By Aiman Attar
We are living in interesting times to say the least. We have seen the rise and fall of many businesses that had funding and were fiscally strong in a booming economy but did not foresee a future like this. None of us saw this coming and it has thrown us quite the curve ball.
This has certainly made me re-think my business model and my business strategy. Amidst all the chaos and noise, it has also made me question myself as a parent, as a neighbour and as a business owner. One thing was clear, the agitation caused a clear distinction between those that will withstand the test versus others that will close their doors forever.
I have been studying businesses intently to learn from their pitfalls and short-sightedness, seeking to understand why some will soar, while others sink.
The main difference between a thriving business and a failing one is one’s ability to evolve and adapt quickly to market shifts, instead of waiting for the market to return to normal.
We do not have to look very far back. One goliath business that took a huge nosedive was Blockbuster. They boasted 84,000 employees and 9,000 stores that dominated the market. With the advent of the online movie service Netflix in 1997, their business model quickly became extinct. Marc Randolph, co-founder of Netflix, says Amazon offered to purchase their business in 2000, while Blockbuster CEO John Antioco laughed at Netflix’s proposal to sell their business to Blockbuster. And because Netflix and Amazon have continually evolved their business model and offering with the fast-changing demands of the consumer and technology, they have risen to top, and Blockbuster is now nowhere to be found.
Another example that I was a part of as a consumer and as a contractor was Blackberry – 80 million users worldwide including high-profile names all vanished over night. They held on to the physical keyboard as their main selling feature along with Blackberry Messenger while ignoring the smartphone features that iPhone brought to the market at the time. Once touted as one of the best phones for businesses and commercial users, Blackberry quickly lost momentum due to bull headedness and lack of innovation. Alas, Canada finally had its tech company that had the world watching us. Though what seemed like one fiasco after another, Blackberry leadership succeeded only in making one kerfuffle after another that was noticed by countries and corporations, leading to its market share dropping so severely that they remained with only 0.2 per cent market share in 2016.
As retail stores re-open, Microsoft just announced that it will be closing all its retail stores worldwide and moving to an online only service. Pay attention to what others are doing.
So, what can we learn from all of this?
- Do not assume that if you are No. 1 today or have been No. 1 for the past decade that you will remain in that position when the market shifts. If your business is not evolving to match the ever changing demands of the industry, you are no different than Blockbuster.
- A rising new star, whose ideas and innovation is unheard of today, may quickly change how business gets done. Be open to evolving your own business to adapt or consider merging or acquiring other businesses that are quickly gaining market share. If you can’t beat them, join them.
- Do not wait for things to pass. Something as big and bad as COVID-19 will not pass. Nowhere in the history of the world economy was there ever a global lockdown because of a flu, war or alien invasion. Hibernating at the cottage or riding it out until it passes is as foolish as thinking things will go back to normal. Social distancing, face masks, work-at-home, online education…. this is the new normal.
In the past three months, I have witnessed teams and brokerages that quickly adapted their business model. Work from home, virtual home visits, Zoom meetings and so much more quickly became front and centre in the day-to-day operation of their real estate business.
What does that tell you about their leadership?
It tells us that they are visionaries who reverse engineer their goals and understand how to get there. They have unwavering integrity, morals and ethics along with the “IT” factor needed to lead during chaos. This is not only ingenuity but passion for success that gives them the edge.
More importantly, they are open to taking consultative advice, not just by hearing it but by listening and applying it. That is what makes them stand out. If you want to survive, you do exactly as Bruce Lee said: “Be like water”, which is adapting to the times and being any shape that is conducive to thriving in any market.