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John Bell reflects on leadership and life
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    When I was a young product manager back in the ’70s, the only people I could talk to about brands were my colleagues in the marketing department and the advertising agency. Now my accountant, my lawyer, my portfolio manager and even my neighbour talk to me about brands. It’s a subject that I’ve never tired of, but [...]

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  • 12/11/11--08:14: Turnarounds and the Big Play
  • I’ve been in business a long time. If you don’t believe me, just look at my profile picture - that was taken a couple of years ago, (okay, maybe I’m being a bit generous on that timeline). My point is this: I’ve had my share of corporate turnarounds. Believe me, there’s nothing that can match the turnaround experience in teaching or seasoning a young manager. My most daunting resurrection was my first one - that of the Canadian unit of Jacobs Suchard, at the time called Nabob Foods..

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  • 02/26/12--21:03: 10 Ways to Slay Goliath
  • My business career is characterized with a bunch of David versus Goliath encounters. As a 23 year-old Macleans Toothpaste Brand Manager in 1970, my colleagues and I competed against powerhouses P&G, Colgate and Unilever. When I joined Jacobs Suchard (then Nabob Foods) in 1977, I found myself up against the muscle of Kraft and Nestle. Wherever I went, the major competitor was 20 times larger. That is clout. And yet, our little band of rebels was able to outmaneuver that might with two potent weapons that cost absolutely nothing.

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    If you think I’m going to list of a bunch of product bargains or discount sales, think again. This blog is about the side of business that drives superior performance at no extra cost. For a moment, I’d like you to forget about throwing heaps of cash at such initiatives as computer systems, advertising, equipment, recruiting – even training. And for a moment, stop worrying about low-cost foreign competition and the sluggish North American economy. The best bargains in business can help you deal with any setback. The good news is that these bargains can be unleashed from your existing overheads. People with the right mindsets create magic.

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  • 06/17/12--08:58: The Strategy of Hustle
  • I’ve read a lot of books on strategy. The best ones influenced my mode of operation as an executive of Jacobs Suchard, the maker of coffee and chocolate brands, Jacobs, Nabob, Toblerone, Suchard and Côte d'Or. I was devoted to master strategies and “big play” innovations that ideally position a company to dominate their chosen market(s) and enjoy sustainable competitive advantages. The philosophy begins with a mindset obsessed with the competition. It worked well for me in my 17 years at Jacobs Suchard, although I am the first to admit that we managed just two blockbuster strategic innovations over that time period – both were technical in nature, and thankfully, both were well-marketed. Looking back, two big, game-changing plays was a damn good record.

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  • 11/13/12--12:02: In Praise of Average Joes
  • This website was created to share my views and experiences with the next generation of business leaders. That meant reflecting on past situations and determining the factors that were critical to the outcome. The times have changed, but the tools that determine success or failure have not. Companies, large and small, cannot survive without great [...]

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    Article was by Jennifer Horn, Strategy Magazine. Nabob, you’re a feisty fella. In the ’80s, you famously smashed the paper bags of rival Maxwell House in ads to prove your own superior packaging. Not long after, you took aim at the coffee bean itself, ruling out the seeds that didn’t quite fit your strict flavour […]