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Introduction to Business

1.2 Understanding the Business Environment

Introduction to Business1.2 Understanding the Business Environment
  1. Preface
  2. 1 Understanding Economic Systems and Business
    1. Introduction
    2. 1.1 The Nature of Business
    3. 1.2 Understanding the Business Environment
    4. 1.3 How Business and Economics Work
    5. 1.4 Macroeconomics: The Big Picture
    6. 1.5 Achieving Macroeconomic Goals
    7. 1.6 Microeconomics: Zeroing in on Businesses and Consumers
    8. 1.7 Competing in a Free Market
    9. 1.8 Trends in the Business Environment and Competition
    10. Key Terms
    11. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    12. Preparing for Tomorrow's Workplace Skills
    13. Ethics Activity
    14. Working the Net
    15. Critical Thinking Case
    16. Hot Links Address Book
  3. 2 Making Ethical Decisions and Managing a Socially Responsible Business
    1. Introduction
    2. 2.1 Understanding Business Ethics
    3. 2.2 How Organizations Influence Ethical Conduct
    4. 2.3 Managing a Socially Responsible Business
    5. 2.4 Responsibilities to Stakeholders
    6. 2.5 Trends in Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    9. Preparing for Tomorrow's Workplace Skills
    10. Ethics Activity
    11. Working the Net
    12. Critical Thinking Case
    13. Hot Links Address Book
  4. 3 Competing in the Global Marketplace
    1. Introduction
    2. 3.1 Global Trade in the United States
    3. 3.2 Why Nations Trade
    4. 3.3 Barriers to Trade
    5. 3.4 Fostering Global Trade
    6. 3.5 International Economic Communities
    7. 3.6 Participating in the Global Marketplace
    8. 3.7 Threats and Opportunities in the Global Marketplace
    9. 3.8 The Impact of Multinational Corporations
    10. 3.9 Trends in Global Competition
    11. Key Terms
    12. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    13. Preparing for Tomorrow's Workplace Skills
    14. Ethics Activity
    15. Working the Net
    16. Critical Thinking Case
    17. Hot Links Address Book
  5. 4 Forms of Business Ownership
    1. Introduction
    2. 4.1 Going It Alone: Sole Proprietorships
    3. 4.2 Partnerships: Sharing the Load
    4. 4.3 Corporations: Limiting Your Liability
    5. 4.4 Specialized Forms of Business Organization
    6. 4.5 Franchising: A Popular Trend
    7. 4.6 Mergers and Acquisitions
    8. 4.7 Trends in Business Ownership
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    11. Preparing for Tomorrow's Workplace Skills
    12. Ethics Activity
    13. Working the Net
    14. Critical Thinking Case
    15. Hot Links Address Book
  6. 5 Entrepreneurship: Starting and Managing Your Own Business
    1. Introduction
    2. 5.1 Entrepreneurship Today
    3. 5.2 Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs
    4. 5.3 Small Business: Driving America's Growth
    5. 5.4 Ready, Set, Start Your Own Business
    6. 5.5 Managing a Small Business
    7. 5.6 Small Business, Large Impact
    8. 5.7 The Small Business Administration
    9. 5.8 Trends in Entrepreneurship and Small-Business Ownership
    10. Key Terms
    11. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    12. Preparing for Tomorrow's Workplace Skills
    13. Ethics Activity
    14. Working the Net
    15. Critical Thinking Case
    16. Hot Links Address Book
  7. 6 Management and Leadership in Today's Organizations
    1. Introduction
    2. 6.1 The Role of Management
    3. 6.2 Planning
    4. 6.3 Organizing
    5. 6.4 Leading, Guiding, and Motivating Others
    6. 6.5 Controlling
    7. 6.6 Managerial Roles
    8. 6.7 Managerial Skills
    9. 6.8 Trends in Management and Leadership
    10. Key Terms
    11. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    12. Preparing for Tomorrow's Workplace Skills
    13. Ethics Activity
    14. Working the Net
    15. Critical Thinking Case
    16. Hot Links Address Book
  8. 7 Designing Organizational Structures
    1. Introduction
    2. 7.1 Building Organizational Structures
    3. 7.2 Contemporary Structures
    4. 7.3 Using Teams to Enhance Motivation and Performance
    5. 7.4 Authority—Establishing Organizational Relationships
    6. 7.5 Degree of Centralization
    7. 7.6 Organizational Design Considerations
    8. 7.7 The Informal Organization
    9. 7.8 Trends in Organizational Structure
    10. Key Terms
    11. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    12. Preparing for Tomorrow's Workplace Skills
    13. Ethics Activity
    14. Working the Net
    15. Critical Thinking Case
    16. Hot Links Address Book
  9. 8 Managing Human Resources and Labor Relations
    1. Introduction
    2. 8.1 Achieving High Performance through Human Resources Management
    3. 8.2 Employee Recruitment
    4. 8.3 Employee Selection
    5. 8.4 Employee Training and Development
    6. 8.5 Performance Planning and Evaluation
    7. 8.6 Employee Compensation and Benefits
    8. 8.7 The Labor Relations Process
    9. 8.8 Managing Grievances and Conflicts
    10. 8.9 Legal Environment of Human Resources and Labor Relations
    11. 8.10 Trends in Human Resource Management and Labor Relations
    12. Key Terms
    13. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    14. Preparing for Tomorrow's Workplace Skills
    15. Ethics Activity
    16. Working the Net
    17. Critical Thinking Case
    18. Hot Links Address Book
  10. 9 Motivating Employees
    1. Introduction
    2. 9.1 Early Theories of Motivation
    3. 9.2 The Hawthorne Studies
    4. 9.3 Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
    5. 9.4 McGregor's Theories X and Y
    6. 9.5 Herzberg's Motivator-Hygiene Theory
    7. 9.6 Contemporary Views on Motivation
    8. 9.7 From Motivation Theory to Application
    9. 9.8 Trends in Employee Motivation
    10. Key Terms
    11. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    12. Preparing for Tomorrow's Workplace Skills
    13. Ethics Activity
    14. Working the Net
    15. Critical Thinking Case
    16. Hot Links Address Book
  11. 10 Achieving World-Class Operations Management
    1. Introduction
    2. 10.1 Production and Operations Management—An Overview
    3. 10.2 The Production Process: How Do We Make It?
    4. 10.3 Location, Location, Location: Where Do We Make It?
    5. 10.4 Pulling It Together: Resource Planning
    6. 10.5 Production and Operations Control
    7. 10.6 Looking for a Better Way: Improving Production and Operations
    8. 10.7 Transforming the Factory Floor with Technology
    9. 10.8 Trends in Production and Operations Management
    10. Key Terms
    11. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    12. Preparing for Tomorrow's Workplace Skills
    13. Ethics Activity
    14. Working the Net
    15. Critical Thinking Case
    16. Hot Links Address Book
  12. 11 Creating Products and Pricing Strategies to Meet Customers' Needs
    1. Introduction
    2. 11.1 The Marketing Concept
    3. 11.2 Creating a Marketing Strategy
    4. 11.3 Developing a Marketing Mix
    5. 11.4 Buyer Behavior
    6. 11.5 Market Segmentation
    7. 11.6 What Is a Product?
    8. 11.7 Creating Products That Deliver Value
    9. 11.8 The Product Life Cycle
    10. 11.9 Pricing Strategies and Future Trends
    11. 11.10 Trends in Developing Products and Pricing
    12. Key Terms
    13. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    14. Preparing for Tomorrow's Workplace Skills
    15. Ethics Activity
    16. Working the Net
    17. Critical Thinking Case
    18. Hot Links Address Book
  13. 12 Distributing and Promoting Products and Services
    1. Introduction
    2. 12.1 The Nature and Functions of Distribution (Place)
    3. 12.2 Wholesaling
    4. 12.3 The Competitive World of Retailing
    5. 12.4 Using Supply Chain Management to Increase Efficiency and Customer Satisfaction
    6. 12.5 Promotion Strategy
    7. 12.6 The Huge Impact of Advertising
    8. 12.7 The Importance of Personal Selling
    9. 12.8 Sales Promotion
    10. 12.9 Public Relations Helps Build Goodwill
    11. 12.10 Trends in Social Media
    12. 12.11 Trends in E-Commerce
    13. Key Terms
    14. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    15. Preparing for Tomorrow's Workplace Skills
    16. Ethics Activity
    17. Working the Net
    18. Critical Thinking Case
    19. Hot Links Address Book
  14. 13 Using Technology to Manage Information
    1. Introduction
    2. 13.1 Transforming Businesses through Information
    3. 13.2 Linking Up: Computer Networks
    4. 13.3 Management Information Systems
    5. 13.4 Technology Management and Planning
    6. 13.5 Protecting Computers and Information
    7. 13.6 Trends in Information Technology
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    10. Preparing for Tomorrow's Workplace Skills
    11. Ethics Activity
    12. Working the Net
    13. Critical Thinking Case
    14. Hot Links Address Book
  15. 14 Using Financial Information and Accounting
    1. Introduction
    2. 14.1 Accounting: More than Numbers
    3. 14.2 The Accounting Profession
    4. 14.3 Basic Accounting Procedures
    5. 14.4 The Balance Sheet
    6. 14.5 The Income Statement
    7. 14.6 The Statement of Cash Flows
    8. 14.7 Analyzing Financial Statements
    9. 14.8 Trends in Accounting
    10. Key Terms
    11. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    12. Preparing for Tomorrow's Workplace Skills
    13. Ethics Activity
    14. Working the Net
    15. Critical Thinking Case
    16. Hot Links Address Book
  16. 15 Understanding Money and Financial Institutions
    1. Introduction
    2. 15.1 Show Me the Money
    3. 15.2 The Federal Reserve System
    4. 15.3 U.S. Financial Institutions
    5. 15.4 Insuring Bank Deposits
    6. 15.5 International Banking
    7. 15.6 Trends in Financial Institutions
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    10. Preparing for Tomorrow's Workplace Skills
    11. Ethics Activity
    12. Working the Net
    13. Critical Thinking Case
    14. Hot Links Address Book
  17. 16 Understanding Financial Management and Securities Markets
    1. Introduction
    2. 16.1 The Role of Finance and the Financial Manager
    3. 16.2 How Organizations Use Funds
    4. 16.3 Obtaining Short-Term Financing
    5. 16.4 Raising Long-Term Financing
    6. 16.5 Equity Financing
    7. 16.6 Securities Markets
    8. 16.7 Buying and Selling at Securities Exchanges
    9. 16.8 Trends in Financial Management and Securities Markets
    10. Key Terms
    11. Summary of Learning Outcomes
    12. Preparing for Tomorrow's Workplace Skills
    13. Ethics Activity
    14. Working the Net
    15. Critical Thinking Case
    16. Hot Links Address Book
  18. 17 Your Career in Business
    1. Introduction
    2. 17.1 Learn the Basics of Business
    3. 17.2 Developing Interpersonal Skills Is Key to Your Success
    4. 17.3 Make Your Future Happen: Learn to Plan
    5. 17.4 Going to College Is an Opportunity of a Lifetime—Never Drop Out
    6. 17.5 Get Your Career Off on the Right Track
    7. 17.6 Self-Test Scoring Guidelines
  19. A | Understanding the Legal and Tax Environment
  20. Index
  21. References
  1. What are the sectors of the business environment, and how do changes in them influence business decisions?

Businesses do not operate in a vacuum but rather in a dynamic environment that has a direct influence on how they operate and whether they will achieve their objectives. This external business environment is composed of numerous outside organizations and forces that we can group into seven key subenvironments, as Exhibit 1.4 illustrates: economic, political and legal, demographic, social, competitive, global, and technological. Each of these sectors creates a unique set of challenges and opportunities for businesses.

Business owners and managers have a great deal of control over the internal environment of business, which covers day-to-day decisions. They choose the supplies they purchase, which employees they hire, the products they sell, and where they sell those products. They use their skills and resources to create goods and services that will satisfy existing and prospective customers. However, the external environmental conditions that affect a business are generally beyond the control of management and change constantly. To compete successfully, business owners and managers must continuously study the environment and adapt their businesses accordingly.

Other forces, such as natural disasters, can also have a major impact on businesses. While still in the rebuilding stage after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, the U.S. Gulf Coast suffered another disaster in April 2010 as a result of an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil-rig, which killed 11 workers and sent more than 3 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. This event, which played out for more than 87 days, severely affected the environment, businesses, tourism, and people’s livelihoods. Global oil conglomerate BP, which was responsible for the oil spill, has spent more than $60 billion in response to the disaster and cleanup. Seven years after the explosion, tourism and other businesses are slowly recovering, although scientists are not certain about the long-term environmental consequences of the oil spill.7

The diagram is a circle, with a core that is labeled, and sections surrounding the core that are labeled. Outside of the circle is the external environment, which affects the contents of the circle. The core is labeled as, Internal Environment; entrepreneurs, managers, workers, and customers. The sections surrounding the core are as follows; technological, and economic, and political slash legal, and demographic, and social, and competitive, and global. All these sections have arrows pointing inward to the core internal environment.
Exhibit 1.4 The Dynamic Business Environment (Attribution: Copyright Rice University, OpenStax, under CC-BY 4.0 license)

No one business is large or powerful enough to create major changes in the external environment. Thus, managers are primarily adapters to, rather than agents of, change. Global competition is basically an uncontrollable element in the external environment. In some situations, however, a firm can influence external events through its strategies. For example, major U.S. pharmaceutical companies have been successful in getting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to speed up the approval process for new drugs.8 In recent years, the five largest companies in the S&P Index—Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple—have spent close to $50 million on lobbying activities in the nation’s capital in an effort to help policy makers understand the tech industry and the importance of innovation and an “open” internet.9 Let’s now take a brief look at these varied environmental influences.

Economic Influences

This category is one of the most important external influences on businesses. Fluctuations in the level of economic activity create business cycles that affect businesses and individuals in many ways. When the economy is growing, for example, unemployment rates are low, and income levels rise. Inflation and interest rates are other areas that change according to economic activity. Through the policies it sets, such as taxes and interest rate levels, a government attempts to stimulate or curtail the level of economic activity. In addition, the forces of supply and demand determine how prices and quantities of goods and services behave in a free market.

Political and Legal Influences

The political climate of a country is another critical factor for managers to consider in day-to-day business operations. The amount of government activity, the types of laws it passes, and the general political stability of a government are three components of political climate. For example, a multinational company such as General Electric will evaluate the political climate of a country before deciding to locate a plant there. Is the government stable, or might a coup disrupt the country? How restrictive are the regulations for foreign businesses, including foreign ownership of business property and taxation? Import tariffs, quotas, and export restrictions also must be taken into account.

In the United States, laws passed by Congress and the many regulatory agencies cover such areas as competition, minimum wages, environmental protection, worker safety, and copyrights and patents. For example, Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to deregulate the telecommunications industry. As a result, competition increased and new opportunities arose as traditional boundaries between service providers blurred. Today the dramatic growth in mobile technology has changed the focus of telecommunications, which now faces challenges related to broadband access and speed, content streaming, and much-needed improvements in network infrastructure to address ever-increasing data transmissions.10

Federal agencies play a significant role in business operations. When Pfizer wants to bring a new medication for heart disease to market, it must follow the procedures set by the Food and Drug Administration for testing and clinical trials and secure FDA approval. Before issuing stock, Pfizer must register the securities with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Federal Trade Commission will penalize Pfizer if its advertisements promoting the drug’s benefits are misleading. These are just a few ways the political and legal environment affect business decisions.

States and local governments also exert control over businesses—imposing taxes, issuing corporate charters and business licenses, setting zoning ordinances, and similar regulations. We discuss the legal environment in greater detail in a separate appendix.

Demographic Factors

Demographic factors are an uncontrollable factor in the business environment and extremely important to managers. Demography is the study of people’s vital statistics, such as their age, gender, race and ethnicity, and location. Demographics help companies define the markets for their products and also determine the size and composition of the workforce. You’ll encounter demographics as you continue your study of business.

Demographics are at the heart of many business decisions. Businesses today must deal with the unique shopping preferences of different generations, which each require marketing approaches and goods and services targeted to their needs. For example, the more than 75 million members of the millennial generation were born between 1981 and 1997. In 2017 they surpassed baby boomers as America’s largest generation.11 The marketing impact of millennials continues to be immense. These are technologically savvy and prosperous young people, with hundreds of billions of dollars to spend. And spend they do—freely, even though they haven’t yet reached their peak income and spending years.12 Other age groups, such as Generation X—people born between 1965 and 1980—and the baby boomers—born between 1946 and 1964—have their own spending patterns. Many boomers nearing retirement have money and are willing to spend it on their health, their comforts, leisure pursuits, and cars. As the population ages, businesses are offering more products that appeal to middle-aged and senior markets.13

In addition, minorities represent more than 38 percent of the total population, with immigration bringing millions of new residents to the country over the past several decades. By 2060 the U.S. Census Bureau projects the minority population to increase to 56 percent of the total U.S. population.14 Companies recognize the value of hiring a diverse workforce that reflects our society. Minorities’ buying power has increased significantly as well, and companies are developing products and marketing campaigns that target different ethnic groups.

Social Factors

Social factors—our attitudes, values, ethics, and lifestyles—influence what, how, where, and when people purchase products or services. They are difficult to predict, define, and measure because they can be very subjective. They also change as people move through different life stages. People of all ages have a broader range of interests, defying traditional consumer profiles. They also experience a “poverty of time” and seek ways to gain more control over their time. Changing roles have brought more women into the workforce. This development is increasing family incomes, heightening demand for time-saving goods and services, changing family shopping patterns, and impacting individuals’ ability to achieve a work-life balance. In addition, a renewed emphasis on ethical behavior within organizations at all levels of the company has managers and employees alike searching for the right approach when it comes to gender inequality, sexual harassment, and other social behaviors that impact the potential for a business’s continued success.

Managing Change

Balancing Comes Easy at H&R Block

In an industry driven by deadlines and details, it’s hard to imagine striking a balance between work and everyday life for full-time employees and seasonal staff. Fortunately, the management team at H&R Block not only believes in maintaining a strong culture, it also tries to offer flexibility to its more than 70,000 employees and seasonal workers in 12,000 retail offices worldwide.

Based in Kansas City, Missouri, and built on a culture of providing exceptional customer service, H&R Block was recently named the top U.S. business with the best work-life balance by online job search site Indeed. Analyzing more than 10 million company reviews by employees, Indeed researchers identified the top 20 firms with the best work-life balance. H&R Block headed the 2017 list, followed by mortgage lender Network Capital Funding Corporation, fast food chain In-N-Out Burger, Texas food retailer H-E-B, and health services company Kaiser Permanente, among others.

According to Paul Wolfe, Indeed’s senior vice president of human resources, empathy on the part of organizations is a key factor in helping employees achieve balance. Wolfe says companies that demonstrate empathy and work diligently to provide personal time for all employees tend to take the top spots on the work-life balance list. “Comments we have seen from employee reviews for these companies indicate ‘fair’ and ‘flexible work environments,’” he says. Surprisingly, none of the tech companies known for their generous work perks made the top 20 list in 2017.

In this 24/7 world, when no one is far from a text or tweet, finding time for both family and work can be difficult, especially in the tax services industry, which is so schedule driven for a good part of the year. Making a commitment to help workers achieve a healthy work-life balance not only helps its employees, but it also helps H&R Block retain workers in a tight labor market where individuals continue to have choices when it comes to where and for whom they want to work.

Questions for Discussion
  1. How does management’s support of employee work-life balance help the company’s bottom line?
  2. What can other organizations learn from H&R Block when it comes to offering employee perks that encourage personal time for workers even during the busy tax season?

Sources: “Career Opportunities,” https://www.hrblock.com, accessed May 25, 2017; “About Us,” http://newsroom.hrblock.com, accessed May 25, 2017; Abigail Hess, “The 20 Best Companies for Work-Life Balance,” CNBC, http://www.cnbc.com, May 4, 2017; Kristen Bahler, “The 20 Best Companies for Work-Life Balance,” Money, http://time.com, April 20, 2017; Rachel Ritlop, “3 Benefits Companies Can Provide to Boost Work-Life Balance,” Forbes, http://www.forbes.com, January 30, 2017.

Technology

The application of technology can stimulate growth under capitalism or any other economic system. Technology is the application of science and engineering skills and knowledge to solve production and organizational problems. New equipment and software that improve productivity and reduce costs can be among a company’s most valuable assets. Productivity is the amount of goods and services one worker can produce. Our ability as a nation to maintain and build wealth depends in large part on the speed and effectiveness with which we use technology—to invent and adapt more efficient equipment to improve manufacturing productivity, to develop new products, and to process information and make it instantly available across the organization and to suppliers and customers.

Many U.S. businesses, large and small, use technology to create change, improve efficiencies, and streamline operations. For example, advances in cloud computing provide businesses with the ability to access and store data without running applications or programs housed on a physical computer or server in their offices. Such applications and programs can now be accessed through the internet. Mobile technology allows businesses to communicate with employees, customers, suppliers, and others at the swipe of a tablet or smartphone screen. Robots help businesses automate repetitive tasks that free up workers to focus on more knowledge-based tasks critical to business operations.15

Concept Check

  1. Define the components of the internal and the external business environments.
  2. What factors within the economic environment affect businesses?
  3. Why do demographic shifts and technological developments create both challenges and new opportunities for business?
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