The final moments of Borders Books, as it climbed past the temperature of burning paper made famous by Ray Bradbury, have been described as a poorly managed company’s failure to keep pace with technology. Don’t judge the entire book by that cover.
Recent company leadership, which ironically culminated with a former CEO from the smoldering cigarette industry, did make desperate moves which assured Borders would sell the one-chapter book called bankruptcy.
Earlier this year, as the company closed stores trying to survive, Michael S. Rosenwald wrote an overview of company history for the Washington Post. The back story proves that Borders is a cautionary tale for business at any level.
1. Getting Off Plan – Borders is a small, family owned business in 1971. The owners have a good concept in the right place. Throw in some ingenuity to develop inventory software that was contributing to early success.
Instead of developing the software fully and separately while maintaining the core business, it’s decided to expand in order to become the software’s best customer. Were the Borders brothers booksellers or developers? Trying to do both provided foreshadowing any author would notice.
2. Lack Of Planned Growth – The company grew quietly, but another misstep came during a rapid expansion phase. Growing for the sake of it without determining the cost certainly would weigh down Borders later on.
Faulty partnerships just piled on. A small business owner should seek partners that are like-minded and yet have dynamic views for smart growth. Equally flawed partners meant Borders surrendered autonomy and wasted time and money. This led to the stops and starts in technological development that would prove fatal.
3. Ignoring The Real Problem – A failing business will find anything to divert attention from its real problems. The small business owner that throws money at unplanned marketing, opening locations or wild changes to their offerings is set for a “Grand Closing.”
The operational plan begets marketing. Empty execution and expansion in hope of reaching profit margins doesn’t help solve the reasons that profit was declining in the first place.
Or, to paraphrase the final awareness of Bradbury’s main character in “451” Guy Montag, business owners that use and maintain the substance in their head ensures success that no fire can consume.
Trying to get your ideas above room temperature, connect with Glenn Kass at http://www.catchdriver.com. You can also find Catch Driver on Facebook (www.facebook.com/catchdrivermarketing) or follow on Twitter (@CatchDriverMktg).