Built to Last or Built to Limp?

Jim Collins and co-author Porras wrote the bestseller Built to Last in 1994. (The phrase was also the title of the 13th and final album of the Grateful Dead, recorded in 1989). That book, over 15 years ago encapsulated the “successful habits of visionary companies’, assumably the ones that would win forever, or at least a very long time.

Since then, we have discovered that few things last forever. Change is the new constant. Businesses are NOT built to last. Those companies that realize that are fortunate because they are able to tweak or even redefine their business models every so often to ensure they are built to last at least the next five years.

The redefinition of built to last IS the result of astute visionary leaders who recognize early warning signs that it is time to reassess and revise their products, services and approaches to the market. In other words, those who do strategic planning in a dynamic and deliberate manner. That is the new Built to Last. It is not a model, it is a management practice. Is your company built to last? When is the last time you took a hard look at your business model?

According to Vault.com, here are 10 dying industries. They have experienced declines from 25% to 77% over the last decade and are expected to continue to drop:

  1. Apparel Manufacturing
  2. Mills
  3. Video Post-production
  4. Costume and Formal wear rental
  5. Newspaper Publishing
  6. DVD, game and video rental
  7. Wired telecommunications
  8. Photo finishing
  9. Record stores
  10. Manufactured Home Dealers

It isn’t the product or service that has eroded, it is the method of delivery. The question is, what company is delivering it–the orginal giant or a new start up that figured it out first? Survival requires change. Companies who are reluctant to walk away from what is no longer working, of re-inventing themselves, will suffer.

So more interesting stats:

  • 50% of companies have been around 10 years or more and those companies employ over 70% of the work force. These companies need to be seriously assessing their market viability; perhaps that is one of the reasons unemployment remains low.
  • In the last decade firm births exceed firm deaths–but barely with the net change varying from a -17,140 to a +87,870. Companies are not able to sustain themselves, but are replaced.
  • The oldest existing companies in the world were founded between 578-1299. Over 1/3 of these companies are hotels. Do you think the hotels have not upgraded their models? Needs don’t change but how it is delivered needs to.
  • The oldest commercial company in the US was founded in 1655 per Wikipedia and is Emery Farm. Followed by Seaside Inn and Cottages in 1667, White Horse Tavern in 1673, Sunderskill Farm in 1680 and Towle Silversmith in 1690.

What are you doing to be sure you are built to last and not built to limp?

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