The business world has changed dramatically since Mia de Kuijper left her native Holland in the mid-1970s to pursue a major in economics from Duke. And de Kuijper, author of the book Profit Power Economics: A New Competitive Strategy for Creating Sustainable Wealth, has had a front-row seat.
De Kuijper's expertise has a solid foundation in economic theory—she earned her Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University, and M.P.A. and M.B.A. degrees from the Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Business School, respectively. She gained international business experience through senior investment-banking positions at Morgan Stanley and CS First Boston; in executive roles at Royal Dutch Shell, AT&T, and PepsiCo; and as a strategist at Bain & Co. She is also a dean at the recently established Duisenberg School of Finance in Amsterdam.
De Kuijper decided to write Profit Power Economics (Oxford University Press, 2009) in response to the evolving global marketplace. "Computers and cell phones make it easy for anyone to have access to information," she says, whether it's a vendor in charge of distributing products for a multinational company or an Indian fisherman checking to see which market might offer him top rupee for his daily haul. De Kuijper calls this the "transparent economy." Virtually anyone can access fast, cheap information about how businesses set costs and manage supply and demand. The result is increasing dimensions of competition across industries and interconnected decision-making.
A company, large or small, can position itself for maximum profit power, de Kuijper says, by focusing on twelve "power nodes." "Power nodes are skills or dynamics that companies can use to maximize returns and retain value," she says. Brand is power node number one. McDonald's, for example, has market clout because the company's brand is so well-known internationally that it can negotiate competitive contracts with franchisees and distributors. Another power node is having special or proprietary ingredients—think of Coca-Cola's secret formula.
"Why is it that the Apple iPod continues to be the most popular MP3 player even when there are better, lower-cost players out there?" de Kuijper asks. "It's because Apple created a power node—called a hub—by creating a continuous circle, iTunes, that attracts music creators and buyers." In consumers' minds, she explains, the iPod and iTunes are of a piece. Since the iPod and iTunes were launched simultaneously—something other MP3 player manufacturers did not do—Apple cornered the markets for both the product and the distribution vehicle for that product's content.
Profit Power Economics challenges classical economics and examines how corporate mergers and risky start-ups can succeed or fail. The book also offers recommendations for ways in which companies and individuals can formulate lucrative strategies in this newly emerging economy.
With offices in New York and London, de Kuijper uses her expertise to provide strategic advice through her company, de Kuijper Global Partners. Clients include international businesses supplying technology and telecom products, beverages and other consumer goods, luxury products, and natural resources.
She also has applied that expertise to her own enterprise, a hand-crafted jewelry line called Mehr-un-Nissa that re-creates the opulent designs produced on the Indian subcontinent during the Mughal Empire. The line, pieces of which were included in the American Museum of Natural History's 2006-07 "Gold!" exhibition, pays tribute to the craftsmanship of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when the Mughal Empire in India contributed about a quarter of the world's total GDP.
Talk about a power node.