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Monday, August 25, 2008

 

Ecolab case study



If you are looking for a great company that has transformed itself from being in a lousy business to something that excites investors and customers alike, go no further than look at Ecolab.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

 

Birthday party portal website design



If you read the birthday party portal business plan, this article will help you figure out how to design the website.

Item 1: Interactive tools

This section may include:

Party budget

Polls

Quizzes

Send this page to a friend

Bookmark

Item 2: Listings

Listing of party venues and service providers

Database could be searchable by area code or zip code and by category

Item 3: Create you web page

Registered users can create their own mini-site. This will include the possibility to have a scrapbook

Item 4: Access to forums and boards

Item 5: Party manager

It may have:

Guest list

Save budget

Book services

Cards, e-cards

Store favorite providers (shortlist)

Store favorite articles

Item 6: Gift registry

Wish list of gifts

The guest may register as guest to access to access this list or have a cookie session from an email link. Once a gift has been selected, it will be deleted from the gift list.

Providers’ pages

A provider can select if registered or not.

If not registered, the provider can either select to browse the listings, information on registration fees and benefits and request more information. He or she can also register and pay.

If the potential party provider decides to register, he or she will select a plan.

Silver: listing and booking only

Gold: the above plus one page website to promote services. The providers can make their own website or order our services, plus this provider will appear in a more relevant place on listing than the silver status providers.

Platinum. Gold plus more visibility, perhaps some banners or something similar

Partners: These are big companies such as ToysRUs. We will pursue their partnerships and have special arrangements to offer their services.

If registered the provider can access his own panel control:

Access the booking system

Post messages

Order more advertising

Offer specials, make changes to his/her services or prices etc.

Look at their sales, invoice, payments, etc..

Back end

Databases:

Users

Providers

Guests

Interactive tools

Budget system

Quizzes

Polls

Boards/forums

Website creation

Rating providers system

Rating site features system

Directories

Providers

Services

Scheduling system for providers

Accounting

Send monthly invoices to providers

Charge credit cards for services

Pay providers

Data mining

Collect information on: how the site is used, most used features, how much money spent, what kinds of services/products ordered, zip code, age of kids, and others.

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How to deal with the marketplace changes?



In recent weeks I have received emails and phone calls from packaging industry executives who are concerned about the future. While the industry has been branded as “laggard,” “slow to change” and other not-so-flattering descriptions by analysts in recent months, several industry executives have started to embrace new business models.

However, as these executives start to implement these new business models, they are already seeing these models failing at some of the early adopter companies. The recent demise of several business models that only a year or so ago were hailed as revolutionary is enough reason to cause serious doubts. To many senior-level executives in the packaging industry, this only means even more confusion regarding future steps.

I will try to address some of these concerns in a two-part article. In this article, I will try to put the recent events of the so-called “new economy” in perspective, and then next week I will analyze what it means to the packaging industry and what are some of the things that industry executives could do to meet these challenges.

Turbulence is permanent
During the past several months, mankind has witnessed changes that had not been seen so far. Certainly, the inventions of fire or the wheel and eventually electricity/automobile/telephone caused similar changes in the way humanity lived or how commerce was conducted, but a major difference is the timeframe. It took thousands of years before we could fully exploit the power of fire or the wheel. It took us decades to perfect the automobile or the telephone. But in the current environment we are starting to see revolutionary changes within weeks or, at the most, months. And it is not just the Internet — it also includes the changes in communication technology, relationships between companies, number of new products and their short lives — the list is long. If something does not change at similar speed, it appears that it is not worth talking about.

No wonder this is causing so much turbulence in our lives. Starting from the business world and the stock market, to how we are expected to perform our jobs, we are being exposed to changes at a rate that our generation is not accustomed to. Additionally, businesses today are structured in a manner in which they find it hard to respond to constantly changing market forces. Companies and executives that were organized and conditioned to develop multi-year plans and goals now realize that within months they have to revise their plans and rewrite their goals because new companies have emerged out of seemingly nowhere and have rewritten the rules of the game in their competitive space.

The reaction of the stock markets has been exactly similar. The degree of change has been so rapid that old rules no longer apply and new rules are not accepted yet by everybody. The result has been lots of confusion, nervousness and lack of direction.

Not too long ago, we saw some new rules emerge that made it more important, for instance, to attract eyeballs or create brand awareness or increase the number of transactions, but those rules are no longer valid. It appears that the wider base of investors did not feel comfortable with the new rules of the game and the stock market is now trying to figure out rules that would be fairer in evaluating new economy companies but still satisfy the basic principles of economics.

Impact on the packaging industry
Change of this magnitude has adversely impacted the packaging industry, too. While the stock market has severely battered several packaging companies, the demands on the industry to meet the needs of customers in the new economy has posed new challenges:

• The designs are different, and they change more frequently.
• Time pressures are intense.
• Supply chains are more complex.
• Competition is increasingly global.
• Most importantly, the future is so uncertain.

When packaging industry executives see companies with world-class, best practices struggling to meet market expectations, they do not see many successful models that they can follow for their own businesses. I will be addressing these issues next week based on my study of companies that are taking mature approaches to managing change.

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Online business rules



While talking to industry executives during recent weeks, I have been shocked by the radical change in attitude insofar as the digitization of their business is concerned. Only a couple of months ago, I would hear complaints about how they were experiencing threats to their core business from online competitors and executives wanted to formulate strategies to protect their business. Now what I hear is “I told you so” attitude. While some of the remarks that industry executives make these days are arrogant, there are others who have just settled down in their comfort zone by rationalizing their fears – The Internet is only a fad, it is already starting to show signs of failure, and the threats to my business are over.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. As Michael Dell puts it, if bad business models are implemented online, they do not become good businesses; they just become bad online businesses. Like all other bad businesses, these too will go out of business, eventually.

For the packaging industry, the fundamental issues are not if some dot-com companies are going out of business these days or if some online companies are struggling to conduct sufficient number of transactions to remain profitable. The foremost considerations are still related to the basics of doing business – whether a new business process is going to enable a company get more business, serve customers better, and reduce the cost of doing business. While there are several classic examples of how companies are successfully exploiting the web, my favorite company is General Electric. It has taken an ambitious, but simple, approach – do everything over the Internet if it can be done more cost effectively. Now is that too complex for anyone to understand?

Advantages of the Web
In a survey by Cyber Dialogue regarding the advantages of being present on the World Wide Web, more than 40% of the companies responded that they were able to improve customer service, expand business territory, and keep up with the competition. More than 30% of the companies increased sales leads and lowered marketing costs at the same time. More than 20% of the companies reported that they increased both online and offline sales. In another survey conducted by Verizon/Super-Pages.com and Gallup has found that 55% of the websites have either broken even or paid for itself in increased business.

That is why I keep emphasizing to my friends in the industry that we have consistently seen pricing pressures only increase over the years and life is not going to get any better than this. In fact my discussions with industry participants lead me to believe that we will only see these pressures become more intense as the global economy slows down and international trade becomes easier.

What can you do now?
So while you can watch some of the excitement in the dot-com world as it unfolds, here are few things to do to in the meantime. By the way, this is also a good time to execute some of these projects as the providers are experiencing slower growth and you can hire some of the best firms at much lower prices:

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Packaging industry trends



Subsequent to the discussion of the packaging industry business model, here is a presentation delivered by Jay Dwivedi while he was at Kline & Company on some of the developments and trends in the packaging sector.

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How to screen a market opportunity?



I was working to evaluate new market opportunities and needed a way to screen them. Are they attractive enough? Can we find resources to fund them? Will the management and investors be excited about them? Can we successfully execute them?

That is when I built this template for analysis purposes. As you can see, it may be used for virtually any market opportunity. Feel free to use it for your analytical purposes.

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Virtual executive assistant business model



This is a business plan that I prepared for a discussion but did not follow through because lack of interest from potential investors. It is an attractive business and huge potential for growth but you need to find investors that are not scared by the idea of investing in India.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

 

Packaging industry business model



INTRODUCTION

INDUSTRY TRENDS

IMPACT ON THE PACKAGING FUNCTION

REDEFINITION OF MARKETPLACE AND PLAYERS

SHARED GROWTH MODEL

BENEFITS OF SHARED GROWTH

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