Monday, August 18, 2003

Questions to ask in assessing business opportunities

Monday, August 18, 2003

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Questions to ask in assessing business opportunities

Federico “Poch” Macaranas, dean of Asian Institute of Management’s Center for Development and Management, suggests that all enterprises need to have at least one person doing nothing else but scan the Internet and other sources of data, gather relevant information and send them to the leaders of the organization and to other relevant users of such information in the organization. There is such a wealth of information outside of your organization waiting for you to tap for the success of your enterprise.

Scanning your external environment for opportunities and threats is not only a must for planning, reviewing or revising plans and for inputs to day-to-day managing and leading. It helps you to focus your efforts on the most important external issues impacting your business.

One main external factor changing the rules of business is globalization. Whether you like it or not, globalization is affecting your business. How, where, why, when, who, what, what for, what else, so what, my goodness, gracious? Yup!

There was a commentary recently about how cheap and well-styled shoes from abroad has surely routed, if not already fatally demolished, our local shoe industry. The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome is wrecking havoc to tourism and business in the whole of Asia until now. The war in Iraq forced countries to take solid stands to protect their economies. Computer worms and viruses can wreck havoc to entire organizations and countries in a matter of hours. The recent scandal in corporate America is still sowing fear among unscrupulous business executives, finance officers and auditors worldwide. Giant malls bring death threats to small business.

Franchising is the new marketing plan in this knowledge economy.

What are these factors that might bring opportunities or threats to your business? I gathered these from my book sources such as: The Northbound Train (Amacom) by Karl Albrecht, Team-based Strategic Planning (Amacom) by C, Davis Fogg and Strategy Pure and Simple (McGraw-Hill) by Michel Robert.

Customer Environment
Who are your current and target customers? What are their experiences and how are they reacting to changes around them? What are their identity, wants, needs, behaviors, habits, values and life situations? Which demographic factors such as gender, age, marital patterns, economic situations, buying habits, religious patterns, mobility and the like, influence your access to them? How do social values, i.e. styles and trends, health concerns, attitude toward institutions like the government, family values, influence the life environment of your customers? What are the common characteristics of exceptionally successful markets?

Competitor environment
Who are your direct and indirect, current and potential competitors? What are their identity, motives, strengths, weaknesses, apparent and potential strategies that compete with your business? Who are the dominant and/or big players in your industry? How are they affecting your business? Who are merging or forming alliances? What new products or technology are they bringing to your industry? How is global competition affecting your business? What are new forms of competition? Who are your suppliers and customers who may become your competitors soon or later?

Economic environment
What are the trends worldwide? How are you affected by the dynamics of markets, capital, critical resources, costs, prices, currency, state of the national economy, state of international trade? What are the immediate and long-term effects of the continuing fall of the peso to your prices and costs? What affects demand for your products and services? How are global economic changes affecting your industry and your enterprise?

Technological environment
What technological trends, events, hardware and software can improve your capabilities for creating value? How are technological changes affecting your customers? Which technologies are coming, dying or here to stay for a while longer? What technological breakthrough could change your industry, your own products and processes? Should you develop your own technologies? What are the current benchmarks for excellence?

Social environment
What are the cultural patterns, values, beliefs, trends, styles, preferences, heroes, villains and conflicts that form the reference system of people’s behaviors? What social issues or changes in attitudes might make certain products in demand or out of style? What are problems of public life, e.g. law and order, medical ethics, role of media, religious issues, affect your business environment? Do you have a continuing corporate social responsibility program? How do people feel about your industry, your enterprise?

Political environment
What are the processes of national, regional and local governments affecting your business? How are you affected by tax policies, government intervention and expenditures, legislations at all levels, regulation or deregulation of industries and trade practices? How other factors in your political environment, e.g. informal pressure groups, non government organizations, trade and church organizations, media, affecting your enterprise? How are you affected by international standardization such as ISO, OCHAS, Baldridge, and the like?

Legal environment
What pattern of laws, lawmaking activities and litigation can affect the very life of your enterprise? How can patents, copyrights, trademarks and other intellectual property; employment issues, sexual harassment and employment law and litigation; and others influence your enterprise? How is the “smoking ban”, for example, affect the way you conduct business?

Physical environment
What are the physical surroundings of your enterprise’s facilities and operations? How are the ecosystems and natural resources, availability of raw materials, transportation options, proximity to major population centers and sources of competent talent, susceptibility to environmental disasters like earthquakes and typhoons and the effects of crime in the near environment affect your enterprise?

Take note that all these factors are interrelated in many ways. For example, the rise of the call center industry is provoking our lawmakers to revisit our laws on women in employment. It is forcing call center enterprises to locate in areas where there are well-educated and English-proficient population. Stiff competition for investments in call centers is coming mostly from India.

Three cheers! Finally I have something good to say about our government and government employees. I am particularly impressed by the people manning the ISLES/Action Center, DOTC Complaint and Public Assistance, 7890 Hotline.

Call 7890 (landline) or 02-7890 (if you are using a cell phone) to report drivers and operators (taxi, FX, jeepney or bus) who are abusive, overcharging, “nangongotrata,” who do not give change, who refuse to bring you to your destination, dirty and unkempt driver and vehicle, defective or intentional no air-conditioning, You may also call 727-1710 or 715-0459 for inquiries. I couldn’t believe it, but those people at 7890 do help. At walang lagay.

Always report the plate number (inside the taxi and on the plate itself–sometimes they differ) and the nature of your complaint to 7890. Best is to report it immediately as it happens. One rainy and dark evening, I was going from Sta. Mesa, Manila to Antipolo, Rizal. The driver refused to convey me and told me to go down. I immediately called 7890 on my cell phone. The courteous lady manning the hotline talked to the driver and ordered him to bring me to Antipolo. Still, the driver insisted that I pay an extra P50.00. I said, “No, you can’t order me to give you extra. It is my decision to give you tip if I am satisfied with your service.” Suddenly the air-conditioning conked out. I told him that if he does not turn on the cold air, I would call 7890 again.

Immediately cold air filled the cab and I reached Antipolo in due time. 7890 Hotline is hearing the case and will impose the corresponding punishment to the driver and operator.

Let us stop such drivers and operators from continuing to victimize seemingly helpless taxi riders. With 7890, we have all the help we need. God bless their soul.

I do miss the honest taxi drivers of Davao City.

1st Congreso Internacional 2003 Panama. You are invited to attend the ASTD Global Network Panama Conference and Expo on September 17 to 19, 2003, at the Hotel Riande Continental, Panama City, Panama. Conference languages are both Spanish and English. Speakers from Africa, Australia, India, the Philippines, United States, Europe and Central and South American countries will truly give this conference an international perspective. This columnist will be speaking on the topic “Leadership and Development.” For details and brochures, please call Grace Victoriano at 715-9332.

(Ms. Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. and helps companies develop and implement strategies and plans. She could be reached at

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