Capital For You and Me

capital-for-you-and-meThis past Friday marked the 40th anniversary of the passing of Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China.

Most notable here in China was the absence of discussion or commentary.

This is perhaps understandable since it is Chinese government policy to celebrate past leaders’ birthdays rather than the anniversary of their passing. However, it also seems to be quite telling. According to the Wall Street Journal, one Weibo user contrasted the occasion to the 2014 anniversary of the death of Communist Party leader Hu Yaobang for whom “all kinds of media and officialdom [paid] unbridled tribute. But this year on the 40th anniversary of Mao’s death, it’s this quiet. Especially today, you don’t even see a few comments here or there.”

Why the silence?

Well, for one thing, Mao was a communist revolutionary responsible for the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Putting the merits of communist theory to one side, it could be argued that these initiatives were not exactly a run away success.

The Great Leap Forward (1958 to 1961) aimed to transform China by establishing agricultural collectives and pursuing rapid industrialisation, and ended up causing a period of economic decline and tens of millions of deaths.

The Cultural Revolution (1966 to 1976) aimed to maintain the communist ideology within China; a decade of violence and instability ensued.

Despite all of this, Mao remains a complex historical figure, widely regarded as the greatest Chinese figure of the 20th century, and the official government line remains that Mao was “70 percent correct and 30 percent wrong”.

It is understandable though if China’s government may want to distance itself from Mao as the years go by.

For one thing, Mao was a revolutionary, and the Communist Party would prefer to maintain stability and growth.

Over the last year, China’s GDP grew by around 6.7 percent; slow compared with historical growth rates over the last twenty years but still more than three times America’s GDP growth rate. At the current rate, the size of China’s economy will double in around ten years. This will open up new opportunities for Chinese workers, and help to lift millions of people out of poverty. At the same time, however, there are suggestions that China’s growth is being fueled by increasing amounts of debt. This could mean that current growth is unsustainable, and that lower growth and higher unemployment may be likely in future. The Communist Party are wise not to inspire a revolutionary sentiment.

Mao was also a communist, and advocated collective ownership and ideas like the removal of the class system; policies which sought to alienate people from capital assets like land and social status. These policies would have made it difficult for people to be productive or creative, resulting in economic stagnation.

China’s current growth and development depend on it embracing quite a different philosophy, one that allows people to develop and accumulate capital (whether it be intellectual, social, financial, natural, physical, or technological capital).

There is a common misconception that if China embraces the value of “capital” in helping people become more productive and creative, then it will need to adopt the American free market version of capitalism. This is of course not true. Germany and the Nordic countries have their own unique versions of capitalism. And China has embraced a version of state capitalism which seems appropriate given its culture and historical perspective.

Capital for you and me (and the state).

(Image Source: Wikipedia)

Understanding the Competition

“Know your [competition], know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.”
~ Sun Tzu

YOU are running a company, advising companies or would one day like to be.  A company needs to understand its competition, and here are 11 points to help you do that.

1. Identify the competition

Who are the company’s major competitors? Taking Cadbury as an example, some of its major competitors are Lindt, Ferrero, Nestlé, Hershey and Mars.

2. Segment

Are you able to segment the competition in a meaningful way? You may be able to segment by distribution channel, region, product line, or customer segment. For example, the FOX Broadcasting Company may want to segment its competition by region. In America, some of its major competitors include PBS, NBC, CBS and ABC. In Australia, its competitors include Channel 7, 9 and 10 as well as ABC and SBS.

3. Concentration

What is the concentration of competitors in the market? That is, are there lots of small competitors (a low concentration industry) or a few dominant players (high concentration industry)? Examples of high concentration industries include oil, tobacco and soft drinks. Examples of low concentration industries include wheat and corn.

4. Size

What is the sales volume and market share of the major competitors?

5. Growth

What are the historical growth rates of the competition?

6. Performance

What is the historical performance of the competition? Relevant indicators of performance include profit margins, net income, and return on investment.

7. Competitive Advantage

What is the competition good at? What are the competition’s capabilities? How sustainable are these advantages?

What are their weaknesses? How easily can these weaknesses be exploited?

8. Competitive strategy

What are the competition’s strategic priorities? What motivates them? What are their plans? How can these plans be upset?

9. Competitive response

How will the competition respond to the company’s actions?

10. Substitutes

Are there any other products that people can use that are as good or almost as good as the company’s products? These substitute goods represent a form of indirect competition, think Coke and Doctor Pepper, Vegemite and Nutella, coffee and tea, pizzas and hamburgers, tennis and basketball. Not the same, but it may be a decent substitute.

11. Barriers to entry

Are there barriers to entry that would stop competitors from entering the market? If the market has low barriers to entry then we can expect that the market, if not already heavily contested, will soon be filled with a large number of competitors.

Tony Robbins – Six Human Needs

FOLLOWING on from the theme of my last post, which highlighted Alain de Botton’s kinder and gentler philosophy of success, I think it would be valuable to consider why we do what we do. In an attempt to become “successful” many of us work long hours and sacrifice time that could be spent with friends and family. Why?

Tony Robbins is an American self-help writer and professional speaker who believes that there are six basic human needs, and that people are motivated by their desire to fulfill these needs:

1. Certainty/Comfort

We all require a basic level of certainty that we will be able to avoid pain and obtain pleasure. For example, at a very basic level we want the comfort that comes from having a roof over our head, clean water and three meals a day for ourselves and our family.

2. Variety

If life is completely certain and predictable it is likely to become boring. So, we also require some level of variety.

3. Significance

We all require a feeling that we are unique and important, and that our life has meaning. This need can be fulfilled in various ways, one way might be work in a highly paid, highly respected profession.

4. Connection/Love

We all want to feel part of a community, to be cared for and cared about.

5. Growth

Growth is an important part of life in general. We all want to grow, develop and improve our abilities and position in life.

6. Contribution

On some level, we all want to contribute something of value, to help others, or to make the world a better place.