Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kodak's Moment

Kodak declared bankruptcy last week. Can we please let her go gracefully!

I get tired of the presumptuous analyses that assumes that mis-management caused the decline of this beloved icon. The fact is that death is natural, even for corporate icons. There is no reason to believe that Kodak could ever get out of its own way on its slow decline to death.

Kodak lived for over 130 years. At its peak it employed 140,000 people around the world and sold up to 75% of the film and 85% of the camera's in the US. That's what shareholders call success. Those are high margin products. Those are big numbers.

Let's not be naive. Kodak saw digital when it arrived on the horizon, but why would the big gorilla enter such a low margin market, particularly when all of its people, processes, and technology were aligned to dominate the personal photography market that it created.

And what if it has gone digital? What if it built the world's best digital camera? Where would it be today? It would be dying at the hands of the smartphone with it's roots in software engineering, not photography.

If Kodak made a mistake maybe it was the mistake of "hubris." Maybe it was the mistake of holding on too long. Maybe it was the mistake of staying on life support with strategies such as "printing." Maybe it should have broken into parts that could be sold for value. Maybe it could have returned more than last week's $1/per share to it's owners.

But Kodak had a "helluva" run. It made money for its investors; it provided good work to thousands of employees; and it gave its customers, like me, memories that are captured forever in our family albums (which I am quickly digitizing).

Bob Hope would agree: "thanks for the memories."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Social Media's non-Communications

When did I become a luddite? I don't know the exact day but it was sometime during December 2011. Let me explain.

My business depends on my network. I have a platinum list of clients and I pride myself in staying in touch with them. They provide me with work so I treat them with care and respect.

I don't flood my clients with a weekly mass email message. I craft personal notes with some value added information that I think will be of interest to them. Yes, this is inefficient. It takes a lot of time but I believe that it pays off.

I went through such a cycle last month. Usually about 60%+ of my clients return a quick note. I use this as an opportunity to enhance the relationship.

However, over the past year I have noticed a decline in their rate of response, and last month it was terrible. Likely less than 20%. What's going on? Sure, people are flooded with messages and become immune to what they don't want to see. They choose what to look at. But are they looking at what I send?

Well, I've tested this with some of my contacts and they assure me that they saw my message. So why didn't they write back? I have an untested theory. For the moment I'm blaming social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Here's my theory. I think we're becoming a total pull society when it comes to communicating - even with friends and relatives. We can be fully informed of the activities of others without having the obligation of "interaction." If I want to know what my son is doing I check his Facebook page or read his tweets or texts. There's no need for me to call and get into an unpredictable interaction. I get the information I want and I don't even need to leave my fingerprints. He knows that I'll pull whatever information I want. End of transaction.

I think that this one-sided communication of social media is infecting business. I think we've morphed into a new understanding of business relationships. It's becoming "alright" to consume business information, even from friends, without feeling obliged to respond. You have pulled the information you want and the assumption is there is no expectation for a response.

I don't think I like this new world. I'm going to smash a loom.