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Competition Demystified: A Radically Simplified Approach to Business Strategy Paperback – August 28, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A conscious simplification of Michael Porter's classic Competitive Strategy, this book treats only one of Porter's five forces, "potential entrants." According to the authors (Value Investing), avoiding competition is the only way to escape "a level playing field in which anyone can join... [and] only the best... survive and prosper." Most of the book discusses ways to gain protected positions from which businesses can be run badly but still earn abnormal returns. Cutting prices, matching prices and using domination of one market to create a monopoly in another are all discussed; legality is mentioned only briefly and indirectly. The best of their recommendations is to find small, declining, local markets without existing competitors. Despite the title, the book seems aimed more at investors than managers. Stockholders appreciate the value of mediocre companies that generate steady, unexciting profits in local markets without much notice; they like them because the stock is cheap. Managers usually aspire to build something better, in order to make the stock expensive. Still, this book is a useful counterpoint to the idea that conflict and growth are good for their own sakes. (Aug. 18)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Competition Demystified is superb, with a deft balance between theory and case studies that offer fascinating explanations of strategic adventures... -- The Globe and Mail

the best of the strategy books now or soon to be in the stores... direct, non-academic... occasionally funny -- New York Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio; Reprint edition (August 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591841801
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591841807
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bruce C. Greenwald ist einer der landesweit fuhrenden Okonomen. Er ist zurzeit Professor fur Finance and Asset Management an der Columbia Universitat. Er berat weltweit zu verschiedenen Themen wie Kapitalmarkte, Businessstrategien, Corporate Finance und Arbeitsleistung.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By John A Chew on September 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent text for investors wishing to develop their "circle of competence." Analysts often focus on the next earnings report but the most inefficient area of investing and hence the greatest rewards are what will be the value of a company in three to five to ten years. Throw out Beta and your Capital Asset Pricing Model and develop your valuation from a strategic perspective.

Does the company (your potential investment) benefit from barriers to entry? If it does, then what is the source of those competitive advantages: proprietary technical advantage, customer captivity and/or economies of scale? Does your company operate in an industry with market share stability, and does it have high returns on capital to confirm a competitive advantage like Coke and Pepsi in the Soft Drink Industry? If more than one company has a competitive advantage then how do they interact within their industry? If a company does not benefit from incumbent competitive advantages, then is management focused and running their business efficiently?

My point is not to summarize the book but to show the systematic analytical approach used. The authors go through numerous case studies and examples from the perspective of game theory, local economies of scale, branding, M&A, cooperation amongst competitors, competitive interactions, entry strategies and incumbent responses. The key is that you learn a process and approach to understand an industry and the interaction of competitors within that industry. Hence, you will expand your ability to grasp whether a potential investment has sustainable competitive advantages. As Mr. Buffett has often said, "How deep and wide is the moat around your castle?" Don't invest before you can answer that question. If you can't, then walk on by.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Ty Rockwell on September 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is wonderful on the basics of competition and market analysis - especially on the role of barriers to entry. Most of the case analyses are strong. For this discussion alone, I would recommend the book to anyone in business. Some of the prescriptive advice/analysis on cooperating with competitors is puzzling. For example, at points it seems the authors believe that collusive agreements between competitors will not reduce innovation. That is hard to swallow. Everyone knows that without a real competitive incentive, R&D costs can and will be deferred in favor of other expenditures. Why improve the cow today, if you can milk the one you have and use the money to buy a beer? The case history on gas additives is silly. The authors admit that the FTC successfully challenged these people at least twice for illegal conduct. Why would their deals be cited as a model for anything that a law-abiding businessperson might consider doing "strategically"? It is not clear that the authors have a firm grasp of the antitrust laws (which can prohibit even "tacit" collusion) or the costs of an antitrust claim - they favor an approach to "competition" (wacking up markets) that runs very close to the line. Antitrust disclaimers are thrown in from time-to-time, but the legal limits of the suggested types of collusion are never adequately explored. Read this well-written book, but use it with caution (and a lawyer).
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Lance Volta on March 24, 2013
Format: Paperback
Competition is great for consumers, but it's a nightmare for businesses. For investors, nothing beats a monopoly, and that's the guiding principle of Greenwald's book. Of course, monopolies tend to be very rare, local, and low-growth, but Greenwald's advice is to settle for the next best thing: duopolies. Duopolies are industries in which the largest competitors have agreed not to compete, or to compete on everything but price. Pepsi and Coke, Polaroid and Kodak, these are also examples of effective price makers. Greenwald shows that these companies, probably understood, are the equivalent of monopolies.

The biggest shortcoming is that the chosen case studies are so well known and trite. The story of Coke and Pepsi is so familiar, what's the point of telling it again? If you regularly read Forbes of Fortune magazine, little in this book will be new information. Second, the author never peers below the surface or offers any counterintuitive examples. Are there examples of duopolies or competitive moats that at first don't seem very formidable? For those with more experience in the strategy literature, going back over familiar terrain might be a slog.

More broadly, Mr. Greenwald's advice - avoid competition - is too pat; the vast majority of businesses exist in the continuum between monopoly and pure competition. Where are the hidden monopolies? Can superior execution be a sustainable advantage? The case histories are stylized and the lessons drawn are too superficial.
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful By George Bush HALL OF FAME on January 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Greenwald lays out what he calls a simplified theory of competitive strategy," followed by analyses of a number of real-life situations. While the theory usually makes sense, Greenwald's application is not always as compelling.

"Competition Demystified" begins by observing that for at least the last half century, strategy has been a major focus of management concern. Sometimes enormous consequences flow from decisions not even thought to be strategic - eg. IBM's outsourcing creation of its PC operating system and CPU manufacturing. Regardless, effective strategy is central to business success.

Greenwald says that the first issue is selecting the arena of competition, and the second involves management of external agents. Barriers to entry is the area one should focus on first, and primarily in these analyses. If there are no barriers many strategic concerns can be ignored - the only option is to focus on being as efficient and effective as possible.

Greenwald believes that competitive advantages that lead to market dominance are much more likely to be found in a local arena (either geographic or product space). Further, there are only three kinds of genuine competitive advantage: supply (privileged access, proprietary technology protected by patents or experience), demand (eg. psychological or actual costs of switching - includes branding, loyalty programs, laborious setup and coordination issues), and scale economics.

An elephant (vs. ants) with a competitive advantage has as its priority to sustain what it has, and must recognize the sources and limits of its competitive advantages. Alternatively, companies with a competitive advantage may have potent competitors (eg. Coke - Pepsi, Boeing - Airbus).
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