrowers through the foreclosure process and putting foreclosed properties back into use.

While some of the 2.2 million loans in foreclosure can still be saved, many are too far gone, they say. Some 37% have not made a payment in more than two years, while another 34% have not made a payment in 12 to 23 months, according to Lender Processing Services.

“Loans enter into foreclosure, but never come out,” said Thomas Lawler, founder of Lawler Economic & Housing Consulting. “If this keeps going on, you have a continual overhang that never goes away.”

Delaying foreclosure increases the percentage of homeowners who’ll likely never catch up, Lawler said. In 2009, only 6% of delinquent borrowers were more than two years behind. And it means vacant properties still in limbo could fall even further into disrepair, hurting the value of the surrounding housing market.

Lawler is not the first to warn about the consequences of slowing the foreclosure process. Since the housing crisis began, several experts cautioned that foreclosure prevention efforts may only prolong the pain.

Accelerating foreclosures is tricky, however, especially since it is largely the purview of the states. But the administration could work with state officials to speed the process, especially on vacant homes, he said.

The push would come at a time when many mortgage servicers have slowed foreclosure efforts as they resolve shoddy paperwork practices. Foreclosure filings in July dropped to their lowest level since November 2007, due to processing delays and foreclosure prevention measures, according to RealtyTrac.

Getting rid of the glut

Another key to helping the housing market is facilitating the resale of homes that have already been foreclosed upon, experts said. This glut of vacant properties will continue to weigh on home values until they are sold.

“They can’t be a glacier hanging over the market with everyone waiting for it to fall,” said Jim Gaines, research economist at The Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. “Those properties have to clear the market.”

A first step could be to sell off the foreclosed properties owned by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration. Collectively, they own 248,000 homes, about 31% of the foreclosure inventory.

The administration and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are already looking for ways to unload these foreclosed homes. Earlier this month, they put out a request for ideas, including possible bulk sales of inventory. Also, they are interested in turning many of these properties into affordable rentals, which are sorely lacking in many communities. Experts interviewed agree this would be a good move for the market.

To entice investors to purchase these homes, as well as other foreclosed properties owned by banks, the administration could advocate for changes to the tax code, Gaines said. For instance, more favorable capital gains or depreciation rules could attract buyers.
The case against foreclosure

Of course, not everyone agrees that pushing people through the foreclosure process is the best solution to the housing crisis.

David Min, associate director for financial markets policy at the Center for American Progress, argues that there are many homeowners who can be saved if their payments can be adjusted to affordable levels or if some of their principal is forgiven. This particularly applies to those who are only a few months behind.

Foreclosure is very costly for servicers, homeowners and neighborhoods, he said.

“There are a lot of other options that make more sense” than foreclosure, Min said. “It’s just so destructive to value. We should be pulling every lever we can.”

Mediation, for instance, could help some homeowners avoid foreclosure, he said. Some 23 states and the District of Columbia currently have programs that require mortgage servicers to sit down with borrowers and discuss the homeowners’ options, though many began only in the last year. More than 70% of mediations end in a settlement, often restructuring the mortgage to a sustainable level, according to the center.

Helping those still current with their payments can also give the housing market — and the economy — a lift, albeit a somewhat marginal one, experts said.

For instance, the administration could revamp its refinancing program aimed at allowing underwater homeowners to take advantage of today’s lower interest rates. Improvements could include reducing some of the upfront costs and underwriting requirements.

Lowering borrowers’ monthly payments would give people more money to spend. And, for those on the edge, it could make it more likely that they will stay in their homes.

“It would be helpful to some borrowers with high rates,” Lawler said.

High Performance … How Companies Can Stay Ahead of the S-Curve

24 Aug

Successful firms don’t just go from good to great, they do it again and again by managing in tandem today’s business and tomorrow’s

by Catherine Bolgar

What beats the taste of success? Tasting it over and over.

A company finds a winner with a product. It takes off, then gains momentum. Sometimes companies make the ride up last longer by introducing spin-offs or entering new markets.

Unfortunately, at some point, sales level off: markets become saturated, competitors launch even better products and tastes move on. The overall sales trajectory, therefore, resembles an S.

High-performance businesses—the ones that consistently lead their industries over many business cycles—jump from one S-curve to another again and again. How they do that is the subject of a new book, “Jumping the S-Curve: How to Beat the Growth Cycle, Get on Top, and Stay There,” by Paul Nunes and Tim Breene, leaders of the High Performance Business Research program at Accenture, the global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. The program was born in 2003 to determine exactly how some companies become high performers, through good times and bad, while others lag behind or fail.

Mr. Nunes and Mr. Breene directed the analysis of the performance of more than 800 companies around the world in dozens of sectors, most over a 10-year span. They identified key differences in the companies that successfully make the jump, versus those that peak, then stall and decline. According to Accenture’s research, high performers:

resolve the conflicting needs of today and tomorrow—trading some of today’s performance for tomorrow’s gain
build a hothouse of talent to nurture employees, which then attracts more people with skills and vision, ultimately creating a talent surplus
change top management while business is still thriving
pursue “big-enough” market insights—ones based on changes in the marketplace that are certain to occur—and sure to shake up the competitive landscape
refuse to scale up for scale’s sake and actively manage the downsides of scale at every turn

The challenge is difficult. The research showed that companies that failed “were not illogical,” says Mr. Breene, the former chief strategy and corporate development officer of Accenture. “They acted reasonably. You can look at why the things they did each year seemed to be the strategically correct response at the time.”
Today and Tomorrow

High-performance businesses juggle the contradictory needs of the present and the future. “While the core part of the business might be working to eliminate failure and error, you have to have parts of the business where intelligent failure is accepted. Failure allows you to get insights and innovations and breakthroughs,” Mr. Breene says.

High performers fix what doesn’t seem to be broken yet. The ride up the S-curve can be exhilarating, but high performers don’t just revel in the success. They use it to prepare for their next act, and they actively manage the cresting of their S-curves.

Companies can try to predict when they will reach the revenue peak on their current S-curve by gauging and forecasting market saturation. But there’s always the danger that disruption will strike—a competitor unveils a new product, or technology makes a leap forward—and the curve’s life will be shortened.

Incremental innovations are useful for extending an S-curve and bringing in revenue to fund the next S, but high performers are “remarkably committed to breakthrough innovation,” Mr. Breene says. “They have market-changing ambition. They look farther out. They are happy working on seven-to-10-year time frames.”

High-performance businesses take a long-term view for talent, too. They understand that it’s not enough to “optimize” the workforce. That’s why they turn themselves into hothouses of talent, where they can give people room to grow. They glean insights from employees at all levels and they give them stretch assignments to learn new skills.

“High performers have much deeper planning and talent-management systems,” says Mr. Nunes, the executive director of research at the Accenture Institute for High Performance.

UPS has long been a “hothouse.” For example, it has a tradition of promoting people from within, says Kurt Kuehn, chief financial officer at the Atlanta-based logistics company who himself started as a holiday-season driver more than 30 years ago. “Because we do focus so much on employees as lifetime assets, we have this incredible residual base of talented people”—what Mr. Nunes and Mr. Breene refer to as a “talent surplus.”

A talent surplus makes a company blossom with innovation and creativity. Employees are not just responding to the challenges of the moment but are thinking about how the company can do something better or new.

“As we create a new S-curve, we need an infusion of new talent,” says Mr. Kuehn. “We mix maybe two parts old skills and one part new skills.”

High-performance businesses like UPS become magnets for “serious talent.”
New Strategy—New Leadership

High performers also constantly groom and challenge the upper ranks to prepare new teams to take over when new strategies require. That means not just the CEO but the entire C-suite.

“In order for the company to evolve ahead of the curve, the top team has to evolve first,” Mr. Nunes says.

UPS has transformed itself through many S-curves. Founded in 1907 as a messenger service in Seattle, it began serving more kinds of businesses, then spread geographically, then added air services, international deliveries and logistics.

UPS’s chief executives have had tenures in the four-to-seven-year range—close to the typical S-curve cycle. There’s no bell that rings when a CEO’s time is up, but since the company’s CEO comes from within, he already has been implementing his vision and strategy even before taking the helm, according to Mr. Kuehn.
Early but Not Too

While high-performance businesses think big, they aren’t always first with an idea. Zenith successfully moved from one S-curve—in radio—to another—in TV—but stumbled as it focused on high-definition TV in the 1980s, well ahead of the market.

By contrast, Porsche of Germany was far from first to market a sport-utility vehicle. Porsche tailored its Cayenne to its customer base, offering a unique SUV, rather than a me-too vehicle. It gained traction gradually—the 911 sports car line remained the best-seller during the Cayenne’s first year. Eventually the Cayenne became the company’s top seller—Porsche took its time to get everything right before scaling up.

The secret at the core of high-performance businesses’ successful market moves, however, is something the authors call a “big-enough market insight,” or BEMI. High performers put wind in the sails of their strategies by moving in alignment with a major market shift. Zenith’s insight was perhaps too big and too soon. Porsche’s insight was recognizing that demographic shifts meant growing demand for SUVs was more than a fad, and that a portion of that fast-growing market would favor a company that could deliver in an SUV everything a sports car lover would want.

High-performance businesses go to extraordinary lengths to understand their customers. Procter & Gamble even sends researchers to live with customers to observe how they use products and to reveal unmet needs.

While tending to core businesses, high performers also prepare for their next S-curve with an “edge-centric” strategy. That is, they pick up insights from looking at the periphery of market evolution and customer demand, often by keeping better tabs on what is happening on the periphery of their own organization.

“While it can look like you’re taking your eye off the ball, moving off into uncharted territory, actually you’re keeping your eye on the ball by searching where the best ideas are most likely to be found,” says Mr. Nunes.

Accenture’s Mr. Nunes and Mr. Breene also point out that size doesn’t correlate with success. In picking out companies that maintained high performance over the long term, they noticed that the winners were often midsize contenders in their fields.

“As you scale, it gets more difficult to sustain the characteristics of high performance,” Mr. Breene explains. “You get more complexity and that leads to a tendency toward process, policy and rules. The emphasis shifts toward incremental innovation. The vitality that made the business great in the first place begins to die as it becomes more like a machine and less like a living organism.”

Adds Mr. Nunes: “Everybody wants growth, but scaling, size and complexity tend to drive out headroom. You need headroom to jump the S-curve.”

For more information:
Accenture
WSJ.com

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