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What Is Your Mantra?
By   Shlomo Maital

In Sanskrit, the word ‘mantra’ means “a sacred utterance, a numinous sound, a syllable, word or phonemes, or group of words believed by practitioners to have psychological and spiritual powers”.

     I teach my entrepreneurship students to work hard on a ‘mantra’ for their startup idea – three words that capture the essence of their value creation.  Great mantras do have power.

       For Nike, for instance: authentic athletic performance.  For Wendy’s (fast food chain): healthy fast food.  (Nike’s Just Do It! is a marketing mantra, not a ‘this is what we stand for’ mantra).

       A new documentary on Brexit (Britain’s exit from the EU) focuses on the person who lead the pro-Leave campaign in 2016, Dominic Cummings. He chose a three-word mantra for the campaign:   Take Back Control. It was brilliant. It captured what the British people wanted – control of their borders. Problem was — taking back control of the borders also involved a hornets’ nest of other intractable problems, including the Ireland-Northern Ireland border. But – the three-word mantra was crucial in the 52% majority for leaving the EU.

       I think each of us needs a mantra – a way to focus what we seek, why we are alive. A mantra is always an over-simplification, like the Brexit Leave mantra. But the advantage is, sharp focus. Einstein said, simplify as much as possible – but not more so. Can you simplify your own focus, down to three words, without distorting, or misleading?

       My mantra for the past few years, since I became a pensioner, is: Help Other People. The underlying logic: Pensioners become instantly transparent, the moment they retire. By creating value for others, you remain relevant and engaged. Believe me, it is not easy!  

       What is your mantra?   Do you need one? Has your mantra changed and evolved?  

 

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McDonalds: The Price of Falling Asleep

By Shlomo  Maital

 McDonalds

McDonalds, the $87 b. global fast food chain, is in trouble.  The world has changed and its senior management team missed the bus.  The price for this is heavy.  The newly appointed CEO Steve Easterbrook, an accountant, will have to deal with slumping sales and falling stock price.    For years consumers have been opting for healthier food.  McDonalds simply failed to meet or recognize the trend.

   Here is how Bloomberg Businessweek describes McDonalds’ decline under its previous CEO:     “The rocky two-and-a-half-year tenure of Don Thompson, Mr Easterbrook’s predecessor, was marked by flagging sales as the company’s key low-income customers continued to struggle in the wake of the financial crisis. It also coincided with the rise of upmarket burger chains such as Five Guys and Smashburger, and the explosive growth of fast-casual restaurants such as Chipotle.      …. Last year, McDonald’s recorded its first annual decline in global same-store sales in a dozen years.   The US, where McDonald’s is the target of criticism for its contribution to the obesity epidemic and wage inequality, is not its only tough market. Operations in Germany, Japan, Russia and China are also struggling.   Consumers are no longer interested in food that is simply fast — they need to be convinced that it is, among other things, healthy, fresh and natural.”

    McDonalds is an exceptionally arrogant organization, I am told.  The global economic downturn began early in 2008; McDonalds could have seen that its customers would be pinched and less able to dine out.  The trend toward healthy fresh fast food has been ongoing for years;  Wendy’s and Subway have leveraged it with great success.   People simply get tired of the same Big Mac. 

   To me, McDonalds proves a core dilemma in management.  McDonalds has great operational discipline in its franchises; it has to, to survive.  But the same discipline destroys creativity, flexibility and innovation.  Somehow, McDonalds has to revive its agility, its ideation,  without ruining its fabled discipline and cost management. 

     Let’s see if Steve Easterbrook, who played cricket in a British private school, will adopt a strategy that isn’t precisely “cricket”.     


 

 

 

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
June 2019
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