December 2012 – J Street co-founder Jay Kerness and I are not big fans of New Year's resolutions, (although Jay usually does go to the gym in January so he can say he “started working out this year”). Resolutions or not, I am a proponent of reflection and renewal, at any season. Whenever it is needed. Any time of the year. This goes for organizations and businesses, as well as people.
We are constantly amazed at the number of companies who could use a bit of reflection and renewal. They may have a product or two, or even a past big winner or “killer app.” They might be profitable. But time marches on. Markets change, and so do customers. (Because, as we remind ourselves every New Year, people change.) So companies that fail to appreciate this change, or never reflect on it, just cannot keep up. No matter how great their past glories.
I remind both our clients and my MBA students (repeatedly, they might tell you) that of all the companies on the Dow Jones Industrial Index 100 years ago, today only one remains. Twenty-nine out of 30 of the market leaders of the twentieth century have shrunk, been bought out, or just plain gone bust. (Only General Electric remains.) That’s a 97% failure rate over barely 3 generations. On average about 1 company every 3 years – of America’s greatest bastions in business. Gone. Yikes.
And, if General Motors had a hard time staying around past a couple of generations, how about your business? What about your association, or your government contracting firm? Staying current, and profitable, are difficult tasks. Returning to profitability in a down market is even tougher. They require thought, planning, and strategy. And, like the Boy Scouts, being prepared. So a corporate New Year’s resolution is actually a very good thing.
The past 10 years have been among the toughest for business – and for America – in a century. We began our little J Street experiment in strategy consulting exactly 10 years ago, in the aftermath of the 9-11 market crash. While we knew that companies would have relatively little to spend on frills, we also understood that strategic thinking and strong market positioning would be critical factors for survival in the difficult days ahead.
And over the past decade, “Strategic Direction” wasn’t just a slogan for J Street and its clients. Being prepared, being flexible, and staying nimble have been essential for business success. As Jay likes to say, strategic marketing isn’t about designs and logos. Marketing strategy is about knowing your customers, doing your homework, and putting serious thought into your future plans and contingencies. And, it requires execution. A business plan without designs, timetables and specific assignments is just a wish list. Sort of like a bad New Year’s resolution after the hangover fades.
At J Street we have learned much in the past decade. We have witnessed some failures, and proven many times over that strategic planning increases the chance of success. And through it all, we remain optimists to our core. There is enormous potential in our local markets – and in our economy and in America’s future role in the world. Lessons learned, and hope for the future.
Ten years and counting. Stay tuned.
Founding Partner & CEO
J Street Consulting, LLC