February 2, 2009

Good to Great?

So I was having a conversation with blogging buddy Ben Martin and ASAE Volunteer Relations Manager "DJ" Johnson on a recent trip to DC for an ASAE meeting, and we began discussing Circuit City and its demise. (Ben works out of Richmond where Circuit City is/was based.) He pointed out that they were actually a Good to Great company in Jim Collins' book, which took me a little off guard.

Really? A company that has begun liquidating was listed in this 2001 book as being one of the best companies in the country? It's amazing that it happened so quickly, but as Ben pointed out in our conversation, it wasn't that surprising.

Circuit City was slow to innovate and even slower to see that its competitors were beating its brains out by doing things more simply - having the merchandise on the shelves instead of in the back... You could walk up, pick up a DVD player, walk to the register and check out at Best Buy, while at Circuit City you would have to take a ticket, have an employee go to the back to find it, bring it back to you, and THEN you could check out. It was the convergence of convenience and simplicity, something that Circuit City FINALLY got, but it was too late.

So, I was thinking about that conversation, and about how we in associations should look at Circuit City's demise... Below are a couple thoughts I had:

Be Vigilant - If our associations are vigilant and see what we're up against in terms of competitors to our markets, we have a good chance of not meeting the same fate as Circuit City. However, being vigilant is not only about watching what our competitors are doing. It's also about knowing what our members are looking for, and figuring out how we can provide it simply and effectively.

Be Agile - Our associations need to be agile, which means that we need to be willing and able to change course if in our vigilance, we determine it's necessary. Agility is something that is not easy to master, especially with clunky strategic plans that are often five years or longer in length, but it is really a necessity.

Innovate Regularly - A failure to innovate is a failure to be great. The Circuit City situation is a bit of a cautionary tale of a once-great company failing to innovate and in the end failing to provide the value to its customers. It can also be a learning experience in that if we aren't innovating, we're essentially losing ground to our competitors.

Be Great - If your association is providing value, innovating in the right ways, developing new revenue streams while bringing in new members, all while being willing to change if you're not doing these things effectively, you're on the right track to being great.

I'm now off to the nearest Circuit City to buy up some of that inventory that they're selling at bottom basement prices... I hope your members will never do the same with your association's stuff.

No comments: