In the midst of conversation about change (hard to avoid that word these days), the “kings” of business came to mind.
Names like Woolworth, Sears, Wal-Mart, Barnes and Noble. Technologies like fax, Palm Pilot, Walkman and Yahoo.
No one could beat Woolworth … until Sears came along.
No one could possibly rival Sears … until K-Mart came along (and later…Wal-Mart).
No one could possibly rival Waldenbooks … until Barnes & Noble came along (and later, Amazon).
No one could break into the big three television networks and become the leader in their bread and butter – the news …until CNN came along (and later, Fox News and MSNBC).
Nothing could possibly rival the fax machine … until e-mail came along? And then RSS, Twitter and blogs.
Nothing could possibly rival the Palm Pilot … until Windows mobile Smartphones and the Blackberry came along.
Nothing could possibly rival the Walkman … until the iPod came along?
The music stores were indestructible, until Wal-Mart came along. Recently, iTunes replaced Wal-Mart at the top of retail music sales.
Yahoo, once the 500 lb gorilla in the internet world, is now garage sale material in the eyes of Microsoft and worse, Wall Street. One thing that is consistent about business is constant change. The power of the internet to force that change is even stronger.
But it isn’t just about big monster Fortune 500 and Inc 500 businesses. It happens in small business too. The long-time leader in the studio software business when I entered it was a DOS program… as late as 1998! A few years later, our software and others in the market had that owner moving into real estate sales. I’m sure you can look around in your market and tell similar stories.
When Wal-Mart started up, you can bet that Sears thought “Who do those guys think they are???” even though they had made Woolworth feel that way only a few decades earlier.
Rain Man was right about K-Mart, but it still took Wal-Mart to put them in their rightful place.
Do you think ABC/NBC/CBS felt they were unbeatable? Palm? Sony and their Walkman?
Complacency is a great weapon for an upstart newcomer. Complacency is dangerous, often deadly. Kmart is the role model for the “totally complacent, dont get it, have no clue” business.
Are you the big cheese in your business niche? Getting complacent, not adjusting to change (in fact, not PURSUING change) and (here it comes), not pursuing the slight edge CONSTANTLY is what keeps you out of trouble and forces your competition to constantly play catch up.
Yesterday, I was talking with a programmer friend about some new mobile technology. He said “My clients never asked me for that stuff.”
I told him it was his job to show his clients why they need to use the technology – if it really does offer them an edge.
If they have to ask for the new tool, it’s likely because a competitor is already there. Someone else is teaching clients about new tools in that market. That’s the player you want to be.
Dont play catch up. Be the lead dog with constant change, constant improvement and pursuit of the slight edge.