In 1889, George Eastman founded camera company Eastman Kodak. Selling inexpensive cameras while making a tidy profit on film, Kodak rose to capture 90% of the film sales market, and 85% of the camera sales market by 1976. Unfortunately, Eastman Kodak’s commanding lead in the camera space led the company to become less innovative. It overestimated film, underestimated digital, and was totally blindsided by the cameraphone revolution, which made digital cameras practically ubiquitous.
On January 19, 2012, Kodak filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection.
On February 9, 2012, it exited the camera business.
A very popular quote is one by Wayne Gretzky: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Steve Jobs, a tech leader who always kept one eye toward the future, was particularly fond of this quote. Others have followed it; Netflix, for example, looked into the future and saw the Internet as a streaming distribution channel for movies. So much, in fact, that company incorporated “Net” into its name with that goal in mind.
If you’re the owner of a successful business, one of the most important things you can do is think of a way for that success to continue years down the road.
Let’s say you own a TV repair company. What happens if TVs become so inexpensive that replacing a broken TV is cheaper than repairing it? What if the fail rate on TVs reach astronomical lows? What if people stop watching TV altogether and move to their tablets and mobile devices for entertainment? Serving the present needs of your customers while preparing for the future might keep your business afloat in a future where TV repair isn’t in as much demand. Maybe you’ll start training your staff on how to repair tablets and mobile devices. Maybe you’ll move in an entirely different direction. But the fact that you’re moving at all means you aren’t standing still, which is how a lot of once-great companies have met their end.
Take some time and jot down a few ideas for the future of your business. Imagine that your industry has been flipped on its ear. How would you continue to be successful?