6. Be realistic.
It's easy (for me at least) to be overly optimistic going into a new venture. For example, as we started developing digital products, many people would say, "Your cost of content delivery will drop to zero … it's just electrons … think of how profitable you'll be!" True, our delivery costs did drop, but that was made up for several times over by other, higher costs such as software engineers and tech support staff who are expensive and hard to find.
7. Be prepared to disrupt yourself.
Today's hot concept is to develop a product or service like Uber or Airbnb that will completely disrupt some old-line industry. In our case, that old-line industry was ourselves. There was considerable pressure from managers and board members, especially in the beginning, not to let our new, unproven products harm our bread-and-butter ones. But we had to … it was clear to me that if we didn't do it to ourselves, someone else would. By embracing that philosophy, the potential friction and wasted energy was soon channeled into our future in a positive way.
Transitioning the company to completely new products and technologies has been challenging but very rewarding … even fun. The keys have been always to look ahead, imagine what could be, and then take concrete steps in that direction. Building consensus early on was critical with all stakeholder groups — employees, senior managers, stockholders and board members. It's been important to listen to their concerns while gently, consistently pushing ahead.
— By Frank Kenna III, CEO, The Marlin Company, and a member of the CNBC-YPO Chief Executive Network
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