Today’s business rags are filled with stories about mega-businesses that have fallen on hard times. J.C. Penney, Best Buy, Sony, Nintendo and Yahoo are in various forms of distress, with many predicting some of these brands won’t be around to celebrate 2015.
That’s debatable, but the common thread running through these stories is a failure to innovate and adapt to the present. JCP and Best Buy have clung to aging models based on brick and mortar stores in a world of Amazon Prime and Zappos. Sony, Nintendo and Yahoo largely got off the innovation train when their businesses reached their previous peaks.
What comes to mind when you think of Sony? For me, it’s TVs, stereo equipment, the Walkman, black headphones and the PlayStation franchise. Excluding the PS4, which is built upon a smart, modern business model, many of the company’s once-titanic product lines have become commodities produced by cheapest-possible manufacturers — little to no profit has been the result. Few companies are making money on TVs or laptops anymore.
Nintendo isn’t in much better shape, but there’s hope. Its Wii U console failed to maintain the success of the Wii. It wasn’t a big enough jump ahead of the original Wii everybody loved, and now game developers are abandoning the platform. Gamers want Mario on their phones and tablets, but the company has stubbornly clung to its proprietary hardware business. Nintendo can’t capitalize on the fondness for Double Dragon, Castlevania, Mega Man or Super Contra if they’re not widely accessible.
As long as Nintendo lives in the past — a world where the money is made on the console, not subscriptions to game titles — it will continue fading away. And what a loss that would be for children of the ‘80s — myself included. I’ve got my wallet right here, waiting.
And then there’s Best Buy. Last time I dropped by to buy a computer, my salesperson lost all politeness after I declined the extended service agreement. I’m not sure what should be done with this company, but I hope it involves a nice family out in the country.
So what’s the lesson here? Ferris Bueller said it first: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I’m not advocating boarding up the dealership or marina and calling it a day, but constantly challenge yourself and your team to do things better, grow your skills and do what your customers are doing.
Take time to stop, look around and think about these things. If customers want to reserve a pontoon or drool over a new boat on their phones, rather than in person, you better give them that option.
Is it possible to offer tech support using Apple’s FaceTime? You bet it is, and it’s free.
There are expensive innovations and cheap ones. Innovate on whatever scale you can afford, as long as it’s a true reflection of what your customers want. If you ignore their wishes, they will ignore you — and they’ll do it in a flash.