Bob's Gutsy Leadership Blog

Xerox: Avoiding Reality – A Losing Strategy!

Back in 1999, Xerox was the king of the document copying business and had just achieved its peak market value of almost $50 billion.  In Asia, Xerox operated with a partner, Fuji, and their copying machines were sold under the name of Fuji Xerox.

Things have changed a lot in the past 20 years.   Today, when an individual needs to make copies, he or she will typically go to their PC or smartphone and with a few clicks the printer (that can also copy if you have that increasingly rare need) that is sitting nearby will quickly generate the copies that are needed.  There is a high probability that the printer was made by Hewlett Packard, Canon, or Brother; not Xerox.

In essence, for the past 2 decades, Xerox has simply been sitting by the wayside watching the copying business dramatically decline and be taken over by the printers.  Fuji, on the other hand, did not follow the same path as Xerox.  It diversified into new areas such as supplying its existing imaging technology to manufacturers of medical systems and a variety of other products.  Fuji’s operating income outside of its document business grew 48% in the most recent 6 months. In the past few weeks, it was announced that Xerox is proposing the sale of itself to Fuji for $6.1 billion.  A sad ending for a prior industrial giant!

How can leaders avoid the kind of behavior exhibited by Xerox management over the past couple of decades?  This is not rocket science!  The following four characteristics are those that lead to continual success in the marketplace:

1.) Avoid the Trap Caused by Success – The fact is that when individuals experience success, they often become convinced that they are good at what they are doing and all they need to do is keep repeating that practice.  They sit back and bask in their prior success.

2.) Always Have a Plan – At every juncture, the strong leader is objectively reading the marketplace and the technology trends and developing concrete plans for seizing opportunities.

3.) Put Fresh Talent in Key Positions – Vast experience in what you’ve done in the past can be an anchor.  You need individuals who have been successful in a variety of positions and have constantly exhibited the talent of jumping into a new situation and leading change.

4.) Beware of the Status Quo Protectors – Most people are threatened by change.  They would prefer the life of comfort and they avoid the stress of realizing they are going to have to tackle new things.  Such individuals either need to get with the program or to be moved out.

Learn from Xerox and Fuji!  These four points are the essence of how you should manage your affairs each and every day.

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