New Take on Old Theory May Boost Bottom Line

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Many business owners consider speed the key to success: how quickly they can enter the marketplace, promote their product, and adapt to customers’ needs. Management Associate Professor Liliana Pérez-Nordtvedt has a different theory. It’s not how fast you do something that matters, but when you do it.

Most strategies ask, ‘Do we want to differentiate our product, our price, or how customers view us?’ ” she says. “This is kind of a different approach.”

The idea is called entrainment, and it’s nothing new. It means that something does best when it synchs with the dominant forces in its environment. But until Dr. Pérez-Nordtvedt came along, few thought of it as a business strategy. She and UT Arlington colleagues Susanna Khavul and Jeff McGee are among the first researchers attempting to measure entrainment in business strategy.

The $1.3 billion Cowboys Stadium is aiding their efforts. The researchers are looking at how the stadium, which opened in 2009, has impacted local businesses.

They bring about a lot of change, but they also bring a time component,” Pérez-Nordtvedt says. “Until this, anything that happened around Arlington typically occurred around the summer. So they bring an expansion of what businesses around here can do.”

The research focuses on how businesses entrain themselves to Cowboys Stadium, taking advantage of the huge crowds. Consider an outdoor hot dog vendor nearby. His business model likely won’t change because of the stadium—he’s still selling hot dogs—but when he chooses to sell them might. And he might choose to close during a Cowboys game when patrons are inside and traffic to his stand would be low.

Closing when Cowboys Stadium is open—synching against the dominant cycle—isn’t exactly entrainment. But the team is finding that this can also be a common and effective business strategy for some smaller firms.

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