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General Motors and IBM as Successful Companies Research Paper

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Updated: Oct 7th, 2021


There are challenges that face companies in today’s competitive business world. The most pressing of these is staying relevant, being on top of the game and coming up with products that will keep the consumer coming back for more.

This is especially true for companies working in the sectors of motor vehicles and computer technology. There is a constant call for faster cars that are more environmentally friendly, have lower fuel consumption, greater aesthetic appeal and at the same time, are affordable. For the creators of computer technology, the situation is much the same as consumers are interested in much more compact machines that can perform a greater multitude of different tasks in a shorter time and look sleeker.

General Motors (GM) and International Business Machines (IBM) are both companies that have been around since the turn of the last century. GM was founded in 1908 by Charles Durant as an automaker. It is headquartered in Detroit, Michigan in the United States of America. IBM was founded by Herman Holleith as the Tabulating Machine Company. It has its headquarters in Armonk, New York. Between them GM and IBM employ over half a million people worldwide.

Main body

From the very beginning, IBM has embraced diversity not only in employing workers but also in how they market their products. Ron Glover, IBM’s president of global workforce diversity, says that having Global Workforce Diversity is a cornerstone for the company that puts it in its own league. He says that taking the global approach gives IBM a chance to reap of the best talent that can be found worldwide.

Glover adds that by being committed to global diversity, IBM can adequately respond to the disparate needs of the emerging global markets. The main aim of global diversity, he says, is to get the best of what their employees have to give while simultaneously providing them with a global understanding of IBM.

According to Glover, IBM’s interpretation of the term global is not limited to the traditional aspects of race, genetics, sexual orientation and religion, but is more far reaching to include globalization so that it embraces the strategy applied by the company.

Glover recognizes the importance of maintaining this diversity since IBM is established in more than 75 countries worldwide, and the fact that for over a quarter of a century, more than half of IBM’s revenue has come from outside of the United States of America.

IBM strongly advocates and has advocated for equal employment opportunities since it was founded. After the First World War, it was the only company that employed war veterans who had gained disabilities while in action. In IBM, there is no bias shown whether it is in training, hiring, awarding promotions or termination of employments. The social and recreational events that are not discriminated upon because of national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age or any other grounds. It is designated the role of managers to make sure that the working environment is unencumbered with hostilities rising out of discrimination or harassment.

IBM works in programs that create a platform for equal opportunities for women, minorities and people with disabilities by conducting outreach along with putting into place human resource programs that guarantee impartiality in compensation.

A marketing strategy that is working exceedingly is its well thought out advertising. IBM pushes for diversity to an almost ‘maniacal’ degree, so says Lisa Baird, vice president, Worldwide Integrated Marketing Communications. Baird reflects that IBM is focusing its attention on newer sections of the market such medium size businesses ad constituency groups. The best way to get their attention, she says, is by representing them in advertisements. This means putting up advertisements that they can identify with. She emphasizes that advertising gives people a chance to learn, creates interest in their products, solutions and their message on leadership.

However, IBM goes beyond advertising by actually taking an interest minority groups and sponsors and participates in their events. IBM sponsors La Familia Technology Week over the Hispanic Heritage Month as well as Black Technology Awareness Week during the African American Awareness Week.

There is a follow up to advertisement, that of actually reaching the constituency groups. The strategy applied by IBM is that of first identifying businesses that they need to make with, then deciding on the most efficient approach to use which can be marketing on to the individual or by using one or more of their ‘go-to-market’ strategies.

Another tactic is to find their way into a business community by using professional associations and organizations where these groups engender an interest in IBM. This induces an interest in what products IBM has to offer while simultaneously helping to discover new business partners.

The researchers at IBM have a goal, and their goal in their own words is ‘pervasive computing accessibility’. Former IBM worldwide business director , Accessibility, IBM Research puts it more succinctly; access to information to everyone. In 2000, IBM launched six Worldwide Accessibility Centers that were in line with this vision. The centers were to ensure that all the products of IBM were made accessible to people all round the globe, no matter their ability or disability (IBM, 2008).

According to Samuelson (2005), a handicap for GM is its slowness to adapt to change. Right from its management methods, working with managers who in GM’s heyday believed in the misconceived(at least in today’s business world)notion that they could foresee and control change. However, managers of newer companies recognize the fact that any tragedy can strike unexpectedly and they have to brace themselves for this.

This has been to GM’s great loss because they did not forecast the consumer’s need for smaller cars in the 1970s nor the competition wrought by Japanese motors. Their most recent headache is the demand for fuel-efficient vehicles. Their reflex reaction to change was too slow, hence they were overtaken by it.

Working with a global reach has worked for IBM, while it has been a pitfall for GM. General Motors has been unable to achieve the harmonization of parts that is mandatory for a large company divided into smaller segments distributed worldwide. In the 1980s, there was the occurrence of ‘rebadging’ within GM, a term used to refer to the act of stealing a successful idea from one division by another. This created competition within the company, a situation that would have been avoided if there were better cohesion between the divisions.

To counter this, in a bid for unification, GM decided that their different brands would carry their motto ‘mark pf excellence’. The worry now is that the move may have come a little too late and would not save the ship.

Another thing that has been GM’s undoing, according to Samuelson, is its belief in its own invincibility. The company became complacent in its security as a power in the motor industry. They did not heed the rise in cost, especially for labor and this would later come to haunt the company.

One outstanding feature of both GM and IBM is the attitude they take towards their employees. In 2004, GM was named among the top ‘100 Best Companies for Working Mothers’ by the magazine ‘Working Mothers’. GM worked hand in hand with the United Auto Workers in 1985, in an endeavor to improve the overall quality for life for those in its employ (Samuelson, 2005).

IBM also strives to create a good working environment for their employees by remaining resolute at there being complete fairness at the workplace. They feel strongly against discrimination of any kind and have policies that protect their employees from these. Since 2003, they have periodically conducted an online intranet based assessment using ‘jam’ technology on how the company can be improved. This way, they take account of employees’ opinions when developing the company’s values and policies (IBM, 2008).

Both GM and IBM over the years have adapted to mechanization in their factories. Instead of using human labor, the number of workers in factories have been continuously downsized over the years as machines are developed which can perform tasks much faster ad with greater efficiency. Another reason that has led to mechanization is that it is cost saving since one machine might be able to do the work of twenty men.

The major difference between GM and IBM’s management is their adaptation to change. IBM builds on policies that have been grounded in the company since it was founded, and uses them to embrace the future. IBM believes in diversity, hence, it works it marketing strategies around this, finding a way to incorporate changing global market trends into their routine. GM, on the other hand, has shown a tendency over the years of being too slow at embracing change (Samuelson, 2005).

A major difference between how IBM and GM are run is the cohesiveness of their international units. IBM is IBM, no matter what part of the world you may be. This is because they emphasize on the fact that IBM subdivisions are ‘branches of the same vine’. This aspect off having subdivisions has however worked against GM because its individual brands are rarely associated with the mother body. This muddles attempts at comprehensive marketing.

In conclusion, it can be said that Darwin’s theory, ‘survival for the fittest’ does not imply to the evolution of living things only but can be used to refer to today’s business arena. Companies have to stay ahead of time, be one step into the future, keeping alive the spark of innovativeness and creativity alive. It is not enough to be great, turn an annual profit stay liquid. Companies today cannot be content with the balance sheet because as soon as it is printed, it is a thing of the future and the company has to focus on looking ahead. That is the element that determines their fate, like that of International Business Machines and General Motors.


IBM (2008): Advertising Then and Now. Web.

Samuelson Robert J. (2005). Ghosts That Still Haunt GM. Washington D.C. Washington Post. 2008. Web.

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