How To Find Out About an Industry In a Week?

In talking to people in consulting, investment banking, and headhunting, I heard “one week” over and over again, and I began to wonder: Under what circumstances do you need to know an industry within a week? How do you figure out an industry in a week?

It is impossible to be a top expert in the industry within a week of “learning about” about the industry. However, you can understand the overall situation of an industry, the past, present situation and possible trends of the short future, become familiar with the industry’s synth, and grasp the industry’s basic information.

What’s the use of that?

You can have a proper conversation with people in that industry, you can discover new opportunities from an outsider’s point of view by combining your own knowledge and experience, you can make your clients think more highly of you, you can get a good grasps and understand what your boss thinks about when making decisions…

So, we invited three guests to talk to us about how they “figured out” an industry in a week.

rolls of assorted fabrics and textiles and sewing patterns inside tailor atelier

First Interview: How people at a consulting firm, find out an industry in a week

There is a founder of a consulting firm, when he hires employees, he gives the task of “give me a report on a particular industry within a week”. There are no shortage of students from famous universities locally and abroad who come to cast reports, but he is disappointed to find that none of the candidates have met the standards, and none of the reports he has received had a highlight.

How do you figure out what’s going on in an industry in a week? Let him talk to us about it.

一默” is the founder of Heng Jia Zhillo Consulting Co. and the author of “Sales is Everywhere”.

He said:

“Understanding an industry” is unlikely to happen quickly in itself. However, if we just want to know the basic situation, we can start by asking a few key questions. These key questions revolve around a fundamental question: How does the industry’s chain work?

  1. What kind of values of this existing industry offers?
  2. What are the links/segments in this industry from source to end?
  3. Who shares the price of the end products in this industry?
  4. What are the key factors at each link/segment and what value is created to gain the benefits it deserves?
  5. Who has the pricing power in the industrial chain?
  6. How concentrated is the market in this industry?

The channels through which information is obtained include:

  1. Industry reports of financial investment institutions;
  2. Analysis of the consulting firm;
  3. Popular posts on industry exchange sites or forums;
  4. Training courseware for enterprises in the industry;
  5. To participate in trade fairs or forums;
  6. Private exchanges between practitioners.

Of these, 1-4 can be obtained through the internet.

Second Interview: How IT consulting firms figure out an industry in a week

There is a maverick in the IT world who works for an IT consulting firm.

I asked him, “Does consulting often have to figure out an industry in a short period of time?”

“Yeah,” he said. 

“How long does it take?”

“One week.”

“Haha, a week?” How many people of that industry can you outdo? ”

“90 percent.”

He is our guest today, “熊节”. He’s been working at ThoughtWorks, an IT consulting firm, for eight years and is also a translator for “Refactoring”.

Let’s look at his experience:

Three steps to ‘figure out’ an industry within a 5 day timeline

As a career consultant, in a very short period of time to familiar with an industry, is what I often have to face in the context of my work, I am also willing to share my own understanding. In my experience, it’s not hard for a consultant with basic business knowledge to get familiar with a previously unfamiliar industry within a week. Of course a week doesn’t make a rookie an industry expert, but it’s enough for a consultant to start work smoothly in the industry.

This limited five working days must be used efficiently. My advice is to have three steps: first, make sure you don’t speak obscenities everywhere; Second, let oneself enter the industry’s dialogue; Thirdly, try to make a fresh point.

The first step: Do in-depth research

Entering a new industry, you should first understand the industry’s leaders – probably the ones you need to serve right away. The most direct way to understand a leading business is to read its financial statements. The financial statements of listed companies are public and are usually accompanied by useful letters from the chairman to investors. Read a financial report and you’ll find a lot of basic information: the nature of ownership, major business, key customers, revenue structure, cost structure, employee size, talent structure, strategic direction, major risks… Even if the company you really want to know is a non-listed company, such as Huawei, it must have many similarities with its main rival, such as ZTE. So reading the earnings report gives you a basic understanding of the major players in the industry, without asking too many outrageous questions or suggestions.

How to read financial statements, a more common method of analysis is the DuPont analysis. I have an article on how to use DuPont Analytics to interpret the financial statements and business operations of a well-known listed company (ZTE), and a year after I did this exercise, ZTE reported a huge loss in mid-2012, and continued low profit margins were one of the direct reasons for the company and several of its major competitors to start slashing jobs since 2012.

After spending a day reading the earnings reports of one or two companies, you’ll have to work a little bit to read an overview book on the industry, such as Risk Management and Insurance, which I recommend for the insurance industry. The purpose of reading such a book is to gain a deeper understanding of the business models and practices of the industry, such as the fact that you have to know that there are some fundamental differences between property and life insurance so their operations will be very different; The second is to master some of the industry’s “black words”, such as when you hear “insured”, “underwriting” you have to know what this means. Personally, it took me about eight hours to read the book in my spare time.

Step 2: Enter the industry conversation

It’s not enough to talk to the CxO in the industry, because people don’t usually talk about the most basic things. To enter into an industry conversation, you need to understand current trends in the industry. Some people would recommend chatting with friends in the industry. But as a time-deprived introvert, I personally prefer to focus on research materials and chat with friends as a supplement.

The best source of industry trends is industry analysis by management consulting firms such as McKinsey. In particular, I recommend a study published by McKinsey Quarterly, and industry analysis by The Economist, Find out all the articles about the industry you’ve been interested in for the last five years from these two sites, and take a day or two to read them all, and you should be able to grasp the pulse of the industry. 

Working in the Chinese market, we worry that the analysis from McKinsey and The Economist is not “China context”. My experience is that, on the one hand, some local content can be appropriately supplemented; On the other hand, the development of all industries in China basically maintains a gap of 3 to 5 years with the world’s advanced industries. That is to say, what happened in developed countries in Europe and the United States three or five years ago should be what is happening in China, what happened in developed countries in Europe and the United States a year or two ago should happen in China a year or two later. Many times simple market laws and time differences are more effective than ” China context “.

At the same time, throughout the week, you have to immerse yourself in the context of the industry. The solution is simple: subscribe to a bunch of news RSSs that are directly related to the industry, the target companies you want to target, and temporarily block other RSS channels. On the subway, in cafes, on the bed, on the toilet… use all your free time to see what’s happening in this industry and this business lately. For example, when I was concerned about the Australian insurance industry, I subscribed to Google News’ “australia insurance” keyword and the name of my client’s company, any major claims or senior personnel changes the customer company made, and I know about the news earlier than most of my clients’ employees, which become topics to talk about.

Step 3: Make a point with oneself as the focus

At the beginning of the series, Peng told the story of a founder of a consulting firm who wanted the candidate to give an industry report within a week, but looking back, he found that none of the reports made by the graduates of these famous schools had a deep insight. And whether the story is true or false, it seems to me that the crux of “no insight” is probably that the candidate is a “graduate”: although it is another industry, in fact, the key to ” insight ” is not how much better you studied that industry, but in the researcher’s own professional skills.

Take, for example. If you look at McKinsey’s analysis of China’s life insurance industry last year, first you’ll see that it follows two steps: detailed data, accurate terminology, and a pulse of the industry. But its highlight is that it points to several issues in China’s life insurance industry and proposes corresponding solutions from a strategic and managerial perspective. In the end, this is what CxOs in the industry expect you to come up with as a professional, and that’s why you need to get to know the industry quickly: to get to know an industry quickly is not to show your learning capability , but to get to use your expertise in the industry.

So the key is to combine your own expertise, skills, knowledge, experience, and the situation in the industry to come up with something that no one else has ever mentioned.

So, after doing the first two steps, you should at least give yourself a full day to answer these three questions:

  1. What are the industry’s issues?
  2. Which issues are most urgent for the industry?
  3. How do you combine your expertise with these issues?

The answers to the first two questions should be relatively objective. That said, you can print out McKinsey’s life insurance industry analysis, throw away the final “solution” section, and then combine your expertise to try to find a solution to some of the issues it lists. How can I improve life insurance sales with IT? What human resources strategy does the life insurance industry need? Even what MBTI personality is better suited to a high level of life insurance services? All these are different. Giving an opinion, then becomes a proposition composition of the professional standing in their own field of profession, whether one can have a highlight, the first depends on a quick understanding of the target industry’s clever, the most important thing is to look at their own professional field of achievements.

Third Interview: A headhunter comes and tells us how to figure out an industry in a week

Today we brought in a headhunter to talk to us about this topic. Chris introduced himself as one who was mixed in the workplace and hunted in the city. City headhunters. 

Listen to why he’s mapping out an industry in a week:

I’ve never thought about it so quantitatively before I started writing this article, and now I think back to a lot of Case in headhunting, and I’ve actually been able to figure out an industry in a week.

Before I explain how to do this, I would like to explain: each industry contains multiple dimensions of content, such as industry history, current and future, market capacity, consumption scale, and economic and political mutual influence, the survival of enterprises in the industry, the distribution and dynamics of industry talent, etc. , when we need to find out a certain industry in the short term, are based on the actual needs of the current work. Therefore, the following is mainly from a headhunting point of view to show how to do a week to figure out an industry.

The headhunting workflow is generally as follows:

“Client recruitment needs – job analysis by headhunters – identifying the source of matching talent (industry/enterprise) – Setting up a talent search plan (i.e. how to reach the target candidate) – assessing potential candidates – recommending matching candidates for interviews—— … —— successful candidates start work

Typically, it takes 7-10 days from the time the headhunter receives a new position to the time it takes to recommend the first batch of matching candidates to the client, which requires a single headhunting consultant to figure out one or two or three industries within a week, tap into the talent the customer needs, and evaluate them comprehensively. For today’s topic, we just need to discuss the headhunting work of the “communication with the target candidate” segment, its realization of the overall thinking and operation can be outlined as follows:

1. Circle the corresponding industries, or expand to related industries.

  • Providing basic industry information, such as competitors;
  • Consulting friends in the relevant industry;
  • Learn about the products/services/business models of upstream and downstream enterprises in the industry through the Internet, industry magazines, industry reports, etc.

2. Determine the industry TOP 5 or TOP 10 enterprise list, and pay attention to the list ranking criteria, and in recent years ranking changes.

  • Consulting friends in the industry;
  • Refer to the annual Fortune Top 500; Can be appropriately expanded to understand the nearly 3-5 years of ranking changes;
  • Query the ranking of enterprises (e.g. sales, growth rate, number of retail terminals, etc.) through the Internet, trade associations, information disclosure of listed companies, etc., and pay attention to the strategic adjustment of enterprises, market layout, new product launches, merger and acquisition information, etc.;
  • Consult industry/business analysis, case studies, product analysis, industry forecasts, etc. of PE/VC, securities and other financial institutions.

3. Lock the listed enterprise organizational structure of the target candidates for the corresponding positions, through a variety of channels to reach the target candidates.

  • Contact/consult a friend within the industry/business, or a friend of a friend;
  • Search for headhunting companies’ own database talent resources;
  • Third-party talent pool resources (e.g. linkedin, microblogging, etc.);
  • Cold Call

Main point:

  • Communicate to everyone contacted in detail to maximize the data and information of their business, competitor’s specific position/employee/business/product/service, etc.;
  • Timely conversion of the information received and use it with the people contacted thereafter, while confirming the accuracy and reliability of the information.

When you do point 2, you can actually already understand about 70-80% or even more of an industry (the author estimates by experience), and most people may find the implementation of point 3 somewhat difficult, in fact, the situation is not as bad as you think, because you have a lot of friends, and your friends have a lot of friends, not to mention “six-degree division theory” to bring you unlimited network resources, as long as you want to dig, your existing network resources can bring you information to add 10-20% to your existing 70-80%, conservatively speaking, you’re already half an expert in the industry by this time.

Here’s an example.

I once worked for Case to find a candidate for South China GM for an international Top 3 sugar company/group. When I first came into contact with this position, I was a complete layman in the sugar industry, only aware of the concepts of sucrose, white sugar, red sugar, and all kinds of fruit juices, coffee, biscuits added sugar, etc. , nothing else, let alone to dig people and assess whether they are competent.

After you start the project, follow the method above. In accordance with the requirements of our customers, according to the qualifications of the position, we did the following:

1. Research the industry

First of all, the Internet search for “sugar enterprises”, “sugar industry ranking” and other keywords, from the search results to understand that domestic sugar enterprises are almost local private enterprises and state-owned enterprises, and divided into sugar-based south and stevia-based northern sugar enterprises.

Secondly, from the “sugar industry analysis”, “sugar industry research report” search results, understand China’s sugar industry layout, advantageous provinces, product differentiation, industry upstream and downstream products, learned that the sugar industry upstream planting (sugar cane, stevia cultivation), midstream manufacturing (sugar mill, slag treatment, etc.), downstream distribution (food processing enterprises, beverage manufacturers, food additives companies, etc., spot / futures market).

Finally, to expand to the industry upstream and downstream related to the international groups in China to carry out corresponding business companies, such as international food groups, the four major international grain merchants, Nestle, Pepsi Co, Zhengda feed and other enterprises’ industry.

2. Determine the list of enterprises in the industry

  • Domestic sugar companies: Yangpu Nanhua, Guangxi farming, expensive sugar, East Asian sugar industry, Nanning sugar industry, phoenix sugar, Yingmao sugar industry;
  • ABCD, the four major international grain merchants, domestic Cofco;
  • According to Fortune Top 500, the list of food manufacturing or retail enterprises is determined according to the enterprise product classification: Nestlé, Pepsi, Kraft, Coca-Cola, AB InBev, Tyson, etc.;

3. According to the list of enterprises to find out the target candidates for the position, and maximize access to enterprise / industry information, enrich the content of the first two steps.

As this article is mainly aimed at the industry, so step 3 will not be repeated. Through the steps 1 & 2’s information collection, collation, analysis, coupled with step 3’s information refinement and mutual certification (also known as the use of human resources), I have in less than a week found out about an industry, and even related industries, and based on this, complete the customer’s mandate.

Leave a comment

Leave a ReplyCancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

WhatsApp us