Philie Group Blog

Four Lessons from the Fallen Business Leaders
By Mike Philie

The stories of fallen business leaders are all around us. If we pay attention, business history can provide valuable insights and lessons learned. They can guide leaders and organizations in making informed decisions and shaping future strategies. While there are many lessons to go around, there are four that rise to the top of the list when I think about printing companies that are either no longer around, or just never reached their true potential. These four include adaptability and agility, effective leadership, a customer focus, and the pitfalls of arrogance and overconfidence.

Adaptability and Agility

This is how we’ve always done things, and change is fine if it doesn’t affect me. These are two lines that we’ve heard too often. Whether it was not adjusting to new technology that provides efficiencies and drives out cost, or being tone deaf to the marketplace, the inability to adapt to changing market conditions and opportunities can lead to a disappointing outcome.

The rate and pace of change continues to accelerate. Couple that with lack of skilled workers, keeping up with technology and using it as a competitive advantage has never been more important. Utilizing technology in a vacuum does no one any good. Being alert and keen to market conditions and customer expectations allows the best operators to focus their efforts on solving customer problems. Solve the right problems, and they’ll keep coming back.

Effective Leadership

Leading as organization, particularly during transformative times is not easy. There are typically more headwinds than tailwinds, and it can become lonely at the top. Some observations from the underperformers include a leadership team that became dysfunctional and lost touch with the marketplace as well as their staff. Whether it was taking on too much risk or not enough, their effectiveness waned. Another note, this situation can also be caused by an outdated business model that has failed to develop their supervisors and department managers.

Customer Focus

There are many different types of customers that require print to drive their business. Some printers have selected certain segments to focus on while others provide a variety of products and services to a general marketplace. Both can be successful. When the leadership of the business takes their eyes off what’s important to their customers, bad things can happen. And it’s not about what customers wanted yesterday – it’s about what they want today and tomorrow. Things change, and leaders need to stay close to the market. Remember, all customers are loyal until the day they’re not.

Arrogance and Overconfidence

Companies that have had a string of successes can sometimes begin reading their own press clippings. While it is important to be confident in your actions and decisions, being overconfident and showing arrogance, when faced with changing situations can lead to unsatisfactory results.

When customer demands or economic forces changes the trajectory of the marketplace, there is no place for arrogance and a feeling that we don’t need to evaluate anything that we’re doing. There was a phrase called institutional arrogance used to define those that thought they were above it all and that the market would come to them. It didn’t work out so well.

There are many more lessons to be learned from those not with us any longer. We should not exclude areas of integrity, continuous learning, and effective oversight of the business. Perhaps we will dive into those in a future post. Take a hard look at what you’re doing, the things that matter to your clients and find ways to tweak your process, your strategy, and your “here’s how we do business” to capture the business you want and maintain your competitive advantage in the marketplace. Your goal should be to become a strategic partner with your clients. Do these things effectively, and the profits will be there. Let me know how you’re doing with this.

Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic assessments, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.comLinkedIn or email at

Originally published in Printing Impressions.


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