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Small Business Entrepreneurship

Aligning the Stars by Jay W. Lorsch Thomas J. Tierney

By Jay W. Lorsch Thomas J. Tierney

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Furthermore, which individuals in those client businesses are the buyers with whom the firm can realistically hope to forge a relationship? Are they junior or senior? Line or staff? At the corporate center or in the field? Conservative or risk takers? How many of them will be involved in the decision? These client-related questions lead directly to issues of geographic strategy. To what extent can or should a firm remain local? Or national? What level of presence is required to compete effectively in large markets like the United States or Germany?

Goals The “stream of decisions made over time” begins with the firm’s goals. Goals reflect the ambitions of the enterprise and its owners, the hopedfor point of arrival along whatever dimensions are most important to the firm and its owners. ” They may also include aspects of financial performance or firm character, for instance, to increase profit per partner while retaining the attributes of a small local firm. Whatever the specifics, a firm’s goals should reinforce its values and highlight the few unique circumstances that will affect its future most deeply.

The boom in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity is telling. This trend indicates just how aggressively professional firms are investing to strengthen their competitive positions and penetrate new market segments and geographies. Price Waterhouse merged with Coopers & Lybrand. Alex Brown, America’s oldest investment bank, was acquired by Bankers Trust—which in turn was acquired by Deutsche Bank. The consulting arm of Ernst & Young was sold to Cap Gemini. An American law firm, Rogers and Wells, grabbed both the British firm Clifford Chance and a German firm, Puender, Volhard.

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