How to Keep Your Company From Falling Behind? Leadership Development and the Power of Anticipation

Written by on April 19, 2017

A company that sells a product that can be substituted by another product or service is in danger of losing marketing share to outside market influences. You have to understand what is happening outside of your industry if you are going to be able to anticipate changes. Losers react, leaders anticipate.

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For 244 years Encyclopedia Britannica was iconic for one simple product, the printing of volumes of information into books that were usually sold door to door. They were considered the premiere choice for those looking to be able to access information at their fingertips. For over 200 years, editorial revisions were extremely manual and mechanical. It took at least a year for every new addition, many times multiples of years.

The peak of encyclopedia sales was 1990. Britannica employed over 2,000 salespeople and sold over 100,000 units in the US alone. In 1991 the personal computer entered the mainstream. The PC started shipping with a CD version of an encyclopedia. This should have been the death blow to the company. But they saw the proverbial writing on the wall long before the actual bomb dropped.

In 1970 the forward thinking editors and execs had just finished loading the contents of the encyclopedia on a mainframe computer to streamline the editing process. They realized right then and there that eventually the material that they sold in printed form would eventually be offered in digital format. They saw the threat to their door-to-door model and were able to see the substitution of product prior to the threat.

In the 80s, even while the printed model was booming, they continued to experiment with the digital model. When the internet took hold, they were already poised to move their purpose, product and company in a different direction. By doing so, their company has seen a 17% annual growth over the past 5 years and a 95% renewal rate from their new subscription model. They realized that they weren’t an encyclopedia company but a reference company. They have turned into a complete learning business. The last print version was the 32-volume 2010 edition, which weighed 129 pounds and included new entries such as global warming and the Human Genome Project.

You have to ask yourself, what substitutions of product are out there that can cause your company to stumble? How do you limit your company’s growth by having a purpose that may become outdated or no longer useful in the future? What can your company do to prepare for the road ahead? Do you have a way for your company or brand to anticipate the road ahead? What are 3 things you can do today that will align your company for a more strategic position tomorrow?

It doesn’t have to be such a abrupt shift as people aren’t using your entire product so your whole business model must change. It might be the way you are serving the client. It might be some new tech coming down the pipe that will allow you to impact them at a higher level. How are you constantly growing in a way that is meaningful for your client? What are the rivers of information you are accessing to give even more impact for those around you?


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