If you are a corporate director, manager, vice president, even a CEO or CTO and you subscribe to every possible thing you can, including Gartner, Nielsen, Google, Forbes & Fortune Magazine, Wall Street Journal, NYT, Fox, CBS, NBC, Vice, you may think you can foresee the future in your industry. But you are still pretty much blind. When you are a big, you will never think like a small. Even the massive data you collect in your cloud-based systems can not prepare you for what ultimately will crush your industry.
Major disruptions to the business world are usually like an earthquake, not like a hurricane. A hurricane you can see coming at you slowly. An earthquake happens without warning.
But an earthquake does not work like that. They try to come up with all kinds of earthquake detection systems. The experts say it is more and more likely, but nobody ever really knows when. The big difference is by the time the earthquake is happening, it was too late to plan. You are in trouble. That is what a real business disruption is like. It’s about processes, new players and flipping the models that hit hard and fast and completely change the game! Look at Uber. Look at the cab business. Even if Uber was predictable in the cab hailing business and you saw Uber coming, the industry would have said, no, not going to happen! But it did.
Let’s face it, when you are in a big organization, and you are suddenly competing with a startup that somehow got a foothold, you work differently than the startup. And other than using a big stick like a monopoly, the answer is often not innovation but usually mimicking the competitor and trying to out perform the startup on either cost or performance. As a corporate person we were slow to meet and make decisions. As a startup person, we worked tirelessly.
So, you need to look at what you do each day at work and say to yourself, wow, what could happen in this industry to quickly change things to the point where the disruption has completely changed how the industry fundamentally works. Will it happen? You may say never. But it will. Trust me on that. It will happen.
Barriers To Exit
Years ago, the team I am working with now worked at abc distributing, a massive print catalog company. I used to joke that they could never disappear or go out of business because they were so stupid they did not know how to go out of business, but their day would come. Even great barriers to exit, like having millions of customers like an AOL, did not help AOL in the end. Even AOL itself could not help itself. And trust me, in the business world at the time AOL was the Google or Microsoft! A barrier to exit is a real thing that keeps you in business because you have a monopoly, a contract or just a big hurdle competitors need to get over. But trust me, they are working on climbing those hurdles now.
Barrier To Exit are real. The phone company, Verizon, has built a moat, that they rebuild over and over again to keep from going away. And they are serious. They play to keep. They have learned in past iterations that the disruption is coming so they simply invest in the next thing that comes along, regardless if it will make it or not. They know they have to keep reinvesting and starting a new or they will have no future. Even their Barriers To Exit are not fool proof. What I am saying is great companies invest in startups and don’t crush them. Companies that survive adapt and join with the startups in creating the future. Keeping the startup/innovators out, ends up being their achilles heal.
Lack of Innovation
Simply sitting still and not innovating is surely the reason companies end up leaving a way for the new competitors to disrupt. I sat through an amazing presentation recently which described an ongoing business situation where millennials are completely changing their habits that are impactful enough that the world will never be the same. Instead of buying services in normal storefronts, millennials are traveling to food-trucks, veterinarians on wheels, car cleaning, home cleaning and other services. In fact, the whole concept of going to either a doctor, vet, or anyplace may become a relic. They were also saying that millennials will take a picture of their illness and put it online to get feedback before going to the doctor. This disruption is happening faster and faster. In fact, before we notice it, pop up stores and pop up trucks will be lining our streets in every plaza, undermining the status quo. (Thanks to Karen Herman for her book that stresses these ongoing changes) I look at these pop up trucks and the ultimate ender of many shopping and local services. After Wal-Mart and Amazon, there is not much left at the plaza nearby, and these pop up services are once again a dagger in the chest to fixed building local businesses.
I will be the first to admit in my business, when I stopped innovating, we started to slide downward. I am reversing that slide, but we are also in a whole new world, with different types of competitors. Let’s face it, innovation is the long term killer of monopolies. Take that Google, you too will see your day in the sun.
The Glass Office
As you sit in your executive office, you must be wondering, what the hell is Dan talking about. As your industry conquers, how is it possible to have a mid-night competitor who is working a tunnel right under your nose and not see it. Well, for one, big corporations do not know how to act as a startup. They never will. The entire fortune of the big corporation is dependent on how they can streamline and create repetitive ways of producing revenue. Their business is cost reduction and scaling, not innovation. Just recently I was at a Kmart as it closed. It was the last Kmart in my area. I probably will not see another one in a while. And it was clear their corporate culture set the stage for what would become a collapse. It was inevitable. And don’t take the blame if you sit in the corner office running a big corporation. Whether you like it or not, you are in the next dinosaur in the evolution; you just don’t know it yet. And it is best to accept you are already dead. Now start building from the bottom. Call me if you want, I like the bottom and startups where all the action lies.
I will give you my short list of companies that will not survive the next 10 years. Please add to my list. If you work at any of these companies, all I can say is “Never Quit The Night Job” and if you don’t have a night job, get one!
Office Depot, Sears/Kmart, Winn-Dixie, Pizza Hut, Bed Bath and Beyond, Macys.
I do have one thing to promote. I have joined the world of podcasting. I say that because I am going to the gym 4 days a week and podcasting is now my thing. I am listening to my favorites like Zero to Travel and Marc Maron, so eventually I started to interview and record my own podcasts about tech startups and the startup world with my StartupPOP Brand especially in Boca Raton and South Florida in general. Here is a link to a recent StartupPOP Podcast about Mark Laymon and Smart Crypto Cafe in West Palm Beach on Clematis Street. If you would like to be on my podcast, contact me. I am looking for startups that are local to south Florida, but I will interview one somewhere else in the US, if it is interesting enough. Have a great day. Dan