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Borders: Another “Victim” to “External Forces”

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Our local Borders book store just closed, along with all the other Borders around the country.  Our local Longmont, Colorado store had made it through the first round of store closings, and some in our community thought they were going to be one of the lucky ones.

No such luck.  Their store close-out sale begins today.

Honestly, I did like our local Borders.  They were convenient, had a pretty good selection, and some of my neighbors even worked there, so it had a somewhat non-chain feel to me. It’s always painful to see any store close, and it’s especially not fun when your community loses a business like Borders.  It meant a lot to a huge group of people, including those employees who are now out of a job.

I learned about the closing first from our local newspaper, and then, through a mass email sent out by
.  And that’s what I want to talk about, specifically this following paragraph that comes from his email, where he explained why the closings occurred:

“We had worked very hard toward a different outcome. The fact is that Borders has been facing headwinds for quite some time, including a rapidly changing book industry, the eReader revolution, and a turbulent economy.  We put up a great fight, but regrettably, in the end, we weren’t able to overcome these external forces.”

I don’t want to be one of those guys who piles on when someone’s down on the canvas, but, Mike…how about taking a little responsibility in your final goodbye?

Just once, I’d like to see a CEO of a chain NOT blame their store closings on external forces.  Just once, I would like to hear a CEO of a business that’s closing admit any of these:

“We had a faulty business plan, and we should have altered it earlier”

“We paid our executive team too much and they really didn’t contribute to making our stores better, and that includes me”

“We made too many mistakes in our site selection process and lease negotiations”

“We were lax in keeping adequate inventory on our shelves and that ensured that people went online to buy”

“We made a huge mistake having our competition build our main website” (this would be one unique to Borders)

“We consistently provided customer service that customers could find anywhere, even while shopping online”

“We were average or below average in most categories when compared to our competition”

Or, to sum it all up, just once, I’d like to hear a CEO admit:

“We really weren’t a Destination to our customers.”

Mike could also throw in, at the end: “And the poor economy and Kindles hurt a bit, too.” I’ll give you that as a contributing factor, but not the main one.

Borders now joins a long list of retail failures in our country’s history, businesses that were unwilling to change course when it was obvious that they should, who started ignoring the little things that make a business slip from great to OK.  Collectively, companies like these look the other way, start settling for the average, and then, seem surprised at the result.

I never like to see any company fail.  But I like it even less when the leader of a company plays the victim without acknowledging the internal slide that’s been happening for years.

Mike (if you take on another CEO role), how about a little honesty to your customers in that final goodbye?

About Jon Schallert
Jon Schallert is the only business consultant in the world teaching businesses and communities how to reinvent themselves into Consumer Destinations. Jon speaks to thousands annually on his 14-step “Destination Business” process, which he developed over the course of nearly 30 years interviewing over 10,000 business owners in over 500 communities. When Jon is not speaking around the country, he conducts his 2½ day Destination Business BootCamps in Longmont, Colorado, and oversees his company’s online training network, Destination University.
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