Keep the Change

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Friends,

Don’t you wish you could just tell them: “Keep the change?!” But it just keeps coming, faster than death or taxes. In leadership, you’ve got to look for change and work to help others see it…though they’d rather you just keep the change.

It’s sad to watch Borders sucked down the vortex of liquidation.  If there was one general principle that doomed them it was their terrific inability to adapt to change. They passed up the challenge and opportunity of the the internet by turning their product over to Amazon in 2001. They didn’t jump on the eReader bandwagon until the Kobo came out in early 2010. They bought Waldenbooks, the juggernaut of the big malls of the ’70s and ’80s, instead of moving into the millennium. As their cost structure got impossibly upside down they found themselves stuck with many leased properties with 15 year terms. They were heavy and slow.

I try to avoid easy judgments of others. I’ve made too many mistakes, and my life has been pretty simple and blessed. I don’t castigate Borders because I could have done better, or to make you and me feel better. I raise them because they stand for the principle that should be so obvious us to us in our time: Change or Die.

America is IN a time of massive change. Not if, not maybe, not soon, now. And it’s not slowing. It will affect both our taxes and our government benefits. Change IS happening to newspapers. To churches. To schools. To medicine and health care. To how we communicate with each other. To how we learn. Men are changing – and must. Families are changing.

What can you do?

First, refuse to close your eyes. Do not expect that your company or even your industry will be in five years what it looks like today. Second, look out ahead. Ask people: Where do you see change coming?  Third, ask:  who’s doing it better than us? (Amazon, Wal-Mart, Apple, somebody across the hall from you, somebody in a different field altogether, your 13 year old on the computer.)  Fourth, develop skills for different possibilities of what’s ahead. Fifth, know that technology will keep changing things and you can’t ignore it.

In some ways, Borders situations WAS simple: people were buying stuff in different ways and places, primarily online and at lower costs.  So, whoever’s buying your stuff – be it education, wisdom, coffee, salad, or legal services – you better pay attention to just where and just how they’re buying it.  You have to change if you’re going to

Lead with your best self,

Dan