New York Times CEO Mark Thompson recently admitted something.
He admitted their print version faces inevitable “expiration.”
Yes, he said “expiration.”
As in running out of time.
Now, as a long ago paperboy (for an afternoon newspaper no less!), I felt a small but perceptible sting of nostalgia at this not entirely surprising news.
But what really caught my ear was that word “expiration.”
As in a business that, because of technology and changing customer preferences, is just running out of time.
Very unfortunately, when confronted with this kind of reality, too many executives and business owners react in exactly the wrong way.
They sit in a place of denial – refusing to admit, concede (or even research and understand) the drivers, consequences, and timeline of their business demise.
Or they waste precious time and energy in feeling sorry for themselves – boringly waxing on as to how things “used to be” before all of this “technology” and “those people” got on and ruined things.
Others are more functional, but sad and depressing in their own way.
They admit, like the New York Times CEO, that they face expiring pressures but then deceive themselves by placing that expiration date in the distant and unpredictable future – kicking the can down the road to be dealt with later, usually by someone else.
Or they “toe dip” with high promise business model innovations, yet weigh them down with the fixed overhead of their expiring parts.
Half measures like this are doomed to failure.
No, the only appropriate response to expiring business realities is quick, uncompromised and even heartless action.
In the case of the New York Times, that probably (and obviously), should take the form of discontinuing the paper’s print version immediately and not in “ten years or so” as currently planned.
In the case of most smaller businesses, it starts with a thorough audit of all expenses – rents and labor especially – and then matching those against sources of revenue to identify which are moving forward value-add and which are “legacy,” expiring and running out of time.
Now, conducting this cost and profit audit based on current marketplace and competitive realities can be money saving, but doing so on future, forecasted realities can be business saving.
For example, while a defensible argument can be made that many folks are still willing to pay quite a bit to put their hands on a physical newspaper, the economics of so doing are almost certain to continue to deteriorate, so why weigh down the rest of the enterprise to protect a part of it whose future is so bleak?
This is where business leaders become great — via their ability to forecast how things will be, and then harshly adjust today’s strategies and tactics to serve tomorrow’s realities and opportunities.
Expiration is the frightening flip side of technological innovation and change.
Watch-on painfully as it drives your demise…
…or use the threat of it to drive change and innovation at your business for the better.
Would you sell your company if the price was right?
If so, how much is the right price? And do you truly think you can get that?
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