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Dunk on Economic Outlook Summer 2009 in Tech Journal South, August 2009

William Dunk advises to "Look for companies the big boys don't touch." and "Invest in the future, not the past."

From WRAL-TV, Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, "Tech Talk: What Are CEOs Looking For?," September, 2007.  (Click here for the interview.)

William Dunk comments that all CEOs are looking for ways to get their growth engines started again, as their sales, in market after market, hit a brick wall.  Leading edge executives, moreover, are working overtime to shed the trappings of the 20th century, trying to get their companies restyled for the 21st.

From Ubiquity: An ACM IT Magazine and Forum, "William Dunk on Collaboration," October 26-November 1, 2005.  (Click here for full text.)

UBIQUITY: So application is king?  

DUNK: Application, but also robustness and relevance.  The other way we're vastly different in the new century is that we're full of systems that are not robust and not dealing with what people need.  We refer you to an article on our website called "Systems on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown."  Your mobile phone is a wonderful example of a less than rugged system.  If you live in Indiana, it is cheaper to call home from Germany than it is to call in from the East Coast.  Your phone has too many functions you don't need, breaks too easily, experiences endless dropped calls, and has an unreadable face that is hard to operate.  This is typical of systems that are over-designed and under-built.

From CIO: Australia's Magazine for Information Executives, "Offshore Outsourcing Controversy Just Warming Up," by Sue Bushell, October 21, 2003.  (Click here for full text.)

For instance in a recent newsletter headed America's Biggest Export: Jobs, management consultant and futurist William Dunk of Global Province writes “What’s happened to America is that we are not only exporting our manufacturing jobs to China but we are putting our knowledge-worker jobs all over the globe.

“…Complacently, we may have thought we were only sending grunt, blue collar work out of the States. But we’re outsourcing a huge volume of our white collar work to the world, which has retarded our recovery,” he wrote. “Employment in the US services sector has remained unchanged over the past 21 months as the economy has recovered. Usually the services industry headcount has grown five per cent by this stage of the cycle.”

Dunk predicts the furore will lead to an inevitable rise in protectionism against foreign goods and services.

“Our policymakers have not figured out the endgame here. That is, they do not know how to keep Americans at work when they send jobs abroad, not only in manufacturing but in the digital occupations that are supposed to take up the slack. With modern broadband communications, it is even easier, if anything, to do knowledge work abroad than manufacturing.”

From The National Post, "Why Dunk Slams the Status Quo," by William Hanley, June 7, 2003.  (Click here for full text.)

William Dunk looks around the spacious and stylish Craft and beams.  "To me, it's already living up to the billing," he says of this newish restaurant tucked away in a nondescript block of East 19th Street in Manhattan.

Dunk, president of management consultant/investor relations firm William Dunk Partners Inc., has steered Lunch Money to Craft on a rainy day late in May on the recommendation of family and friends.  And we were steered to Dunk by way of the Global Province, an eclectic Web site fashioned by Dunk and his colleagues that takes a different look at the big picture while celebrating the good life in the details.

Savouring a Hitachino red rice beer from Japan--one of the exotic details on Craft's extensive wine and beer list--Dunk says the big picture for business and, by extension, investors has been growing darker.

"In 2001 and 2002, we entered a totally different business climate.  People are most generally obsessed with:  'It's a downturn and you've got to sweat it out and things will turn around.'  Basically, the deep problem is there's no recognition we're in a broad new game.

"Generally, people are saying, 'Let's avoid the vision. It's not a time of great ideas.' They're saying they have to attend to the details of the operation.  No one is quite willing to acknowledge it, but the whole issue now should be strategy--not an obsession with costs."

From The Dallas Morning News, "Advisor Sees a Corporate Crisis of Ideas," by Scott Burns, June 4, 2002.  (Click here for full text.)

Had he found any companies that had a good idea for a new business and were growing it, I asked?

He named three: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc., The Washington Post Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Krispy Kreme, he explained, had set a new standard for corporate behavior. Last year the company attracted unfavorable comments because it was going to use "synthetic leases" to finance a new facility. Chairman Scott Livengood, a man blessed with the perfect name for a purveyor of doughnuts, set the new standard with two simple sentences in Krispy Kreme's Annual Report.

"In the current economic climate, investors are understandably paying closer attention to the financial strength of companies and the way they conduct business. We have taken the position that there is no reason for us to do anything that could be misinterpreted, regardless of how legal and acceptable it may be."

The Krispy Kreme Annual Report, Mr. Dunk observed, was the only annual report dedicated to the subject of values. "That's probably the most creative response a company can bring to a country taxed by the events of Sept. 11 and the demise of Enron."

The Post earned his praise another way. They had started a second business and had grown it. While most newspaper companies are suffering in the worst advertising bust in decades, the Post annual report noted that revenue at Kaplan Learning was nearly $500 million, making it the company's second-largest business after the newspaper.

Wal-Mart set a similar example. While Kroger Co., Albertson's Inc. and other traditional grocery stores were battling each other for market share and wondering what to do about Whole Foods Market Inc., Wal-Mart built an entirely new business and is now the largest grocer in the United States. At the same time, Wal-Mart was expanding outside the country, with international sales up 41 percent.

Returning to his broader theme – the current poverty of ideas – Mr. Dunk made a startling suggestion.

"Perhaps we will be reviewing the obligation of the corporation to the state," he said.

When I asked him to explain, he noted that the first corporations were private organizations that received charters from the state to pursue a socially valued goal. In the mercantile era of long ago, the first companies were entities created to expand trade in different parts of the globe. Today, he said, our corporations seem to have forgotten their origins. Many have lost their sense of purpose.

From The Dallas Morning News, "Firms Not Putting Stock in Growth," by Scott Burns, June 17, 2001.  (Click here for full text.)

Citing an article from the Economist, Mr. Dunk pointed out that there had been more than 100 departures from executive suites in major corporations in each month since last August. If you look up, you can almost see the sky filling with golden parachutes. […]

"The problem is that we're recruiting new guys. Then they are being told to follow the old agenda. You can only do this [cost cutting] so long. Then you extinguish the company." […]

"If we have to change all these guys, what's the new agenda? What should they be doing?"

I asked what he thought a new corporate leader would look like and what she would do.

  • "The first quality ... is to find people that can turn on a dime because the proposition they start with is never the one that succeeds. We're looking for people who can deal with totally unforeseen circumstances because that's the way the world is today.

  • "Another characteristic is people who can manage alliances. How well you manage alliances is a defining question.

  • "A third thing is that people need to be seriously global – they need to take a genuinely global view.

  • "But the big enchilada is that they have to be seriously growth-oriented. On a longer-term basis, there has to be evidence of a real concern with growth."

From Metro, "The World According to Dunk," by Rick Smith, July/August 2000, HT 24-29, on the new economy, William Dunk and his family, Internet communications, and the consulting process at William Dunk Partners, Inc.

"Dunk also strongly encourages clients truly interested in innovation to create separate operations (for business creation).  To innovate, businesses should set up 'an incubator or greenhouse, totally isolated from the host corporation, to mature something different that will thrive in the new dynamics of the 21st century.'"

From Across the Board (The Conference Board Magazine), "Managing Management Consultants," by Randall Poe, October, 1995, p. 16, on new trends in management consulting:

"For more than two decades, consultants have made money by taking money out of company costs," says William P. Dunk, whose New York- and Dallas-based firm advises CEOs and other consultants. "But most companies have learned to reduce costs by themselves. The real challenge is to show clients how to respond quickly to new revenue sources and gain higher market share. We consultants will have to stop coming on like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and learn to re-create ourselves as 'Mighty Morphin' Profit Rangers.'"

From The Economist, March 7, 1992, p. 72, on the state of the consulting industry:

To find out where the industry has gone wrong, call in a consultant. . . . William Dunk Partners, a small firm based in New York, polled the chairmen or chief executives of 30 big American firms for their views on quality of the management consultants they had used . . . .

The survey highlights the trend towards small "boutique" consultancies. These are often run by ex-business school professors and concentrate on tiny but profitable consulting niches, such as "culture change" or the design of computer networks. . . .

In consulting, clearly, small is better. You can take a small consultancy's word for it.

On William Dunk's Annual Report on Annual Reports

From CIO: Australia's Magazine for Information Executives, "Has IT Run Out of Big Ideas?," by Sue Bushell, November 10, 2003.  (Click here for full text.)

“Strategy is breaking out all over. It’s the signal development in this year’s crop of reports, though subdued enough that it’s been missed by journalists, businesspeople, and the like. A few companies — such as Barrick Gold in Canada and Wolford in Austria — still look to expense control to turn things around, occasionally firing a chief executive who can’t get enough slashing done. And yet, for the first time in years, strategy is back in the saddle.”

Clearly IT should be proving central to that strategy. In the US, which Dunk says increasingly looks to have “hollowed out a lot of . . . industry and sent it packing to China”, the economy is “progressively becoming a huge distribution machine, and the companies that have mastered all aspects of getting things from here to there at a reasonable price are becoming the new mandarins”.

From The Dallas Morning News, "Advisor Sees a Corporate Crisis of Ideas," by Scott Burns, June 4, 2002.  (Click here for full text.)

"They're pulling weeds instead of planting gardens."

That's how management consultant William P. Dunk characterized this years' crop of annual reports when I called him a few weeks ago. As you may remember from last year (June 17, 2001), Mr. Dunk and a crew of associates make big stacks of corporate annual reports every spring and then gnaw their way through them in search of nourishment, themes and ideas.

Well, Mr. Dunk is still hungry.

"What's most striking is everyone's lack of a good idea. I think we have a crisis of ideas. This isn't just in business, but at a state and national level." Mr. Dunk, still in full possession of a mind that has never been caged, also indicated that the idea famine was global, pointing to the increasing irrelevance of the Communist Party in China.

Whatever the global condition, he was struck by the fact that most annual reports showed no top line or bottom line growth. They did, however, show lots of liquidation and cash generation, all framed by promises of strength and confessions of vulnerability.

"With this risk-paranoid frame of mind," he wrote in the recently released report, "you concentrate on not taking risks and fixing mistakes, rather than seizing big opportunities. The risk-averse have a hard time growing, particularly in bad times, preferring instead to shrink behind their barricades."

From The Dallas Morning News, "Firms Not Putting Stock in Growth," by Scott Burns, June 17, 2001.  (Click here for full text.)

[L]ife in the executive suite has been particularly tough this year. I have this on the authority of William P. Dunk, an intellectual omnivore who earns his living as a management consultant. He sates some of his hunger by reviewing hundreds of annual reports each year. […]

He wants to find the main themes, the messages, and the icons of corporate America. This year's theme, he said in a recent interview, is management change. The rate of turnover among executives is now so great that phrases like "new blood" are taking on a grim meaning, inclining executives to answer "wounded zebra" instead of "newspaper" when asked what's black and white but re(a)d all over? [...]

If there were an award for "Best Idiosyncratic/Eclectic Business Web site," the one Mr. Dunk and partners have created would surely win the prize. You can check it out for yourself at I particularly recommend a section called "Dunk's Dictums," his annual review of annual reports, and his "Agile Companies," a series of notes on companies doing things right.

From The Raleigh News and Observer, "A Chat with William Dunk," by David Ranii, May 24, 2000.

Management consultant and investor relations adviser William Dunk has just issued his latest "Annual Report on Annual Reports," a yearly exercise that has generated considerable national media attention since he began it in 1982.

That was the same year he founded his firm, William Dunk Partners.  Today the firm boasts a staff of 18 divided among New York, Dallas, San Francisco and
Chapel Hill, which is where Dunk himself has been since 1996. Triangle clients
include the biotechnology company Cogent Neuroscience and Intersouth
Partners, a venture capital firm. Dunk's latest "Annual Report" can be found at
his firm's Web site, "This year," the report states,
"we find that chief executives have fallen head-over-heels in love with the Internet,
some more than others." Staff writer David Ranii talked with Dunk to find out


From Innovation Network, "Innovation a Slam Dunk," by Robert B. Tucker, June 4, 1999:

During World War II, allied intelligence agents discovered a surefire way to find out what was going on behind enemy lines. They carefully read newspapers smuggled from small German towns for clues of food shortages, casualties, etc.

Today, this "content analysis" method is useful in finding out what's going on in the inner circles of America's corporations.

Every year, consultants at William Dunk analyze the major themes that top public companies emphasize in their annual reports. This year's report, just out, virtually shouts of a common theme: Innovation.

USA companies, the report states, have "growth through innovation" on their minds. Increasing shareholder expectations coupled with fast-changing markets and fickle customers have made innovation into a top priority. Innovation, say these annual reports, will generate new products that will steal market share from others as well as creating whole new markets.


From Barron's, "Perennial Questions: The Debate Over What to Include in Annual Reports Heats Up," by Richard Karp, April 20, 1998, p. 27, on the topic of AR focus on management:

William Dunk, head of William Dunk Partners, a management consulting firm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (who also produces a yearly commentary on annuals), favors more extensive discussion about corporate managers. "It's foolish to read an annual report for the numbers," Dunk comments. "You primarily read an annual report for an appraisal of management. Who is the executive team? Not just the CEO, but the other seven top officers of the company." After all, Dunk adds, "Wall Street is endlessly meeting with management in order to appraise them--not to get numbers. Just like Wall Street analysts, you want to learn about the credibility of management."

From USA Today, "Street Talk--The Key to Growth: Offer New Products," by Daniel Kadlec, April 5, 1996, 3B, on new product development:

After years of focusing on cost cutting and global expansion, American business may be moving back to the nuts and bolts of building new things that people want. Not that downsizing and global markets are getting booted off the radar. But "genuinely new products are taken to be the key to growth this year," says Dallas-based business consultant William Dunk.

Where does he get this insight? Each year, Dunk, an expert in corporate annual reports, reviews hundreds of them looking for recurring themes that suggest the next big wave in business thinking. Annual reports rain down on investors by the ton this time of year. In them, "we're hearing less about global growth," Dunk says. "1995's leading-edge annual reports show a big preference for new products."

From Across the Board (The Conference Board Magazine), "Can We Talk: CEOs Speak Frankly in the New Breed of Annual Reports," by Randall Poe, May, 1994, p. 17, on the trend toward direct and candid messages from CEOs:

Many influential critics in Annual Reportland say that candor and clear writing, not flashy design or multilayered financial data, are crucial in making reports more effective.

William P. Dunk, a New York-based management consultant whose provocative critiques of annual reports appeared in Louis Rukeyser's syndicated column each year, calls the 1992 crop "the worst-designed and worst-written annual reports in 30 years." He urges his clients to study the reports produced by Buffett: "He is not only a continuing education but an important reminder that the best reports come from articulate CEOs. Unfortunately, we don't have many of those."

The chief flaw of most reports, Dunk says, is that they fail to address their true customers. Originally, annual reports were designed for an investment world dominated by individuals. But 60 percent to 70 percent of most stocks today are held by institutions, which account for up to 97 percent of trading volume on certain days. Most annual reports don't reflect this changed world.

"They still waste money trying to attract fund managers with hot hands, who might buy your stock this year and sell it the next year," according to Dunk. "You need to reach institutions that are not churning stocks. Most of them aren't going to be won over by gimmicky design. . . . The only way to attract them is through highly intelligent prose. No one seems to realize it yet, but writing has become more important than the numbers because that's where the leverage lies. The real order of priorities is writing, first: financials, second: and design, third. Serious investors read good reports, and when they're really good they want those stocks in their portfolios."

From Daily News, "A Dunk That Slams Gimmickry," by Louis Rukeyser, February 22, 1990:

Stop dreaming and get down to work. The supply of genies has run out--in Washington and in Wall Street.

That's the brutally tough message of the latest batch of annual reports surveyed for this column by William P. Dunk, a leading authority on corporate communications.

Once a year, Dunk gives us his exclusive annual report on annual reports, and it repeatedly has kept us ahead of such major corporate changes as the trend toward slimming down and getting into cash. Last year, he presciently pinpointed a dangerous tendency to bypass the challenges of the present while mooning about the glories of the past.

Now, though, reality appears to be making a belated comeback in the boardrooms of America.

Please also see biography of William P. Dunk.

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