Why Established Companies Fail

Established, long standing organizations fail. They feel more secure than their young (or young at heart) competitors. They don’t think they are on their way to demise. Mostly they don’t notice because the death happens slowly. Sometimes it’s the coasting-to-failure process that’s to blame. If no one notices until it’s too late, there isn’t much that can be done. Let’s face it, admitting failure is super uncomfortable. So why not prolong the inevitable?

Blockbuster managed the change from VHS to DVD well, but refused to concede their brick and mortar delivery model. Nokia didn’t want to lead the charge in user experience innovation, so they coasted into oblivion. Atari stuck to licensing individual games instead of embracing the trend toward games as a shared experience. The list goes on.

Success can lead to failure.

In so many cases, what has worked for years stops working. No one wants to accept it. It’s scary to feel irrelevant. And no one wants to innovate their way out of a job, right?

The funny thing is that so many under-innovate their way to their own undoing. And they take so many others down with them. 

Are you responsible for innovation?

Don’t be afraid to fail. Fail fast. Learn from the process and get better each time. After all, most of the world’s most successful innovations came as iterations on previous failures (like post-its capitalizing on failed adhesives), or through full on mistakes (uh, penicillin).

Are you responsible for sales?

If you’re in the sales game, get your gear on. If you aren’t hustling I can guarantee you that your competitors are. If your product isn’t exciting to you any more, find a new line of work because there are hungry salespeople passionately selling to your prospects AND clients. If nothing else, you’re a sales person…. Go down fighting, for goodness’ sake!

Are you a business leader?

If you’re the leader of a company that should be dominating but is instead dying a slow death, Wake Up! There are no laurels from the past that make up for today’s failures, not in a competitive market. So forget whatever you did before that got you to where you are today. Realize that today you are failing. Failing your organization, your staff and your self. Get uncomfortable and approach today’s problems as if they are new, because they are. Yesterday’s solutions do not belong in today’s boardrooms. And cost-cutting your way to solvency may be necessary in the short term but it is not leadership. 

Failure makes me furious.

I’m really comfortable with discomfort. When we are uncomfortable we are growing. So failing is something I do regularly. But I do it on the smallest scale possible, on the shortest timeline, at the lowest cost. I am disgusted by laziness and fear. You can’t ignore your way out of a problem, ever. You can’t wish your way into success. You have to get your hands dirty and earn tomorrow’s bread.  

I challenge you.

If you’re spending your time this fiscal cutting costs to make ends meet, call me. If failure isn’t an option, please reach out to me. If you’re uninspired, falling short, or full on confused… get help from anyone who’s still fired up.

…It can’t hurt.