The Coach's Corner

Wow, 240-year-old company was able to change!

June 10th, 2013 // Tom Doescher //
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We are on a roll with the value of the Harvard Business Review (see our HBR comments ). In the March 2013 issue, Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopaedia Britannica, tells an encouraging story about why his company stopped producing the iconic encyclopedia and how they became a successful provider of online K-12 educational services. Click this link to listen to a 15-minute interview with Cauz: Harvard Business Review: Encyclopaedia Britannica’s Transformation

We have read about or observed so many companies that are not willing to modify their product to keep up with a changing marketplace and, as a result, die. Encyclopaedia Britannica understood and met their challenges head-on, which is why we found this story refreshing. We learned a number of things from Britannica’s experience:

  • They recognized the need to change at their sales peak.
  • They experimented with many different business models (i.e., spent money to do this). Most concepts failed, but they were not deterred.
  • They realized that their greatest strength/uniqueness was their editorial staff of researchers and scholars (i.e., high-quality content).
  • They resisted the urge to reduce their editorial team when sales plummeted.
  • They eliminated their 2,000-plus door-to-door sales force (I would assume they were a very powerful and influential internal voice at the time).

Cauz concluded his article by saying, “We don’t want to be like an old actor trying to hold onto his youth.” (Or, as we would say, be like Brett Favre!)

Are you in a situation like Britannica’s? Do you need to change?

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