Don't Make a Blockbuster Mistake

You have to be ready, willing, and able to disrupt your own business model before you’re forced to react to a disruption from the outside.

In 2008, Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes famously said, “Neither RedBox nor Netflix are even on the radar screen in terms of competition.” We all know how that turned out.

"What use could this company make of an electrical toy?" scoffed Western Union president William Orton in 1876 when presented with the opportunity to purchase the patent to a little invention called the telephone.

When the first iPhone was released, then Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer dismissed it as having no appeal to business customers, "because it doesn't have a keyboard. Which makes it not a very good email machine."

The history of business is filled with stories of leadership failing to see the winds changing, underestimating their competition, or ignoring it altogether.

“Be on the right side of history. You don’t want to be the person who supported the Blockbuster decision.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

I hear people in every industry complaining about the competition all the time. I never complain about the competition, in fact, I love it! I’m grateful for it! I embrace the competition. Because it makes me better, it makes my company better, and it makes the industry as a whole better!

Small companies have to deal with the big corporations who can do it cheaper or faster. Little companies are out here bringing giants to their knees. Industry landscapes are always shifting. Change is the only constant. The current state of things is a great example; we’re living through massive changes on a global scale.

You’ve got to be ready to disrupt the status quo on your terms if you want to thrive. You have to be agile. You have to be ready to pivot. You have to provide a service and an experience that is better than the other guy.

The reason some organizations are agile and able to adjust in real time, while others stay clunky and unwieldly all comes down to culture. If you foster a culture that’s excited about change and always willing to try new ideas, you’re putting yourself in a position to win.

You have to turn your company into an adaptive space; one focused on freedom, transparency, and trust.

Good leaders are always on the lookout for new ideas, new talent, new possibilities. Always paying attention to trends in the market and never afraid to set the trends instead of just following them.

Great leaders bake that hunger, that vision, and that excitement about innovation into their corporate culture, so instead of being alone on the watchtower, they’ve got an entire company with them, scouring the horizon.

Keep in mind that Netflix wasn’t happy to stick with the DVD model just because it was working. They shook up their own business model and made the move to streaming. They weren’t content to stick with that either. They saw a gap, started producing their own content, and fundamentally changed an entire industry for the second time in as many decades.

One of the late, great Steve Jobs’ business rules was to never be afraid to cannibalize yourself. He said, “If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will.” You can’t just be prepared for disruption; you’ve got to be willing and ready to disrupt your own business model. To evolve as a company from within, proactively, before you’re forced to react to a disruption from the outside.

How do you do that?

#1. Embrace positive, constructive discourse and conflict. Conflict make ideas better. Recognize that even the best people will resist new ideas sometimes and that’s good. Resistance to new ideas creates a pressure-testing effect that creates better ideas.

#2. Implement positive, internal, policies that are future facing and focused on anticipating what’s coming next.  If you see a gap, fill it! Don’t wait for another company to do it for you.

At my company, Roma Moulding, we saw a gap in that there was no National Day for custom framers, so we made one! We see a gap in education for those in our industry, so we’re creating an educational series of master classes for framers, gallery owners, and designers. We also recognize that the internet is changing the way people shop, buy, and live, which is why we’re investing heavily in tech innovations that elevate a customer’s web experience.

Ask yourself:

Is your company culture excited about change or afraid of it?

Are you filling gaps or waiting for someone else to do it for you?

Are you proactive or complacent?

Remember, if you’re not innovating, you’ll most certainly become obsolete… A lot like Blockbuster.

Tony Gareri

CEO & Culture Enthusiast

Drawing from firsthand experiences, Tony addresses how a culture evolution can lead to improved business results and happier work environments.

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