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Archive for April, 2012

With gas prices continuing to increase, it’s hard to imagine being able to travel hundreds of miles on any form of transportation for just $1.50. Yet such a concept is the reality for customers of megabus.com in the east coast, southeast and mid west regions of the U.S.

I first came across Megabus about 8 years ago as a college student studying at the University of Edinburgh. Back then I would take Megabus to Glasgow for shopping trips for £1 each way. Typically with booking fees this worked out as the equivalent of just under $5 for what was approximately a 100 mile round trip. The company’s double-decker buses had plenty of space and while I found the train to be more efficient time-wise for long distance trips to London, the Megabus ticket price for advance travel was hard to beat.

In recent years Megabus owned by the British Stagecoach group has entered the U.S. and Canadian markets offering fares as low as $1 one way plus a $0.50 booking fee. The buses are clean and a lot more appealing in an attempt to readdress the seedy image many Americans have of bus travel. Each bus has wi-fi, power outlets at each seat, flat screen TVs showing movies, panoramic windows and it’s a green way to travel.

Megabus’ business model works by using a yield management model to incrementally increase ticket prices as the departure date nears. This business is reliant on numbers and like Southwest the people booking last-minute pay more, to offset the customers with discounted tickets. In addition Megabus has extremely low overhead. All bookings are made online eliminating ticket agent staffing. Furthermore, Megabus does not have its own terminals, picking up passengers on city streets.

Megabus rethought bus transportation in order to achieve success in a mature industry. Last year Bloomberg Businessweek did a feature on the company entitled “The Megabus Effect” stating that bus travel is now the fastest growing way to travel in the U.S. The article also stated that Megabus had 2010 revenues of approximately $100 million and is continuing to grow.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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I am fascinated by technology and what it can do for a business’ efficiency and work environment. The other day in one of my MBA classes we learned about organizations that are social businesses both internally and externally. One example given was the Children’s Hospital Boston. In addition to their extensive external social media activities, the Children’s Hospital Boston has an internal social networking website called SPARC (social platform for accelerating resources and connections). SPARC was designed to foster communication and collaboration to further support the hospital’s innovation acceleration program. SPARC enables its members to join groups, hold conversations, broadcast announcements, and find resources and experts.

Hearing of the Children’s Hospital Boston reminded me of a Business Insider article I’d read earlier this week on another Boston organization Eagle Investment Systems’ innovative workplace. While undoubtedly very different types of organizations, both are forward thinking and adhere to the notions of social business from an internal perspective.

Eagle Investment Systems’ technology has been designed to enable employees to work together no matter where they are located. Like Children’s Hospital the company has an internal social networking website. This portal application contains an instant messaging/web conferencing tool called Jabber. Jabber has enabled employees to communicate more efficiently getting projects launched in two days versus the two weeks it previously took to organize people via e-mail. Now data, contact info, schedules, calendars etc. can be shared through this system, creating fast and effective communications. Interestingly Jabber’s instant messaging tool has replaced e-mail as the workforce’s main communication tool. Another aspect of this technology is status updates, which are displayed on monitors throughout the building enabling employees to efficiently request expertise and keep in the loop with what’s going on.

Eagle Investment Systems’ social networking system is supported by the employees having tablets, laptops and cell phones. There are no traditional desk phones at this company. The work environment is one of huddle rooms to facilitate collaboration. Video conferencing through WebEx is also greatly used and has enhanced relationships with employees in remote locations. Ultimately Eagle Investment Systems’ Head of Information Systems Mike Fitzgerald describes how:

Priorities have shifted away from employees sitting in a cube to what’s happening in the virtual world. It’s all about information flow, data, collaboration… in a dynamic, ad-hoc fashion.’

I personally am intrigued by what Eagle Investment Systems and the Children’s Hospital Boston are doing and think it could represent a vision of the workplace of the future. But what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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My first blog post illustrated the importance of daring to change in order to avoid organizational inertia. In that first post I highlighted a retailer I had grown up with in the UK: Woolworth’s. Once a household name, Woolworth’s failed to reinvent itself until it was too late. In this blog post I wanted to share 5 ways high performance companies rethink and reinvent their strategies before revenues from their current strategies start to decline.

  1. They invest in new capabilities: High performance organizations start developing new capabilities, before they lose their competitive advantage from their current ones. Apple is a great example of this.
  2. They focus on talent acquisition and retention: In this economy many companies have become complacent and lazy assuming that their employees can’t go anywhere. While this may be true for your mediocre employees, talent always has options and sooner or later may be gone. High performance companies continually focus on retaining and developing surplus talent that can help drive the business forward in the long-term.
  3. They continually scan the market: High performers don’t rest on their laurels, continually scanning the environment for new ideas in order to identify untapped consumer needs and improve their economic outlook.  Like Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers says, (shameless plug for husband’s hometown team), you are either getting better or you are getting worse, you never stay the same.
  4. They Innovate: High performance companies are risk takers who are not afraid of change. Successful managers recognize that the real risk is in not innovating, becoming stagnant and collapsing.  These businesses have an internal environment that fosters creative thinking, and executives in these companies recognize that new progressive ideas can come from anywhere in the organization not just the C-suite.  As a result employees are empowered by knowing that they have a role to play in shaping the company’s future success.
  5. They are agile: Today’s high performing businesses have agile organizational structures in order to be able to adapt fast to the increasingly unpredictable ever-changing business environment and take advantage of sudden market opportunities.

What do you think? Feel free to add to my list of characteristics of high performance companies in the comments section below. 

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