3 Lessons a Construction Pro can Learn from Blockbuster Video.

Remember movie night?

I do. I grew up in a little boomtown, north of everywhere, and often we’d spend Friday nights cruising the aisles of the local video store searching for movies, or video games and then hoof it home. But, no matter how fondly I remember movie nights, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever rent one again. The truth is that the business model has become a “Dinosaur” amongst its peers.

Blockbuster was well-run. As a matter of fact, they were credited with being leaders in their industry. How then did they suffer such catastrophic failure? Read more about it here: The Rise of Netflix (and the Fall of Blockbuster). It’s reasonable to start by asking what do giants like Blockbuster, Sears, and Polaroid have in common (besides perhaps an untimely demise in the 2000s)? There’s many contributors, but we’ll focus on a few that are common.


Illustrating the relationship between Blockbuster and Netflix.

Lesson # 1: Innovation Has a Lifespan

You probably have something you do well. It’s how many of us “get famous” in our respective industries. Whatever the reason, the day that you engage your idea, the clock starts ticking. Your ideas will draw notice, others will capitalize on them and begin to copy or improve your processes. It’s so natural in fact, that industry has coined a phrase for it…referring to it as “Continuous Improvement”.

In terms of “Blockbuster”, the desire to evolve wasn’t absent…but it wasn’t a priority. To accentuate that point, who is sneaking up on you? Netflix essentially destroyed blockbuster over the course of 10 years. At the beginning of which, Netflix approached the media giant to propose a merger — and Blockbuster’s CEO actually laughed at them.


How are you innovating today, to ensure you are relevant tomorrow?

2020 Map — Blockbuster locations near you.

Lesson #2: Convenience is King

Behold the last Blockbuster Video. The map illustrates what happens when you abandon convenience in favor of “How we’ve always done it”. The fact is, Clients have changed. Many of the seats previously occupied by Boomers, are now filled by Gen-X and Millennials, who have vastly different values. With newer generations preferring instant access to information, and the ability to make informed decisions on the fly. Blockbuster was essentially abandoned in the face of a more convenient, Client driven platform (Netflix). Have you evolved to that level? If not, your competition likely has.

Consider this…There was absolutely nothing wrong with the Blockbuster approach until the Client evolved beyond it. It’s a competitive market today, and the difference between winning and losing may be a shift in your approach to the “everyday”.


Who is your target client? Do your processes recognize their needs?


Lesson #3: Know Your Market and Your Competition

Apart from being cruel, and a bit gross, “The Frog in the Pot” analogy says this: Throw a frog into a boiling pot of water, and he’ll jump out immediately. But place him in a pot of lukewarm water, boil it slowly, and he won’t notice until it’s to late for him to escape.

The point is this, If you are too “Inwardly focused” you’ll won’t be able to capitalize on the direction industry…or your competition is going.

Blockbuster’s ultimate failure (in my opinion) was failing to see where the competition was taking the market. There was likely a ton of factors influencing their behavior, like customer loyalty, and an overall lack of understanding regarding the overwhelming industry change that was occurring. They did launch a streaming service — too little to late, which ultimately contributed to their demise. The pot was already well on its way to boiling by the time they took action.

The COIVD-19 pandemic is literally changing the way we do business — permanently. Clients are electing to defer work, or turn contractors away from their sites in order to minimize their exposure. That got me thinking…Typical Construction & Service Companies haven’t been Leaders in “Non-Physical” Interaction. We like to shake hands, stand directly in front of people, and be heard. But the world is evolving so fast around us — we either need to adapt or like the T-Rex — become extinct.


How are you changing with the market? Can you grow in the COVID Era with just a few small changes?

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