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As Gold Prices Heat Up, Miners Play It Cool Haunted by their overexpansion during the last gold boom, mining companies are shunning spending and taking a more conservative approach. Protesters Face Off With Police at Hong Kong Malls as Unrest Persists A peaceful rally at a major suburban shopping mall turned into a battle scene Sunday, after riot police showed up and protesters built barricades and lighted fires. Fannie, Freddie Poised to Keep Profits in an Initial Privatization Move Mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are expected to start keeping their earnings as early as this week, pausing a yearslong arrangement in which they handed nearly all of their profits to the Treasury Department.
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Pace of Growth Slowed for U. Household Net Worth in Second Quarter. Oversight in Fatal Crash Report. Deere Turns to U. Hyundai was the only car company with positive sales growth in This approach is perfectly valid for Spain, where consumers have discovered and continue to discover low-cost offers in areas such as tourism, hospitality and, more important, daily purchases and groceries, leading to significant increases in the market share of those products that carry house brands.
UK W : What other assessments or diagnoses should be carried out before setting up an action plan within the company? Hermann Simon : First and foremost, a company should avoid big mistakes. In good times, such mistakes may be forgiven, but during and after the crisis, they can be fatal. Among the most dangerous mistakes are lax liquidity management — cash is king during the crisis — taking hasty action without understanding the situation, and massive price cuts. In spite of the pressure, a careful evaluation of actions is required. Of the 33 quick solutions I suggest in the book, not all of them are suitable for each company, situation and industry.
Due to the pressures of time, quick methods for analysis and decision are required, and I describe such methods in detail in the book. UK W : Faced with a collapse in profits due to the lack of consumer confidence, companies have no choice but to cut costs. What are your recommendations for companies concerning how to reduce costs without damaging the company in the long term?
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Hermann Simon : Cost-cutting has to be the top priority in the crisis. The key is to lower costs intelligently and flexibly, thus minimizing negative long-term repercussions. Economizing and boosting productivity are ongoing management responsibilities. The severity of the crisis and its aftermath makes these tasks even more important, and the necessary cost cuts significantly exceed previous proportions.
Many companies will continue to be unable to avoid radical measures such as mass layoffs and factory closures.
A trivial point, but one that should still be mentioned and kept in mind: steep cost curves — that is, high variable unit costs — are advantageous in the crisis. High fixed costs, on the other hand, can be fatal. This enables savings that are not only more socially acceptable, but also less harmful in the long term from a strategic perspective. This type of flexible approach requires that employers, employees and unions be willing to cooperate undogmatically. Companies must take care not to save in the wrong places.
The lawnmower method may be effective with regard to implementation, but the risk of doing away with valuable activities is high. Selective approaches are superior, even during a crisis. Balancing short-term savings and long-term effects always remains difficult. It is generally inadvisable to cut back on expenditures that have a quick and quantifiable positive impact on sales and profits. However, even on the cost side, control is not complete. Cutbacks always affect people, be it employees or suppliers.
UK W : You offer 33 quick solutions, and you divide them into subsets: those that help change customer needs; those that are for sales and the sales force; those that manage offers and prices; and those that are for service-oriented companies. Which moves do you consider most crucial in each of these areas? Hermann Simon : First, I advise avoiding the most frequent and most dangerous mistake, which is to cut prices prematurely and too strongly. Companies do this to stabilize sales volume and employment. The reason is that consumers react less to price cuts, as outlined above. In addition, there is one big danger: competitive reaction.
In the worst case, prices are down and sales volumes remain low. Even in markets that were considered inelastic, companies slashed prices. Recent figures from Spanish companies — for example, the tourism and retailing sectors — show that these activities helped contaminate company results and profits much more than mere volume cutbacks would have. Instead of cutting prices, companies should reduce volume and capacity. The French Champagne producers have done this with great success.
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This is the most important action on the supply and price side. With regard to customer behavior, you have to deal with the increased fears and risk perception of your customers.
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Extended guarantees like the one given by Hyundai are an effective means to overcome fear of buying. This can include success-dependent fees, barter trade, or totally new business models where the vendor takes on a higher part of the business risk. On the sales side, you should increase the performance of your sales force. Special incentives are an effective way to achieve this.
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