Is Your Small Business a Netflix or a Blockbuster?

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How many businesses that barely survived the crisis in 2020 are ready to survive the next one? Today, I want to take a few minutes to share my thoughts on facing a crisis, dealing with disruption, and how we as business leaders can prepare for the unexpected. In this blog post, I talk about how adapting won’t be enough and why some businesses lack the courage to go further. But if you don’t have time to read this post, check out this video instead! 

Disruption is inevitable: how will we respond?

I recently had a conversation with one of our clients where he mentioned how 2020 with COVID-19 and the rioting — was just the most recent flavor of crisis that we’ve had to face as business owners. This holds true for me as well — when the housing market crashed in 2008 and triggered the great recession, I lost my job in the real estate industry and my home to foreclosure.

Prior to that, there was 9/11 and Y2K. Then there’s the micro crises that we face as well.

  • Losing your biggest client or source of revenue? That’s happened to me.
  • Business partners who want to go in a different direction? Also happened to me.
  • An unexpected pregnancy? That happened to me and my wife six times (and number seven is on the way at the time of this recording)!
  • Kids going off to college? I still have some time for that one, but it’s coming faster than I would like.

There are so many things in our lives  — untimely deaths in the family, messy divorces, a change in the market — that can put us and our businesses into survival mode. 

As if all that weren’t enough, we’re all susceptible to the new kids on the block who put our businesses on the chopping block. There are a lot of businesses today (and I hope that yours isn’t one of them!) that have resisted and continue to resist technology changes, but in order to survive in crisis or to thrive in any economy, simply adapting isn’t going to cut it.

So how do we thrive when curveballs come our way? Are we going to pretend like nothing’s changed and keep coasting along doing what we’ve always done, or embrace the challenge to reinvent ourselves and our businesses? Are we going to adapt, survive, or thrive?

What does disruption in the marketplace look like?

Let’s look at some real-world examples. Blockbuster’s ability to manage thousands of titles and hundreds of VHS copies put many small business rental shops out of business. Then Netflix came along and delivered DVDs right to our door without any late fees (we all know what happened to Blockbuster after that). And that was just the beginning. 

Amazon disrupted Barnes and Noble, and now with its acquisition of Whole Foods, they’re also disrupting giants like Walmart. Airbnb is changing where we stay and putting a big dent into the bottom line for hotel chains. Then there’s Uber and Lyft disrupting the taxi and limo service industry (when’s the last time you hailed a taxi?). Just do a quick Google search and you’ll generate even more examples of this disruption happening in the marketplace. 

But let’s go back to Netflix. After Netflix disrupted the video rental giant, Netflix actually disrupted itself with video streaming. In recent years it disrupted itself again by producing original content. This is one of the reasons it can still remain viable as a business when the giant of giants, Disney, released its own streaming service. If Netflix hadn’t pushed beyond its success and kept looking ahead to the next disruption, it probably wouldn’t have been able to keep up. They would’ve had to change its name to Flix Busted and have its tombstone sit right alongside Blockbuster’s.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be more like Netflix and nothing like Blockbuster.

Why embracing disruption is so important!

This is the key for you as a business leader: Disruption is essential to innovation. Yes, we have to adapt to survive, but we must also disrupt ourselves in order to stay relevant and to thrive. This isn’t a little thing: it’s scary and it requires courage. It’s one of the reasons why Blockbuster ignored Netflix and kept doing business as usual even when it had the opportunity to buy Netflix early on.

It’s one of the reasons I’m creating video content. I’ve been resisting this for a very long time because I lacked the courage or confidence or both to talk in front of a camera. It takes courage to go outside your comfort zone. It takes even more courage to look at the business that you created with your bare hands, built on sweat and tears and sleepless nights, only to figure out how to wind it down and replace it with something else.


Right now, some kid in high school or college student in his quarantine apartment is coming up with brilliant new ideas. If we don’t reinvent ourselves, their innovation is going to put us out of business. Do you want to be like Blockbuster with your head stuck in the sand or Netflix who keeps looking toward the horizon so it can stay relevant, competing head-to-head with the goliath we know as Disney? 

Change is scary and disruption, even more so. A small step is the fastest way to overcome doubt, fear, and procrastination. Here’s a question to help you take that first step: what change in your business have you been resisting the most? That’s probably where you need to start! Share your answer in the comments below, and let’s learn to embrace the unexpected together.

At 8 Signal, we help business leaders like yourself implement laser-focused marketing so you can grow your business, be an influence, and make an impact in your community. We specialize in strategy, content marketing, brand development, website design, and online advertising, and on this channel we cover topics on marketing, business leadership, and business insights. If you’d like to follow my journey into the world of video to see how my team and I will disrupt 8 Signal, subscribe to our channel on YouTube, connect with us on LinkedIn, or follow us on Facebook and Instagram!