Our Top Business Stories of 2013

There’s a reason that media outlets, companies, nonprofits, and even individuals often use the coming of a new year as a cue for reflection. Deep down, we know that learning and meaning come from introspection and that perspective on lessons happens in retrospect. With that in mind, we look back at some topics that offered some of the more valuable reminders that we, in business, should heed.

Consumers under pressure
There is no business without customers. Everyone knows that in theory. But in practice, companies often think that they can sit above the problems most people face. The “lack of broad-based improvement,” according to the American Bankers Association, is concerning because it represents a deep and broad challenge to businesses and their managers.

Boeing is forced to face problems
The Dreamliner 787 has been Boeing’s most ambitious aircraft to date, but battery problems turned into fires that grounded the whole fleet. It is easy to understand why executives might feel the need to push things along when a major project is behind schedule. But responsible management takes the heat and stops a course of action that would ultimately be more damaging to the company.

[programpush poi=”MBAHC”]Health care managers need data
With the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) and costs of health insurance spiraling up, the health care industry needs to make smarter decisions that can improve care while reducing costs. Using clinical and financial data to direct strategy and practice will become vital.

Content marketing that works
Companies increasingly seek to use content marketing to communicate with prospects and customers and underscore their brand. But managers must learn effective practice to avoid spending money on programs that don’t work.

Back up marketing with operations
Chrysler had a tough first quarter in 2013 because factories were slow to produce new models. It doesn’t matter how good a company’s marketing is if it can’t follow up by delivering on promises.

Take responsibility for business decisions
Executives often make excuses when things go wrong. Sometimes they have a point, as external factors can lay waste to plans. But as the collapse of five garment factories in Bangladesh showed, decisions have real-world consequences. You can’t expect everything to go right, but there are foreseeable problems that managers must address in time rather than trusting to luck of a forgiving public.

Monsanto court win is important for business
The king of genetically-modified seeds, Monsanto, won a patent infringement suit against a farmer who used GM seeds without permission. The important point was how companies will protect intellectual property when that IP actually reproduces itself, which potentially could have played havoc with traditional notions of consumer rights after buying a product.

When oil disappears
As a society, we’re addicted to petroleum. But eventually the sources of oil will go dry and all businesses run on energy. Managers should learn now about the trade-offs of alternative energy sources to consider future strategies.

Balancing stakeholder interests
Although many in business say that companies are run solely for the interest of shareholders and investors, a more traditional notion is that all stakeholders are important to keep a corporation balanced. Dell’s push to go private reminded us that even shareholders can have widely divergent interests and that decisions should take into account employees, shareholders, partners and communities.

Mix up diversity for better performance
While a noble goal, but diversity can help a company run better. Research shows that there are three major types of diversity that can improve the prospects of a business.

New technologies that business intelligence needs
Business intelligence (BI) is the use of automation and data analytics to better direct decision making. Competitive pressure will drive companies to cloud and big data technologies for better information and decision-making support.

Apple adopts in-store customer tracking
Geographic information systems might sound like something intrinsically tied to exterior maps. But as Apple shows with some new technology embedded in iPhones and iPads, it is possible to turn the notion of location on its head. The consumer electronics giant wants to better understand how consumers move through its stores as a way of gaining insight into their decision patterns. Expect as many important stories and lessons this coming year. It’s a reason why learning can never stop in business and how online MBA programs, like those offered by American Sentinel University, can be a critical tool for career development.

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