The case describes how A. Lange & Söhne became one of world’s leading watch companies. Its obsession with quality and innovation were behind its initial rise in the 19th century and, after a 40-year involuntary hiatus under the East German regime, again at the end of the 20th century. In 2016 its current CEO Wilhelm Schmid and the heads of product development and production have to decide on how to price its innovative watch collection and how to grow the Glashütte-based watchmaker.
In 2017, the co-founders of BlaBlaCar—the world’s largest long-distance carpooling company—reflected on the evolution of their venture and the way forward. BlaBlaCar had reached critical mass and size; yet staying still was not going to be enough to be relevant and competitive in the hyper competitive sharing economy sector. The co-founders felt that the time was now to capitalize on the trust that the platform had built with its members and explore adjacent opportunities. The options in front of them represented a wide variety of ways to grow but how should the team prioritize and figure out which of the opportunities represented a viable business strategy for their company?
In 2016, JCDecaux was number one in the world in outdoor advertising. This was a far cry from the situation in 2003; at that time, JCDecaux had been unseated by Clear Channel from the number-one spot that it had held for decades, and it was fighting for second place with OUTFRONT (then owned by Viacom). Over the 12 intervening years, JCDecaux had doubled in size, building leadership positions in China, Japan, Latin America, Africa, and Russia, and in 2010, it had passed Clear Channel to lead the industry once more. Now, co-CEOs Jean-François Decaux and Jean-Charles Decaux were looking for new ways and new places to grow. After the company overtook Clear Channel in 2010, Jean-François had indicated that he believed that another doubling in size was feasible, but it would probably take a major acquisition to do so. And JCDecaux faced more pressing short-term issues. The contract for London bus shelters that the company had won with much fanfare in August 2015 was behind schedule. To make matters worse, the United Kingdom’s June 2016 “Brexit” vote to leave the European Union cast a shadow over the project, and the markets reacted negatively. By the start of November, JCDecaux’s share price had fallen 21% since the beginning of the year. Just what the economic uncertainty of Brexit would mean for global outdoor advertising in general, and U.K. outdoor advertising in particular, was not clear. Doubling in size in such an environment appeared a daunting task.
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Vincent Dessain, a Belgian national, is the Executive Director of the Europe Research Center (ERC). Vincent has extensive management and business education experience. He is a co-author of two books in finance, a book chapter on intercultural management and a co-author of a wide variety of articles in academic journals, case studies and course development notes (cases can be found on https://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/ or here). He is a frequent guest speaker invited by academia, business and government to speak on topics in management and education.
Prior to his appointment at the Europe Research Center, he was Senior Director of Corporate Relationships at INSEAD in Fontainebleau and elected as the representative of the INSEAD administration on the School’s Board of Directors. Earlier in his career, Vincent has been active as a management consultant with Booz-Allen & Hamilton in New York and Paris. His field of consulting was international market entry strategies, financial products, strategy, negotiation and implementation of cross border alliances, financial restructuring, mergers and acquisitions. He has also been active as a Foreign Associate with the law firm Shearman & Sterling in New York in Banking and Finance and as an Advisor to the President of the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium.
Vincent speaks five European languages (French, English, German, Dutch and Italian). He holds a law degree from Leuven University (Belgium), a Business Administration degree from Louvain University (Belgium), an MBA from Harvard Business School (Boston, USA), and a PhD in management and communication from Université Paris VIII, France, on corporate social responsibility.