Once an iconic presence in my life, Toys R us was the “go to” toy source when my now college junior was in search of the perfect birthday gift or ideas for his Christmas list. I remember walking the aisles with him in search of the best action figure or latest toy as seen on television. Each year, we would take his Christmas list, fight the crowds, and stand in long lines to spend money at this now dead company. It seemed like every friend’s birthday party was preceded by a trip to Toys R Us to find a cool toy. To be brutally honest, I am saddened but not surprised at the passing of another corporate megabiz.
How do these one-time business giants fall so hard and so fast? And more importantly, how do we avoid the same fate with our businesses? How can successful executives be so blind to inevitable failure? These questions should be asked in offices and boardrooms world-wide. We can all learn from the passing of another industry market leader.
I am blessed serve as chairman for an amazing group of CEOs and we are constantly searching for ways to future proof our companies. Toys R Us will be a centerpiece discussion in our next board meeting. A business has seven different life cycle stages: Seed, Start-Up, Growth, Established, Expansion, Mature and Exit. There are internal and external factors that impact an enterprise at each stage. Surprisingly, companies seem to be most at-risk during the mature stage because executives often become complacent and arrogant about the competitive reality. Following are 3 strategies to avoid the same fate:
One last gift from Toys R Us is the incentive to make your company adaptable to the future. As CEOs, we develop blind spots and see the world through our own filters. The difficulty comes from our inability to see or understand any alternative reality. My board has established disruption as the group theme for 2018. We will challenge each other to disrupt both our processes and our markets. I encourage readers to surround themselves with others that do not have our blind spots and are not immersed in our way of doing business. You must have people in your life that will tell you that your business is not sustainable, because you cannot see this for yourself. We all need people that will grab us by the shoulders, look us in the eye, and say people are not going to keep coming to your stores to buy toys. What if someone told this to the Toys R Us CEO a few years ago? Even worse, what if someone did?