Does anybody remember when there were video stores on every corner? Blockbuster was a common name and found every few blocks in the areas I grew up. Last week I was explaining to my daughter the Friday night magic of going to the video store and renting a movie for 24 to 48 hours...or if it was an older movie, maybe having it for an entire week!
My purpose in taking her down the Blockbuster memory lane was really to introduce telling her the story of Netflix. Netflix has become such a common part of our regular 'watching' that it is certainly a company that many people can relate to. Netflix began as a DVD company. Customers could order DVD's on their website and they would receive them through the US Postal Service.
In their first year of operation, Netflix lost $57 million and their co-founders were looking for solutions. They approached Blockbuster to purchase Netflix with the idea to also develop and operate Blockbuster.com as their online rental arm as part of the sale. Blockbuster declined. One of the co-founders of Netflix said the following when the company was not bought: "That night, when I got into bed and closed my eyes, I had this image of all sixty thousand Blockbuster employees erupting in laughter at the ridiculousness of our proposal... Why would a powerhouse like Blockbuster, with millions of customers, massive revenues, a talented CEO, and a brand synonymous with home movies, be interested in a flailing wannabe like Netflix? What did we possibly have to offer that they couldn’t do more effectively themselves?"
Clearly, knowing the success of Netflix today, we know that the story doesn't end there. To me, this story illustrates the danger of the "because this is the way we have always done it" syndrome. At the time of the offer, Blockbuster didn't see the need to purchase Netflix. After all, they were on top of their game, and the way they were doing it was working.
The thing is...the world changed. Netflix became a public company. Streaming at home became the new Friday night home movie choice. Blockbuster was unable to adapt their DVD rentals to an internet streaming mode. Blockbuster declared bankruptcy in 2010 and closed its last store in 2019.
My purpose in telling my daughter this story, as well as sharing it with you today, is to highlight a few truths about predictability in our society. 2020 has been a heck of a year. As a small business owner, I know that you can follow all the rules, you can have the best business practices in the world, but you cannot prepare for everything... And COVID is everything we never saw coming.
So what lessons do we learn in this period? We always have to be willing to learn, grow and shift. As a parent and an educator, I am reminded that we are preparing our children for an unknown future and the rules of today may not be the rules of tomorrow. We need to be intentional about teaching them the importance of following and getting lost in their curiosity. Encouraging them to harness that curiosity through creativity and innovation. Building their confidence in a way that makes them willing to take risks, trust their instincts and push boundaries. We need to be willing to help them navigate the unwritten cultural rules that often discourage them from speaking up or thinking outside the box. As a community we need to build their confidence and self-esteem and teach them not to fear failure but to know that it is part of the journey and that there is always a lesson to be learned.
2020 reminds us that tides can shift at any time. So let us take this opportunity to give intentional thought to the ways in which we are raising our children, and give them the tools they need to be able to adapt and change as they need to. The answer "because this is the way we have always done it" can no longer be a guiding principle in the way we educate and set boundaries for our children.
Source: CEO Reed Hastings on how Netflix beat Blockbuster