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Customer Review

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Simplistic and Too Brief -, November 18, 2012
This review is from: FORTUNE The Greatest Business Decisions of All Time: How Apple, Ford, IBM, Zappos, and others made radical choices that changed the course of business. (Hardcover)
While the topic is worthwhile and the writers are knowledgeable, the materials presented are far too brief to provide value; worse yet, some of the situations cited were misinterpreted. Of course, some were valid, though again, only briefly covered.

The book begins with the decision by Apple's board to bring Steve Jobs back after an 11-year hiatus. In the interim Apple had turned from a cash gusher to a money loser - losing $816 million in 1996. Reality is that bringing Jobs back to Apple occurred more by accident than design, with little/no reason to credit the board. At the time, Apple needed a new operating system and NeXT (with Jobs) was the only potential source after first pick Be (JeanLouis Gassee) played too hard to get. Jobs himself wasn't that excited by the opportunity - he'd already reached billionaire status via Pixar and wanted to continue as CEO of that entity; his lack of faith in Apple's future at the time was reflected in his asking that the bulk of the $427 million paid for NeXT be paid in cash rather than Apple stock. He didn't even want the CEO position after then CEO Amelio did himself in via poor presentations and operating results. Jobs was persuaded to join Apple's board, with the condition that he could remake it (all but two were shown the door). The board had previously hired a search firm to fill Amelio's position, but nobody would take the position with Jobs hanging about in the background. Jobs then proceeded to focus Apple, laying off thousands while killing marginal products and hiring logistics expert Tim Cook, who then closed its factories. My opinion is that instead of Apple's hiring Jobs, one of the best business decisions of all time was Jobs later moving away from its PC base (increasing competition, lower margins, falling sales) - first iPods, then iPads, iPhones, etc.

The second 'case' presented involved Zappos' decision to offer free shipping and returns, categorized by the writer as 'fanatical attention to customer service.' I see it more as exercising common sense - who wants to buy shoes w/o first trying them on?

Then its Samsung in the early 1990s when it began sending its brightest young employees to other nations to immerse themselves in the culture, learn the language, and build networks. Since then some 4,700 employees participated in yearlong sabbaticals in 80 nations around the world. While I'm sure these networks brought future value, I feel much more comfortable attributing Samsung's eventual strength in electronics to its heavy investment in R&D, beginning in the 1980s. Samsung became the world's largest memory chip producer in 1992, created its first LCD screen in 1995, and became the world's largest manufacturer of thos panels in 2005. In 2012, Samsung also became the world's largest mobile phone maker (unit sales), and plans to invest another $3-4 billion converting its Austin chip plant to a more profitable product (already invested $13 billion there). Samsung is also a major player in international construction (built one of the two Petronas Towers in Malysia, Taipei 101 in Taiwan, and the Burj Khalifa in the UAE. Chemicals is another area of strength for Samsung, and it manufactures aircraft engines, gas turbines, and ships as well. Samsung has also committed about $2 billion to biopharmaceuticals. Seems like a lot of other decisions that likely had a much greater impact than its quasi-internship program.

'The Shareholder Comes Last' recounts how J&J recalled its entire Tylenol stock on shelves after several bottles were found tampered with, containing cyanide. J&J replaced that stock with tamper-proof containers and exchanged any other Tylenol stock held by consumers for the new product. The initiative cost about $100 million and indelibly cemented J&J's reputation for trustworthiness. This clearly was one of the greatest business decisions of all time.

Another good example in the book - Intel's decision to brand its products (Intel Inside).

Another good example - Toyota's decision to put quality first after withdrawing from the U.S. market in 1961 due to product/quality problems. Toyota adopted Deming's concepts and went on toe revolutionize manufacturing with its Toyota Production System.
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