General Management – Case – Your Job and Your Passion –

General Management

CASE – 1   Your Job and Your Passion—You Can Pursue Both!

The 21st century offers many challenges to every one of us. As more firms go global, as more economies interconnect, and as the Web blasts away boundaries to communication, we become more informed citizens. This interconnectedness means that the organizations you work for will require you to develop both general and specialized knowledge—such as speaking multiple languages, using various software applications, or understanding details of financial transactions. You will have to develop general management skills to foster your ability to be self-reliant and thrive in a changing market-place. And here’s the exciting part: As you build both types of knowledge, you may be able to integrate your growing expertise with the causes or activities you care most about. Or, your career adventure may lead you to a new passion. 

Former presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton are well known for combining their management skills—running a country—with their passion for helping people around the world. Together they have raised funds to assist disaster victims, those with HIV/AIDS, and others in need. Jake Burton turned his love of snow sports into an entire industry when he founded Burton Snowboards. Annie Withey poured her business and marketing knowledge into her two famous business ventures: Smartfood and Annie’s Homegrown. Both products were the result of her passion for healthful foods made from organic ingredients.

As you enter the workforce, you may have no idea where your career path will lead. You may be asking yourself, “How will I fit in?” “Where will I live?” “How much will I earn?” “Where will my business and personal careers evolve as the world continuous to change at such a fast pace?” If you are feeling nervous because you don’t know the answers to these questions yet, relax. A career is a journey, not a single destination. You may have one type of career or several. It is likely you will work for several organisations, or you may run one or more businesses of your own.

As you ask yourself what you want to do and where you want to be, take a few minutes to review the chapter and its main topics. Think about your personality, what you like and dislike, what you know and what you want to learn, what you fear and what you dream. Then try the following exercise.


  1. Create a three-column chart in which the first column lists nonmanagement skills you have. Are you good at travel? Do you know how to build furniture? Are you a whiz at sports statistics? Are you an innovative cook? Do you play video games for hours? In the second column, list the causes or activities about which you are passionate. These may dovetail with the first list, but they might not.

  2. Once you have you two columns complete, draw lines between entries that seem compatible. If you are good at building furniture, you might have also listed a concern about families who are homeless. Remember that not all entries will find a match—the idea is to begin finding some connections.

  3. In the third column, generate a list of firms or organizations you know about that reflect your interests. If you are good at building furniture, you might be interested working for the Habitat for Humanity organization, or you might find yourself gravitating towards a furniture retailer like Ikea or Ethan Allen. You can do further research on organizations via Internet or business publications. 

CASE – 2   Biyani – Pioneering a Retailing Revolution in India

“I use people as hands and legs. I prefer to do thinking around here.”

─ Kishore Biyani, CEO & MD, Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd.

Kishore Biyani (Biyani), CEO& MD of Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd., planned to have 30 Food Bazaar outlets, 22 outlets in Big Bazaar, 21 Pantaloons outlets, and four seamless malls under the Central logo, by the end of 2005. He also planned to launch at least three businesses every year and had already selected music, footwear and car accessories as his next areas of investments. He was already the top retailer in India followed by Raghu Pillai of RPG. As of 2004, Biyani headed a company that had a turnover of Rs 6,500 million and operated 13 Pantaloon apparel stores, 9 Big Bazaars, 13 Food Bazaars, and 3 seamless malls (Central), one each located in Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Pune.

Biyani’s journey from a person who looked after his family business to India’s top retailer in 1987, when he launched Manz Wear Pvt. Ltd. The company launched one of the first readymade trousers brands – ‘Pantaloon’ – in the country. The company also launched its first jeans brand called ‘Bare’ in 1989. On September 20, 1991, Manz Wear Pvt. Ltd. went public and on September 25, 1992, it changed its name to Pantaloon Fashions (India) Limited (PFIL). ‘John Miller’ was the first formal shirt brand from PFIL.

The company opened its first apparel stores, called ‘Pantaloons’ at Kolkata in August 1997. The stores generated Rs 70 million. Biyani then realized the potential of the Indian market and started to aggressively tap it. Accordingly, Biyani decided to expand into other segments of retailing besides apparel. To reflect this change in focus, the company changed its name to Pantaloon Retail (India) Limited (PRIL) in July 1999 and set itself a target of achieving Rs 10 billion in sales by June 2005. In course of time he launched three other retail formats — Big Bazaar, Food Bazaar, and Central.

Biyani didn’t believe in copying ideas from western retailers. He was critical of his peers who felt just copied ideas form the west without making any effort to mold them to Indian conditions. He ensured that his store formats such as Big Bazaar, Food Bazaar, and Pantaloons were all suited to the purchasing style of Indian consumers.

Biyani was a huge risk taker and his planning was always different from the conventional way of doing business. This was also one of the factors that had prompted Biyani to move away from his father’s conventional way of doing business. During the initial stages of his success, his risk-taking attitude sometimes had the effect of turning away financiers. The biggest risk that Biyani took was in opening Big Bazaar in Mumbai in 2001. The company needed money to expand Big Bazaar’s operations. However, it had profits of only Rs 40 million with a low share price at eighteen rupees. Therefore, Biyani could not raise money through equity. In light of this situation, Biyani took a loan of Rs 1,200 million from ICICI for launching the operations of Big Bazaar, which increased his debt exposure. However, Big Bazaar proved to be a resounding success with 100,000 customer visits in its first week of operations. According to analysts, if Big Bazaar had failed, Biyani would have landed in a severe debt crisis. The success of Big Bazaar not only increased the company profits, it also changed the perception of investors.

Many people criticized Biyani for not delegating authority and Biyani himself accepted the criticism. He said, “I use people as hands and legs. I prefer to do the thinking around here.” He preferred taking individual decision on activities like strategic planning, ideas for other ventures, and other important issues. It was because of this that managers like Kush Medhora of Westside were initially apprehensive about joining Biyani’s business. However, Biyani changed his attitude gradually with the launch of Big Bazaar, Food Bazaar, and Central and appointed different people for managing different business units.

Biyani believed in leading a simple life and in being simply dressed. His vision came from his diverse reading connected to retailing and other areas. He made it a point to visit each of his stores across the country. He aimed to spend at least seven hours a week at the stores. In the stores, he would stand at a corner and observe people. He also walked on streets, met common people, and talked to local leaders to plan and put up new products in his stores. Each of his stores was set with a weekly target, which was reviewed every Monday. Whenever a new store was opened, the details of its operations during the first 45 days were to be sent to him. Sometimes, he suggested remedies to some problems. Biyani believed in extensive advertising to make more people know about the product. His decision making was quick and devoid of unnecessary delays. Biyani was also a good learner and learned quickly from his mistakes. He planned to improve inventory management through responding effectively to the demands of the customers rather than forecasting them, as he felt that forecasting would pile up the inventory in this dynamic market.


  1. The tremendous success of the ‘Pantaloons’, ‘Big Bazaar’ and ‘Food Bazaar’ retailing formats, easily made PRIL the number one retailer in India by early 2004, in terms of turnover and retail area occupied by its outlets. Explain how Biyani is further planning to consolidate his businesses.

  2. “Our striving toward looking at the Indian market differently and strategizing with the evolving customer helped us perform better.” What other qualities of Kishore Biyani do you think were instrumental in making him top retailer of India?

CASE – 3   The New Frontier for Fresh Foods Supermarkets

Fresh Foods Supermarket is a grocery store chain that was established in the Southeast 20 years ago. The company is now beginning to expand to other regions of the United States. First, the firm opened new stores along the eastern seaboard, gradually working its way up through Maryland and Washington, DC, then through New York and New jersey, and on into Connecticut and Massachusetts. It has yet to reach the northern New England states, but executives have decided to turn their attention to the Southwest, particularly because of the growth of population there.

Vivian Noble, the manager of one of the chain’s most successful stores in the Atlanta area, has been asked to relocate to Phoenix, Arizona, to open and run a new Fresh Foods Supermarket. She has decided to accept the job, but she knows it will be a challenge. As an African American woman, she has faced some prejudice during her career, but she refuses to be stopped by a glass ceiling or any other barrier. She understands that she will be living and working in an area where several cultures combine and collide, and she will be hiring and managing a diverse workforce. Noble has the support of top management at Fresh Foods, which wants the store to reflect the surrounding community—in both staff makeup and product selection. So she will be looking to hire employees with Hispanic and Native American roots, as well as older workers who can relate to the many retired residents in the area. And she will be seeking their inputs on the selection of certain food products, including ethnic brands, so that customers know they can buy what they need and want a Fresh Foods.

In addition, Noble wants to make sure that Fresh Foods provides services above and beyond those of a standard supermarket to attract local consumers. For instance, she wants the store to offer free delivery of groceries to home-bound customers who are either senior citizens or physically disabled. She wants to be sure that the store has enough bilingual employees to translate for and otherwise assist customers who speak little or no English. Noble believes that she is a pioneer of sorts, guiding Fresh Foods Supermarkets into a new frontier. “The sky is almost blue here,” she says of her new home state. “And there’s no glass ceiling between me and the sky.”


  1. What steps can Vivian Noble take to recruit and develop her new workforce?

  2. What other ways can Noble help her company reach out to the community?

  3. How will Fresh Foods Supermarkets as whole benefit from successfully moving into this new region of the country?

CASE – 4   The Law Offices of Jeter, Jackson, Guidry, and Boyer


David Jeter and Nate Jackson started a small general law practice in 1992 near Sacramento, California. Prior to that, the two had spent five years in the district attorney’s office after completing their formal schooling. What began as a small partnership—just the two attorneys and a paralegal/assistant—had now grown into a practice that employed more than 27 people in three separated towns. The current staff included 18 attorneys (three of whom have become partners), three paralegals, and six secretaries.

For the first time in the firm’s existence, the partners felt that they were losing control of their overall operation. The firm’s current caseload, number of employees, number of clients, travel requirements, and facilities management needs had grown far beyond anything that the original partners had ever imagined.

Attorney Jeter called a meeting of the partners to discuss the matter. Before the meeting, opinions about the pressing problems of the day and proposed solutions were sought from the entire staff. The meeting resulted in a formal decision to create a new position, general manager of operations. The partners proceeded to compose a job description and job announcement for recruiting purposes.

Highlights and responsibilities of the job description include:

  • Supervising day-to-day office personnel and operations (phones, meetings, word processing, mail, billings, payroll, general overhead, and maintenance).
  • Improving customer relations (more expeditious processing of cases and clients).
  • Expanding the customer base.
  • Enhancing relations with the local communities.
  • Managing the annual budget and related incentive programs.
  • Maintaining annual growth in sales of 10 percent while maintaining or exceeding the current profit margin.

The general manager will provide an annual executive summary to the partners, along with specific action plans for improvement and change. A search committee was formed, and two months later the new position was offered to Brad Howser, a longtime administrator from the insurance industry seeking a final career change and a return to his California roots. Howser made it clear that he was willing to make a five-year commitment to the position and would then likely retire.

Things got off to a quiet and uneventful start as Howser spent few months just getting to know the staff, observing day-today operations; and reviewing and analyzing assorted client and attorney data and history, financial spreadsheets, and so on.

About six months into the position, Howser became more outspoken and assertive with the staff and established several new operational rules and procedures. He began by changing the regular working hours. The firm previously had a flex schedule in place that allowed employees to begin and end the workday at their choosing within given parameters. Howser did not care for such a “loose schedule” and now required that all office personnel work from 9:00 to 5:00 each day. A few staff member were unhappy about this and complained to Howser, who matter-of-factly informed them that “this is the new rule that everyone is expected to follow, and anyone who could or would not comply should probably look for another job.” Sylvia Bronson, an administrative assistant who had been with the firm for several years, was particularly unhappy about this change. She arranged for a private meeting with Howser to discuss her child care circumstances and the difficulty that the new schedule presented. Howser seemed to listen half-heartedly and at one point told Bronson that “assistance are essentially a-dime-a-dozen and are readily available.” Bronson was seen leaving the office in tears that day.

Howser was not happy with the average length of time that it took to receive payments for services rendered to the firm’s clients (accounts receivable). A closer look showed that 30 percent of the clients paid their bills in 30 days or less, 60 percent paid in 30 to 60 days, and the remaining 10 percent stretched it out to as  many as 120 days. Howser composed a letter that was sent to all clients whose outstanding invoices exceeded 30 days. The strongly worded letter demanded immediate payment in full and went on to indicate that legal action might be taken against anyone who did not respond in timely fashion. While a small number of “late” payments were received soon after the mailing, the firm received an even larger number of letters and phone calls from angry clients, some of whom had been with the firm since its inception.

Howser was given an advertising and promotion budget for purposes of expanding the client base. One of the paralegals suggested that those expenditures should be carefully planned and that the firm had several attorneys who knew the local markets quite well and could probably offer some insights and ideas on the subject. Howser thought about this briefly and then decided to go it alone, reasoning that most attorneys know little or nothing about marketing.

In an attempt to “bring all of the people together to form a team,” Howser established weekly staff meetings. These mandatory, hour-long sessions were run by Howser, who presented a series of overhead slides, handouts, and lectures about “some of the proven management techniques that were successful in the insurance industry.” The meetings typically ran past the allotted time frame and rarely if ever covered all of the agenda items.

Howser spent some of his time “enhancing community relations.” He was very generous with many local groups such as the historical society, the garden clubs, the recreational sports programs, the middle-and high-school band programs, and others. In less than six months he had written checks and authorized donations totaling more than $25,000. He was delighted about all this and was certain that such gestures of goodwill would pay off handsomely in the future.

As for the budget, Howser carefully reviewed each line item in search of ways to increase revenues and cut expenses. He then proceeded to increase the expected base or quota for attorney’s monthly billable hours, thus directly affecting their profit sharing and bonus program. On the other side, he significantly reduced the attorneys’ annual budget for travel, meals, and entertainment. He considered these to be frivolous and unnecessary. Howser decided that one of the two full-time administrative assistant positions in each office should be reduced to part-time with no benefits. He saw no reason why the current workload could not be completed within this model. Howser wrapped up his initial financial review and action plan by posting notices throughout each office with new rules regarding the use of copy machines, phones, and supplies.

Howser completed the first year of his tenure with the required executive summary report to the partners that included his analysis of the current status of each department and his action plan. The partners were initially impressed with both Howser’s approach to the new job and with the changes that he made. They all seemed to make sense and were directly in line with the key components of his job description. At the same time, “the office rumor mill and grape vine” had “heated up” considerably. Company morale, which had been quite high, was now clearly waning. The water coolers and hallways became the frequent meeting places of disgruntled employees.

As for the marketplace, while the partner did not expect to see an immediate influx of new clients, they certainly did not expect to see shrinkage in their existing client base. A number of individual and corporate clients took their business elsewhere, still fuming over the letter they had received.

The partners met with Howser to discuss the situation. Howser urged them to “sit tight and ride out the storm.” He had seen this happen before and had no doubt that in the long run the firm would achieve all of its goals. Howser pointed out that people in general are resistant to change. The partners met for drinks later that day and looked at each other with a great sense of uncertainty. Should they ride out the storm as Howser suggested? Had they done the right thing in creating the position and hiring Howser? What had started as a seemingly, wise, logical, and smooth sequence of events had now become a crisis.


  1. Do you agree with Howser’s suggestion to “sit tight and ride out the storm,” or should the partners take some action immediately? If so, what actions specifically?

  2. Assume that the creation of the GM—Operation position was a good decision. What leadership style and type of individual would you try to place in this position?

  3. Consider your own leadership style. What types of positions and situations should you seek? What types of positions and situation should you seek to avoid? Why?

                              CASE – 5   The Grizzly Bear Lodge

Diane and Rudy Conrad own a small lodge outside Yellowstone National Park. Their lodge has 15 rooms that can accommodate up to 40 guests, with some rooms set up for families. Diane and Rudy serve a continental breakfast on weekdays and a full breakfast on weekends, included in the room they charge. Their busy season runs from May through September, but they remain open until Thanksgiving and reopen in April for a short spring season. They currently employ one cook and two waitpersons for the breakfasts on weekends, handling the other breakfasts themselves. They also have several housekeeping staff members, a groundkeeper, and a front-desk employee. The Conrads take pride in the efficiency of their operation, including the loyalty of their employees, which they attribute to their own form of clan control. If a guest needs something—whether it’s a breakfast catered to a special diet or an extra set of towels—Grizzly Bear workers are empowered to supply it.

The Conrads are considering expanding their business. They have been offered the opportunity to buy the property next door, which would give them the space to build an annex containing an additional 20 rooms. Currently, their annual sales total $300,000. With expenses running $230,000—including mortgage, payroll, maintenance, and so forth—the Conrads’ annual income is $70,000. They want to expand and make improvements without cutting back on the personal service they offer to their guests. In fact, in addition to hiring more staff to handle the larger facility, they are considering collaborating with more local business to offer guided rafting, fishing, hiking, and horseback riding trips. They also want to expand their food service to include dinner during the high season, which means renovating the restaurant area of the lodge and hiring more kitchen and wait staff. Ultimately, the Conrads would like the lodge to open year-round, offering guests opportunities to cross-country ski, ride snow-mobiles, or hike in winter. They hope to offer holiday packages for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s celebrations in the great outdoors. The Conrads report that their employees are enthusiastic about their plans and want to stay with them through the expansion process. “This is our dream business,” says Rudy. “We’re only at the beginning.”


  1. Discuss how Rudy and Diane can use feedforward, concurrent, and feedback controls both now and in future at the Grizzly Bear Lodge to ensure their guests’ satisfaction.

  2. What might be some of the fundamental budgetary considerations the Conrads would have as they plan the expansion of their logic?

Describe how the Conrads could use market controls plans and implement their expansion.