Harvard Business Review March 2016

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United States
Harvard Business School Publishing
6 期号


making start-ups more resilient

Being a start-up isn’t easy. Sure, occasional “unicorns” such as Uber and Airbnb capture our imagination, raise huge amounts of money, and set a path for rapid growth. But most start-ups fail, even those with customers, cash, and a promising business model. In many cases they simply can’t scale. And the standard response—bringing in “grown-ups” to professionalize the organization—usually doesn’t work. This month’s Spotlight suggests better ways. In “Start-Ups That Last,” Harvard Business School’s Ranjay Gulati and coauthor Alicia DeSantola provide a framework for how start-ups can evolve. The goal isn’t just to increase capacity and efficiency, but to adapt to complexity while seeking different opportunities for growth. In “Reigniting Growth,” Bain & Company partners Chris Zook and James Allen tackle what they call “stall-out”—a sudden plunge in revenue and profit growth…


As a teenager, Ranjay Gulati worked during summers for his family’s business in India. It sold high-end women’s fashion that featured ethnic colors and patterns before they became commonplace. He watched the business grow from five employees to more than 1,000 in a very short time and then come crashing down. Despite a solid business model and increasingly eager customers, the company had failed to scale up. So his article in this issue, “Start-Ups That Last” (page 54), is a very personal one. In this issue’s Spotlight (page 53) we feature the abstract paintings of Margaret Neill, who says she is “inspired by analogies to nature... weather, music, and sound waves.” She sees her work as “a metaphysical exploration of real time space in response to velocity, momentum, and movement through…

the disruption debate

According to the article, disruptive innovations originate only in low-end or new-market footholds. Zipcar, the company I cofounded, qualifies because it launched a market for cars rented by the hour. But the authors claim Uber is not disruptive because it neither offered a low-end service nor created a new market. Using that lens, I’d agree: Uber is basically a taxi service. But the authors failed to appreciate a third possibility for disruption: the leveraging of excess capacity. Uber helped people make use of their downtime and cars they already owned. Leveraging excess capacity is disruptive. Just ask hotels how they feel about Airbnb. Or TomTom about Waze. Or Western Union about TransferWise. These efforts are part of a new collaboration in which platforms harness excess capacity and invite peers to…

winning back lost customers

If managers think about “ideal” employees before considering actual applicants, they may unintentionally discriminate against minorities. “NARROW IMAGINATIONS: HOW IMAGINING IDEAL EMPLOYEES CAN INCREASE RACIAL BIAS,” BY JAZMIN L. BROWN-IANNUZZI, B. KEITH PAYNE, AND SOPHIE TRAWALTER For any service company that bills on a recurring basis, a key variable is the rate of churn: How many customers cancel? In many competitive industries, churn can be substantial—some wireless carriers, for instance, lose 3% of subscribers each month. (Other businesses plagued by churn include insurance companies, gyms, and online streaming services.) Companies with high churn typically spend vast sums on marketing to try to replace all those defectors. New research shows that they might be better served by smart strategies aimed at getting lost customers to come back to the fold. V. Kumar, a marketing…

“there’s an art and a science to this”

Cox Communications, the third-largest U.S. cable provider, plays in a high-churn industry where win-back strategies are vital. HBR recently spoke with Mark Greatrex, Cox’s chief marketing and sales officer, about the company’s evolving efforts to woo back defectors. Edited excerpts follow. How have your win-back strategies changed? There’s more sophistication in the analytics we’re doing around individual customers and what their experience was with us the first time around. We can now do personalized marketing at scale— customizing the message, the offer, the pricing. And we have new services, such as onegigabit internet speeds and home automation and security systems, that give lost customers a reason to take a second look. People are more likely to come back if we improve the value proposition. Win-back is definitely becoming more important—and we’re…

online discounting: who’s leading the race to the bottom?

1969 FROM THE ARCHIVE “Many companies view their computer installations as showplaces, welcoming visitors with relatively little supervision and failing to provide even minimum security precautions. These companies apparently have not considered the possible losses.” “PLUGGING THE LEAKS IN COMPUTER SECURITY,” BY JOSEPH J. WASSERMAN (HBR, SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 1969) Minimum advertised pricing” guidelines— policies setting the lowest price at which retailers should market a product—are common in industries from electronics and video games to housewares and plumbing. They help manufacturers coordinate and control retail channels, maintain brand image, and prevent products from being used as loss leaders. Cooperating retailers may be rewarded with advertising money or preferential product access. But enforcement is spotty: By some estimates, roughly 30% of prices for products sold online in the U.S. fall beneath MAP floors, and monitoring sellers…