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Evolution

British actor Craig Charles is credited as the person who famously said, “Evolve or die.” This quote is most often attributed to business. A company has to continuously evaluate its position in the marketplace and when needed, shift strategy to grow – and in some cases to merely survive. A company that exemplifies this concept is one that we lean on at our house almost daily. Amazon.


People may forget that Amazon was founded in 1994 as an online book seller. Just books. That’s it. Over time, Jeff Bezos’ company evolved into something quite different. Bezos’ original vision was to eventually sell compact discs, computers, and videos. But books is where is all started. Today you can buy millions of items from flowers on Mother’s Day to a 27-inch red Easton baseball bat (14 ounces) for our son Brock’s little league season. You can also join Amazon Prime and have nearly anything you need delivered overnight at no extra charge.


Today’s Amazon is far different than the online bookstore they started 30 years ago. They have evolved into more than a retail outlet. They have become a multi-faceted mega company that has a market value of nearly $2 trillion. Trillion, with a capital T. They even broadcast the NFL’s Thursday night games. From books to streaming to free same day or overnight shipping. Amazon is the definition of corporate evolution.


This week’s Monday Huddle Up isn’t all about Amazon. We wanted to reflect back and think about those whose journey was, let’s say, lacking a forward thinking strategy. Here are a few companies that didn’t progress over time.


  • Blackberry – Their focus on hardware over technology brought Blackberry down. Companies that focused on the user experience and tech applications to improve people’s lives (see Apple) won out.

  • Blockbuster – Services like Redbox and later video streaming made larger bricks and mortar stores obsolete. Blockbuster went from 9,000 stores down to just one almost overnight.

  • Sears/JC Penney/Kmart – Retail big boxes are vacant all over the country. Better physical retail concepts came to market (Costco, Sam’s, Walmart) and online options like Amazon became the norm. The traditional retail marketplace evaporated, and the largest companies in the space did little to try and survive.


Here is one more. A future prediction…..

  • Direct TV – They didn’t get into the streaming marketplace until recently. Their hardware focused business was nearly entirely reliant on carrying the NFL Sunday Ticket. Once that was lost to another provider (You Tube TV), they became irrelevant. We would bet that the end is near for this company.


By the time these companies realized they were in a battle, the war was already over. So the lesson for all of us today is this.


What changes are coming to the environment that you operate within? If you are not the market disruptor like Amazon became, how will you react to inevitable change?


My favorite economics teacher in college used to recite a quote from Greek philosopher Heraclitus, “The only thing that is constant, is change.”


Change is coming. Be ready to evolve. Or better yet, BE the change. BE the evolution in your industry.


It’s better than the alternative.

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