Why Blockbusters and Blackberry Failed

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Bill Gates once said that most people overestimate what they can achieve in 1 year but underestimate what they can achieve in 10 years.

Are you over or underestimating right now on what you can achieve in the remaining 359 days of the year? My guess is over but that’s only because it’s how I operate. Maybe you are different?

As we start another year, I wanted to be the bearer of some realistic news.

The fast-changing world in which we live owes you nothing. Zilch.

Last year could well have been a brilliant year for you but it means nothing now. It’s done. It is in the history books.

We have to start again and continue to earn the right to achieve success and this is a constant. Let me share a story with you which will reinforce that.

My Dad was a brilliant Sales Director. He ran a team of salespeople in the South West of the UK for some 20 years. He achieved significant revenue and profit targets month on month, year on year. He continued to evolve and change his approach over time and each year even though the targets grew, he hit them.

Until he hit a bad patch as he approached his 55th birthday. For whatever reason, he found it impossible to achieve targets for 4 months in a row and in 2 of those months he was way below (63% and 48%) the targets he had been set.

Guess what happened.

Yep, his company let him go. As it happens into an early retirement which he now is thankful for but even after hitting targets for over 127 months in a row (yes he made that happen!) when he hit a bad patch it counted for nothing. He got 4 months of grace and patience and then it was ‘Thanks for the efforts but see ya’.

It’s the same in sport.

Steve Cooper was until a few weeks ago the Football Manager of Nottingham Forest. You may not know the story but in simple terms, when he joined they were a failing club in the 2nd tier of British football. They were once a big club Forest but years of decline had caused them to become an also ran.

Cooper joined them and within 12 months had changed everything around. He got the team playing great football and managed to get promotion to the Premier League which was the dream for thousands of Forest fans and worth millions to the club! He was a rockstar! The man with the Midas touch. He was destined to be the Manager of the club for years surely.

Until that is when he started to have a tough time. When results didn’t appear as before, pressure started to mount. He wouldn’t get the sack though when he had achieved so much would he?

4 weeks ago, he was sacked by Nottingham Forest.

All of what he had done was forgotten. What mattered to the ultimate decision-makers was results NOW, and they had lost faith in Cooper.

Why am I sharing these stories with you and what connection does this have with buyers?

Because too many of us in business get complacent. We get too comfortable with our current positon. We think that because we got results previously, we will again.

We think that our buyers have stayed the same. We think that what worked before will work again. The world is littered with companies who felt the same thing.

John Antioco the ex CEO of Blockbuster was once offered the chance to partner with Netflix when his company was big and they were small. Reed Hastings (CEO of Netflix) offered him the chance to work together but he was complacent and years later he regretted it.

Blackberry didn’t take Steve Jobs seriously when he talked about creating a new device that could combine a phone with a device to hold songs. They owned the corporate market for handheld work devices but 10 years on, they are a footnote in the memory.

2024 can be the year that we want it to be but we have to avoid complacency.

We have to continue to be obsessive.

  • What are our buyer’s biggest challenges?
  • What frustrations does our buyer have with our marketplace?
  • What does our buyer think is an impossible issue to solve?
  • What stops our buyers from doing more business with us?
  • What is driving our buyer’s agenda right now? What sits on the top shelf of their priority list?
  • What will happen to our buyers if they can’t achieve what they want?


Before we really start to get back into the meat of 2024, give yourself some time to answer these and other questions that your buyer has.

Avoid the temptation to be complacent and think you know it all. Ask questions, do research, and dig into the mind of your buyer.

Avoid the urge to just ‘do what you have always done’.

You might get away with it and if the research you uncover says what you are doing right now is still what your buyer and market require, then great. Carry on.

I do not doubt that 359 days from now, the world we all live in will have changed once again dramatically. And I don’t want that change to have affected you for the worst in 2024.

Avoiding complacency doesn’t mean we can’t achieve what we want to but the savvy business owners and sales professionals aren’t sitting back. They are getting on the front foot. They are adapting. They are ensuring they can adapt and change their offering to meet an ever-changing world.

Don’t put your business, goals and plans for 2024 at risk.

As Andy Grove once said, “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds Failure. Only the paranoid survive”.

Be paranoid and obsessive about what your buyer and market require and 2024 will be a great year.



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