If at first you don’t succeed, F*** it

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Amazon is coming and they will force this upon you if there is any weakness in your business model. Why not pre-empt it?

If you want to have a successful, sustainable business, you need to make strategic moves that effectively flips your business.  This is true not just inretail, but in any business.

Let me explain what it looks like for a business to f*** over.

Those who never flipped

  • Kodak did not become Flickr
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica did not become Wikipedia
  • Dymocks did not become Amazon
  • Siemens did not become Apple
  • Cabcharge did not become Uber
  • Holiday Inn did not become AirBnB
  • Blockbuster did not become Netflix
  • Sony did not become Spotify

Those who flipped successfully

  • PayPal – once was into cryptography
  • AOL – once was into Video on Demand
  • Twitter – once was into Podcast Delivery
  • Avon – once was into selling books door to door
  • Nokia – once was a Paper Mill
  • AirBnB – once was a temporary accommodation for conference goers
  • Netflix - once was into mail order DVDs

Take Netflix for example

They launched as a DVD mail-order business.

Then they jumped the curved and ‘flipped’ their business model to get into streaming

Now they are getting into direct creative production

What Netflix did is irrelevant for your retail business. Except to understand and appreciate the scale and the disruption and the commitment.

They were a successful DVD mail order business and was overtaking Blockbuster. To go into the content streaming business required a fundamental (paradigmatic) shift in business model, skills, cash flow, technology, customers, marketing - on almost every level they have to change.

They are going through another iteration now in becoming primary entertainment producers. And they will have such rich data about what exactly people like to watch, they are bound to have more successes than failures.

(I won’t be surprised if Netflix starts offering services  to their customer base. I am thinking email, home automation, internet of things applications etc would all be within reach, and they clearly are developing the cultural capacity to ride the curves.)

The critical success factors

One: A cultural capacity (willingness + ability) for change.

Two: The strategic skills to identify the right flips to make

Each of those are separate topic to explore in their own right, but in brief just a few points on each:

1  Culture Change:

It is not an objective you can delegate to a subordinate. Whilst someone may be tasked with project management, the CEO and directors have to demonstrably own it, live it and be willingly measured against its success failure.

To succeed at change, you have to understand the systems archetypes in business, and how your structure is connected to your strategy, the staff to the skills, the finances to the systems and so forth.

2. Strategic Flips

Imagine the stages of the lifecycle. (Some brief notes here.)

It does not matter what business you have, it is not that unique and I guarantee that you currently find yourself in SOME stage of the lifecycle. The trick is to make the plans, take the decisions about a new, scary future before it is upon you.  

The challenge is often that the decisions and the short-term results are not in the interests of the current management AND the outcomes are not guaranteed, so there is little cultural incentive to take the plunge. Refer to challenge #1 above.

The key issue is this: working on your flipping strategy should be an ongoing focus.

So the question is: Are you currently working on a strategic f*** over?

If not, the future is as predictable as the shape of a lifecycle curve.

DENNIS PRICE: CO-FOUNDER AT WWW.YEARONE.SOLUTIONS