Book Review - Big Winners And Big Losers by Alfred A. Marcus
Alfred A. Marcus explores the reasons why some companies win big and some fail dismally in the book Big Winners And Big Losers - The 4 Secrets Of Long-Term Business Success And Failure. Worth adding to your business bookshelf if this is an area of interest to you, but it's not the easiest read...
Part 1 - Introduction: Persistent Winning And Losing; Companies That Hit And Missed The Mark;
Part 2 - Winners: Companies That Keep Winning; Sweet Spots; Agility; Discipline; Focus
Part 3 - Losers: Companies That Keep Losing; Sour Spots; Rigidity; Ineptness; Diffuseness
Part 4 - Conclusion: Winning And Losing Practices; Turnarounds
Appendixes: Best Sellers Compared; Using The Stock Market As An Indicator Of Performance; Additional Data On The Companies; Patterns Of Winning And Losing Companies
Acknowledgements; Sources; Endnotes; Index
Using stock performance over a period of time, Marcus examines the traits of companies that significantly outperformed and underperformed their peers. On the "winners" side, you have Amphenol, SPX, Fiserv, Dreyer's, Forest Labs, Ball, Brown & Brown, Family Dollar, and Activision. The "losers" are LSI Logic, Snap-On, Parametric Technology, Campbell Soup, IMC Global, Goodyear, Safeco, The Gap, and Hasbro. For each trait he identifies, there's a list of how each of the winning/losing companies shows that characteristic, along with examples of actual steps and scenarios that illustrate it. To be sure, there's a lot of good material on how you can adjust your business to take advantage of these positive behaviors (and avoid the negative ones)...
The only thing I have against books like this is the "retrospect" nature. Moves that were made by losing companies for good (at the time) reasons are examined in the light of how it all turned out. That's a perspective that no one has when the decision has to be made. As a result, it's far too easy to say " well, they should have known better" when writing a book. Another common problem is that the winning companies can often turn into losing companies, making the reader wonder where things went wrong. To the author's credit, he covers two of these reversals at the end of the book. Again, in hindsight it's easy to see where things went wrong, but it's harder to make that same statement during the heat of the moment.
The style of writing is very factual and list-driven. I wasn't really drawn into the style of writing in such a way that I wanted to keep turning the pages. Still, running a business is not easy, and learning from the mistakes of others is far easier than blazing your own trails. Worth reading, but be prepared to work for it all...