Do You Want A Thriving Company? Kill it.

by Roger Hurni

October 9, 2019 at 12:12 pm

This is a lesson in relevancy. Recently, the 178-year-old travel company, Thomas Cook, closed its doors. You’re probably thinking, “Why should I care?” Here’s why: If you don’t constantly adapt to changing market needs, your brand will disappear. That is a fact. We can all learn a lesson from the likes of Compaq, E.F. Hutton, PaineWebber, Woolworth’s, Pan Am, General Foods, Sears, Howard Johnson’s – the list goes on and on. These were companies that couldn’t change or didn’t want to. And now they’re dust.

One of things I truly enjoy about my chosen field is the exposure I have to all sorts of companies and industries. I’ve been exposed to the way they think. The way they innovate. The way they adapt. Sadly, I’ve also seen the way they are stuck in the mud. The way they can’t change. The way they feed on their own hubris. It’s a Darwinian lesson: adapt or die.

If we are not in a constant state of change, we won’t be able to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. This is why it’s critical to pay attention to your customers’ behavioral data and the trends they are adopting. After all, that data isn’t just a bunch of numbers – it’s your customers telling you something. So, listen to them. By analyzing those behaviors it can help facilitate new ones. It’s a classic study in behavior design.

By understanding your customers’ motivations and their ability to perform new behaviors, you can realize new opportunities for products and services. Of course, you have to be open to change even if that change means killing off an existing product like Apple did with the iPod. Or venturing new roads to create products that may or may not have anything to do with your current core business. Just look at companies that started out selling one thing and today, are in a completely different business.

PEARSON started out in construction in the 1840s and it switched to publishing in the 1920s. Now it is the largest education company in the world.

AVON sold books door-to-door in the 1800s but eventually switched to selling perfume and now, makeup.

WRIGLEY chewing gum was a giveaway product used to help sell soap and baking powder. The gum was so popular the company eventually discontinued the other products.

BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY is the famed company owned by Warren Buffett, which was originally a textile manufacturer. The products it owns now are in dozens of sectors.

This is the lesson Thomas Cook never learned. People change and you can’t do business the same way today that you did 178 years ago. Hell, you can’t do business the same way you did five years ago. I guarantee you, some company out there is shifting their business as I write this. The question is: Are you able to change fast enough to keep your brand relevant?

October 9, 2019 at 12:12 pm

Roger Hurni