Strategic Management analysis, diagnosis and evaluation of a firm



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Strategic Management

 

Assignment Q&A

 

 

1)Can you please summarise the key elements of the marking criteria? What would you suggest for us in order to achieve a 1st for the assignment?

 

Answer:

Key points / marking areas:

 

Covering all thematic areas to some / varying extent. Depending on your analysis and the firm you analyse you are free to choose how to prioritise. You are not expected to cover each thematic area in the same depth but instead you can choose to briefly tough upon one to the themes while expanding more in another. The important thing is to at least touch upon each theme. You can choose where to expand and where to be relatively brief depending on the analysis narrative you develop and the firm you choose.

 

 

Use of frameworks. As already discussed in class you need to use frameworks to carry out  / support analysis. At least one framework in each question Q2-4 is expected. Q1 does not require a framework (although you can use one if it helps you) but instead it needs you to summarise the firm, the strategy goals ( and values if you can source the relevant info) and to conduct a performance evaluation / appraisal using at least 2-3 backward looking metrics and at least one forward looking metric. Trends and benchmarking against competitors. Diagnosis of key performance (e.g. under / over).

 

 

Structured arguments, narrative and conclusions: Use of data / information sourced (e.g. databases, company reports, etc.), analysis using a relevant framework or metrics based analysis (in the case of Q1 primarily). Your analysis conclusions and arguments need to integrate and rely on data / info sourced, analysis using a relevant framework, numerical analysis where necessary (e.g. Q1). Personal judgement based on the previous is also valuable. This will be part subjective but part relying on information and deductions from your analysis.

 

 

Q4 is more about synthesis of the key conclusions from the previous questions and the evaluation of the firm as a whole. Use of strategic fit or alternative framework which looks at the firm as a whole.

 

 

Use of figures, tables and graphs to summarise analysis (e.g. frameworks, tables, plots of performance over time). Figures and tables need to be well integrated in the report (i.e. Titled, referenced and discussed from within the report as part of analysis).

 

 

As emphasised in class and in online instructions you need to show some basic links to theory via referencing key frameworks and theories (if needed to support conclusions).

 

 

All the above are expanded further in the assignment Q&A but as a summary I hope it helps.

 

 

1) Regarding referencing, do we need to cite references throughout the assignment with little numbers and footnotes? Or do we just need to provide a reference list at the end?

Thanks

 

Answer: What I would recommend is the typical Harvard referencing format with the full reference list at the end. This reference list does not count towards the word limit.

 

 

2) I was just wondering if Firm X would be an appropriate company to use for the Strategic Management year 3 assignment?

Thanks,

 

 

Answer: It is perfectly fine if you select Firm X for your assignment. It is very important that you can find / gather a lot of data (e.g. financials, investor analysis reports, market data, etc.). As long as such wide range of data exists for Firm X then it is perfectly fine. I would recommend you carry out a quick / brief scan online and check databases to confirm that you can indeed source such data for Firm X. That way you can ensure it will be fine.

 

 

3) When we analyze ‘performance’ are we only analyzing financial performance?  Also, can you explain to me what market capitalization is, I am a little confused, and how many formulas should we use to analyze financial performance?

 

Answer: Market Capitalisation is the market value of a company’s outstanding shares. This figure is found by taking the stock price and multiplying it by the total number of shares outstanding.

 

We actually go beyond financial performance. As we discussed during the lecture in week 2, there are multiple ways of evaluating performance. We can consider financial performance in the traditional way (e.g. Sales over past x years, net profit, operating profit, etc.) but we can also consider ratios such as ROE which we can use as proxies for various aspects of strategic performance. You may need to calculate some of these ratios but you are not expected to calculate complex formulae. Depending on which aspect of strategic performance you choose to analyse, you will need different proxies / metrics. You are not expected to use them all but instead choose what aspect of performance you need to analyse and use metrics as needed.

 

4) Are we expected to write the assignment in a report style? Is an executive summary necessary or is a short introduction sufficient considering the word count of 2000 words?

 

Answer: A report style is indeed fine although I would recommend you only include a short introduction (no executive summary needed). The last question can serve as a conclusion so no need to add a separate conclusion section. Best to dedicate the word count to the questions.

 

 

5) This concerns the structure of the assignment and the relevant chapters per question. So the first part should cover topics discussed in lecture 2. This lecture has also tapped on aspects of convergence of interest, so satisfying customers, employees and good relations with the government and communities. Additionally, it shortly touched upon CSR. Would all these be something we should go more into detail within our assignment? And would it be part of the first question? Or should it rather be discussed within the internal environment (Question2)?

 

 

Answer: The lecture during week 2 did indeed touch upon CSR to some extent although we will be going into this in more detail at later sections. It is not mandatory to cover CSR aspects in your analysis but if it forms a key part of your firm’s strategy then you are welcome to focus on this more. In this case I would recommend you analyse it as part of the internal environment.

 

6) When talking about the target market, can I include it within the first part when talking about the industry and assessing the performance?

 

Answer: That is a good idea.

 

7)  When you say that that we are suppose to look at trends, in order to focus on the present, do you mean how the company is doing in 2016? Because the data I’ve used is from the period 2011 to 2015, as 2015 is the most recent financial year (as the financial year of 2016 has not ended yet), is that fine (i.e. to use the period 2011 to 2015)? Or do you expect us to base our analysis on quarterly reports (in which case the Q3 report for 2016 is readily available)?

 

Answer: When I am referring to trends I refer to evaluating the company performance over time to explore upward or downward change over time. We saw this in Starbucks for example where we evaluated performance over time and against competitors. Quite normal for 2015 to be the latest financial reporting year so that is just fine. Also fine to look at a couple of years in the past… 3-5 is more than fine. The level of analysis (e.g. annual vs quarterly) depends on how detailed you choose the evaluation to be. It may or may not be necessary to break it down to that level but that depends on how detailed you choose your evaluation to be. We typically start with high level aggregation and we increase detail if need be.

 

8) For question 1, should we benchmark against a competitor of our chosen company, like the example you provided in class with FedEx and UPS (you compared the two to assess their performance)

 

Answer: Benchmarking against competitors is indeed a very good idea. The examples provided in class and the cases we work on, can serve as guides. Figures, tables and graphs also help.

 

9) Are we analysing it year over year, or as with Starbucks, since the beginning?

 

Answer: We analyse trends over time and we focus on the present (or the most recent data). We do not need to go very far back in the past. 5 or so years past are good enough. The purpose is to evaluate how the firm is doing over time (recently) up to the present time. In turn this should aim at diagnosing and evaluating.

 

10) The company I have in mind is not quoted on the stock exchange (meaning that it will be difficult to do financial ratios, especially market capitalization). Thus, would you suggest that we pick a company which is quoted on the stock exchange?

 

Answer: It is not necessary to pick a company that is publicly listed although if it is then you tend to find a lot of analyst reports (useful). If you choose a firm that is not listed in the SE then you can hopefully locate/ source a company Valuation. Company Valuation is an alternative to market capitalization and can be used in case you cannot have the latter.

 

11) How up to date does the data need to be for the assignment?

Can some of it be 2007 or is that too old and thus irrelevant?

 

Answer: We tend to use data from a few years past till the present. Sometimes it is difficult to find data for the current year so anything as recent as 2015 will be fine. I would not recommend going as far back as 2007 unless if it serves a specific purpose in your analysis. 5 years past or so is more than enough.

 

12) For the assignment, I am looking at choosing X as my company.

From some early research, I have found some good financial data on the FAME database, including calculated profitability ratios.

Is it acceptable to use this data? Or would you like to see us calculate these ratios ourselves?

 

Answer: Company X is a good choice and if you are able to find relevant data and rations in databases then so much the better. You are not expected to calculate the ratios if you find them in databases. The important thing is to be able to interpret them in the context of the strategy analysis.

 

 

13) I will be looking to analyse Company Y in my assignment. The only problem I am having is that there is the X Group which owns many subsidiary companies all over the world (one of which is Company Y). If I do choose this company, would you recommend to just solely focus on Company Y (as the external environment factors would obviously be different for the different X Group companies abroad), or would you recommend analysing the X Group as a whole?

Given this, do you think I should instead choose a company that does not have subsidiaries such as these?

 

Answer: This is a good point and I would advise you to focus on Company Y alone. If you try to analyse a global conglomerate with many different businesses under it then things will get really complicated for you. 2000 words will definitely not be enough.

 

14) How much financial analysis are you expecting? As I did a work placement last year I am a bit rusty on this area.

 

Answer: Regarding the financial analysis, I recommend you use the case from week 2 as an initial guide. Depending on how you focus the performance evaluation, that will determine the type and depth of financial analysis you undertake. As a basis you need to look at some ratios of performance (e.g. Capitalization, ROCE, etc.) and evaluate performance over time and against competitorsAlso important to compare against strategic goals.

 

15) I have decided to look at Firm Y as my choice of firm, they aren’t on the stock exchange but I have managed to find their financial reports, I have an understanding of what the ratios are used for but I am unsure of which one I should look to calculate/which one will be most useful to help evaluate the firm? as they don’t really hold any stock, its more of a service.

Should I look to include a balanced scorecard in the first question?

 

Answer: Firm Y is not a bad choice as long as you can find data about them as well as their key competitors. Keep in mind what we discussed in class regarding the necessary info needed to evaluate a firm. You don’t need to look at everything but as we discussed in class it is recommended you evaluate profit, ROCE, market valuation or capitalisation. It is best to look at performance over time (3-5 years) and against key competitors. Last but no least you need to evaluate performance in the context of strategic goals of the firm. There is no need to use a balance scorecard framework but you are welcome to include it if helps you.

 

16) It is unclear as to how much theory you are wanting in this assignment? I think I understand the basic framework for each section but are you wanting us to reference where this framework/theory comes from? and apart from references about the company information, are you wanting us to find further sources and articles to back up points?

 

Answer: Not a lot of theory is needed or expected in the assignment. As I mentioned in class you only need to reference key frameworks (when you use them) as well as key theories that you employ to support your analysis. You are not expected to analyse or summarise the theory itself but you need to show links with it via references. Additional academic articles (as references) should be kept to a minimum. Additional sources might be needed such as industry reports or analyst reports etc.

 

17) I was wondering whether I should include a strategic group analysis from question 3? As Firm X are part of a larger group, owned by Firm Z, should I evaluate only them in this context or look at the company as a whole?

 

Answer: I strongly recommend you focus on a single industry. Firm Z would (probably) involve multiple industries which will make it very difficult to cover in your report.

 

19) Are we expected to cover all the topics we have covered, per lecture for each section that you have stated? For example in part 2. I am struggling to include ALL the information surrounding resources, organisational structure and corporate governance as i do not have enough word count. Or should we just pick out key parts of each, which apply to our company? (As not all information is available).

 

Answer: You do not have to cover everything we discussed in each lecture. You are dealing with a very short word count so I recommend you select what is most relevant. Best approach is to select what is most relevant to the story you develop, summarise in tables and graphs (which means they do not count towards the limit).

 

20) I haven’t included ROCE as it didn’t really add to my argument. Is it necessary to do so in terms of marking?

 

Answer: If ROCE did not add to your arguments and story then it is ok to not use it. As long as you are providing numerical analysis to show past – present – future performance and you are including trends and comparison with competition then that is fine. You are essentially free to employ alternatives if you so wish.

 

21) I want to use Porter’s five forces for Question 3 (external environment). Are we asked to then take the framework and fill it in with relevant points of the company or apply the framework as it is onto the firm without writing over it? I’m just concerned about the word count. How many frameworks will be sufficient to include?

 

Answer: You do not need to use multiple frameworks. Choosing one in this case is fine and Porter’s will be fine as well. I recommend you use the framework as a guide for your analysis and you can if you want fill it in with what is directly relevant for the firm in question.

 

22) You advised us to include some competitor analysis within the first question. I am planning do to so in the 2nd question as this is more about the external environment and how the competitive environment looks like. So can I include competitors in question 2 rather than focusing on them in question 1?

 

Answer: There is naturally some overlap in terms of selecting competitors but it should not pose a problem. I recommend you briefly identify a few competitors to benchmark performance against for question 1. No need to analyse the competitive environment to a great extent as this needs to be in Q2. It is important to benchmark against key competitors in the industry and that should be covered in Q1.

 

 

23) According to your lecture slides ROCE on capital employed is profit after tax and interest is deducted. When I have checked elsewhere it states operating profit is before tax and interest is deducted. Was this an error or are there different forms of ROCE?

 

Answer: Good question. ROCE is indeed calculated both ways. If you check the Grant textbook, Chapter 2, Table 2.3 it describes ROCE as follows:   “ROCE is also known as return on invested capital (ROIC). The numerator is typically operating profit or earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and can be pre‐tax or post‐tax. The denominator can also be measured as fixed assets plus net current assets.”

 

Below this table (2.3) you will also find some very useful information on the ratios as well as a paragraph on interpreting.

 

What matters most is that you calculate ROCE in a consistent manner. There is no absolute value that indicates a good vs bad ROCE although higher is always better. The way to approach evaluating it is to look at trends over time and to compare against key competitors.

 

 

24) For return on equity how can I find shareholders equity in the company financial statements?

 

Answer: Shareholders’ equity is usually listed on a company’s balance sheet and measures its net worth. A company’s shareholders’ equity is calculated by subtracting a company’s total liabilities from its total assets, which are also listed on a company’s balance sheet.

 

25) I’ve decided to do Firm X for my strategic management assignment and I’m in the process of finalising my plan. However, I haven’t incorporated definitions of terms in the plan; for example, the definition of ROE etc. Should I? Or should I assume that this is not necessary due to the fact that it’s more of a report-style assignment?

 

Answer: There is no need to provide definitions of the ratios you use (better save the word count). Instead it is advisable you provide a single reference from the book where the definitions are provided. This way you show links with the theory and definitions and you save on word count.

 

 

26) Just a quick question, I’m looking into finding financial information on my company and other than FAME I’m not sure what website to use, do you know of any financial websites that could help me?

 

Answer: This might help you with alternative options:

https://intranet.cardiff.ac.uk/students/study/libraries/subject-support/information-resources-for-your-subject/business,-economics-and-transport

 

27) Are shareholder funds the same as shareholder equity on the balance sheet?

 

Answer: Shareholders’ equity is indeed the same as shareholders’ funds. Here are the definitions for reference:

 

Shareholders’ equity is equal to a firm’s total assets minus its total liabilities and is one of the most common financial metrics employed by analysts to determine the financial health of a company.

 

Shareholders’ funds is the balance sheet value of the shareholders’ interest in a company. For company (as opposed to group) accounts it is simply all assets less all liabilities. For consolidated group accounts the value of minority interests should also be excluded.

 

28) How do I calculate ROCE if the firm I have chosen is not listed in the stock market?

 

Answer:

Ideally you will have selected a firm that is listed so that you can obtain forward looking metrics of performance such as Market Capitalisation etc. If the firm is not listed then there is an alternative way to calculate ROCE.

According to Grant:

ROCE = Operating income/(Shareholders’ equity + long‐term debt).
To explain it further (including alternative ways to calculate it):
Return on capital employed formula is calculated by dividing net operating profit or EBIT by the employed capital.

If a firm is listed then you can consider Employed Capital as Shareholders’ equity + long term debt (as in Grant). If employed capital is not provided (e.g. because the firm is not listed on the stock exchange), you can calculate it by subtracting current liabilities from total assets. In this case the ROCE formula would look like this:

 

 

The key here is how we attempt to calculate ‘Employed Capital’. If the firm is listed then we can use The formula provided by Grant (see above).

 

 

29) In the first part of my report and possibly the third part, I want to compare Firm Y or Firm Z to Firm A and discuss how Firm Y and Firm Z growth is taking market share from Firm A, however Firms Y and Z are not publicly listed therefore is there another way to work out Market capitalisation? 

 

Answer: That is a very good question and it reflects a situation we face in real life analyses as well.

Choosing a company that is listed in the stock exchange is a good idea as it offers you with the necessary extra information and data (e.g. Market Cap.) However, some competitors are not always listed as you indicate. In that case, there is no way to evaluate Market Capitalisation as the latter is only relevant with shares are traded. There are ways to compute a firm’s Valuation but this is complicated and outside the scope of this module (you are not expected to calculate this). The only alternative for forward looking comparisons is earnings estimates. Many firms offer earnings guidance—forecasts of profit for the next 12 months (or longer). If you can identify these then you can use them instead of Market Cap for comparison purposes.

Another approach is to evaluate the market cap for the firm you are analysing and only comparing it against competitor(s) who are also publicly listed. If, however you need to compare future performance against a specific competitor firm that is not listed then earnings estimates are the only way.

As in real life, your analysis is naturally limited by the information you can gather and that is expected.
30) How do we appraise underperformance if our company isn’t/hasn’t underperformed in the last 5 years? my company is X and they have increased across all ratios in the last 5 years so I am finding this section difficult.

Answer: It is not necessary to identify under-performance if that does not exist for a firm. In other words, if a firm is doing well and the analysis shows that then you focus your analysis in the strengths and what it does really well (instead of areas of underperformance). Essentially we are interested in evaluating the firm’s performance regardless of whether it is doing well or bad. If the company you have selected is over performing then that can become the focus of your analysis (and in later sections, how it can maintain this and protect it).

 

31) what areas are we expected to cover in question 1? I know the guide says “Goals, Values and Performance” so does that mean we can cover anything from that chapter in the book that we feel is relevant ?

Answer: Regarding the “Goals, Value and Performance” thematic unit for Q1. You can indeed include what is most relevant to the narrative you are building and more importantly the analysis you conduct. The most important is to focus your analysis on how the firm is performing (trends, against competitors, forward and backward looking), to evaluate if they are meeting their stated strategic goals and to offer some diagnosis on areas of over- or under- performance.

32) I have been trying to calculate ROE, ROS and return to shareholders. is return to shareholders the same as Return on shareholders’ funds %?

 

Answer:

Shareholders’ funds = Shareholders’ Equity = Total Assets – Total Liabilities

 

 

Return on Shareholders’ Funds % is actually the same as ROE which Grant defines as:

Return on equity (%) = Net income  / year end shareholder equity.

 

 

Return To Shareholders is slightly different. As Grant defines it in table 2.2:

 

Return to Shareholders % = Dividend % + share price appreciation during the year %.

 

 

They both reflect the general benefit / return to shareholders but they are not exactly the same.

 

 

33) How can I best differentiate between Q2 and Q3?

 

Question 2 is more broad and includes the analysis of the firm’s competitive advantage among others. Q3 focuses on the internal environment and how this supports the firm’s strategy, the firm’s performance and the firms competitive advantage. You should concentrate on identifying, categorising and analysing the internal environment. There is of course some interdependence and overlap with competitive advantage because the latter is the goal of strategic choice and your analysis. The key difference is that Q3 does not ask you to focus on the strategy choice of the firm but on the internal environment. You can evaluate the firm’s resources and capabilities in Q3 without spending a lot of word count on the external environment analysis. You can borrow some key points from other questions to guide your analysis for Q3 (e.g. what is the key competitive advantage of a firm) but you are not expected to duplicate analysis. You can evaluate the internal environment by considering how it supports the strategy of the firm and how it contributes / supports the firm’s competitive advantage, the firm’s performance etc. No need to evaluate, analyse, expand on these however. Q2 needs a focus on the external environment including competitive advantage, the firm’s strategy and others.

 

For Q3 I would recommend checking Harley Davidson as it contains some useful frameworks on how to analyse the resources and capabilities.

 

34) You’ve said that you won’t look at assignment drafts. It would be useful to have some clarification over what you can and cannot look at with regards to drafts?

 

To clarify, I cannot comment / correct assignment drafts directly. I can indeed briefly look at a students’ draft work in order to understand a question they may have and to evaluate how to best help but I cannot comment directly on the draft assignment itself. This is because I can only provide corrections on a student assignment directly after this is submitted. I can help in several other ways including:  Provide guidance or point to relevant chapters, lecture slides and case studies.

Even if I don’t comment on the draft I can still help with clarifying on relevant background materials and / or guide towards sections that can help. I can also help with calculations by discussing relevant cases and lecture materials we covered. Finally, I am very happy to help clarify how to best approach each question (e.g. overall structure, relevant background materials, cases etc.).

This is not exhaustive but it should hopefully offer some clarification on what I can and cannot help with.

 

35) I have picked Firm Z as the company I will analyse – do you think this is a good company to pick?

 

Firm Z is a very interesting firm from the point of view of Innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity but it might be a bit challenging for this assignment. I have not looked at Firm Z specifically so I cannot comment in detail but in general an ideal choice of a company for this assignment should be along the following lines:

– Ideally (not mandatory though) choose a firm that is listed in the stock exchange (so you can extract information on market capitalisation, enterprise value, etc.). If the firm is not listed in the stock market, there are alternative ways to evaluate forward looking performance (please see Assignment Q&A for more info on this).

– The company you choose should ideally provide financial statements available for a specific industry and a specific geography. Keep in mind you may be able to find the necessary data from alternative sources such FT or Fame, etc.

– If the firm is part of a group or conglomerate then you should ideally be able to separate the firm’s performance (and financials) from the group. You need to focus on the firm and not the group as the latter will probably include other firms competing in different industries.

– The firm you choose should be competing in a specific industry that you can clearly define (e.g. what are the products, customers targeted etc.)

– Ideally you need to be able to identify key competitors so you can evaluate performance against them.

 

36) I have chosen Firm Z as my firm but am very confused as to what you are expecting from us regarding the financial figures for our assignment? And where do we get the figures from? Will they be in the company’s financial report?

 

The financial ratios (and non financial indicators) help us evaluate a firm’s strategic performance. To achieve this we use ratios as proxies for various areas of performance and we check for trends over time and benchmark against key competitors. The evaluation of performance through such analysis helps us understand how the firm is doing against its own strategic goals and values as well as against competition. Further, we are able to diagnose interesting areas of performance (e.g. what is the cause of the performance we observe).

 

The Starbucks case as well as Ch2 of the Grant book are the best resources for grasping how ratios are analysed and more importantly how they are interpreted. Particular importance, the section “Putting Performance Analysis into Practice” in Ch2 of the Grant book is very helpful for what you need. Keep in mind that ratios and other financial data are useful as proxies for evaluating strategic performance. We only need a couple of ratios for evaluating past performance (e.g. ROCE among others) and at least one for evaluating forward performance (e.g. Market Capitalisation). We then use them to evaluate performance trends over time and also for comparisons against the competition. Last but not least we check against the firm’s goals and values as we did for Starbucks. Your notes from preparing the Starbucks case as well as the solution uploaded should be of great help.

 

The information you need in order to carry out the analysis is located in various sources such as financial statements, databases, analyst reports etc. You need to identify what is important for your analysis and then conduct secondary research to locate the relevant info. You may also need to calculate some of the ratios using information you locate.

 

If you have not yet done so please check on learning central for the relevant materials as well as the Assignment Q&A which is being regularly updated with new material.

 

37) I am having doubts about referencing.

For the company’s website, how do we reference it?

 

This might help:

https://ilrb.cf.ac.uk/vodcasts/HARCitRefWeb.html

 

 

38) I am not sure how to locate relevant information regarding a firm’s share price. Can you please help?

 

Answer: A lot of useful data for companies (e.g. market capitalisation, share price etc.) is found here:

http://markets.ft.com/data/

 

39) How much text can I put in tables? Can I insert entire paragraphs in tables (so they do not count towards the limit)?

 

Answer: You cannot unfortunately add entire long sections of text in tables. You can however use tables and figure for short descriptions, bullet points, statements, etc. What we need to avoid is inserting long sections of text or long paragraphs in a table when that section should clearly be part of the main body of the report. Best way is to use the tables and figures in the case studies and the book as examples.

 

40) A good source for finding information regarding company structure you can recommend?

 

Answer: Please check the following:

http://www.theofficialboard.com/companies/industries

 

 

41) What do secondary data sources include?

 

Answer: Secondary data sources are any sources that do not involve collecting data from respondents directly. Company website, databases, analyst reports etc. are all secondary sources.

 

42) Do we need to analyse how porters five forces relates to our company of choice, or where applicable do we argue whether porters forces aren’t relevant or are flawed.

 

Answer: There are many frameworks you can choose to employ in order to carry out your analysis and to frame / support your observations. If you choose to employ the 5 forces framework by Porter then you will indeed analyse your firm with the help of the framework. You will in other words ‘apply’ the framework to evaluate / analyse the firm of your choice. There is no need to provide a critique of a framework itself. It is more important to apply the framework for analysis in the context of a question.

 

43) I want to do the Firm X and compare with Firm Y and the overall industry of the UK. However, Firm Z plays a big role in this industry yet they’re not on the stock exchange and it’s difficult to get the financial ratios for comparison. Would I still talk about this competitor in section 2,3 and 4 despite not being able to fully expand on its financial state?

 

Answer: It is normal to encounter the situation you describe. As I understand, the firm you have chosen is listed in the stock market but one of the competitors (Firm Z) is not listed. In this situation you lack forward looking metrics of performance (e.g. market capitalisation) for Firm Z so you cannot compare directly with the firm you have chosen. You can however obtain/source the ratios for backward – present performance evaluation as these do not require a firm to be listed in the stock exchange. Your only limitation is that you cannot compare against Firm Z for forward looking performance but you can do so for past – present. When it comes to forward looking performance you can only use other competitors who are listed. As Firm Z is an important competitor you still need to include them in discussion and analysis, as much as this is possible.

 

44) I’ve been working on my assignment studying the strategy of Firm X over the past few years but I’m concerned with some of the data. The annual reports and other sources of information are mostly up to 2015 but with 2016 annual report not out yet I cannot confidently comment on this.

 

Answer: I recommend you carry out your analysis on a time period up to the most recent financial statement published. It is likely the most recent financial accounts published for the majority of firms are for 2015 (2016 will not yet be out) so you are welcome to analyse up to that point for Q1. You can if you want discuss elements in performance for 2016 but your analysis and benchmarks using financial rations can only go up to the most recent financial accounts published. You can discuss 2016 in terms of upcoming issues and way forward.

 

45) To identify resources and capabilities I am doing a value chain analysis. However, when analyzing, do you expect us to about how each resource and capability (on the value chain diagram) links to performance/strategy. Also, I am finding it hard to compare with competitors as some sections do not involve hard facts.

 

Answer: It depends on how you employ the value chain analysis and in what context (it can be used in various ways and indeed in a number of questions). In the Harley Davidson case we used it to show how particular aspects of the value chain (not the same as resources and capabilities) directly support aspects of the target customers’ value chain elements. Resources and capabilities are the foundation for Harley Davidson’s value chain.  As you can see in the case, we used figures and tables to summarise the key resources and capabilities and then discussed and summarised the key conclusions. I would recommend you utilise this case as a guide on how you can employ the value chain analysis.

 

 

Regarding competitors, it is expected that when it comes to evaluating and comparing resources and capabilities the data available will be a mixture of qualitative and quantitative. In some cases you may have to draw inferences from reports and in the categorisation will have a bit of subjectivity which is fine. The same was employed in the Harley Davidson case during the work you carried out at the tutorial in Wk6. We do not always have hard facts for this analysis and some subjectivity is expected as long as you utilise / refer to some valid background information.

 

46) Regarding future performance measures of a company. My company, Firm X, does not have a market capitalisation (only its parent group is listed on the stock exchange) and does not have future earnings estimates reported. I do know the ordinary shares owned by the parent company. Could I use this as a future performance measure instead? Are there any other alternatives?

 

Answer: This is a good question and you are correct that sometimes the listed firm (parent firm) is not exactly the same as the firm you are analysing. No way around this unfortunately so we will need to accept a bit of compromise with analysis. If there is no way to identify the market capitalisation of the firm you are analysing and the parent company / group is the one that is listed in the stock exchange then you can use the share price as a proxy for the firm you are analysing. This will of course mean that the forward looking metric does not totally reflect the firm you are analysing but we can argue it is a solid indication of forward performance. If the firm you are analysing forms the majority of the parent firm’s revenue then we can argue that the market capitalisation is reflecting the target firm to a great extent. However, if the parent company includes a large portfolio of other businesses and the firm you are analysing is only a small part (e.g. less than 50%) of the parent’s revenues then the share price (and market capitalisation) of the parent firm becomes less reliable as a forward looking metric. Still, if no other alternative exists to evaluate forward looking performance then we have to compromise and use the market cap. of the parent. It simply means that the ‘validity’ of our evaluation is compromised.

 

Please make sure you add a note to highlight this.

 

47) Regarding Q3: With the term ‘analyse’ do you want us to give the strengths and weaknesses of our chosen company? Or would you like us to explain how the company is going about the 3 topics and then give an assessment (if its good or not) at the end?

 

Answer: Analysing the internal environment needs to draw on the thematic areas indicated in the assignment guideline. You do not need to spend the same word count on each. This means that your analysis should include (to varying degrees and not exclusively):

An analysis and evaluation of resources and capabilities (in a similar way we worked on Harley Davidson) and a brief analysis of the organisational structure and management systems of the firm. As discussed in class and in the assignment Q&A you do not need to spend a lot of word count on governance, structure and management systems as more is needed in the resources and capabilities part. You are free to structure as you prefer. So you may want to separate your analysis in parts (as I think you indicate) or you can mix. The important thing is you touch upon the themes indicated. As you indicate, you also need to offer an assessment in a similar fashion to the Harley Davidson case. That assessment can be part of Q3 or you can expand a bit more in Q4 as you offer a holistic assessment there.

 

48) In the Q&A Assignment you mentioned that a good information source for organisational structure is http://www.theofficialboard.com. Would you like us to make/ copy the chart that is given on that website and include it in the appendix?

 

Answer: Assuming you will briefly discuss organisational structure then you should probably copy or replicate the organisational structure (make sure you reference the source though) and place it in the main body of the report. As a figure / chart it will not take up any word count. Remember that important tables / charts / figures (those contributing directly to your discussion) should be in the main body of the report.

 

49) I noticed in the assignment guide, it states that we should try to include information about  ‘Industry Evolution and Business Level Strategy,’. Is this essential to include in the assignment? If so, please can you provide more guidance as to what exactly are you looking for here?

 

Answer: You need to try and identify what stage the industry is in and then evaluate what business level strategy the firm has adopted. We then try to evaluate how appropriate this strategy is in the context of the industry stage. You can use a relevant framework (covered during the lecture) to help analyse the business level strategy. This is just a brief summary of what we discussed in the lecture but it should be a good starting point. It is important to expand a bit more based on the lecture notes and the relevant case.

 

50) I am doing Firm X as my organisation for strategic management.  I am getting stuck as to whether I can say their strategy is both cost driven and differentiated? Last week you mentioned that Porter did not want both strategies to overlap so does that mean I should pick one or the other? Or am I able to say they are striving for both?

 

Answer: Very good question and this links directly to what I discussed in the lecture last week (Wk9). Check the part where I discussed this exact point: A firm may choose to adopt a primary strategy but it may pursue some limited elements from a different strategy as well. The example and framework we went through in class (differentiation strategy) also shows how differentiation strategy can be accompanied by some cost strategy elements (Managing Cost Drivers as necessary). This is not the same as a firm trying to do both equally as this is actually the ‘trap’ of being ‘stuck in the middle’ that Porter describes. A firm that adopts a primary strategy but also begins to develop elements from another strategy is potentially stronger as it encapsulates ambidexterity elements. As I emphasised in class this is a very good area to discuss (assuming you are able to source relevant information and only if it is relevant to your analysis) either in Q2 and/or Q4. Check the relevant materials for theoretical support on the above. The case study should also help.

 

51) Do I relate business level strategy to the competitive advantage my company has (in question 2). For example, Firm X uses an cost  strategy. The Resources and capabilities Firm X have, link to their cost strategy, as well as their competitive advantage & They have successfully used their value chain to support their adopted strategy and competitive advantage.

 

Answer: Overall this is a good perspective to use for analysis and discussion. You can indeed relate the firm’s adopted strategy with the competitive advantage. A firm’s chosen strategy is designed to support and sustain its competitive advantage so it is logical to discuss how the two link. Depending on your analysis and the rationale you are building you can discuss this in Q3 but also (partly) in Q4. Resources and capabilities also support the firm’s competitive advantage as we discussed in the Harley Case. You can choose to have some of this discussed in Q2 as it is there that you analyse the internal environment primarily. You can briefly discuss competitive advantage in Q2 for the purposes of focusing on how the internal environment supports it but no need to expand (on competitive advantage) as this is primarily discussed in Q3 and potentially Q4.

 

52) Do you expect us to talk about threats to the firm in any part of the assignment?

 

Answer: You can cover this directly or indirectly as you discuss about the firm’s ability to compete and how well the chosen strategy fits the industry stage. In other words you can integrate some discussion about threats as you evaluate the external environment, the firm’s ability to compete and how it achieves competitive advantage (check the thematic focus areas in Q2). If the firm is in strong position and is not threatened by competition or other issues then you can instead focus the analysis on how it can best maintain and sustain this strength in the future.

 

You can alternatively choose to touch upon the issue briefly in Q2 and expand a bit more on potential threats to the firm in Q4 instead as this is where you look at the firm’s situation overall.

 

As you know there is flexibility to how you approach the analysis and evaluation and as long as you cover a bit of each theme that will be fine. Additional marks are given depending on how well you structure arguments, use of frameworks etc.

 

 

Strategic Management

 

Assignment Q&A

 

 

1)Can you please summarise the key elements of the marking criteria? What would you suggest for us in order to achieve a 1st for the assignment?

 

Answer:

Key points / marking areas:

 

Covering all thematic areas to some / varying extent. Depending on your analysis and the firm you analyse you are free to choose how to prioritise. You are not expected to cover each thematic area in the same depth but instead you can choose to briefly tough upon one to the themes while expanding more in another. The important thing is to at least touch upon each theme. You can choose where to expand and where to be relatively brief depending on the analysis narrative you develop and the firm you choose.

 

 

Use of frameworks. As already discussed in class you need to use frameworks to carry out  / support analysis. At least one framework in each question Q2-4 is expected. Q1 does not require a framework (although you can use one if it helps you) but instead it needs you to summarise the firm, the strategy goals ( and values if you can source the relevant info) and to conduct a performance evaluation / appraisal using at least 2-3 backward looking metrics and at least one forward looking metric. Trends and benchmarking against competitors. Diagnosis of key performance (e.g. under / over).

 

 

Structured arguments, narrative and conclusions: Use of data / information sourced (e.g. databases, company reports, etc.), analysis using a relevant framework or metrics based analysis (in the case of Q1 primarily). Your analysis conclusions and arguments need to integrate and rely on data / info sourced, analysis using a relevant framework, numerical analysis where necessary (e.g. Q1). Personal judgement based on the previous is also valuable. This will be part subjective but part relying on information and deductions from your analysis.

 

 

Q4 is more about synthesis of the key conclusions from the previous questions and the evaluation of the firm as a whole. Use of strategic fit or alternative framework which looks at the firm as a whole.

 

 

Use of figures, tables and graphs to summarise analysis (e.g. frameworks, tables, plots of performance over time). Figures and tables need to be well integrated in the report (i.e. Titled, referenced and discussed from within the report as part of analysis).

 

 

As emphasised in class and in online instructions you need to show some basic links to theory via referencing key frameworks and theories (if needed to support conclusions).

 

 

All the above are expanded further in the assignment Q&A but as a summary I hope it helps.

 

 

1) Regarding referencing, do we need to cite references throughout the assignment with little numbers and footnotes? Or do we just need to provide a reference list at the end?

Thanks

 

Answer: What I would recommend is the typical Harvard referencing format with the full reference list at the end. This reference list does not count towards the word limit.

 

 

2) I was just wondering if Firm X would be an appropriate company to use for the Strategic Management year 3 assignment?

Thanks,

 

 

Answer: It is perfectly fine if you select Firm X for your assignment. It is very important that you can find / gather a lot of data (e.g. financials, investor analysis reports, market data, etc.). As long as such wide range of data exists for Firm X then it is perfectly fine. I would recommend you carry out a quick / brief scan online and check databases to confirm that you can indeed source such data for Firm X. That way you can ensure it will be fine.

 

 

3) When we analyze ‘performance’ are we only analyzing financial performance?  Also, can you explain to me what market capitalization is, I am a little confused, and how many formulas should we use to analyze financial performance?

 

Answer: Market Capitalisation is the market value of a company’s outstanding shares. This figure is found by taking the stock price and multiplying it by the total number of shares outstanding.

 

We actually go beyond financial performance. As we discussed during the lecture in week 2, there are multiple ways of evaluating performance. We can consider financial performance in the traditional way (e.g. Sales over past x years, net profit, operating profit, etc.) but we can also consider ratios such as ROE which we can use as proxies for various aspects of strategic performance. You may need to calculate some of these ratios but you are not expected to calculate complex formulae. Depending on which aspect of strategic performance you choose to analyse, you will need different proxies / metrics. You are not expected to use them all but instead choose what aspect of performance you need to analyse and use metrics as needed.

 

4) Are we expected to write the assignment in a report style? Is an executive summary necessary or is a short introduction sufficient considering the word count of 2000 words?

 

Answer: A report style is indeed fine although I would recommend you only include a short introduction (no executive summary needed). The last question can serve as a conclusion so no need to add a separate conclusion section. Best to dedicate the word count to the questions.

 

 

5) This concerns the structure of the assignment and the relevant chapters per question. So the first part should cover topics discussed in lecture 2. This lecture has also tapped on aspects of convergence of interest, so satisfying customers, employees and good relations with the government and communities. Additionally, it shortly touched upon CSR. Would all these be something we should go more into detail within our assignment? And would it be part of the first question? Or should it rather be discussed within the internal environment (Question2)?

 

 

Answer: The lecture during week 2 did indeed touch upon CSR to some extent although we will be going into this in more detail at later sections. It is not mandatory to cover CSR aspects in your analysis but if it forms a key part of your firm’s strategy then you are welcome to focus on this more. In this case I would recommend you analyse it as part of the internal environment.

 

6) When talking about the target market, can I include it within the first part when talking about the industry and assessing the performance?

 

Answer: That is a good idea.

 

7)  When you say that that we are suppose to look at trends, in order to focus on the present, do you mean how the company is doing in 2016? Because the data I’ve used is from the period 2011 to 2015, as 2015 is the most recent financial year (as the financial year of 2016 has not ended yet), is that fine (i.e. to use the period 2011 to 2015)? Or do you expect us to base our analysis on quarterly reports (in which case the Q3 report for 2016 is readily available)?

 

Answer: When I am referring to trends I refer to evaluating the company performance over time to explore upward or downward change over time. We saw this in Starbucks for example where we evaluated performance over time and against competitors. Quite normal for 2015 to be the latest financial reporting year so that is just fine. Also fine to look at a couple of years in the past… 3-5 is more than fine. The level of analysis (e.g. annual vs quarterly) depends on how detailed you choose the evaluation to be. It may or may not be necessary to break it down to that level but that depends on how detailed you choose your evaluation to be. We typically start with high level aggregation and we increase detail if need be.

 

8) For question 1, should we benchmark against a competitor of our chosen company, like the example you provided in class with FedEx and UPS (you compared the two to assess their performance)

 

Answer: Benchmarking against competitors is indeed a very good idea. The examples provided in class and the cases we work on, can serve as guides. Figures, tables and graphs also help.

 

9) Are we analysing it year over year, or as with Starbucks, since the beginning?

 

Answer: We analyse trends over time and we focus on the present (or the most recent data). We do not need to go very far back in the past. 5 or so years past are good enough. The purpose is to evaluate how the firm is doing over time (recently) up to the present time. In turn this should aim at diagnosing and evaluating.

 

10) The company I have in mind is not quoted on the stock exchange (meaning that it will be difficult to do financial ratios, especially market capitalization). Thus, would you suggest that we pick a company which is quoted on the stock exchange?

 

Answer: It is not necessary to pick a company that is publicly listed although if it is then you tend to find a lot of analyst reports (useful). If you choose a firm that is not listed in the SE then you can hopefully locate/ source a company Valuation. Company Valuation is an alternative to market capitalization and can be used in case you cannot have the latter.

 

11) How up to date does the data need to be for the assignment?

Can some of it be 2007 or is that too old and thus irrelevant?

 

Answer: We tend to use data from a few years past till the present. Sometimes it is difficult to find data for the current year so anything as recent as 2015 will be fine. I would not recommend going as far back as 2007 unless if it serves a specific purpose in your analysis. 5 years past or so is more than enough.

 

12) For the assignment, I am looking at choosing X as my company.

From some early research, I have found some good financial data on the FAME database, including calculated profitability ratios.

Is it acceptable to use this data? Or would you like to see us calculate these ratios ourselves?

 

Answer: Company X is a good choice and if you are able to find relevant data and rations in databases then so much the better. You are not expected to calculate the ratios if you find them in databases. The important thing is to be able to interpret them in the context of the strategy analysis.

 

 

13) I will be looking to analyse Company Y in my assignment. The only problem I am having is that there is the X Group which owns many subsidiary companies all over the world (one of which is Company Y). If I do choose this company, would you recommend to just solely focus on Company Y (as the external environment factors would obviously be different for the different X Group companies abroad), or would you recommend analysing the X Group as a whole?

Given this, do you think I should instead choose a company that does not have subsidiaries such as these?

 

Answer: This is a good point and I would advise you to focus on Company Y alone. If you try to analyse a global conglomerate with many different businesses under it then things will get really complicated for you. 2000 words will definitely not be enough.

 

14) How much financial analysis are you expecting? As I did a work placement last year I am a bit rusty on this area.

 

Answer: Regarding the financial analysis, I recommend you use the case from week 2 as an initial guide. Depending on how you focus the performance evaluation, that will determine the type and depth of financial analysis you undertake. As a basis you need to look at some ratios of performance (e.g. Capitalization, ROCE, etc.) and evaluate performance over time and against competitorsAlso important to compare against strategic goals.

 

15) I have decided to look at Firm Y as my choice of firm, they aren’t on the stock exchange but I have managed to find their financial reports, I have an understanding of what the ratios are used for but I am unsure of which one I should look to calculate/which one will be most useful to help evaluate the firm? as they don’t really hold any stock, its more of a service.

Should I look to include a balanced scorecard in the first question?

 

Answer: Firm Y is not a bad choice as long as you can find data about them as well as their key competitors. Keep in mind what we discussed in class regarding the necessary info needed to evaluate a firm. You don’t need to look at everything but as we discussed in class it is recommended you evaluate profit, ROCE, market valuation or capitalisation. It is best to look at performance over time (3-5 years) and against key competitors. Last but no least you need to evaluate performance in the context of strategic goals of the firm. There is no need to use a balance scorecard framework but you are welcome to include it if helps you.

 

16) It is unclear as to how much theory you are wanting in this assignment? I think I understand the basic framework for each section but are you wanting us to reference where this framework/theory comes from? and apart from references about the company information, are you wanting us to find further sources and articles to back up points?

 

Answer: Not a lot of theory is needed or expected in the assignment. As I mentioned in class you only need to reference key frameworks (when you use them) as well as key theories that you employ to support your analysis. You are not expected to analyse or summarise the theory itself but you need to show links with it via references. Additional academic articles (as references) should be kept to a minimum. Additional sources might be needed such as industry reports or analyst reports etc.

 

17) I was wondering whether I should include a strategic group analysis from question 3? As Firm X are part of a larger group, owned by Firm Z, should I evaluate only them in this context or look at the company as a whole?

 

Answer: I strongly recommend you focus on a single industry. Firm Z would (probably) involve multiple industries which will make it very difficult to cover in your report.

 

19) Are we expected to cover all the topics we have covered, per lecture for each section that you have stated? For example in part 2. I am struggling to include ALL the information surrounding resources, organisational structure and corporate governance as i do not have enough word count. Or should we just pick out key parts of each, which apply to our company? (As not all information is available).

 

Answer: You do not have to cover everything we discussed in each lecture. You are dealing with a very short word count so I recommend you select what is most relevant. Best approach is to select what is most relevant to the story you develop, summarise in tables and graphs (which means they do not count towards the limit).

 

20) I haven’t included ROCE as it didn’t really add to my argument. Is it necessary to do so in terms of marking?

 

Answer: If ROCE did not add to your arguments and story then it is ok to not use it. As long as you are providing numerical analysis to show past – present – future performance and you are including trends and comparison with competition then that is fine. You are essentially free to employ alternatives if you so wish.

 

21) I want to use Porter’s five forces for Question 3 (external environment). Are we asked to then take the framework and fill it in with relevant points of the company or apply the framework as it is onto the firm without writing over it? I’m just concerned about the word count. How many frameworks will be sufficient to include?

 

Answer: You do not need to use multiple frameworks. Choosing one in this case is fine and Porter’s will be fine as well. I recommend you use the framework as a guide for your analysis and you can if you want fill it in with what is directly relevant for the firm in question.

 

22) You advised us to include some competitor analysis within the first question. I am planning do to so in the 2nd question as this is more about the external environment and how the competitive environment looks like. So can I include competitors in question 2 rather than focusing on them in question 1?

 

Answer: There is naturally some overlap in terms of selecting competitors but it should not pose a problem. I recommend you briefly identify a few competitors to benchmark performance against for question 1. No need to analyse the competitive environment to a great extent as this needs to be in Q2. It is important to benchmark against key competitors in the industry and that should be covered in Q1.

 

 

23) According to your lecture slides ROCE on capital employed is profit after tax and interest is deducted. When I have checked elsewhere it states operating profit is before tax and interest is deducted. Was this an error or are there different forms of ROCE?

 

Answer: Good question. ROCE is indeed calculated both ways. If you check the Grant textbook, Chapter 2, Table 2.3 it describes ROCE as follows:   “ROCE is also known as return on invested capital (ROIC). The numerator is typically operating profit or earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), and can be pre‐tax or post‐tax. The denominator can also be measured as fixed assets plus net current assets.”

 

Below this table (2.3) you will also find some very useful information on the ratios as well as a paragraph on interpreting.

 

What matters most is that you calculate ROCE in a consistent manner. There is no absolute value that indicates a good vs bad ROCE although higher is always better. The way to approach evaluating it is to look at trends over time and to compare against key competitors.

 

 

24) For return on equity how can I find shareholders equity in the company financial statements?

 

Answer: Shareholders’ equity is usually listed on a company’s balance sheet and measures its net worth. A company’s shareholders’ equity is calculated by subtracting a company’s total liabilities from its total assets, which are also listed on a company’s balance sheet.

 

25) I’ve decided to do Firm X for my strategic management assignment and I’m in the process of finalising my plan. However, I haven’t incorporated definitions of terms in the plan; for example, the definition of ROE etc. Should I? Or should I assume that this is not necessary due to the fact that it’s more of a report-style assignment?

 

Answer: There is no need to provide definitions of the ratios you use (better save the word count). Instead it is advisable you provide a single reference from the book where the definitions are provided. This way you show links with the theory and definitions and you save on word count.

 

 

26) Just a quick question, I’m looking into finding financial information on my company and other than FAME I’m not sure what website to use, do you know of any financial websites that could help me?

 

Answer: This might help you with alternative options:

https://intranet.cardiff.ac.uk/students/study/libraries/subject-support/information-resources-for-your-subject/business,-economics-and-transport

 

27) Are shareholder funds the same as shareholder equity on the balance sheet?

 

Answer: Shareholders’ equity is indeed the same as shareholders’ funds. Here are the definitions for reference:

 

Shareholders’ equity is equal to a firm’s total assets minus its total liabilities and is one of the most common financial metrics employed by analysts to determine the financial health of a company.

 

Shareholders’ funds is the balance sheet value of the shareholders’ interest in a company. For company (as opposed to group) accounts it is simply all assets less all liabilities. For consolidated group accounts the value of minority interests should also be excluded.

 

28) How do I calculate ROCE if the firm I have chosen is not listed in the stock market?

 

Answer:

Ideally you will have selected a firm that is listed so that you can obtain forward looking metrics of performance such as Market Capitalisation etc. If the firm is not listed then there is an alternative way to calculate ROCE.

According to Grant:

ROCE = Operating income/(Shareholders’ equity + long‐term debt).
To explain it further (including alternative ways to calculate it):
Return on capital employed formula is calculated by dividing net operating profit or EBIT by the employed capital.

If a firm is listed then you can consider Employed Capital as Shareholders’ equity + long term debt (as in Grant). If employed capital is not provided (e.g. because the firm is not listed on the stock exchange), you can calculate it by subtracting current liabilities from total assets. In this case the ROCE formula would look like this:

 

 

The key here is how we attempt to calculate ‘Employed Capital’. If the firm is listed then we can use The formula provided by Grant (see above).

 

 

29) In the first part of my report and possibly the third part, I want to compare Firm Y or Firm Z to Firm A and discuss how Firm Y and Firm Z growth is taking market share from Firm A, however Firms Y and Z are not publicly listed therefore is there another way to work out Market capitalisation? 

 

Answer: That is a very good question and it reflects a situation we face in real life analyses as well.

Choosing a company that is listed in the stock exchange is a good idea as it offers you with the necessary extra information and data (e.g. Market Cap.) However, some competitors are not always listed as you indicate. In that case, there is no way to evaluate Market Capitalisation as the latter is only relevant with shares are traded. There are ways to compute a firm’s Valuation but this is complicated and outside the scope of this module (you are not expected to calculate this). The only alternative for forward looking comparisons is earnings estimates. Many firms offer earnings guidance—forecasts of profit for the next 12 months (or longer). If you can identify these then you can use them instead of Market Cap for comparison purposes.

Another approach is to evaluate the market cap for the firm you are analysing and only comparing it against competitor(s) who are also publicly listed. If, however you need to compare future performance against a specific competitor firm that is not listed then earnings estimates are the only way.

As in real life, your analysis is naturally limited by the information you can gather and that is expected.
30) How do we appraise underperformance if our company isn’t/hasn’t underperformed in the last 5 years? my company is X and they have increased across all ratios in the last 5 years so I am finding this section difficult.

Answer: It is not necessary to identify under-performance if that does not exist for a firm. In other words, if a firm is doing well and the analysis shows that then you focus your analysis in the strengths and what it does really well (instead of areas of underperformance). Essentially we are interested in evaluating the firm’s performance regardless of whether it is doing well or bad. If the company you have selected is over performing then that can become the focus of your analysis (and in later sections, how it can maintain this and protect it).

 

31) what areas are we expected to cover in question 1? I know the guide says “Goals, Values and Performance” so does that mean we can cover anything from that chapter in the book that we feel is relevant ?

Answer: Regarding the “Goals, Value and Performance” thematic unit for Q1. You can indeed include what is most relevant to the narrative you are building and more importantly the analysis you conduct. The most important is to focus your analysis on how the firm is performing (trends, against competitors, forward and backward looking), to evaluate if they are meeting their stated strategic goals and to offer some diagnosis on areas of over- or under- performance.

32) I have been trying to calculate ROE, ROS and return to shareholders. is return to shareholders the same as Return on shareholders’ funds %?

 

Answer:

Shareholders’ funds = Shareholders’ Equity = Total Assets – Total Liabilities

 

 

Return on Shareholders’ Funds % is actually the same as ROE which Grant defines as:

Return on equity (%) = Net income  / year end shareholder equity.

 

 

Return To Shareholders is slightly different. As Grant defines it in table 2.2:

 

Return to Shareholders % = Dividend % + share price appreciation during the year %.

 

 

They both reflect the general benefit / return to shareholders but they are not exactly the same.

 

 

33) How can I best differentiate between Q2 and Q3?

 

Question 2 is more broad and includes the analysis of the firm’s competitive advantage among others. Q3 focuses on the internal environment and how this supports the firm’s strategy, the firm’s performance and the firms competitive advantage. You should concentrate on identifying, categorising and analysing the internal environment. There is of course some interdependence and overlap with competitive advantage because the latter is the goal of strategic choice and your analysis. The key difference is that Q3 does not ask you to focus on the strategy choice of the firm but on the internal environment. You can evaluate the firm’s resources and capabilities in Q3 without spending a lot of word count on the external environment analysis. You can borrow some key points from other questions to guide your analysis for Q3 (e.g. what is the key competitive advantage of a firm) but you are not expected to duplicate analysis. You can evaluate the internal environment by considering how it supports the strategy of the firm and how it contributes / supports the firm’s competitive advantage, the firm’s performance etc. No need to evaluate, analyse, expand on these however. Q2 needs a focus on the external environment including competitive advantage, the firm’s strategy and others.

 

For Q3 I would recommend checking Harley Davidson as it contains some useful frameworks on how to analyse the resources and capabilities.

 

34) You’ve said that you won’t look at assignment drafts. It would be useful to have some clarification over what you can and cannot look at with regards to drafts?

 

To clarify, I cannot comment / correct assignment drafts directly. I can indeed briefly look at a students’ draft work in order to understand a question they may have and to evaluate how to best help but I cannot comment directly on the draft assignment itself. This is because I can only provide corrections on a student assignment directly after this is submitted. I can help in several other ways including:  Provide guidance or point to relevant chapters, lecture slides and case studies.

Even if I don’t comment on the draft I can still help with clarifying on relevant background materials and / or guide towards sections that can help. I can also help with calculations by discussing relevant cases and lecture materials we covered. Finally, I am very happy to help clarify how to best approach each question (e.g. overall structure, relevant background materials, cases etc.).

This is not exhaustive but it should hopefully offer some clarification on what I can and cannot help with.

 

35) I have picked Firm Z as the company I will analyse – do you think this is a good company to pick?

 

Firm Z is a very interesting firm from the point of view of Innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity but it might be a bit challenging for this assignment. I have not looked at Firm Z specifically so I cannot comment in detail but in general an ideal choice of a company for this assignment should be along the following lines:

– Ideally (not mandatory though) choose a firm that is listed in the stock exchange (so you can extract information on market capitalisation, enterprise value, etc.). If the firm is not listed in the stock market, there are alternative ways to evaluate forward looking performance (please see Assignment Q&A for more info on this).

– The company you choose should ideally provide financial statements available for a specific industry and a specific geography. Keep in mind you may be able to find the necessary data from alternative sources such FT or Fame, etc.

– If the firm is part of a group or conglomerate then you should ideally be able to separate the firm’s performance (and financials) from the group. You need to focus on the firm and not the group as the latter will probably include other firms competing in different industries.

– The firm you choose should be competing in a specific industry that you can clearly define (e.g. what are the products, customers targeted etc.)

– Ideally you need to be able to identify key competitors so you can evaluate performance against them.

 

36) I have chosen Firm Z as my firm but am very confused as to what you are expecting from us regarding the financial figures for our assignment? And where do we get the figures from? Will they be in the company’s financial report?

 

The financial ratios (and non financial indicators) help us evaluate a firm’s strategic performance. To achieve this we use ratios as proxies for various areas of performance and we check for trends over time and benchmark against key competitors. The evaluation of performance through such analysis helps us understand how the firm is doing against its own strategic goals and values as well as against competition. Further, we are able to diagnose interesting areas of performance (e.g. what is the cause of the performance we observe).

 

The Starbucks case as well as Ch2 of the Grant book are the best resources for grasping how ratios are analysed and more importantly how they are interpreted. Particular importance, the section “Putting Performance Analysis into Practice” in Ch2 of the Grant book is very helpful for what you need. Keep in mind that ratios and other financial data are useful as proxies for evaluating strategic performance. We only need a couple of ratios for evaluating past performance (e.g. ROCE among others) and at least one for evaluating forward performance (e.g. Market Capitalisation). We then use them to evaluate performance trends over time and also for comparisons against the competition. Last but not least we check against the firm’s goals and values as we did for Starbucks. Your notes from preparing the Starbucks case as well as the solution uploaded should be of great help.

 

The information you need in order to carry out the analysis is located in various sources such as financial statements, databases, analyst reports etc. You need to identify what is important for your analysis and then conduct secondary research to locate the relevant info. You may also need to calculate some of the ratios using information you locate.

 

If you have not yet done so please check on learning central for the relevant materials as well as the Assignment Q&A which is being regularly updated with new material.

 

37) I am having doubts about referencing.

For the company’s website, how do we reference it?

 

This might help:

https://ilrb.cf.ac.uk/vodcasts/HARCitRefWeb.html

 

 

38) I am not sure how to locate relevant information regarding a firm’s share price. Can you please help?

 

Answer: A lot of useful data for companies (e.g. market capitalisation, share price etc.) is found here:

http://markets.ft.com/data/

 

39) How much text can I put in tables? Can I insert entire paragraphs in tables (so they do not count towards the limit)?

 

Answer: You cannot unfortunately add entire long sections of text in tables. You can however use tables and figure for short descriptions, bullet points, statements, etc. What we need to avoid is inserting long sections of text or long paragraphs in a table when that section should clearly be part of the main body of the report. Best way is to use the tables and figures in the case studies and the book as examples.

 

40) A good source for finding information regarding company structure you can recommend?

 

Answer: Please check the following:

http://www.theofficialboard.com/companies/industries

 

 

41) What do secondary data sources include?

 

Answer: Secondary data sources are any sources that do not involve collecting data from respondents directly. Company website, databases, analyst reports etc. are all secondary sources.

 

42) Do we need to analyse how porters five forces relates to our company of choice, or where applicable do we argue whether porters forces aren’t relevant or are flawed.

 

Answer: There are many frameworks you can choose to employ in order to carry out your analysis and to frame / support your observations. If you choose to employ the 5 forces framework by Porter then you will indeed analyse your firm with the help of the framework. You will in other words ‘apply’ the framework to evaluate / analyse the firm of your choice. There is no need to provide a critique of a framework itself. It is more important to apply the framework for analysis in the context of a question.

 

43) I want to do the Firm X and compare with Firm Y and the overall industry of the UK. However, Firm Z plays a big role in this industry yet they’re not on the stock exchange and it’s difficult to get the financial ratios for comparison. Would I still talk about this competitor in section 2,3 and 4 despite not being able to fully expand on its financial state?

 

Answer: It is normal to encounter the situation you describe. As I understand, the firm you have chosen is listed in the stock market but one of the competitors (Firm Z) is not listed. In this situation you lack forward looking metrics of performance (e.g. market capitalisation) for Firm Z so you cannot compare directly with the firm you have chosen. You can however obtain/source the ratios for backward – present performance evaluation as these do not require a firm to be listed in the stock exchange. Your only limitation is that you cannot compare against Firm Z for forward looking performance but you can do so for past – present. When it comes to forward looking performance you can only use other competitors who are listed. As Firm Z is an important competitor you still need to include them in discussion and analysis, as much as this is possible.

 

44) I’ve been working on my assignment studying the strategy of Firm X over the past few years but I’m concerned with some of the data. The annual reports and other sources of information are mostly up to 2015 but with 2016 annual report not out yet I cannot confidently comment on this.

 

Answer: I recommend you carry out your analysis on a time period up to the most recent financial statement published. It is likely the most recent financial accounts published for the majority of firms are for 2015 (2016 will not yet be out) so you are welcome to analyse up to that point for Q1. You can if you want discuss elements in performance for 2016 but your analysis and benchmarks using financial rations can only go up to the most recent financial accounts published. You can discuss 2016 in terms of upcoming issues and way forward.

 

45) To identify resources and capabilities I am doing a value chain analysis. However, when analyzing, do you expect us to about how each resource and capability (on the value chain diagram) links to performance/strategy. Also, I am finding it hard to compare with competitors as some sections do not involve hard facts.

 

Answer: It depends on how you employ the value chain analysis and in what context (it can be used in various ways and indeed in a number of questions). In the Harley Davidson case we used it to show how particular aspects of the value chain (not the same as resources and capabilities) directly support aspects of the target customers’ value chain elements. Resources and capabilities are the foundation for Harley Davidson’s value chain.  As you can see in the case, we used figures and tables to summarise the key resources and capabilities and then discussed and summarised the key conclusions. I would recommend you utilise this case as a guide on how you can employ the value chain analysis.

 

 

Regarding competitors, it is expected that when it comes to evaluating and comparing resources and capabilities the data available will be a mixture of qualitative and quantitative. In some cases you may have to draw inferences from reports and in the categorisation will have a bit of subjectivity which is fine. The same was employed in the Harley Davidson case during the work you carried out at the tutorial in Wk6. We do not always have hard facts for this analysis and some subjectivity is expected as long as you utilise / refer to some valid background information.

 

46) Regarding future performance measures of a company. My company, Firm X, does not have a market capitalisation (only its parent group is listed on the stock exchange) and does not have future earnings estimates reported. I do know the ordinary shares owned by the parent company. Could I use this as a future performance measure instead? Are there any other alternatives?

 

Answer: This is a good question and you are correct that sometimes the listed firm (parent firm) is not exactly the same as the firm you are analysing. No way around this unfortunately so we will need to accept a bit of compromise with analysis. If there is no way to identify the market capitalisation of the firm you are analysing and the parent company / group is the one that is listed in the stock exchange then you can use the share price as a proxy for the firm you are analysing. This will of course mean that the forward looking metric does not totally reflect the firm you are analysing but we can argue it is a solid indication of forward performance. If the firm you are analysing forms the majority of the parent firm’s revenue then we can argue that the market capitalisation is reflecting the target firm to a great extent. However, if the parent company includes a large portfolio of other businesses and the firm you are analysing is only a small part (e.g. less than 50%) of the parent’s revenues then the share price (and market capitalisation) of the parent firm becomes less reliable as a forward looking metric. Still, if no other alternative exists to evaluate forward looking performance then we have to compromise and use the market cap. of the parent. It simply means that the ‘validity’ of our evaluation is compromised.

 

Please make sure you add a note to highlight this.

 

47) Regarding Q3: With the term ‘analyse’ do you want us to give the strengths and weaknesses of our chosen company? Or would you like us to explain how the company is going about the 3 topics and then give an assessment (if its good or not) at the end?

 

Answer: Analysing the internal environment needs to draw on the thematic areas indicated in the assignment guideline. You do not need to spend the same word count on each. This means that your analysis should include (to varying degrees and not exclusively):

An analysis and evaluation of resources and capabilities (in a similar way we worked on Harley Davidson) and a brief analysis of the organisational structure and management systems of the firm. As discussed in class and in the assignment Q&A you do not need to spend a lot of word count on governance, structure and management systems as more is needed in the resources and capabilities part. You are free to structure as you prefer. So you may want to separate your analysis in parts (as I think you indicate) or you can mix. The important thing is you touch upon the themes indicated. As you indicate, you also need to offer an assessment in a similar fashion to the Harley Davidson case. That assessment can be part of Q3 or you can expand a bit more in Q4 as you offer a holistic assessment there.

 

48) In the Q&A Assignment you mentioned that a good information source for organisational structure is http://www.theofficialboard.com. Would you like us to make/ copy the chart that is given on that website and include it in the appendix?

 

Answer: Assuming you will briefly discuss organisational structure then you should probably copy or replicate the organisational structure (make sure you reference the source though) and place it in the main body of the report. As a figure / chart it will not take up any word count. Remember that important tables / charts / figures (those contributing directly to your discussion) should be in the main body of the report.

 

49) I noticed in the assignment guide, it states that we should try to include information about  ‘Industry Evolution and Business Level Strategy,’. Is this essential to include in the assignment? If so, please can you provide more guidance as to what exactly are you looking for here?

 

Answer: You need to try and identify what stage the industry is in and then evaluate what business level strategy the firm has adopted. We then try to evaluate how appropriate this strategy is in the context of the industry stage. You can use a relevant framework (covered during the lecture) to help analyse the business level strategy. This is just a brief summary of what we discussed in the lecture but it should be a good starting point. It is important to expand a bit more based on the lecture notes and the relevant case.

 

50) I am doing Firm X as my organisation for strategic management.  I am getting stuck as to whether I can say their strategy is both cost driven and differentiated? Last week you mentioned that Porter did not want both strategies to overlap so does that mean I should pick one or the other? Or am I able to say they are striving for both?

 

Answer: Very good question and this links directly to what I discussed in the lecture last week (Wk9). Check the part where I discussed this exact point: A firm may choose to adopt a primary strategy but it may pursue some limited elements from a different strategy as well. The example and framework we went through in class (differentiation strategy) also shows how differentiation strategy can be accompanied by some cost strategy elements (Managing Cost Drivers as necessary). This is not the same as a firm trying to do both equally as this is actually the ‘trap’ of being ‘stuck in the middle’ that Porter describes. A firm that adopts a primary strategy but also begins to develop elements from another strategy is potentially stronger as it encapsulates ambidexterity elements. As I emphasised in class this is a very good area to discuss (assuming you are able to source relevant information and only if it is relevant to your analysis) either in Q2 and/or Q4. Check the relevant materials for theoretical support on the above. The case study should also help.

 

51) Do I relate business level strategy to the competitive advantage my company has (in question 2). For example, Firm X uses an cost  strategy. The Resources and capabilities Firm X have, link to their cost strategy, as well as their competitive advantage & They have successfully used their value chain to support their adopted strategy and competitive advantage.

 

Answer: Overall this is a good perspective to use for analysis and discussion. You can indeed relate the firm’s adopted strategy with the competitive advantage. A firm’s chosen strategy is designed to support and sustain its competitive advantage so it is logical to discuss how the two link. Depending on your analysis and the rationale you are building you can discuss this in Q3 but also (partly) in Q4. Resources and capabilities also support the firm’s competitive advantage as we discussed in the Harley Case. You can choose to have some of this discussed in Q2 as it is there that you analyse the internal environment primarily. You can briefly discuss competitive advantage in Q2 for the purposes of focusing on how the internal environment supports it but no need to expand (on competitive advantage) as this is primarily discussed in Q3 and potentially Q4.

 

52) Do you expect us to talk about threats to the firm in any part of the assignment?

 

Answer: You can cover this directly or indirectly as you discuss about the firm’s ability to compete and how well the chosen strategy fits the industry stage. In other words you can integrate some discussion about threats as you evaluate the external environment, the firm’s ability to compete and how it achieves competitive advantage (check the thematic focus areas in Q2). If the firm is in strong position and is not threatened by competition or other issues then you can instead focus the analysis on how it can best maintain and sustain this strength in the future.

 

You can alternatively choose to touch upon the issue briefly in Q2 and expand a bit more on potential threats to the firm in Q4 instead as this is where you look at the firm’s situation overall.

 

As you know there is flexibility to how you approach the analysis and evaluation and as long as you cover a bit of each theme that will be fine. Additional marks are given depending on how well you structure arguments, use of frameworks etc.



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