History is full of the names of companies that were once highly successful but fell by the wayside. Whether it is a video store like Blockbuster, a retailer like Toys R Us, a carmaker like General Motors or even an airline like Pan Am, the lessons of failure are there to be learned.
Your company may not yet have reached the heights such names once ascended to and it may never plan to, especially if your market is a little more niche than something like, for instance, children’s toys (which is of interest to all kids and their parents).
Nonetheless, if you have made progress since starting up you will know what success looks like. The question is whether you can spot the potential for failure.
This is important because if you start to find your profits are down and your market share is falling, you need to ask why. It could be, of course, that the economy has declined and it is true that in a downturn most businesses will find the going tougher. But that is not usually the reason firms fail; those who go under in recessions tend to be weak to start with.
It may be that your company has stopped doing the things that made it successful in the first place, such as continually coming up with new ideas, or perhaps the level of customer service you have provided has deteriorated. In such cases, going ‘back to basics’ is the most important step you can take.
However, it may be that none of these things apply and what you really require is a business model refresh. This situation will arise if the way you have done things that used to work is no longer fit for purpose, because your competitors have found new and better ways of offering goods and services that meet the needs and wants of customers more effectively.
Many of the major firms that failed did so because they refused to change their business model. For instance, Blockbuster stuck with the idea that people might leave their homes to walk or drive down to a store, hire a physical video or DVD, take it home, watch it and then bring it back. All this continued while the likes of Netflix offered first postal and then online streaming services.
Even when Blockbuster did try to alter their model, it did not take the necessary steps. It planned its own fibre-optic streaming service, but did not invest in technology that worked. It could have bought Netflix out in 2000 but neglected to do so. These steps left it vulnerable to Netflix taking away its market share.
Technological advances may be one of the most obvious reasons your model will have to change, but it is not alone. You might also need to factor in new consumer tastes, embrace popular causes or respond to ethical concerns.
That means you need to be willing to keep researching – or reading the research carried out by others – to see which markets are diminishing and what are growing. By being observant enough to spot when you need to adapt and flexible enough to do so fully, you can update your business model to give your enterprise the best chance of continued success.