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How Can Yahoo Get Back on Track?

Lessons from Yahoo – and the strategies that could solve the company’s problems.

Lizwe Nkala




Two globally respected analysts were recently polled on how they would get the shine back on a declining Yahoo if they were appointed chief executive of the business. They had notably polarized views on what they felt to be the company’s challenges; hence they prescribed equally different remedies.

Right or wrong in their estimate, each would not be alone in the growth conundrum arena that faces many business decision-makers today. The one analyst thought that Yahoo’s biggest problem was a lack of competitive technology, something that has seen the company fall rapidly behind the likes of Google.  His assertion was that the solution lay in bringing a new hard-hitting technology product.

The second analyst attributed Yahoo’s lackluster performance down to what he thought was an outdated business model that was rendering’s Yahoo’s product offering seemingly weak relative to that of its peers.

Different strategies

If the above wannabe CEOs were given further room to develop the turnaround business case for Yahoo, the capital and human resource commitments to make each plan happen would be significantly different.

The risks pursuant on each option and its set of actions would be day and night apart and generally the execution of each recommendation would take different timelines to produce results. One and not both options would build a decidedly better Yahoo while the other would compound the problems of a company already in trouble.

Fortunately for the two analysts, the Yahoo story is a hypothetical case that was played out in a control environment.

For the immediate-past incumbent CEO at Yahoo, Carol Bartz, the growth conundrum cost her the top job after being released for failing to restore web service company to its former glory. Growth for a once No1 Internet search engine, has suddenly become the highest stakes game, summed up by the Chairman of the board’s statement of intent; The board is “committed to exploring and evaluating possibilities and opportunities that will put Yahoo on a trajectory for growth and innovation and deliver value to shareholders,”

Strategy decay

Such is the growth question’s significance that it separates star CEO’s and boards from pretenders. Now than ever before, the growth bull’s eye has become an increasingly elusive target to hit. Mistakes in the pursuit of growth can be costly, in some instances hard to come back from especially where such growth involved capital projects or acquisitions.

If earnings have flat-lined and the share prize tanked, chances are the business now needs an injection of new energy, but where should your organization start given the complex array of issues to take into account and deal with?

Naturally, business is cyclical due to constantly changing market and competitor conditions. Periods of boom are punctuated by slow spells as businesses adjust to changed conditions. Intelligent executives work hard to prolong the boom cycle, while they strive to limit the onset of slow spells.

Should they occur, as they inevitably will, intelligent executives adopt aggressive strategies to limit the toxic effects to the business in the short and long term. However, a different kind of contraction than a short-term bleep must be vigilantly watched. Businesses experiencing a protracted period of flat-to-low growth in a market where their peers are outperforming their sector have more to be concerned about.

Chances are that such businesses have hit ‘strategy decay’: the gradual misalignment between the organization’s competitive value proposition and its delivery model with the market’s perception of value.

Some indicators of strategy decay are the following:

  • Turnover growth with flat or declining profits year-on-year: this reflects a business that is working a larger and larger market for a smaller and smaller return
  • Declining turnover with increasing profits: this reflects a business that is enjoying temporary profitability due to aggressive cost cutting, income from disposals or product prize increases that improve margins. All of these in the long-term are unsustainable
  • Rising ROCE with declining PE multiple: This reflects a business that may be giving shareholders healthy returns in the short term but the market is not confident about the business model’s future ability to sustain that run
  • The oldest business units and products account for the bulk of turnover and profit: this reflects a business that is overly dependent on an old portfolio of rents, patents and customer bases, with very little by way of new assets to sustain its competitiveness and profitability in the long run
  • Convergence of strategies in the industry are making it difficult to differentiate businesses and consolidation becomes the only viable option to survive in the long-term

Even the best-conceived corporate and business strategies wear out with time because markets and competitor actions are a constantly moving target. Forward thinking businesses therefore manage the ever-present threat of strategic decay ahead of each business cycle. Our observation is that those kinds of businesses are not many. T

he majority of executives are too busy responding to shareholder andmarkets pressure to deliver the next quarter results. They manage strategy decay by exception, choosing to respond to crises in piecemeal fashion rather than act in a proactive and structured way. In our South African and broader African business environment it is not too difficult to spot companies that have hit a brick wall on growth options.

Just like the story of Yahoo, they are effectively playing catch-up in a market where immediate competitors keep raising the bar while the rate of global change far outstrips the speed at which the organizations are re-inventing themselves

Industries in trouble

There is no shortage of people wanting to own an airline in Africa. Start-ups are plentiful but there is little in the performance of established players like SAA, BA/Comair and Mango etc. to suggest that there is excess demand. It is a heavily churned industry defined by prize wars, international oil prize and heavily exposed to consumer sentiment.

It is an industry akin to a lagoon that is a pleasure to frequent in times of calm and a nightmare to be caught in by a raging storm. Margins are squeezed as fewer passengers fly in a global economic crunch; couple that with the volatility of fuel costs and you have a cocktail of disaster.

The usual escape route of expanding to new routes and code sharing has been beaten to death, and even that has created its own problems with Africa’s difficult legal and legislative terrain either cumbersome to get hands around or sabotaging well intentioned plans to the extent of folding them altogether.

SA Express’s recent mission to the DRC got grounded even before it took off, taking with it some R30m of sunk costs in a desperate charge to find new sources of revenue growth

Fixed line telecommunications businesses are deep in the mire after mobile offerings completely obliterated what was left of years of a stagnant business models and non-existent product and technology development. The growth of data is an opportunity sailing to the sunset that these archaic businesses simply cannot exploit without having to reinvent their entire infrastructure, a mammoth task to undo given decades of investment in what is now liability assets that cannot respond to market and competitor shifts.

For Telkom for example, it is all-hands-on-deck as the company scurries to salvage some respectability after years of poor performance signified by losses in excess of six figures even for the newly launched mobile subsidiary. The ill-fated Nigerian excursion for the state company ended in tears.

Even a renowned industry turnaround artist closed the door and walked away fearing for his own reputation in the contamination that was destined to happen. Happen it did and the outcome does not make for happy reading There are very few books that have enjoyed the trust of readers for centuries, more than newspapers and magazines.

Not any more because the world has suddenly changed and continues to do so at an alarming rate. The technology tsunami is revolutionizing product platforms, disrupting advertising patterns and income streams as well as changing the way we all consume media.

The popularity of mobility, portability and interactivity has altered the prospects of print, and digital platforms are entering the fourth wave of development, which means any player still stuck to the print model is all but out of contention. Their demise is a question of time.

What more with social media creating a global on-line newspaper; survival in this industry is a case of must-do and not optional revolutionary thinking. Avusa Media is a case in point where investors are getting nervous because the growth story has evidently stalled. The business stayed routed to an outdated business model for far too long and is now susceptible to sniper fire from just about every direction as digital media platforms rule the roost.

Finding new pastures

The innovation revolution is sweeping across just about every industry in every sector, and it is no buzzword. A management team still debating its validity is not going to last, every organization must find new sources of value to stay afloat in a volatile world

  • Define the business’s vision for innovation behind a compelling business case. In other words, get to grips with where, how and why the business has slowed down. Frame the issues in a compelling statement that pinpoints the fragile aspects of your business and build an organization-wide coalition to go and change the game
  • Get the organization’s leadership from board to executive to own and champion the innovation mission. By-standers in positions of responsibility transmit negative energy to staff and give an impression that the innovation ‘fad’ is an inconvenience to the status quo: giving an impression that if ignored enough it will fade away and life will go on as usual
  • Get the right culture embedded in the organization. Cultural resistance is the biggest hindrance to innovation as identified by the latest Booz 1000 Innovation study results for 2011. Old beliefs, behaviors, attitudes and assumptions can frustrate the process of innovation. Hierarchies and established dogmatic tendencies usually frustrate creativity that is needed to generate innovative ideas. Leaders raised in a culture that values staff obedience; control and fear-driven diligence in people will struggle to get passion out of them, the sole food of innovative mindsets
  • Get the innovation formula and mix right. Define clearly what the innovation thrust for your business needs to be. Given the extent of strategy decay in the industries we outlined above, nothing less than a holistic business model renewal will create meaningful, new sources of growth. Some businesses may have business models that are still working and relevant but may need innovative business processes or new products to be launched
  • Test the innovation logic thoroughly. Project the payback of the innovation portfolio you are recommending and see a four to five year value build up to justify commercialization of ideas. The innovation logic must map back to the initial process of framing the fragile aspects of your existing model as well as staying true to the broader strategy and value philosophy of the business. Look for innovation ideas that can be supported to thrive within the current capabilities of the business to avoid a performance lag of the idea while the business tries to acquire the right capabilities to execute the ideas
  • Institutionalize an innovation process that will ensure a high-pressure innovation pipeline. Put staff at the heart of the innovation process that works top-down and bottom-up
  • Ring-fence the innovation ideas, their incubation, funding, implementation, and performance measurement from the mainstream operational parameters. Expecting innovation ideas to deliver at the level of established businesses performance benchmarks in terms of expected returns on investment too quickly can frustrate and jeopardize the business renewal effort.

Driving growth through innovation is a creative process. It requires leadership that can free up the business to explore and venture into unchartered territory. The biggest enemy of innovation therefore is the organization itself and its legacy management models of the past.

If there are entrenched, outdated management models, getting outside expertise to design and kick-start the process, transfer skills and get the business on its way to new pastures may be the right thing to do. It will not be a quick fix for the likes of Telkom and Avusa Media, it may be a long trudge in difficult conditions but results are sure to come in the long run.

Lizwe Nkala is an influential corporate strategist working at executive and board levels of large corporations. He is the MD of Flamingo Moon Consulting and a founding partner of the Strategic Thinking Institute, where he coaches executives and presents tailored strategic thinking seminars and webinars, and provides strategic thinking tools and templates on a subscription basis for corporate clients. For more, visit


Company Posts

A World Of Opportunity Awaits With Peli Peli

Business ownership has always been the entrepreneur’s way of shaping their future. If you’ve always wanted to experience life in the US, this is your chance.

Peli Peli




Global media has been reporting that the chances of non-American citizens being granted access to move to the US are getting slimmer with the new administration. However, there is still one channel of access that allows people the opportunity to relocate that hasn’t been amended by the presidency.

The EB-5 Visa programme was created by Congress in 1990 to stimulate the US economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. Under a programme initially enacted as a pilot in 1992, and regularly re-authorised since then, investors may also qualify for EB-5 classification by investing through regional centres designated by USCIS based on proposals for promoting economic growth.

The question most commonly asked by foreign investors is where to start selecting a relatively low-risk company to invest their money into. One such entity that has been granted designation under the EB-5 programme is the restaurant group Peli Peli.

Built-in success

Peli Peli is a South African cuisine restaurant that has gained incredible traction in the competitive American restaurant industry. They currently have six successful branches opened in the Texas area. Peli Peli Vintage park, which opened in 2009, generated revenue of $5,3 million in 2016.

Related: The Pros & Cons Of Owning A Restaurant Franchise

Peli Peli Galleria opened in 2015, and had $5,2 million revenue in 2016. Peli Peli Kitchen, their first fast casual concept, opened in October 2016 and reported revenue of $2 million in 2017. Peli Deli, a downtown fast food casual lunch concept and Peli Peli Cinco Ranch, which opened in February and July 2017, respectively, are both showing incredible growth to match their predecessors.

At least two more locations will be opening in 2018, and as all new Peli Peli locations have historically generated positive cash flow within the first year, the company expects to increase its revenue exponentially.

The power team behind the brand

The restaurant chain has garnered popularity, and won a multitude of awards, including Best Service & Best Atmosphere — Readers’ Choice Award (Houston Press) and 2013 Diners’ Choice Award winner for the Top 100 American Fare Restaurants in the United States (OpenTable). Peli Peli is also rated in the top ten in Houston, Texas (which boasts over 12 000 restaurants) on both Tripadvisor and Yelp.

The Peli Peli trio who own the business are Chef Paul Friedman, Thomas Nguyen and Aiki Tran. These three dynamic businessmen have their own share of accolades to speak of. Chef Paul, who is a born and bred Joburger, has been a contestant on Cutthroat Kitchen for multiple episodes on the Food Network. He won the People’s Choice Award and was placed third as a judge in the Gumbo Smackdown 2014. He received the 2013 Chef of Chef Awards in the 9th Annual Houston Wine and Food week, as well as being the 2013 Cadillac Culinary Master. He was also one of 60 Houston Chefs to be listed in the book Best Chefs America.

Thomas Nguyen, who is Chief of Marketing for Peli Peli, graduated from the University of Texas School of Law and was a former litigation attorney. He was the Houston Business Journal’s 40 under 40 award recipient in 2015 and an EY Entrepreneur of the Year Gulf Coast finalist in 2016 and 2017. He was Entrepreneur of the Year — Houston Asian Chamber of Commerce and is also a freelance writer for the Houston Press.

Peli Peli’s CEO, Aiki Tran, has over 12 years of experience in restaurant technology and won the 2007 Entrepreneur of the Year award — Houston Asian Chamber of Commerce. He was responsible for streamlining the technology infrastructure for franchises such as Popeyes and Wings, Pizza N Things. He also became the number one reseller of Aldelo and Dineware POS systems in Texas, with installations in over 200 restaurants.

Related: The Only How-To You’ll Need To Start A Restaurant

Joining their ranks is South African Ryan Stewart. Having owned 16 restaurants throughout the country, he is also the CEO and co-founder of the Mozambik restaurant chain. Ryan has 17 years’ experience in the industry and is being brought on board by Peli Peli to assist in their revenue and store location growth.

Your path to the US

With the combined talent, brainpower and experience of these four businessmen, it’s no wonder Peli Peli is achieving success. The investment required to qualify for an EB-5 Visa through Peli Peli is an amount of $500 000 and is structured as an equity investment at risk. It entitles the foreign investor to permanent residency, and within two years of living in the United States, a green card for the investor and his/her dependents.

For more information on how

You can be a part of the EB-5 Visa programme through Peli Peli.


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4 Ways To Find Your Own Business Style

The only way to develop a business style is step-by-step over time.

Timothy Sykes




Finding a style in finance will define how you react to changes and how you approach new situations. It’s as important in business as it is in stock trading. Developing a business style and developing a stock trading system are extremely similar pursuits.

But I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy to do. It will take time and you do have to be willing to work at it.

Here are my four ways of finding your own business style.

1. Get rid of your expectations

You can’t force anything to work. It’s necessary for you to be flexible when it comes to finding a business style. Begin by letting go of any expectations you have before trying a new style.

Prior to attempting a new style, you have to be willing to go into it with no expectations. You never know what you’re going to find.

Related: 8 Steps to Building Your Business According to the Lifestyle You Want

2. Track your movements

Some things are going to work and some things aren’t going to work. I always tell my students in the Tim Sykes Millionaire Challenge that they should keep records of the things they’re doing. Keep these records as detailed as possible because attempting trial and error can quickly lead you in circles.

Don’t fall into the trap (as I did in the beginning) of trying the same thing multiple times because you never tracked the results.

I keep large spreadsheets with notes of the various styles and systems I’ve tried in business. Business mistakes can be costly, so you need to do everything you can to avoid making them.

3. Look at what others are doing


I refuse to believe that someone is doing something truly unique. The moment someone makes a breakthrough in business there are a hundred people replicating the same things. And that can be a powerful tool. Consider what others are doing and see whether you can learn something.

It’s why I also advocate finding a mentor to help you out. They’ll be able to help you out and you’ll benefit from their enhanced experiences in business.

Again, track what you’re taking from other people so you know whether something is working.

Related: I Started Saying ‘No’ To These 6 Things. My Life And My Business Got A Lot Better

4. Refine what you do

Rarely will anything in business work the first time. However, your first attempts will give you a good benchmark as to what you need to do next.

You should never be satisfied with what you have, even if it’s working. Always work on improving your business style. I believe this is the most important thing because it also teaches you how to adapt to changing conditions over time.

Last Word – Constantly Growing

There’s no step-by-step guide for how to develop a business style. The only way to do it is to obey the fundamentals and then develop everything over time.

Even though the process is long, you’re guaranteed to learn a lot of lessons and gain from a huge number of experiences over time.

This article was originally posted here on

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6 Questions You Should Be Asking When Coaching

Top athletes have coaches because they’re winners. Business leaders should be the same.

Nadine Todd



Dr Marshall Goldsmith

Whether you’re a CEO looking for a mentor, coaching your management team, or structuring a coaching programme for your managers to implement, there are six questions that can help anyone get better at anything.

The expert

Dr Marshall Goldsmith is a best-selling author and world-renowned business educator and coach. He has coached top CEOs, including Alan Mulally, former President and CEO of Ford Motor Company.

The key to a successful coaching programme is simple dialogue and establishing responsibility. The person being coached must understand and agree that success lies in their hands. They must take responsibility for their actions.

Related: How Business Coaching Can Help You Achieve Your Goals

The method

Once every few months, have a direct coaching session. Ask (or answer for yourself) these six questions:

  1. Where are we going?
  2. Where are you going?
  3. What are you doing well?
  4. Do you have suggestions for my improvement?
  5. How can I help you?
  6. So you have suggestions for me?

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