A Study In Unsuccessful Change-Blockbuster

When Blockbuster recently filed for bankruptcy, most people were not surprised. Stores had been closing for years, and rivals like NetFlix, Red Box and movies via internet had been grabbing market share for some time. I may even have to take my membership card off my key ring-especially since I haven't used it in about 8 years. What intrigues me is to look at Blockbuster's position in the market 5-10 years ago, and what happened to them-or should I say, they let happen to themselves.

Years ago, almost everyone who rented a video got it from Blockbuster or a local video store. Blockbuster was a household name. They had tremendous market share. But they got comfortable with where they were in the market. Development of new technologies cost money. New ways for people to view movies are risky when you don't know what the emerging "best choice" will be. BUT, as Blockbuster found out, it gets even harder to make those investments when you are losing money. In fact, it became even more critical for any new venture to pay off-because the money for such investments was dwindling.

Blockbuster's fall from the top highlights a key fact about change: The time to change is when things are good, not when they are bad. Mistakes can be absorbed and more easily corrected when the ledger sheet is in the black and not the red. At one time Blockbuster had a large following of people and could easily have used that following to test new ideas and build new markets. But when times are good, people often get comfortable. Innovation suffers.

The lesson for me in their pending demise is simply that I should never become content with anything-my business plan, my speaking style, my health and even my relationships. I should always be looking for ways to improve on any of these areas-especially when those areas are already doing well. Wait until things are suffering... and the cost of change can be too great to overcome-just ask the leaders at Blockbuster.

Jones LoflinComment