BCG Growth Share Matrix

The BCG growth share matrix is a simple conceptual framework for resource allocation within a firm

BCG Growth Matrix(Source: Flickr)

1. Background to the BCG matrix

IN 1968, BCG developed the growth share matrix, which is a simple conceptual framework for resource allocation within a firm.

2. Purpose of the BCG matrix

The BCG matrix is a simple tool that enables management to:

  1. classify products in a company’s product portfolio into four categories (Stars, Cash Cows, Question Marks, and Dogs);
  2. index a company’s product portfolio according to the cash usage and generation;
  3. determine the priority that should be given to different products in a company’s product portfolio; and
  4. develop strategies to tackle various product lines.

3. BCG matrix explained

The idea behind the growth share matrix is that the amount of cash that a product uses is proportional to the rate of growth of that product in the market, and the generation of cash is a function of market share for that product.

Money generated from high-market-share/low-growth products is used to develop high-market-share/high-growth products, and low-market-share/high-growth products.

Under the BCG matrix, products are classified into four business types:

  1. Stars are leaders in high growth markets. Stars grow rapidly and therefore use large amounts of cash. Stars also have a high market share and therefore generate large amounts of cash. Over time, the growth of a product will slow. So, if a Star maintains a high market share, it eventually becomes a Cash Cow. If not, it becomes a Dog.
  2. Cash Cows are highly profitable, and require low investment because they are market leaders in a low-growth market. Growth is slow and therefore cash use is low, and market share is high and therefore cash generation is high. Money generated from cash cows is used to pay dividends, interest, and overheads, and to develop Stars and Question Marks.
  3. Question Marks are the real cash traps and gambles. Question Marks grow rapidly and therefore use large amounts of cash. However, they do not have a dominant market position and hence do not generate much cash.
  4. Dogs generate very little cash because of their low market share in a low growth market. BCG refers to these products as cash traps. Although they may be sold profitably in the market, Dogs are net cash users and BCG indicates that, in terms contributing to growth, they are essentially worthless.

4. Available strategies

  1. Develop: The product’s market share needs to be increased to strengthen its position. Short-term earnings and profits are forfeited because it is hoped that the long-term gains will outweigh these short term costs. This strategy is suited to Question Marks if they are to become Stars.
  2. Hold: The objective is to maintain the current market share of a product. This strategy is often used for Cash Cows so that they continue to generate large amounts of cash.
  3. Harvest: Under this strategy, management attempts to increase short-term cash flows as far as possible (e.g. by increasing prices, and cutting costs) even at the expense of the products long-term future. It is a strategy suited to weak Cash Cows or Cash Cows that are in a market with a limited future. Harvesting is also used for Dogs, and for Question Marks that have no possibility of becoming Stars.
  4. Divest: The objective of this strategy is to get rid of unprofitable products, or products with a low market share in a low growth market. Money from divestment can then be used to develop and promote more profitable products. This strategy is typically used for Question Marks that will not become Stars and for Dogs.

[For more information on consulting concepts and frameworks, please download “The Little Blue Consulting Handbook“.]

Warren Buffett on hard work

WARREN Buffett‘s 2006 letter to shareholders makes for very interesting reading.

One of the sentiments that Buffett expresses in the very first page of his letter is one of gratitude to the managers who have run his companies over the last 42 (now 44) years. Buffett indicates that he and Charlie Munger, Berkshire’s vice chairman, run a company that has turned out to be a very big business; one with 217,000 employees and annual revenues approaching $100 billion.

We certainly didn’t plan it that way. Charlie began as a lawyer, and I thought of myself as a security analyst. Sitting in those seats, we both grew skeptical about the ability of big entities of any type to function well. Size seems to make many organizations slow-thinking, resistant to change and smug. In Churchill’s words: “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” Here’s a telling fact: Of the ten non-oil companies having the largest market capitalization in 1965 – titans such as General Motors, Sears, DuPont and Eastman Kodak – only one made the 2006 list.

Instead of taking personal credit for Berkshire’s successes, Buffett pays tribute to the managers who have successfully led his companies over the years, and says he knows that he wouldn’t have enjoyed many of the duties that come with their positions – meetings, speeches, foreign travel, the charity circuit and governmental relations.

Buffett claims to have taken the easy route.

My only tasks are to cheer [my managers] on, sculpt and harden our corporate culture, and make major capital-allocation decisions.

If Buffett has taken the easy route, then it is a path that no-one else has cared or managed to follow. From 1964 to 2007, Buffett and his team have managed to grow the net worth of Berkshire Hathaway by 400,863%, no small feat.

Whether or not Buffett has taken the ‘easy’ route, one thing is clear, he hasn’t lost his sense of humour. Buffett says that he has allowed each of his trusted managers to run their own show over the years. Having a self-effacing sense of humour and, not wanting to miss an opportunity, he quips:

For me, Ronald Reagan had it right: “It’s probably true that hard work never killed anyone – but why take the chance?”

To live in a world full of people as lazy as Buffett, if only we should be so lucky.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning tool used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats involved a business venture

SWOT Analysis

1. SWOT Analysis Explained

ALBERT Humphrey is credited with inventing the SWOT analysis technique.

SWOT analysis is a strategic planning tool used to evaluate the strengths (S), weaknesses (W), opportunities (O), and threats (T) involved a business venture. It involves specifying the objective of the business venture and identifying the internal and external environmental factors that are expected to help or hinder the achievement of that objective.

After a business clearly identifies an objective that it wants to achieve, SWOT analysis involves:

  1. examining the strengths and weaknesses of the business (internal factors); and
  2. considering the opportunities presented and threats posed by business conditions, for example, the strength of the competition (external factors).

By identifying its strengths, a company will be better able to think of strategies to take advantage of new opportunities. By identifying current weaknesses and threats, a company will be able to identify changes that need to be made to improve and protect the value of its current operations.

2. Criticisms

SWOT analysis has two clear weaknesses. Firstly, using SWOT may tend to persuade companies to write lists of Pros and Cons, rather than think about what needs to be done to achieve objectives. Secondly, there is the risk that the resulting lists will be used uncritically and without clear prioritisation. For example, weak opportunities may appear to balance strong threats.

3. Case example: drinks manufacturer

Let’s use SWOT analysis to consider the strategy of a hypothetical prominent soft drinks manufacturer called Coca-Cola. Coke is currently the market leader in the manufacture and sale of sugary carbonated drinks and has a strong brand image. Sugary carbonated drinks are currently an extremely profitable line of business. The company’s goal is to develop strategies to achieve sustained profit growth into the future.

3.1 Strengths

A firm’s strengths are its resources and capabilities that provide the firm with a competitive advantage in the market place, and help the firm achieve its strategic objective. Coke’s strengths might include:

  • strong product brand names,
  • large number of successful drink brands,
  • good reputation among customers,
  • low cost manufacturing, and
  • a large and efficient distribution network.

3.2 Weaknesses

Weaknesses include the attributes of a business that may prevent the business from achieving its strategic objective. Coke’s weaknesses might include:

  • lack of a large number of healthy beverage options, and
  • large manufacturing capacity makes it difficult to change production lines in order to respond to changes in the market.

3.3 Opportunities

Changing business conditions may reveal certain new opportunities for profit and growth. Coke’s opportunities might include:

  • new countries and markets that Coke might expand into, and
  • a lack of any strong global fruit juice or other healthy beverage manufacturer leaves a gap in the market.

3.4 Threats

Changing business conditions may present certain threats. Coke’s threats might include:

  • shifting consumer preferences away from Coke’s core products, and
  • new government competition regulations that prevent the acquisition of large competing soft drink companies.

3.5 Proposed strategy

The main opportunity for Coca-Cola is the rising popularity of healthy beverage alternatives, such as water and fruit juice. The dominance of Coca-Cola and the increasing number of competition regulations that prevent Coke’s acquisition of competing drink manufacturers presents a threat to Coke’s objective to obtain profit and growth. A proposed strategy may therefore be to find small healthy beverage manufacturers with quality products. Purchasing these small companies will not raise competition concerns. Coke might use its strong brand name, manufacturing capacity and distribution networks to obtain strong market penetration for its newly acquired healthy beverages.

[For more information on consulting concepts and frameworks, please download “The Little Blue Consulting Handbook“.]

Case Interview Guides & Books

THIS list of guides and books is a a work in progress. If you come across any other useful resources that I haven’t listed here, please let us know.

Online case interview guides

  1. Make Your Case: Master Consulting Interviews |
  2. ATKearney – interview casebook
  3. Deloitte – 2007 Boston College – Conducting Case Interviews
  4. Deloite – 2005 Michigan State University – Case Workshop
  5. University of Pennsylvania – interview guide
  6. Yale School of Management – sample interview questions


  1. Case in Point: Complete Case Interview Preparation by Marc P. Cosentino
  2. Crack the Case: How to Conquer Your Case Interviews by David Ohrvall
  3. How to Get Into the Top Consulting Firms: A Surefire Case Interview Method by Tim Darling
  4. Management Consulting: A Complete Guide to the Industry by Sugata Biswas and Daryl Twitchell
  5. Mastering the Case Interview: The Complete Guide to Management, Marketing, and Strategic Consulting Case Interviews by Alexander Chernev
  6. The Fast Track: The Insider’s Guide to Winning Jobs in Management Consulting, Investment Banking, & Securities Trading by Mariam Naficy
  7. The Harvard Business School Guide to Careers in Management Consulting by Maggie Lu
  8. Vault Case Interview Practice Guide
  9. Vault Guide to the Case Interview
  10. Ace Your Case! Consulting Interviews (WetFeet Insider Guide)

Understanding financial statements 101

UNDERSTANDING financial statements is very important if you are looking to invest, become a consultant, work as a CEO or in upper management, or want to start and run your own business. Understanding financial statements will allow you to assess a company’s current financial strength, and determine its profitability and creditworthiness. This article provides an overview of the four key financial statements that you need to understand.

There are four basic financial statements that you need to understand in order to evaluate a company, including the:

  1. Balance Sheet;
  2. Profit and Loss Statement;
  3. Cashflow Statement; and
  4. Statement of Retained Earnings (Owner’s Equity).

1. Balance Sheet

The Balance Sheet presents the financial position of a company at a given point in time. It is made up of three parts: Assets, Liabilities and Equity.

Assets are the economic resources that a company uses to operate its business: e.g. cash, inventories, and equipment.

Liabilities represent the debts of the company, the claims that creditors have on the company’s resources.

Equity represents the net worth of a company, and equals Assets minus Liabilities. Equity holders are the owners of the business.

It is important to notice that Equity is defined as a residual amount. As a rule, companies do not promise to pay back Equity holders. An Equity holder’s investment is more risky than a loan given by a bank because their investment is not guaranteed. In the event of insolvency, bank loans and other debts are repaid before Equity; Equity holders receive the residual amount after all the debts of the company have been paid.

2. Profit and Loss Statement

The Profit and Loss Statement measures the success of a company’s operations; it provides investors and creditors with information to determine the profitability and creditworthiness of the enterprise.

The Profit and Loss Statement presents the results of operations of a business over a specified period of time (e.g. one year, one quarter, one month); it is comprised of Revenues, Expenses, and Net Profit (Loss).

Revenue is the income that is generated from trading, i.e. when the company sells goods or services. Although, it might also come from other sources, for example, selling off a piece of the business or a piece of equipment. It is important to note that, revenue is recorded when the sale is made as opposed to when the cash is received.

Expenses are the costs incurred by a business over a specified period of time to generate the revenues earned during the same period. It is important to distinguish Assets from Expenses. A purchase is considered an asset if it provides future economic benefit to the company, while expenses only relate to the current period. For example, monthly salaries paid to employees for services that have already been provided are expenses. On the other hand, the purchase of a piece of manufacturing equipment would normally be classified as an asset.

Net Profit (Loss) is equal to the revenue a company earns minus its expenses during a specified period of time.

3. Cashflow Statement

The Profit and Loss Statement does not provide information about the actual receipt and use of cash generated during a company’s operations.

The Cashflow Statement presents a detailed summary of all of the cash inflows and outflows over a specified period of time; it is divided into three sections based on three types of activity:

1. Cash flows from operating activities: includes the cash effects of transactions involved in calculating net profit (loss).

2. Cash flows from investing activities: involves items classified as assets in the Balance Sheet; it includes the purchase and sale of equipment and investments.

3. Cash flows from financing activities: involves items classified as liabilities and equity in the Balance Sheet; it includes the payment of dividends as well as the issuing and payment of debt or equity.

4. Statement of Retained Earnings (Owner’s Equity)

The Statement of Retained Earnings shows the retained earnings at the beginning and end of the accounting period. It breaks down changes affecting retained earnings such as profits or losses from operations, dividends paid, and any other items charged or credited to retained earnings.

The Statement of Retained Earnings uses the net income information from the Profit and Loss Statement and provides information to the Balance Sheet. Retained earnings are part of the Balance Sheet under Owner’s Equity.

The general equation for calculating Retained Earnings can be expressed as following:

Retained Earnings (year end) = Retained Earnings (beginning of the year) + Net Income – Dividends Paid