The opposite is what’s risky

In a recent interview with the Harvard Business Review new JC Penney CEO Ron Johnson was asked whether it wasn’t a pretty risky proposition to completely re-invent a department store?

His answer was clear, concise and spot on: “The opposite is what’s risky.”

Years ago, when I was at Sears, we had many debates about how risky it was to take our dominant tools and appliance franchises “off the mall.” Mainly we were concerned about how such a bold strategy would cannibalize our core mall-based department store business. Now, more than a decade later, virtually all the value that’s been created in the retail tool and appliance industry has been captured by Home Depot, Lowe’s and others that responded better to shifting customer desires. And the core business we tried to protect now seems headed inexorably toward extinction.

Whether you study Blockbuster or Borders–or myriad other brands that fell hard from lofty perches–you don’t have to be much of a business historian to see how industry incumbents consistently get the risk equation wrong. And by the time their platform is fully on fire, it’s far too late to recover.

Defend the status quo and you’re likely to be the proverbial frog slowly boiling to death.

Challenge the status quo, walk through your fear and at least you give yourself a chance to survive and thrive.



Author: stevenpdennis

Steven Dennis is a trusted advisor and thought-leader on customer-centric strategic growth and innovation. As President of SageBerry Consulting, he applies his C-level executive experience to drive growth and marketing strategy for multi-channel retail, e-commerce and luxury industry clients. He shares his ideas and wisdom regularly in the press, as an industry speaker and through his popular blog "Zen and the Art & Science of Customer-Centricity"( Prior to founding SageBerry, Steven was Senior Vice President of Strategy, Business Development and Marketing for the Neiman Marcus Group. As a member of the Executive Committee he drove the company's major growth initiatives, multi-channel marketing programs and customer insight agenda. Before joining Neiman Marcus, Steven held leadership positions with Sears, including Acting Chief Strategy Officer, Lands' End acquisition integration team leader, Vice President-Multichannel Integration and General Manager-Commercial Sales. Earlier in his career he was with NutraSweet and the global management strategy consulting firm, Booz & Co. Steven received his MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BA from Tufts University. In addition to his consulting work, Steven is an executive-in-residence at the JC Penney Center for Retail Excellence at SMU’s Cox School of Business, President of the DFW Retail Executives Association and serves on the Advisory Boards of Invodo Inc. and Nectar Online Media. He is also active in the social innovation and education reform arena as a Partner and member of the Board of Directors of Dallas Social Venture Partners. He is currently co-leader of DSVP's investment and engagement with SMU's Center on Communities and Education "School Zone" initiative in West Dallas.

4 thoughts on “The opposite is what’s risky”

  1. Excellent commentary. I think the real danger is from Amazon and to a lesser extent Google and eBay (for the moment) who have hired the finest minds in the industry and have given them literally Billions of Dollars in R&D money to come up with strategies to redefine retail. Amazon showed some of their cards last Saturday with their “get $5 off if you buy something from Amazon from a brick and mortar store – but only if you have your GPS on” that they are up to something that could be a real game changer.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s