The Problem with Entrenched Success

Posted by on Jul 2, 2011 in DOOH, Insight

“There is nothing more vulnerable than entrenched success.” –George Romney, President of American Motors 1948-1962

Words of wisdom 60 years ago, prophetic now. Automakers–like those in Romney’s industry–are feeling the resulting consequence of their “entrenched success.” Most of us are overwhelmingly familiar with these more current happenings–it’s all we hear in the headlines. Our industry is no exception. While the pompously inflated press releases continue to engage in “pufferfish” practices, there is still individual “fall-out” and “shake-out.” We saw it this last week with the unfortunate liquidation of Electrograph. Even more disheartening are those who continue to paint the facade, whilst the building lights have been turned off. I am sincere when I express my feelings of pity for those that so struggle. Such is business, such is life.

“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed. [The fact is] most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise…Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride”

While we all must necessarily “roll with the punches,” we also must realize the only place appropriate to sit still is in a pile of quicksand. Adaptation, education, and “elbow grease” are the business qualities needed to restrain the wolf who sits patiently at the door. Many of you know of what I speak. I wrote a post some time ago about the lack of truly qualified leads for the industry’s thousands of companies. If you don’t believe there are that many, visit our directory. Consequently, our destinies are inextricably tied to one another, whether we like it or not. And if we can learn to adapt together and work together, our innovations and forward advances will manifest our industry advancement more rapidly from adolescence to mature adulthood. Without such mutual cooperation fierce competition reigns, progress is damned and few will be left with chairs when the dust clears and the music stops.

Those of us performing a “shake-up” during the industry “shake-out” are seeing firsthand the effects of obsequious adherence to sometimes inefficient and wasteful tradition. It is difficult for some to learn that those who go against the grain are often swimming in deep water. However, leaders of innovation and change must expect (and sometimes welcome) brow-beating resistance to congealed and institutionalized methodologies. In other words, they swim in deep water because they are wont to do so. I read a great book a couple years back entitled, The Miracle at Philadelphia. The book is excellent! It illustrates how, at our country’s birth, individual agendas were necessarily compromised for the greater good. The following quote illustrates some of the emotions of the time:

It was like Madison to declare that the situation was too serious for despair.  It was like Washington, too, of whom the British historian Trevelyan was to write that he “had learned the inmost secret of the brave, who train themselves to contemplate in mind the worst that can happen and in thought resign themselves — but in action resign themselves never!”

Those brave enough to resist tradition, work with the so-called competition, accept and adapt to criticism (both constructive and destructive), and “cowboy up” when things get rough will not only have a seat when the music stops but friends in the seats around them. I do not consider myself ignorant, but we all still have a lot to learn. Even veteran and signage guru Lyle Bunn made the insightful statement to one of our salesman at DSE, “we’re all still in school, my friend.” Accordingly the following list expresses some “sure fire” things I have learned in my short sojourn on Earth:

1. I’m not as cool as I think I am.

2. No one is going to care as much as I do.

3. When my boss is angry at me, I’ve done something wrong.

4. When my competition is angry at me, I’ve done something right.

Digital signage is adapting rapidly, for both enterprise and SMB. However entrenched the industry may currently seem or eventually become, will you have the wherewithall to adapt, change, and work with one another? Or, will we all unfortunately be left blind and toothless by our “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” doctrine?

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