How firms are coping

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Mixed news from a recent S+B survey of execs. 75% say they do not need extra financial support – as I suspected – though that may change of course.  More worrying is that most seem not to be taking the correct actions, given their specific situations.

The article by Shumeet Banerji CEO of Booz & Co and Neil McArthur MD of Booz Europe helpfully groups firms into 4 categories – strong, stable, struggling and failing. You would expect stable companies to be strengthening their position by seeking complementary acquisitions, and the weaker groups to be conserving cash, for example, but neither group is by and large pursuing these or other appropriate actions.

The survey also confirms another finding I expected – that most firms expect to emerge stronger from the downturn [especially in developing economies]. ‘Most’ may be disappointed, but many firms should do so and be working towards making it happen.

Boom times create all kinds of difficult industry conditions – competitors charging into ‘strategic’ initiatives that make no sense, new entrants taking on markets they have no hope of succeeding in, everyone expanding too fast and creating over-capacity. It’s when things get tough that all these challenges pile up and get too much for weaker firms – and that’s when strong firms can sort out the mess. So, for example, we should be seeing more acquisitions and faster rationalisation than seems to be the case. No surprise either that developing economy firms are more optimistic – in addition to their lower basic cost base, their recent arrival means many have been able to grow a ‘clean’ business model, while established firms in old economies were adding on bits and pieces and complicating their businesses. I know which position I would rather be starting from today!

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