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Able Corporation: Strategic Management Process

Able Corporation has just hired you for the newly created position of Director of Strategic Planning and Analysis. Able Corporation is an old and venerable American manufacturer of a full range of portable electric power tools (PEPT). The company, which was a family owned business, is being considered as a possible acquisition by Walden International, Incorporated, a foreign conglomerate which is primarily driven by short-term, quarterly financial considerations. There has been virtually no investment in Able Corporation for several years and as a result, many of the product lines are stale and outdated, the operations are inefficient and costly, and there have been net operating losses in two of the last four years. Also, the president to whom you will be directly reporting has held the position for two years, is related by blood to the previous owners, and has had some part in the development of the previous strategy.

The company offers a full range of power tools of professional and consumer quality and serves both consumer and industrial channels. With the exception of circular saws, Able's market share is no greater than 3% in any of its product lines. The market share of circular saws is a dominant 40%, with very strong brand equity and loyalty among both professionals and consumers. The quality of the tools, except for circular saws, is considered low to moderate amongst end-users.

Able Corporation has non-competitive, high product costs due to its two badly placed (in high labor cost, unionized areas) and obsolete manufacturing plants. These plants are so old and have been so badly maintained that some investment must be made in them just in order to remain in business at all. It has been a strategy of Able in the past to drive sales through gaining market share in order to leverage its high operating costs, but this strategy is increasingly being questioned. It is now the general consensus of Able's senior management team that in order for the corporation to survive, Able must do whatever it can to capture greater share in the two growing segments of the power tool market, consumer channels and cordless products.

Able has had some success in the cordless business segment, and has gained a reputation as a cordless innovator with a couple of its products. Any beachheads that have been established, however, have evaporated as competitors have essentially copied the product and used their superior marketing power to displace Able at the retailers. Able has then moved on to introduce the next innovative product. This strategy of first in, abandon, and move on has been highly debated within the senior management team of Able, with a desire of some to transfer resources from research and development to the marketing and sales departments.

Able Corporation has little information on its market share, the size of market, the dynamics that drive the market, or its relative product cost positions. No competitive analysis has been performed in years. The internal information that is available to run the business is inconsistent from one functional department to another. The monthly meetings of the senior management team have been reduced to arguments over the attainment of company metrics, with each department pointing to its own set of reports to support its positions. The friction among the senior management team is having its effect on the rest of the employees of Able Corporation. Many of the employees fear losing their jobs due to the acquisition. As a result of years of declining sales and layoffs, a culture of pessimism and failure exists. Indeed, the new owners fear that many employees in key positions will leave the company taking away their industry expertise.

Walden's top management has come to realize that it seriously miscalculated the underlying financial health and market position of Able Corporation. In addition, Walden has no expertise of its own in the specific product markets or general operating environment of Able. The chief executive officer of Walden is very concerned with making the acquisition a success and has called a special meeting of the Strategic Officers Steering Committee (SOS-C). This is made up of key company-wide strategic experts from across all the business units of Walden. The meeting is to take place in six months and will determine the strategic direction of Able Corporation for the next five to ten years.

Power tools consist of such products as circular saws, drills, routers, reciprocating saws, planes, and hammer drills. Approximately 80% of all power tools sold are corded, while the remaining 20% are cordless. All things being equal, a cordless tool is comparable in price to a similarly featured corded tool. The cordless segment is by far the faster growing of the two at a compound annual rate of 10% vs. 3% for corded. This is due to its perceived portability and relative ease of use. Cordless tools are locked into their performance by the state of battery technology, which limits battery life, power output, capacity, and size. As advances in technology increase battery life, capacity and output, and decrease battery size, the pace of the growth of the cordless segment increases. At present, the growth rate is expected to remain at 10%, but at any time disruptive advances in battery performance can greatly increase even this high growth rate.

The U.S. power tool market in which Able Corporation operates is divided into professional and consumer products, consumer and industrial channels, and consumer and professional end-users. A professional tool is defined by high reliability, high durability, and enhanced features. They are built to withstand the rigors of daily use by such tradesmen as carpenters, electricians, wood-workers, and plumbers in the performance of their jobs. Professional tools cost more to manufacture, but are sold at high enough prices to realize higher margins than comparable consumer tools. A consumer tool is defined as lower reliability, lower durability and less features, and is primarily used by do-it-yourself individuals (DIY'ers) for occasional jobs around the home.

Professional tools are sold in consumer and industrial channels, whereas consumer tools are sold exclusively in consumer channels. The industrial channel has been declining at a rate of approximately 5% per year, for the past five years. The decline has now stabilized and the forecast is for flat growth over the next five years. It currently represents 45% of the total market of all tools sold in the U.S. market. The industrial channel is characterized by distributors that provide a range of greater services and thus higher prices, and its customers consist solely of professional tradesmen. There is much fragmentation in this channel, with no distributor greater than 5% of the total channel.

Consumer channels have been experiencing a tremendous 20% per year growth over the past five years, and are expected to grow at a 5% rate over the next five years. The growth has been caused by the emergence of the "Big Box" retailers such Wal Mart, Home Depot, and Lowes. These three dominate the market and exert extreme price pressure on all their suppliers, including those providing portable electric power tools. Because of their lower prices relative to the industrial channels, professional end users have increasingly been shopping in the consumer channels. Currently, 60% of all professional end users buy their professional tools in consumer channels, and this number is expected to increase over the next five years.

Current scenario

In six months you are to present a complete business plan for Able Corporation to the Strategic Officers Steering Committee (SOS-C). You are to provide a mission statement, operating principles, market analysis, company strengths and weaknesses analysis, one-year, five-year and ten-year strategic objectives, sales forecasts, financial and operational objectives, and pro forma financials.

As a preliminary step in the preparation of the business plan, brainstorm the major elements of the strategic management process. Using the questions below as a guide, provide several bullet points for each major step in the process. These can include insights, issues that need to be addressed, questions that need to be asked, etc.

How would you go about defining the identity of Able Corporation and creating its mission statement? Where would you look for the information? What do you already know about Able that can help?
What are some of the key elements that might be contained in Able's value propositions?
What principle would you use in order to prioritize the implementation steps needed to accomplish the strategic objectives?
What post implementation and feedback mechanisms would you have in place to evaluate the effectiveness of the process? What measures would you use?

Solution Preview

The response addresses the queries posted in 1790 words with references.

//Before writing about the Strategic Management Process, we have to understand Able Corporation and its scope. We should know that the Corporation is suffering from inadequate strategic objectives. As per the directions, we will discuss the hierarchy of strategic intent under the heading of the strategic management process. This part mainly explains four strategic intents i.e. creating and communicating a vision, designing a mission statement, defining the business and setting objectives.//

Strategic Management Process:-

Establishing the hierarchy of strategic intent

Creating and communicating a vision: The main vision of Able Corporations is to be a leader in the US power tool market and provide the best services and make innovative products, especially in the cordless product market where it has the core competence. To have a good knowledge about the market and developing competitive tools for the analysis of markets, having a vision is necessary for the company.

Designing a mission statement- To achieve objectives along with delivering satisfaction to customers in an environment of fairness, honesty and courtesy, "Meeting needs profitably" is the main concern. The value that drives the organization is the pursuit of excellence. It commits to strive persistently to improve itself, its team, products and services.

Defining the business- The Company is involved in the manufacturing of the full range of portable electric power tools. (PEPT) Power tools consist of products such as drills, circular saws, etc. 80% of the power tools are corded while the remaining 20% are cordless. The power tool market is divided in professional and consumer products, consumer and industrial channels, and consumer and professional end users. A professional tool is characterized by high reliability, durability and better features. They are built to resist the rigidity and roughness of daily use by different tradesmen. Whereas, a consumer tool is defined by lower reliability, durability and less features and are mainly used by individuals who do occasional jobs on their own at home.

Value proposition- Able's value proposition should contain the following six elements-

Focus on the type of market for which the value is being created.
The reaction of customers in the form of feedback or surveys should be gathered so that the company is able to make its products better.
The power tool products that are being used by the company should be clearly segmented for household use and for the use by tradesmen. The prices should also be determined accordingly.
Benefits- Able Corporation needs to clearly study the market and perform comparative analysis of the market to gain knowledge about the benefits that customers derive from its products.

Setting Objectives- Objectives are precise and concrete and some of them are listed below.

1. To establish competitive and technology enabled plants that ...

Solution Summary

The response addresses the queries posted in 1790 words with references. We will discuss the hierarchy of strategic intent under the heading of the strategic management process. This part mainly explains four strategic intents i.e. creating and communicating a vision, designing a mission statement, defining the business and setting objectives.