At midnight on 27 February 2009 the news staff of the Rocky Mountain News commemorated the death of their 150 year old newspaper by uploading a video on the free video sharing website, Vimeo. In 2009 that says it all.

This is a story about a failure to sufficiently innovate or re-invent a business to avoid closure. It ends with 5 ideas to avoid business death by making proactive improvements and changes.

Founded in 1859, the Rocky Mountain News called Denver, Colorado its home town. The other local paper was the Denver Post.

"rocky_mountain_news"You’ll find clues on causes for the death of the Rocky Mountain News in the 18 minute video. The video works at only an emotional level. This content and style is a clue in itself.

  • If we go by the video, the news staff and their employer failed to innovate in time.
  • Perhaps years ago the paper’s owner should have killed the print edition and gone fully online. Admittedly it would have been a tough decision, in 2006 circulation was at 255,427.
  • Empowering journalists to upload video and post photos online proved to be too little too late – as survival tactics against competition from national U.S. media and the internet.

By 27 February 2009, unable to even find a buyer for the newspaper, its proprietor stopped the presses. Sure, some may buy its remaining assets – masthead and archive – but the newspaper as a business is dead.

What might have saved the Rocky Mountain News? Years ago when they still had time and cash flow, the journalists and their employer could have benefited from a good whack across the side of their collective heads. It seems extraordinary that a business with 255,427 sets of eyeballs a day failed to leverage itself into strength, rather than mounting losses that it is claimed amounted to US$16 million or so before closure.

Having delayed change, the stakeholders became the victims of it. They went down with the ship. It’s pitiful, in 2009, watching them mope about their lost cause by hosting their video on a free internet video sharing site. "whack_on_the_side_of_the_head"

Business survival depends on you. If your business is failing perhaps you need a fresh or independent perspective or someone to listen to you and work through issues.

We do this work regularly as business lawyers with a wide range of contacts in law, accountancy and other professions as well as various areas of consultancy. Most of our contacts have decades of experience in business, government or not-for-profit organisations.

If you don’t mind a whack on the side of your head, we don’t mind talking and learning from you about our past, present and future.

Here’s five hints, for change management, innovation and invention in business.

  • 1. Conduct proper needs assessment: Information mismanagement sinks businesses. A change management review should begin with the information relevant to a business. The significance of this early phase of needs assessment cannot be over-emphasised. Yet too often businesses with a multiplicity of problems go shopping for advisers in limited silos. Each silo has a separate label and separate competency, eg “lawyer”, “accountant”, or “management consultant”. However, business problems and competition do not arrive in neatly packaged silos.
  • 2. Understand economics comes before law: If you engage lawyers in a change management process, usually they should review financial, commercial or economics information before suggesting legal solutions. This could be done by combining advisers from accounting, law and consultancy. Commercial thinking for business lawyers today this should not be a stretch, but for many it remains so. Commercial know-how and assessment of changing industry economics may chart your survival path.
  • 3. Select and motivate future people: “People and IP are our greatest assets”. This is often true too for business re-invention. However, it may mean selecting the people for the future and separating from the others. If a radical or significant level of invention is needed, motivate people or form a great group.
  • 4. Improve online presence and access: Your businesses may need to be online in real time, at least during daylight and early evening hours. It’s obvious, for survival online a business needs an effective digital media footprint.
  • 5. Form effective collaborations: Survival is also aided by forming collaborations for innovation or invention. Forming an effective collaboration calls for deep understanding of business models and proper business structuring. It is in the interests of most businesses to reduce obstacles for collaboration formation. Forming collaborations and business structures is not something you learn at law school, it requires years of experience, common sense and up-to-date knowledge in a range of fields.

We live and work in a period of the greatest level and speed of change in human history. It can be risky business to do things the same old way, with the same people, and with the same advisers. Like the Rocky Mountain News you might end up with no buyer or succession plan, just a home page video with employees feeling sorry for themselves about times past.

This Lightbulb blog, the rest of our website, and our writing are the result of a team effort. We’d like to share the wealth of skills of our team of collaborators. Perhaps you need a video maker, website developer, logo designer, IT consultant, language translator, marketing consultant, social media strategist, or other law, business or technology adviser? We’ll put you into contact with people we trust to provide quality, timely and economical advice and support for change management in your business.

Call now, we have a wealth of extraordinarily experienced collaborators to refer to you.

Noric Dilanchian