Are We Lying to Ourselves?

Do you ever wonder why, during a dying industry, or the collapse of a deliverable, many continue selling themselves on their relevancy while their evacuating customers define them as irrelevant?

Think about this. Innovative organizations understand the importance in selling relevant products, while dying organizations stay obsessed with selling the relevancy of their soon-obsolete products.

Look at Sears, just one of the many brick and mortar retail organizations which continue the delusion of their relevance over the reality of their impending death. Look at the copy/print industry as they continue believing more on the value of printed pages than that of their customers, or examine the cable industry as they continue living in denial of the power of Facebook, Amazon, Google, or Netflix, their competitors who are rapidly replacing them with a better experience. We could add many to the list. No one wants to admit they are becoming irrelevant, or discuss how they could be defeated? Well, that is unless they are innovative, and appreciate the power of customer experiences over customer relationships. Relationship obsession must balance with understanding the relevance of what feeds the relationship. Many customers had a great relationship with Blockbuster; they left for the better experience of Netflix. Don’t fool yourself into the monetary value of a business relationship.

“You can be the vendor with the greatest relationships and lose to the unknown vendor who delivers a better experience.”

Those who remain relevant understand there are no sacred parts, people, or processes to their business, and they are willing to replace anything needed to stay relevant. Truly innovative companies understand how to eliminate what was to create what it should be. Truly innovative companies understand the dysfunction of a stubbornness to modify.

“In the distance between the business plan and the business failure is where you find stubbornness to modify.”

A sure sign your industry is threatened by innovation is when its thought leaders spend most of their time discussing why they are relevant. As an example, the cable industry leaders justifying declining numbers by acquiring competitors, then ignoring the massive unplugging. Or the printing industry believing growth through acquisition means the industry’s growing and ignoring the evaporation of print volumes, or the reductions in the manufacturing of printing devices.

Who are they fooling? Are they lying to themselves? How many articles on the demise of Sears, which always include a sentence or two of hope? Does anyone believe that Sears will make it? They waited too long, had too many managers in too short of time. They should have brought in an innovative leader. Disrupted industries can’t manage their way out of obsolescence; they must be led out of it. The only change at Sears is the date of their bankruptcy. I am sure we will soon read an article saying average store revenue is up 50% over last year. Of course, they would have closed 80% of their stores. It’s only when leaders of declining industries can destroy what made them relevant yesterday that they then can create the new. They do this by leaving behind the baggage of the way it was as they take the train to the way it will be.

In today’s business climate it’s the constant birth of something new where the reward of survival is determined.

So if your industry is becoming irrelevant and its leaders are hoping they retire before the customers leave them, be concerned. If your industry consultants are more concerned about telling their customers what they want to hear, instead of the truth, be concerned. Or if your industry leaders brag about growth through acquisition rather than customer acceptance, be concerned. It takes a group of determined collaborators fearless of change to win against the death associated with the way it was. Challenge yourself to look for and listen to opposing views, apply common sense and create the needed change. Stop the survival game and begin the thriving game.

Most importantly, remember this.

“A company becomes obsolete when they focus on bringing the past to the future instead of bringing the future to the present.”

Ray Stasieczko
About the Author
Over the last 25+ years, I have called the imaging industry (copy/print) home. Today this industry is navigating through transformation. The ways of delivery, sales approach, and marketing are redefining a decades-old deliverable. Managed print is just a small component of the greater deliverable of managed services. Today dealers must extract as much profitability from their print deliverable in-order to invest in their diversification. BEI Services has the facts and statistics allowing our partners to benefit greatly in accomplishing that. I stay determined to help the imaging channel bring the future to the present.