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  • Writer's pictureRobert Stevenson

We’re All Vulnerable

Robert Stevenson Blog - Companies that don't exist anymore

I’m preparing to deliver a program next week, and the CEO of the company I’m speaking to, identified several topics he wanted me to discuss, placing particular emphasis on one issue. He said, “Rob, we can’t rest on our laurels. We have been very successful, and I don’t want our employees to think we are invulnerable. Can you make sure they understand we have to fight every day to maintain our success?”

Some of you might not be familiar with the phrase, “Rest on our laurels.” In ancient Greece, laurel wreaths were awarded to the winning athletes. Later, laurel wreaths were awarded to signify other victories and honors. Rest on one’s laurels means to be satisfied with one’s past accomplishments and not put forth any further efforts.  

There are countless stories of great companies who thought they were invulnerable and rested on their laurels. Here are a few examples: Sears, Blockbuster, Kodak, Radio Shack, Nokia, Xerox, Service Merchandise, Sharper Image, Bethlehum Steel, Texaco, Kmart, Polaroid and Enron. In the financial arena, business is extremely competitive. In 1969 there were 23,866 Credit Unions … today there are 6,000. 75% are gone through consolidations, mergers, acquisition and failure. The same is true for banks. 72% of the banks are gone since their peak in 1984; 196 banks closed last year.

Walmart is getting into the convenience store business, so lookout 7-Eleven. Just because you are big doesn’t guarantee you will be around next year. And it is not just “resting on your laurels” that will destroy you. Technology is terminating companies, industries and professions. Landlines used to be in 9 of every 10 families’ homes. That number has been cut in half according to a report last year from Forbes.

Print journalism publishers have been dying at alarming rates. The problem? The internet is more accessible, easier to navigate, and mostly free. Once upon a time, the newspaper and magazine industry, was one of the largest employers in America. No more. New research shows that over 2,000 newspapers have closed in the last 15 years. Circulation of daily newspapers has dropped to a 77-year low. This is signaling a drastic shift to all-digital delivery, according to industry analysts.

Technology has greatly affected map making, bookstores, video stores, the music industry, travel agents, translators, stockbrokers, bank tellers, postal workers, pilots, teachers, libraries, tax accountants, and job recruiters. The 3D printing technology is expected to change nearly every industry it touches, completely disrupting the traditional manufacturing process.

In the next 10 years 40% of the Fortune 500 companies will be gone. Achievements, reputations, innovative products or services, and market shares, can all vanish if you aren’t careful. The only REST I recommend is:

R- Responsive to Market Changes

E- Exceptional products and service

S- Satisfying Customers

T- Transforming into what your customers want & need


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