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Learning the Write Stuff

Andrew Miller and Mandy de WaalAspirant business leaders often lose sight of the fact that writing and communicating are integral to conducting business well. Writing is a skill that can be honed, but it’s a lot like going to gym. It requires discipline and routine exercise. Writers MANDY DE WAAL and ANDREW MILLER show you how.

Writing well is all in the ability to love words and commit to a regular workout. This is no less true in business than it is in creative writing.

The first thing we tell people who want to write well is to read, read and read some more, because reading offers an understanding of language and the different uses and style of language. If you want to be a good writer then you need to read multiple styles. If Cosmopolitan or Loaded is a permanent fixture on your bedside stand and you’re deeply involved in the guts of business, you will need to develop a more engaging business style. Next time reach for a Business Day, Mail & Guardian, Sunday Independent or Maverick to help you hone your business writing style.

There are four golden rules of writing for business:



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Posted in the category: Insight, Strategy

Study reveals multinational's broad economic footprint

Every one person employed by multinational giant Unilever is responsible for the support of a further 22 individuals, according to a critical study of the company’s economic footprint in South Africa. The findings are expected to create the impetus for other multinationals and large businesses to re-look how they create and share wealth.

The “Footprint” study, a critical research project carried out by Professor Ethan Kapstein of INSEAD, a leading European business school, has found that every person employed by Unilever South Africa supported another 22 up and down the supply chain. This impact on jobs is regarded as significant in South Africa, with its extremely high unemployment.Gail Klintworth and Ethan Kapstein

Unilever SA’s Gail Klintworth with Professor Ethan Kapstein

The study also found that, for every R100 of sales by the company, a further R145 of value-added is created in the wider South African economy. The associated economic activity also generated nearly one percent of South Africa’s tax revenue.

The role of multinationals, especially in developing countries, has been the subject of debate for many years. Some governments and campaigning organisations have questioned whether multinationals do more good than harm in emerging markets.



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Posted in the category: Economy, Insight, Strategy

The beleaguered brand in 2008

Brand strategists and marketers face major challenges in 2008: from the painful death of traditional advertising and the stratospheric rise of social networking to environmental consciousness and, in South Africa, a divided ANC. Idea Engineers’ Managing Partner, JANICE SPARK, looks at what we can expect on the brand front this year.

Janice SparkGlobally, 2008 will mark a decisive shift into the dynamic world of Web 2.0. For brand strategists and marketers, the painful death of traditional advertising will be accompanied by the stratospheric rise of social networking. Add a global boom in environmental consciousness and you have a complex matrix of competing variables to negotiate. Locally, a divided ANC offers a telling sign of the social challenges that will continue to underpin all commercial activity.

These are some of the key movements South Africans can expect on the brand front in the year ahead:



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Posted in the category: Insight, Strategy, Trends

No easy road to harmony between strategy and regulation

With an increasing focus on regulation, companies must be able to both shape and respond to the regulatory agenda in traditional as well as emerging markets. But this is not easy to put into practice, particularly in the communications sector, as KPMG reports.

Yunus SulemanThe 2007 KPMG Bringing Regulation into the Boardroom survey, based on interviews with over 60 senior managers in telecommunication operators around the globe, reveals that senior management and the regulatory function, whilenot poles apart, may have different priorities.

Convergence of telecommunications and media, along with deregulation, is blurring traditional regulatory boundaries and putting increasing pressure to improve communications, learn from other industries and build a strong regulatory team.

“This situation is even more complex and pressing for those companies operating in multiple regulatory environments,” says Yunus Suleman, chairman of KPMG SA. “Subsequently, companies will increasingly need to develop proactive regulatory functions that recognise commercial issues and can communicate with the board.” Keep reading →

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Posted in the category: Economy, Insight, Strategy

The Great Disconnect

The South African Government’s intransigence in dealing with the energy crisis has a spectacular precedent: it’s failure of leadership in telecommunications. Ten years from now, however, no one should have to say “we told you so”. But there are 10 essential demands that have to be met, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

You don’t have to spend a decade analysing internet connectivity in South Africa to understand that the Government is the one organisation that does not have the strategic ability to connect South Africans.

Yet, the policy of the Government has been to have a stake in all entities that supply connectivity. The Minister of Communications has insisted that Government also have a share of any new undersea cables designed to deliver additional telecommunications capacity to South Africa. And, despite all the evidence that points to it being a bad move, other Government departments, too, are joining the rush for control of such capacity.

Laying the undersea cablesThe result? Instead of having three or four global suppliers at the beginning of 2008, as had been the prospect as recently as a year ago, we will still have only the SAT3/SAFE cable, which is still controlled by Telkom.

However, the undersea cables represent only one aspect of the great disconnect in South Africa.

The following is a priority list of 10 essential demands for the health of telecommunications and internet connectivity in South Africa. In collaboration with colleagues and associates, helped along by participants in public debates at numerous conferences, the list has evolved over time, and will keep evolving. Keep reading →

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Posted in the category: Insight, Strategy, Technology

African banking market beckons

The bankingsector’s real opportunity for organic growth is to look for the vast unserved African banking market, says international banking guru Joe DiVanna, who is to head a bill of over 60 experts at a banking technology conference in Nairobi next month.

Joe DiVanna, a world-renowned consultant, researcher, speaker and trainer in innovative banking, will headline the African Banking Technology Conference, to be held in Nairobi from 28 March to 4 April 2008.

Joe DiVannaDescribed as a “polymath” by The Economist, for his cutting edge approach to strategy development, DiVanna directs Maris Strategies, a Cambridge think-tank for business and financial services. He is author of numerous management books, including Redefining Financial Services and The Future of Retail Banking,

He will hold a full-day “Banking Mini-MBA”, entitled “The African Banking Agenda: Innovation, Performance, Service”.

“The dynamics of the unfolding landscape of today’s world financial markets demands that financial institutions learn to excel at innovation in order to compete,” he argues. “In Africa, competition is being redefined as regulatory structures open up to foreign banks. Within each nation, competition for existing customers is also becoming more intense, as banks are often targeting the same customers.
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Posted in the category: Economy, Insight, Strategy

The conscience-driven corporation

The great entrepreneurs were always driven by the meaning they found in making a difference in their respective fields. And this implies that you can be market-driven, yet have a conscience. In Part 2 of his exploration of the death of the profit motive, JERRY SCHUITEMA introduces the concept of contribution-driven corporations.

Jerry SchuitemaThere is a fundamental axiom which few would challenge: that our true value as human beings lies in our capacity to make a contribution to the good of others.

To argue that the best way of achieving this is to focus exclusively on the material benefit to be gained from the contribution seems illogical. It is saying that individuals give their best when they focus on their worst qualities such as greed and insecurity… that we only give to the extent that we know we will get. Such a human being will become dysfunctional.

None of us knows with certainty what we can get out of any situation but we know with far greater clarity and certainty what we are capable of giving. To restrict giving, therefore, to what we know what we will get restricts the contribution and negates our possible value. This is what risk and entrepreneurship is about. Keep reading →

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Posted in the category: Economy, Insight, Strategy

Profit Motive is the new Titanic

The twin corporate issues of sustainability and governance are not only changing the rules of the game but the game itself. They are challenging the way business has been understood since Adam Smith and they must have the likes of Milton Friedman twitching in his recently dug grave, writes Jerry Schuitema.

When the Titanic set sail from Southampton in the spring of 1912, it was more than the biggest and best passenger ship of its time. It represented both the best and the worst of contemporary society. It was the epitome of grandeur, opulence, refinement and innovation. It was also an engineering marvel and was hailed as a symbol of man’s mastery of the elements.

The Titanic - sunk by greedIt stood for the notion that out of man’s hunger for material wealth comes greatness. In its variously classed cabins were cocooned the desires, dreams, aspirations and, later, courage and cowardice of both the elite and the common people. It was the embodiment of profit-driven greed, competitiveness, pride and arrogance. These things, not the iceberg, were what sank it.

The Profit Motive has also hit an iceberg. It is foundering. The Ethics, the Sustainability, and the Good Governance are steaming to its rescue, but they can no longer save the ship. They may be just in time to save the passengers and crew from the freezing waters. Keep reading →

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Posted in the category: Economy, Insight, Strategy

Power failures and notebooks:How to extend your working life

South African businesses have become accustomed to country-wide power cuts as Eskom attempts to reduce demand on the national grid. Even a laptop computer is no longer good enough to keep the computer-dependent going. Nadia Hufkie, HP SA’s Country Category Manager for its Personal Systems Group, offers advice on extending your working hours on a notebook computer.

Nadia HufkieWith the proliferation of mobile computing, many businesses are reliant on notebook PCs to conduct their daily work. However, with power cuts occurring at random times, notebook users often find themselves with a battery that dies – bringing work abruptly to a halt.

The current situation is obviously hampering the productivity of South Africa’s mobile workforce. There are, however, simple actions – as well as new innovations – that users can take advantage of to help their batteries last longer and stay productive. Keep reading →

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Posted in the category: Strategy, Technology

Location, location, location? Wrong, wrong, wrong

In real estate, you will have heard, there are only three rules: location, location and location.

In the emerging industry of mobile commerce, we hear the same argument. Much is made of the potential of location-based services (or LBS, in its inevitable acronymisation). The most profitable models for the delivery of mobile commerce services, say the experts, will be based on where users find themselves. Ergo, the most successful services should be the likes of:
IBM’s vision of LBSTraveller services – business travellers wanting information on the destination where they’ve just arrived;

Entertainment information – users going out to movies or a meal wanting information on what is in the area where they find themselves;

Route information – directions on getting where you want to go from where you are;

Emergency services – alerting rescue, medical or police services on the location of someone in distress (for more examples, See IBM’s vision of LBS).

Aside from the last – which is more usually the province of public authorities rather than of commercial services – the problem with this vision is that much of it doesn’t make sense. Oh yes, it makes perfect sense from a technological perspective. This is what the technology can do, so why shouldn’t it be part of the promise?

Even academics are arguing that mobile commerce is dependent on Location on the one hand, and on Time on the other. In short, where users are, and when they are there.

But it is wrong, wrong, wrong. Keep reading →

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Posted in the category: Strategy, Technology, Trends

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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