【雙語】商場如球場──台灣企業,小球隊的生存之道

【雙語】商場如球場──台灣企業,小球隊的生存之道

【本文以中英雙語刊出/中文翻譯:黃維德】

最近,來自中國的挑戰者崛起、台灣品牌的表現卻不斷下滑,許多人開始擔心台灣品牌的競爭力。

台灣企業在全球舞台失利,也在民間帶起了失敗主義和逃避現實的氛圍。極度焦慮和恐懼之下,媒體和政治人物並非思考問題的肇因和解決之道,而是尋找箭靶和代罪羔羊,以羞辱等批鬥手段爭取政治利益。

我們必須認清,台灣是個小國,我們必須想出適合自己的生存策略,才能立足於全球市場。中國和美國對我們影響至深,也讓我們產生了有害的錯覺,誤以為我們也是個重要的國家,外界應當迎合、讚賞我們。

事實上,我們不但缺乏天然資源,也沒有足以支持國內企業的國內市場。因此,要在新國際競爭時代下生存,我們應該以靈活的小市場球隊為典範,配上明確的定位和決心,以更聰明、更具策略、更靈活的方式,擁抱全球市場的艱難挑戰。

我是個運動迷,也常覺得運動隊伍和企業管理有許多相似之處。

以球類運動為例,紐約洋基、洛杉磯湖人、達拉斯牛仔等傳統強隊,常讓球迷讚嘆不已;這些球隊的歷史豐富無比,數十年來也一直是所屬聯盟的重要支柱。它們位於大城市,從不缺球迷和贊助商,也以花大錢簽下大球星聞名。它們擁有無窮無盡的資源,只要再簽個大球星就能輕易掩蓋錯誤,也因為如此,球迷對它們的期望常是「拿不到冠軍就是失敗」。

我在紐約念大學,也一直是洋基迷,早已習慣那種「邪惡帝國」式的管理。然而,回到台灣、跨入商業世界之後,我也開始理解和欣賞小市場球隊的成功之道:打造務實的長遠計畫和策略。

小市場球隊要成功不墜,必須以巧妙的手段分配資源和打造球隊。奧克蘭運動家隊以「魔球」(Money Ball)策略馳名,以賽伯計量學和分析打造極具成本效率的球隊,靠著排名聯盟末段的薪資支出,成功地在聯盟中佔有一席之地。
而在籃球方面,我非常喜歡的聖安東尼奧馬刺隊,也以創意十足的方式打造球隊;它是第一支全力在歐洲尋找無名球星的球隊。另一方面,馬刺隊還建立了強大的球隊文化,吸引想法相近的自由球員,有些球員甚至願意降薪加入馬刺隊。這些小市場球隊的成功模式,十分值得我們參考。

成功的球隊可以讓城市出名,例如,綠灣這座十萬人口的城市,就是靠著綠灣包裝工成為知名城市;綠灣包裝工先後擁有法弗(Brett Favre)、羅傑斯(Aaron Rodgers)這種明星級一流四分衛,在聯盟的競爭力亦常保不墜。

我們的企業以小島為家,無法單靠國內市場存活。相反地,中國手機製造商就算完全不拓展海外業務,還是可以晉身全球十大;它們以巨大的國內市場做後盾,能使用最好的零件、也能獲得供應商的關注。

當然,全球品牌雖然同樣得面對中國競爭者崛起帶來的挑戰,但它們對供應鏈和銷售通路的議價能力也更上一層。正如大市場球員可以簽下最棒的自由球員,這些企業可以選擇不在研發上投入太多心力,也仍可在市佔率爭奪戰中維持上風;對它們來說,研發先進技術是錦上添花,不是存亡的的關鍵。

大市場球隊拒絕相信分析或是管理不善之時(例如洛杉磯湖人和紐約尼克),它們或許會表現不如預期、戰績不佳,但它們仍舊十分知名、財務狀況良好,也還是能吸引人才。然而,小市場球隊就沒有這樣的優勢,看看我家鄉的溫哥華灰熊隊就知道了。

台灣企業就有如溫哥華灰熊隊。企業要是滿於現狀、保守、自限於小小的國內市場,必定會困於煉獄之中。而想在國際競爭中取得長期成功,又談何容易?過去十年,我們就見證了不少消費性電子巨人的起落。

儘管如此,還是有企業保住了一席之地,他們是如何存活下來的?這樣的企業非常重視成本,領導層亦嚴密掌控著公司的方向。

有一次,我剛巧碰見一間企業的高層,他告訴我,他的管理哲學一向是「先決定成本結構,再決定需要推出什麼樣的功能和賣點,讓自己不同於競爭者」。

小市場球隊絕對不可以放棄管控成本結構,也不可以像國際級強隊一樣毫無目的地灑錢。我常常想起一則《魔球》裡的故事:運動家隊不顧老派球探的反對,簽下經常受傷、職棒生涯即將告終的捕手哈特堡(Scott Hatteberg),讓他轉任一壘手,並將原本的明星一壘手交易出去。

在那樣的情況下,絕不可能只是「照著教科書」行事,而是得相信直覺、保持靈活,甚至發揮創意。在當今的全球競爭場域之中,最終目標並不是成為最大的企業;產品推陳出新的速度極快,企業必須夠小、夠快、夠靈活,才能適應時局並生存下去。

對我們來說,謹慎和創新缺一不可;我們缺乏議價能力,無法吸引一流供應商,必須轉換成「魔球」心態才行。創新得涵蓋數個領域,包括內部產業開發、尋找新供應商、研究,以及商品行銷和銷售。

不管政府人物再怎麼強調重新開發、重新聚售國內市場,國內企業就是不能完全倚賴國內市場,因為它就是無法讓企業取得足夠的經濟規模。真相是,我們必須主動在國外尋找機會,同時也得避免預算過度膨脹,台灣企業海外擴張失利已有前例可循,其原因正是野心太大。

另一方面,產品計畫必須精準無比;台灣消費者常是追隨而非創造潮流,因此,產品計畫可以緊跟潮流,也可以重新定義潮流。營運方面,中國市場極為龐大,少了它實在稱不上全球化,但太過專注於中國,很容易錯失其他市場的良機。

不管是管理企業或球隊,資源配置皆極為重要。小市場球隊不能為了簽下大明星自由球員,就耗盡簽下其他球員所需的薪資,這樣做通常沒有好結果。就企業內部而言,孕育能留住人才的文化亦同等重要。

企業和球隊很像,球員合約到期之時,小市場球隊常常留不住人才;明星球員當然有權選擇更棒的合約,但如果球隊和明星球員能緊密相連、懷有相同的理念,明星球員自然能成為球隊的基石、成為球隊陣容的藍本。

前NFL總教練艾德華茲(Herm Edwards)那句名言,道盡了運動的本質:「運動最棒的地方在於,參加比賽就是為了贏。」而此邏輯也一樣的完全運用在商場。

身處國內市場有限的小型島國,我們不能假裝自己是個重要人物或企業,我們得全力以赴、一步步向上爬,爭取自己的一席之地。看不清我們所受的限制、不去尋找應對之道、不試著以有限的資源維持競爭力,我們的企業絕對無法成功。西進、南進或北進,也只會是華麗而空洞的政治語彙而已。

到頭來,我們不會變成別人,也只有我們可以決定自己的命運。強大的企業最能代表國家的形象,也是國家競爭力的證明。真心希望,有一天我們可以在世界上,看到更多讓我們自豪的成功故事。

【以下為作者侯傑克撰寫之原文】

Survival Guide of a “Small Market” Nation

There has been concern lately about the competitiveness of Taiwanese brand companies as their performances have fallen as new challengers in China have risen.

With our companies losing global presence, public sentiment has sunk into a state of defeatism and escapism. In paranoia, instead of looking for cause and solution, media and politicians have instead sought for piñata and scapegoats for struggle session like public shaming to score petty political points.

There must be a realization amongst ourselves that Taiwan is a small nation that and we need to develop a survival strategy that is fitting of our status in the global market. Two of our biggest sources of influence, China and the United States have given us the detrimental mentality in believing that we are a country of significance like them, that we ought to be catered to and appreciated.

In reality, we not only lack the natural resources to reap benefits from, we also do not enjoy a sizeable domestic market to serve as the pillar of our domestic corporations. Therefore, to survive in the new era of international competition, we should instead model ourselves like a nimble small market sport franchise with a clear identity and resolve; then embrace steep challenges the global marketplace presents by being smarter, more resourceful, and more versatile.

Being a sports fan, I often see a lot of similarities in sports team and corporate management.

For example, in baseball, fans often marvel at the continued success of powerhouse teams such as the New York Yankees, LA Lakers and Dallas Cowboys . These are teams that are rich in history and the staple of their leagues for decades. Based in big cities with an abundance of fans and sponsors, they are also known for their high spending way in luring big name talents to join their clubs. As they have endless resources, one mistake can easily be covered by another big signing, and thus expectations tend to be "championship or bust" for them.

As someone who attended college in New York, I have been a long time Yankees fan and have been long acquainted with their “evil empire” way of management. However, since my return to Taiwan and joining the business world I began to realize and appreciate how small market teams sustain success by carving out a pragmatic roadmap and strategy.

As a small market team, in order to maintain success, they have to be clever in resource allocation and team building. The Oakland Athletics are known for its "Money Ball" strategy of assembling a cost effective team via sabermetrics and analytics to stay relevant in the league while having one of the lowest payroll.

In basketball, one of my favorite team the San Antonio Spurs were creative in their roster building, being the first team to extensively scout talents from Europe for under the radar talents. At the same time, they have also built a strong team culture that attracts like minded free agents who would even join at a discounted price. How these small markets team managed to build a sustainable model are something that is worthy of our reference.

A successful franchise can make a city famous, much like Green Bay, a city of one hundred thousand people are made famous by the Green Bay Packers who have been perennially competitive with top tier quarterbacks who have served as icons of the sport in Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.

Sprouting from a small island, our companies can ill afford to only feed off our domestic market. Chinese mobile phone makers can become top ten phone makers without even expanding their operations oversea. As they feed off a huge domestic market, they can afford to use the best components and be wooed and pampered by these suppliers.

Needless to say, global brands are in an even better position in negotiation with their supply chains and sales channel though similarly they also face rising challenges from Chinese competitors. Much like a big market sports team that can simply sign the best free agents on the market, theses companies do not need to devote too much attention to their research and development to be in a good position to compete for market share. To them, research and development of advanced technology is an added bonus but not paramount.

When there is a big market team who rejects analytics or is poorly managed (LA Lakers and the New York Knicks for example), they might underperform and have poor records, but they are still well known, financially solvent and attracting talents. However, the same privilege does not apply to a small market team, and one can simply refer to the fate of my home town Vancouver Grizzlies.

We need to be cautious but at the same time innovative as lack the bargaining power to garner the attention of top tier suppliers and thus need to adapt to the "money ball" mentality. Innovation refers to several fronts, internal product development, finding new suppliers, research, and also product marketing and sales.

No matter how politicians stress the re-developing, re-focusing of our domestic market, local firms can not merely rely on local market as it is simply is not enough to reach an economy of scale. The truth is we need to actively look for opportunities abroad while not over bloating our budget as there have been failed examples of overseas expansion by Taiwanese companies which were due to an over ambitious agenda.

At the same time, product planning needs to be carried out with surgical accuracy by either closely following or redefining trend as Taiwanese consumers tend to be trend followers instead of trend setters. Operations wise, globalization would be a misnomer without a presence in the Chinese market due to its sheer size, but often too much focus on China will exasperate attention that can better used in other markets as well.

Resource allocation is penultimate in both business and sports management, a small market team can ill afford to sign a big name free agent, drying up salaries to sign other players, and these acts often lead to poor results. Internally, it is also equally important to foster a culture that retains talents.

Much like in sports, small market teams tend to struggle in retaining talents when their contracts expire. While they are definitely entitled to entertain more lucrative options, if both the ball club and their stars share an affinity and bond, they can serve as the cornerstone of the franchise to build a team around.

Taiwanese companies are the Vancouver Grizzlies. If one chooses to live in content, be conservative and stay within the confine of our paltry domestic market, one will be stuck in limbo and purgatory. In order to compete globally with sustained success though is a tall task as over the past decade, we have witnessed the fall from grace of several once prominent consumer electronic giants.

However, there are also those who have managed to stay relevant, so one would naturally ask, what does it take to survive? The company mentioned above is very cost conscious, its leadership maintains a tight control of the company's direction.

On a chance encounter with its company brass, he told me his management philosophy is to always "first decide your cost structure, then decide what features and selling points you need to make you stand apart from your competitors."

A small market team can never lose control of its cost structure, or splurge aimlessly as if we were an international powerhouse. I often recall a story from Money Ball, Scott Hatteberg, an often injured catcher on the fringe of falling out of the league was signed and converted to play first base despite protests from scouts while the current big name first baseman was traded away.

One cannot afford to only "play by the books", instead one needs to be instinctive, at the same time be versatile and even creative. The end goal of today’s arena of global competition is not to be the biggest, products commodify at a very fast rate, so rather it is more important to be smart enough, fast enough and nimble enough to adapt and survive.

There is a sport truism made famous by former NFL coach Herm Edwards, “The greatest thing about sport is, you play to win the game.” Such logic is also self evident in business.

 Being a small island nation with a limited domestic market, we cannot pretend that we are someone or some entity of importance; we need to earn our spot, climb and work our way to become relevant. Without realizing our limitation then finding ways to be counteract, be competitive with limited resources, our companies will not be successful no matter if go west, south or north as the empty rhetoric our politicians have suggested.

Ultimately, we are who we are, only we can decide our own destiny. Strong enterprises are the best representation of a nation's icon and the testament to a nation's competitiveness, I sincerely hope that one day we will read more success stories that can make us proud.

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執行編輯:Christine
核稿編輯:張翔一

Photo Credit:Shutterstock

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