Do you have a business that can never seem to win? Is it continually passed over by customers in favor of competitors? Is it soaking up investment with little positive result? If so, it may be that you’re fighting on someone else’s battlefield. To which we have a simple prescription: Stop!
We recently wrote about a consumer packaged goods company that almost always did a great job of picking attractive markets and building a competitive advantage. Almost always. They had one division that was competing in an unattractive market, where they were at a competitive disadvantage.
Most of the company’s chosen markets had attractive characteristics:
However, this one division competed in a market with diametrically opposed competitive dynamics:
Given these dynamics, our recommendation was to divest the business, based on the following logic:
In effect, they were fighting on someone else’s battlefield. With the resources they were burning in futile efforts to profitably grow this business, they could instead acquire and build new brands in much more attractive markets.
Regrettably, the company did not follow our advice on this business, and have continued to struggle. They have experienced declining volumes, lower pricing and have lost more than two percentage points of margin in recent years, and have had to increase their trade spending to achieve those result due to aggressive competitor activity. They continue to fight on others’ turf, with little positive to show for it.
The lesson: It is almost never profitable to fight on someone else’s turf. Stick to what you know how to do well, and don’t be tempted by the siren song of business models you don’t know how to execute.