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Virgil Renzulli, SMS Media Relations
August 6, 2018
When emerging economies transition to open-market systems or their governments change from military regimes to democracies, one would expect an open-market system to develop. However, the large diversified conglomerates that dominate emerging economies actually strengthen during these positive transitions.
The result is that multinational corporations seeking to succeed in these economies also function as conglomerates -- clusters of coordinated activities by interlinked but legally independent enterprises.
Those are the conclusions of a paper published online today (August 6, 2018) in the Strategic Management Society’s Global Strategy Journal authored by Marcelo Bucheli, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Erica Salvaj, Universidad del Desarrollo, Chile and Minyoung Kim, University of Kansas.
Some scholars postulate that conglomerates or business groups, as they are also called, owe their existence to the market imperfections created by protectionist and economically interventionist governments, imperfections such as insufficient labor markets and financial institutions, closed economies, and weak or corrupt governments and judicial systems.
Citing earlier studies, the authors say, the second global economy (when the home countries of these business groups were opening their doors to foreign investment) that started in the 1970s and the third wave of democratization that started in the 1980s should have substantially lowered or even eliminated market imperfections.
However, the transitions that took place were more complex than originally expected. Instead of having the whole world converging towards a Western-style liberal democracy and market economy, the world that emerged was a multi-polar world comprised of a multiplicity of political and economic systems.
Multi-national corporations investing in these emerging economies have the great disadvantage of being “outsiders.” Consequently, their business strategies had to take into consideration the persistence and strength of conglomerates, making them both victims and perpetuators of these market problems.
The paper entitled Better Together: How Multinationals Come Together with Business Groups in Times of Economic and Political Transition, studied two interrelated questions:
First, why do conglomerates in emerging markets thrive and prevail after pro-market reforms are implemented in their countries?
And, second, what type of adaptation strategies can multinational corporations develop in order to be competitive in economies dominated by conglomerates?
The authors studied business groups in Chile during the period that country underwent dramatic political and economic changes, from a democratic regime to a military dictatorship and later back to democracy, and from a highly protectionist economy to a globally oriented open market economy.
“We maintain,” wrote the authors, “that business groups were created in periods of protectionism as a way to navigate economies with strong state participation or inefficient markets, as a way to economize on transaction costs created by the limited political and economic system.
“The evidence also shows how the business groups were created to benefit from close relations to policy-makers, and the process of creation of business groups led to a strong concentration of economic power around those groups.”
As the economy transitioned towards more open markets, elites in emerging economies were unwilling to abandon the advantages of having links among their businesses. Therefore, the transitions did not necessarily create more competitive environments, leaving Chile, for example, an oligopolistic economy.
“With this type of economic consolidation,” wrote the authors, “we conducted a network analysis to show how the business groups increased the concentration of their power by building links with each other through interlocked directors. . .this process was carried out not only by the Chilean business groups, but also by the foreign multinational corporations entering Chile, which adopted a business group structure and built links with other business groups (both Chilean and foreign).”
“In sum,” write the authors, “strategies devised as means to reduce market imperfections created new imperfections that incentivized the business groups to retain their structure and forced multinationals to become business groups.”
The Global Strategy Journal (GSJ) is an official journal of the Strategic Management Society (SMS) and is published by Wiley. The SMS is comprised of 3,000 academics, business practitioners, and consultants from 80 countries and focuses on the development and dissemination of insights on the strategic management process, as well as on fostering contacts and interchanges around the world.
November 4, 2018
History is replete with examples of military commanders and sporting combatants using their perceptions of rival decision-makers in deciding how to engage those rivals – such as Russian commanders employing Napoleon’s hubris against him and Muhammad Ali devising the ‘rope-a-dope’ strategy knowing his opponent would be ultra-aggressive.
According to a new study published in November’s Strategic Management Journal, modern business executives appear to be applying the same principles.
Prior research suggests that decision-makers actively gather information about their rivals’ likely actions and to a very high degree, base competitive maneuvers upon that information.
“Despite this practical reality, however, neither the theories that explain the role of executives in a firm’s actions nor competitive dynamics research advance theoretical explanations of how this rival-based phenomenon unfolds,” write the authors, Aaron Hill, University of Florida, Tessa Recendes, Oklahoma State University and Jason Ridge, University of Arkansas.
The researchers saw a need to better understand how attackers’ perceptions of a rival CEO affect attacks on the CEO’s firm, and they articulate how CEOs possessing certain psychological, behavioral, and social characteristics may unknowingly precipitate competitive attacks on their firms.
Their study integrates into management theories insights from victimology that explain how individuals are subject to more attacks if they possess characteristics others perceive as either more submissive or more provocative.
“If rivals perceive a focal firm’s CEO as more submissive and hence, less willing or able to respond to attacks, those rivals will have less fear the CEO will attempt to counter in ways that might damage the attacking firm,” the authors say.“
For example, more submissive CEOs may be seen as unlikely to respond to a price cut directed at their firms. . . Attacks on firms led by such individuals, then, pose little threat to the attacking firm and provide greater prospects for strategic advancements without the fear of reprisal.”
Similarly, there are two reasons why a firm led by a CEO who is perceived as provocative would be subject to more attacks.
“First, more provocative individuals are attacked by rivals who seek to restore their view of what ‘ought to be’ or what they consider normal,” say the authors. “The attackers are motivated to ‘get even’ for perceived provocations.
“Second, more provocative individuals may threaten others’ relative standing or security, provoking attacks out of self-preservation (i.e., to ‘save face’ and/or to reduce or remove peril).
”For hypotheses testing, the researchers used a sample of Fortune 500 CEOs from 2000 to 2016 and employed videometric measurement of CEOs where third-party raters used validated instruments to assess personal characteristics. They then combined the videometric measures of CEOs with data drawn from RavenPack News Analytics. RavenPack uses a patented algorithm to classify and aggregate press releases, which are commonly used to capture a firm’s competitive actions.
The results: As CEO submissiveness increases from the mean value to one standard deviation above the mean, attacks on the CEO’s firm rise as follows: Pricing and Product Attacks nearly double while Marketing and Expansion Attacks increase about 64 and 48 percent, respectively.
Victimology research suggests that “victims” are seen as easier targets than those considered being “provocative” -- even if being provocative is still a strong predictor.
Indeed, the study also found that as CEO provocativeness increases one standard deviation from the mean, the rise in attacks are smaller but also meaningful: Pricing, Product, Marketing, and Expansion Attacks increase about 50, 27, 35, and 58 percent, respectively.
The study is important because a single competitive attack or series of attacks can often have negative ramifications for firms directly while also triggering firms to respond by dedicating valuable resources, which could otherwise be directed elsewhere, toward counter-attacking. Increasing attacks anywhere from about 25 percent to 100 percent likely has substantial implications for firms.
It is possible that providing knowledge about how CEO characteristics precipitate competitive actions toward their firms may aid in prevention and intervention strategies.
However, in assessing if attacks on the CEO’s firm are mediated by the attacked firm’s competitive actions, the research results suggest that the attacks are not mediated by the attacked firm’s competitive actions. And that holds true for both firms led by “submissive” CEOs and “provocative” CEOs.
The study, Second-order effects of CEO characteristics: How rivals’ perceptions of CEOs as submissive and provocative precipitate competitive attacks, is published by the Strategic Management Journal (SMJ), the official journal of the Strategic Management Society, which is comprised of 3,000 academics, business practitioners, and consultants from 80 countries.
October 25, 2018
While firms face regulatory barriers to the use of board interlocking ties as a strategy for reducing competition, a new study suggests that firms can circumvent these barriers by appointing the friends of competitors’ CEOs to their boards.
The research, Under the Radar: Firms Manage Competitive Uncertainty by Appointing Friends of “Rival” CEOs to Their Boards by James D. Westphal, University of Michigan and David H. Zhu, Arizona State University, will be published in the Strategic Management Society’s Strategic Management Journal.
“Board ties in the form of interlocking directorates provide a potential mechanism by which top executives can coordinate firm decisions and reduce competition,” write the authors. “However, concern about board ties among academics and policy-makers has declined in recent years because the Clayton Act has prohibited interlocking directorates among firms that compete in the same industry, if combining these firms would violate antitrust laws.
“In addition, it has become increasingly impractical to form and maintain board interlocking ties in which the CEO of one firm serves on another firm’s board.”
However, Westphal and Zhu dispute the widespread perception that directorship ties no longer play a significant role in inter-firm collusion.
“In particular, we contend that relatively high competitive uncertainty in an industry will encourage firms to appoint the friends of rivals’ CEOs to their boards to facilitate inter-firm coordination, creating board-friendship ties to rivals,” write the authors.
An outside director who is a friend of a rival’s CEO is in a position to help assure the rival firm’s cooperation as research suggests that outside directors are increasingly involved with firms’ major strategic decisions and hence are well exposed to the firm’s strategic plans.
The friendship between the director and the rival’s CEO further renders both CEOs more willing to trust information from the director about the plans for inter-firm cooperation.
Companies also appear to use headhunters to find these “friendly” board members and to restore ties that have been broken.
The study examined large- and medium-sized public companies in the U.S. with more than $100 million in annual revenues with the final sample consisting of 509 firms.
“Our first set of results show that the level of competitive uncertainty faced by a firm is significantly and positively related to the formation of friendship ties between a firm’s outside directors and rivals’ CEOs,” write the authors. “Additional results suggest that firms were more likely to reconstitute broken board friendship ties if they face relatively high levels of competitive uncertainty.
“These findings are consistent with our theoretical expectation that firms seek to manage competitive uncertainty by creating and maintaining board-friendship ties to rivals.“
The research also found considerable evidence that executive search firms mediated the formation, maintenance and reconstitution of these ties.
“Additional results provided evidence that board-friendship ties to rivals are associated with higher subsequent firm performance,” write the authors. “In particular, an additional board-friendship tie to competitors improved a firm’s net income by approximately $134 million on average.
“Supplemental evidence provided further support for our theoretical argument regarding the mechanisms by which board-friendship ties to rivals increase firm performance. In particular, analysis of our survey data corroborated our theoretical argument that board-friendship ties facilitate inter-firm coordination that enables firms to reduce competition on price and other contract terms.”
October 8, 2018
Firms founded by immigrants have a lower survival rate than those founded by natives. But a new study has found that work experience in the host country and a supporting compatriot community decreases the disadvantages faced by immigrants.
The study, The survival of firms founded by immigrants: Institutional distance between home and host country, and experience in the host country, published Monday (October 8, 2018) in the Strategic Management Society’s Strategic Management Journal, was authored by Jose Mata, HEC Lausanne, University of Lausanne, and Claudia Alves, Nova School of Business and Economics.
“The issue is more than foreignness,” say the authors. “It is the lack of integration in the local economic fabric that creates obstacles to doing business, which suggests that differently integrated foreign firms may suffer from liabilities to a different extent.”
An important finding of the study is that the “Liabilities of Foreignness” apply not just to multinational companies that are managed from abroad, but to all companies with foreigners in senior positions.
“When foreigners have managerial positions in firms, these liabilities extend to the firm,” write the authors. “Foreigners are less able to handle local situations because when they arrive in a cultural context that is different from their own, they go through a ‘culture shock’ that prevents them from functioning effectively.
“Such a shock is related to the cultural distance between the societies of origin and settlement. and adaptation takes time.”
Conversely, the experience of managers in the local environment may be decisive. For example, a prior study found that while foreign firms operating in the U.S. faced more labor suits in American courts than their local counterparts, the presence of Americans among the foreign firm’s top officers reduced the number of these labor suits.
According to the study, immigrant-started businesses cannot be treated monolithically. The type of business and immigrant’s nation of origin are also factors.
“Large corporations have routines and processes that partially insulate them from the influence of individual decision makers,” write the authors. “Entrepreneurial firms, in contrast, are typically small firms in which founders exert particularly strong influence. For this reason the link between the characteristics between founders and firm outcomes should be more direct and pronounced.”
Immigrant adaptation is related to the country of origin. Cultural distance increases adaptation difficulties. Immigrants or expatriates have a difficult time in adapting to the new society, but foreign norms are also subject to misinterpretation from locals. This leads to negative attitudes towards foreigners.
In addition, governments and societies of host countries hold different attitudes toward each nationality, and these attitudes exert a great influence on the degree of adaptation. Different national communities also pursue dissimilar strategies of adaptation, seen by cultural psychologists as a consequence of the interplay between the value of maintaining one’s identity and that of maintaining relationships with the larger society.
“We argue that the ‘Liabilities of Foreignness’ are reduced with work experience in the host country and that firms created by immigrants that have been in the country for longer are subject to lower exit rates than those created by recently arrived immigrants,” write the authors. “Immigrant entrepreneurs can also benefit from being part of large national communities, as these communities provide resources which immigrants typically have difficulty accessing.
“We argue that the benefit of work experience and of national communities is particularly valuable for immigrants from countries that are less similar to the host country. We, therefore, propose a new lens for analyzing the effect of institutional differences between countries, one that sees institutional differences as moderators of the relationship between survival and the factors that affect it.
“Our results suggest that those considering entrepreneurship in a foreign country should carefully evaluate if they possess adequate resources for running a business in that country.”
September 15, 2018
Junior stock exchanges can cause investors to ignore potentially better investments. And intermediaries such as incubators, accelerators, and science parks can be invaluable in launching new firms, but they also introduce “conflict” that can limit the growth of these firms.
Those are the conclusions of new research by Assistant Professor Robert N. Eberhart, Santa Clara University, and Associate Professor Charles E. Eesley, Stanford University, published this week (September 15, 2018) in the Strategic Management Society’s Strategic Management Journal (SMJ).
Junior stock markets play an important role because they can ease the path to an IPO. But because the new exchanges usually restrict investment to technology firms, they may motivate early stage investors to favor newly founded technology firms over more optimal investments in non-technology firms.
The prior norms of investing in the best opportunity come into conflict with the newly introduced norm of risky technology investment. Overall growth is lowered owing to the possibility that without the skills to execute due diligence in this new arena, less worthy firms are funded.
“For investors,” write the authors, ”the enthusiasm for technology firms engendered by a new exchange can motivate investment in marginal firms to maintain an adequate deal flow…
“For entrepreneurs, our results indicate that it is more challenging to manage technology firm growth when intermediaries make IPOs easier to obtain.
“Finally, for policy-makers and supporters of the new exchanges, our results imply that . . .unless listing standards remain high, the virtuous cycle of investment upon which a health entrepreneurial climate rests may be disrupted to mute the intended effects of the new exchange.”
Intermediaries, including junior stock markets, entrepreneurship training, and government funding agencies are expanding at an increasing rate.
“They assist entrepreneurs by linking parties to bring about activities that would not readily happen in their absence,” write the authors. “Recent studies show how economic development efforts, private service firms, and science parks in emerging nations support the creation of new firms through certification of a new firm’s abilities, facilitating access to resources, and fostering the creation of functioning markets.”
For example, a recent study found that science parks not only provided direct funding to socially connected funders, they also offered a way for less connected entrepreneurs to become certified and thus facilitated access to government funding.
And the certification of new privately owned power plants plans by government inspectors can legitimize the emerging industrial sector for investors and other stakeholders facilitating investment in new firms.
The question is whether such intermediaries always foster new firm growth.
A new intermediary, say the authors, introduces conflict between the new practices of the intermediary and the practices of the existing institutional environment. One major conflict is that intermediaries may be far less risk-averse than the companies they are serving. They may also value business practices over other considerations important to the institution.
In addition to causing conflicts and the problems of investing in marginal firms and limited future liquidity, another issue of intermediaries is a “means-ends decoupling of actions from intentions.”
“Means-ends decoupling focuses on actors that either cannot anticipate or cannot understand the outcomes that their actions will bring,” write the authors. While they may intend to comply with the relevant norms and practices, managers and staff may not know how to comply or for them the link between actions and outcomes is too complex. Consequently intentions and actions are decoupled.
In the case of non-profits, because they are staffed by individuals skilled in the social purpose of the organization, they may fail to implement audits or other business procedures because they lack the skills or knowledge to implement the required policies.
The institutional conflict created by the introduction of business practices can alter the activities that charities pursue because they now serve business interests that conflict with the incumbent practice of action for the benefit of social causes.
“In another example,” write the authors, “non-profits face conflict when the new practices of business discipline on spending are introduced to encourage sustainability but conflict with incumbent values of charitable operations.”
September 15, 2018
A new study on the negative impact of philanthropy found that the more philanthropic a petroleum company is the more likely it is to have oil spills.
The research published this week (September 15, 2018) in the Strategic Management Journal(SMJ) was conducted by Jiao Luo, Aseem Kaul, and Haram Seo, all of the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota. Borrowing a line from Macbeth, the study is called Winning us with trifles: Adverse selection in the use of philanthropy as insurance.
Firms that donate to social causes develop a reputation for being socially responsible. But, ask the authors, are philanthropic firms truly more responsible?
Prior research has shown that philanthropy serves as a form of reputation insurance: firms that undertake philanthropy accrue a moral reputation, which helps protect them when adverse events occur or negative information about the firm comes to light, because stakeholders are more apt to give the benefit of the doubt to firms they judge to be responsible or trustworthy.
“While prior work clearly establishes the potential for philanthropy to provide insurance-like benefits, the central assumption driving this effect—that philanthropic firms are more responsible, and therefore worthy of society’s trust—remains largely unexamined. This is a serious omission." write the authors. “We argue that firms that donate more may be more likely to do harm—those that expect to do harm later are likely to give more now, and those that know their reputation protects them may become less careful."
The researchers developed and tested a formal model of reputation insurance, focusing on the U.S. petroleum industry and oil spills from 2004 to 2011.
“Several factors make this a good context for our purpose,” write the authors. “First, oil spills are a frequent occurrence in the United States—our sample period saw an average of 883 spills a year, involving a total of 1.10 million barrels of oil spilled every year. . . Relatedly, U.S. oil companies are also among the most actively engaged in corporate philanthropy, with the firms in our sample donating a total of $105 million annually during our study period.”
Their findings confirmed the value of reputation insurance in that philanthropy diminishes the stock market’s negative relation to oil spills.
“However, we also find a positive association between a firm’s philanthropic donations and the subsequent amount and number of its oil spills, i.e., firms that give more, spill more,” write the authors. “Further analysis shows that the increase in spills is limited to those under the firm's control, such as those due to operator errors or equipment failures. It also shows that this effect is stronger where firms face less scrutiny, such as in states that are more politically polarized, or those that voted Republican in 2008.”
August 29, 2018
Many complementors with successful products and third-party sellers have been pushed out of their markets not by competition from counterparts but rather by competition from the sales platform owners they use.
In 2013, Amazon had more than 2 million third-party sellers, which accounted for approximately 40% of Amazon’s sales. A new research paper by Feng Zhu of Harvard University and Qihong Liu of the University of Oklahoma and published today (August 29, 2018) in the Strategic Management Journal (SMJ) found that of the 163,853 products that were offered exclusively by third-party sellers in June 2013, Amazon began directly selling 4,852 or 3% within 10 months.
“While Amazon’s entry discourages affected third-party sellers from subsequently pursuing growth on the platform, it increases product demand and reduces shipping costs for consumers,” wrote the authors.
Other examples of platform-based markets include video game consoles, smartphones, online auction markets, search engines, and social networking sites. Thousands of entrepreneurs have built businesses and sell products and services on such platforms.
For example, by the end of 2014 more than 1.7 million and 1.4 million applications had been developed for two popular smartphone platforms, Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, respectively, generating billions of dollars of revenue for each platform owner.
“Platform owners can exert considerable influence over complementors’ welfare and appropriate the value from their innovations,” write the authors. “Netscape and Real Networks, complementors of Microsoft’s Windows platform, were extinguished by the rival Microsoft applications Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player. Apple makes some previously essential third-party apps obsolete with every new operating system it releases.”
“Our results,” write the authors, “although they may paint a gloomy picture for complementors in various platform-based markets, nevertheless suggest a number of strategies complementors can employ to mitigate the risk of value misappropriation. Whereas platform owners tend to target popular products, complementors that build their businesses around aggregating non-blockbuster products or services are less likely to face direct competition from platform owners.
“Complementors that choose to focus on popular products need to develop capabilities in new product discovery that enable them to continually bring innovative products to the platform. Our results also show that complementors’ platform-specific investments reduce the likelihood of entry by the platform owner.”
Complementors can initiate impediments to learning and procurement by platform owners, for example, by strategically increasing prices to make products appear less popular, concealing supplier information, seeking exclusive contracts with manufacturers as sole suppliers, or manufacturing or customizing proprietary complementary products.