A Lesson From the Death of Big Companies

Many big companies fail, this is something we can all learn from them…

Death of an Empire

In Ad 476, what remained of the then Roman Empire fell to the German Goths ending a rule spanning 500 years. Rome’s demise took many years involving many small battles. How do you defeat a behemoth with the kind of resources that Rome had at its disposal? Well one way is by using Guerrilla Warfare.

Guerrilla Warfare is a form of irregular warfare in which a small group of combatants such as paramilitary personnel, armed civilians, or irregulars use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and mobility to fight a larger and less-mobile traditional military.

Guerrilla warfare was a common strategy of the various Celtic, Iberian and Germanic tribes that the Romans faced. These tribes fought in unconventional ways which greatly worried the Roman Army. The tribes’ tactics completely disrupted that of the Romans. The Romans were used to fighting in open battlefields, these tribes however preferred ambushes and raids and used this strategy to great effect.

In Modern Times

Notice that there are many Business Behemoths that are no longer around and part of the reason is thanks to Guerrilla tactics used by smaller companies which eventually took over their industries. The Smaller Companies were quick to innovate whiles the Big Companies just couldn’t keep up. The Small companies fought with quick direct attacks whiles the Big Companies wanted war in an open battlefield.

Small companies disrupted their industries in ways that left the big companies scratching their heads.

Airbnb disrupted the hospitality industry. Amazon disrupted the book retailing industry. Look at what WhatsApp did to texting and what Uber is doing now. Disrupters using Guerrilla Tactics have changed the game.

In the end, every Big company that cannot adapt will die. It is the rule of War. It is the rule of Business.

Too many great companies have collapsed because they couldn’t adapt to new strategies to win the war. Too many greats have succumbed:

Xerox Succumbed
AMSTRAD Succumbed
Kodak Succumbed 
Blockbuster Succumbed
Barnes and Noble Succumbed
The Babylonian Empire which lasted 300 years Succumbed in one night

You get the picture.

The funny thing is, all the names above got there initially because they were innovators and were able to quick adapt. Somewhere along the line, they stopped innovating. They gave up on adapting. They got comfortable. They lost their hunger.

Blockbuster, a brick and mortar video retailer, laughed when Netflix’s founder, Reed Hastings, offered to sell his company to them for $50 million in 2000. Seventeen years later, Blockbuster is no more and Netflix is worth over 60 Billion Dollars. Who is laughing now?

Over the past 17 years many small companies have come out of seemingly nowhere by using Guerrilla tactics to now become the new Global Behemoths; think Apple, Facebook,Google etc.

But some of these new greats have started feeling comfortable too, almost like they have forgotten lessons from the past. Don’t believe me?

Why did Google allow Facebook to happen? Google+ could have been the biggest social media network but instead Facebook holds that title. Did Google get comfortable? Yes. Now Google’s punishment is that it competes with Facebook for Ad revenue.

Facebook is now a Behemoth, why did it allow Snapchat? Now it blatantly copies Snapchat’s features.

The Point

Whether you are in business or planning to start a business, do not think that you absolutely understand everything. It is this kind of thinking that makes people get comfortable. Don’t get comfortable. You think you are making it or have made it? Chances are there are guerrilla troops circling, waiting to surprise you in an ambush. Keep your eyes open. Be ready to adapt as quickly as possible. Non-adapters get left behind.

Even if you don’t own a business this still applies to everyday life. If you are an employee and you can’t adapt to the changes within your company you will get left behind. A marriage where the couple cannot adapt to each other’s idiosyncrasies will have big problems. A business that cannot adapt will die.

“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.” 
Bruce Lee

Thank you so much for reading. High fives for all of you who made it here.