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Profit From the Core : Growth Strategy in an Era of Turbulence Hardcover – February, 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 194 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (February 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578512301
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578512300
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #387,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Spawned by a 10-year study of 2,000 firms conducted at Bain & Company, a global consultancy specializing in business strategy, Profit from the Core is based on the fundamental but oft-ignored maxim that prolonged corporate growth is most profitably achieved by concentrating on a single core business. To help companies identify this true essence, narrow their focus accordingly, and move forward in a manner that builds upon existing structure, Bain director Chris Zook and former Bain director James Allen present "a set of practical and proven principles, diagnostic tests, and questions for management teams to use as tools for reexamining or revising their strategies in search of the next wave of profitable growth." Bolstering their argument with real-world examples--including companies such as Disney, which succeeded by taking this approach, and Bausch & Lomb, which faltered by eschewing it--the authors show how to effectively uncover true corporate strengths, elevate them to realize their potential, identify related new businesses that could be successfully added, and even completely redefine a core when confronted with factors forcing such action. (For example: they offer a step-by-step method for mapping "adjacent opportunities" that may prove complementary, ranking them according to potential, and developing strategies to further evaluate and ultimately implement them.) The result is recommended for anyone tired of the management theory du jour who seeks a proven way to propel their company into the future. --Howard Rothman

From Publishers Weekly

In this short, focused and well-reasoned book, Zook, the head of worldwide strategy for the prestigious consulting and investment firm Bain & Co., and Allen, head of a venture-capital company, argue persuasively that focusing on what a business does best is the easiest and most efficient way for companies to grow and be profitable. This idea isn't new, of course: in the 1980s, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, in their classic In Search of Excellence, called it "sticking to your knitting"; a decade later, most notably in the Harvard Business Review, Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad described the concept as focusing on "core competencies." But, Zook and Allen maintain, as firms rushed to embrace the Internet, executives forgot this basic truth. Taking the idea one step further, they contend that by looking at what a firm does best, executives will also find it easy to spot inefficiencies within their businesses. Based on a study of 2,000 companies, the book concludes that three factors differentiate growth strategies that work from those that don't: (1) make sure to get everything possible out of the core business, (2) expand into related businesses and (3) redefine the business before someone else (e.g., a competitor) does. Zook and Allen stress "how to," giving managers a list of questions to ask and signposts to watch for as their companies evolve. As managers everywhere are re-examining their businesses in light of recent fallout among dot-coms and major layoffs and restructuring among even the most stalwart of companies, this book's timing could not be better. (Mar.)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

There are lots of implementable ideas in this book.
John C. Dunbar
I think most people will execute an adjacency mapping (which graphs how a company expands from its core) of their own business after they complete the book.
Michael B. Knowlton
The book is data centric yet is eminently readable due to the author's style of providing case studies and tangible evidence to support his arguments.
R. V. Spencer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Chris Zook thinks it's time for corporate leaders to get a big fat reality check on their dreams of continual, double-digit growth. He argues that the mindset that has developed around growth projections is totally unrealistic for most companies -- even considering the past decade of strong, economic expansion -- and he has numbers to prove it.
After examining the performance of close to 2,000 companies betweem 1988 and 1998, Mr. Zook found that only one in eight, or 13 per cent, managed to meet even modest growth targets.
If you don't understand and protect your core, you can't possibly select the right growth initiatives. If you select wrong, you face a double-whammy of wasting resources and leaving the true core undefended. This happens to start-ups and large corporations, to the weak and even more to the strong. Looking at the odds, it is probably happening to your business.
An excellent book!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Martin Schray on November 7, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In a time of mega mergers and consolidation this book has an intriguing perspective. The authors (Bain consultants) argue that embracing non core businesses is probably trouble. Drawing on a huge multi-year study and Bain database the authors show that growing companies with unfocused acquisitions in non core businesses are typically under performers. The book shows several examples of how Bain purchased under performing companies (divisions) from conglomerates and by investing and focusing on their core business ignited explosive growth.
You might be asking how then does a business grow. The authors would say first by defining the core business. What business are we really in and good at. Once the core business has been defined and focused on growth opportunities come from opportunities adjacent to the core business. A few example adjacencies could be new customer segments, new channels, new geographies, new value chain steps (forward, backward...), new business, and new products.
If you are trying to define a sustainable growth strategy then this book is worth the read. If you have many non core business that are under performing then this book is worth the read. If you have a successful business and are looking for the next growth vehicle you will want to read this book.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 31, 2001
Format: Hardcover
NOTE: The review that follows was posted in 2001 and is of the earlier edition. Why is it featured here?

After a two-year study of the key strategic decisions that most often determine growth or stagnation in business, Zook (with Allen) realized that clients of Bain & Company were eager to share the results of that study. Only later did he decide to write this book, one in which he presents and then develops "a useful framework for understanding and addressing the key decision points encountered in growing a business." He concluded that this framework is practical and could be applied (with appropriate modification) within almost any organization. In the Preface, Zook acknowledges that he was surprised by some of the findings which he briefly identifies. He then observes: "Central to our findings are three ideas: the concept of the core business and its boundaries; the idea that every business has a level of full-potential performance that usually exceeds what the company imagines; and the idea that performance-yield loss occurs at many levels, from strategy to leadership to organizational capabilities to execution." In the five chapters which follow, Zook (with Allen) examines "the types of strategic business decisions that most often seem to tilt the odds of future success or failure." Zook correctly suggests in this book that many organizations cannot resist the appeal ("the siren's song") of "miracle cures" of their problems. Zook focuses entirely on what has been verified in real-world experience, on what is practical, and on what will reliably achieve the desired results of sound strategic decisions.

He and his associates learned a great deal from the study, confiding that "some of the results were quite counterintuitive to us.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John C. Dunbar on May 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
First, this is an excellent book to read. Well researched, edited, and from experts active in the field.
Second, the author makes many important recommendations about how you should manage your company... strategically. Again, these recommendations are based largely on research done by the author or his peers mostly at Bain & Co. regarding maintaining competitive advantage.
With the exception of Jack Welch (and previously Geneen at IT&T, I'm sure), large conglomerates can not maintain growth rates over long periods of time (ten years was the period used in the book).
So, the recommendations that your company stick to its knitting ("the core") is the foundation of the book. But many people already know this. So, most interesting, are the recommendations and research that show the nuances.
For example, the author shows how the areas around your core business offer the most profitable opportunities for fast growth... yet also contain the most dangers from encroaching competitors, or bad fitting investments. He calls this area your adjacency.
The author suggests that how you manage your adjacency largely determines your success at long term business growth.
There are too many concepts and details to summarize here. There is a lot of meat to the book (although it is not a huge book). Still it is fairly easy to read. You will not whiz through the book because you will often pause to consider the ramifications of the author's points. But it is not a difficult read.
The books major points are well illustrated with many examples (Dell, Microsoft, Starbucks, W.W. Grainger, etc.).
This book is most appropriate for management involved in strategy, and investors trying to figure out the appropriateness of acquisitions by companies.
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