Does a company that's grown its subscriber base from about 670,000 in 2002 to about 24 million today have anything to be concerned about? And, if any organization can increase revenues by 47% to $719M in this economy, can't the CEO relax just a bit and enjoy the fruits of success?
The answers to those two questions are yes and no.
Netflix is often credited for killing the video rental store business model. With the recent bankruptcy of BlockBuster Video, the biggest rental organization in the world at one time, that claim seems reasonable. Now it's girding itself to become a dominant player online. Already its streaming service is claiming new users across North America on a daily basis. It is planning to add two new international markets a year, starting probably with Britain or South America.
Surely the future is golden, right? My thought: Not necessarily.
Why? Because success brings competition. This is true whether you're an individual doing well at work or a large organization doing well in a tough marketplace.
The new competitors may be less successful existing players or new entrants. The smart ones will figure out what you're doing well and where you're weak. (I'd suggest doing a SWOT analysis. These are just as effective for your career planning by the way.) They'll build on your successes and beat on your weaknesses. If you're great, you'll be ready and stay ahead of the pack. If you've decided that you've got the winning formula, you're destined to fall.
Back to Netflix — here's what I'd be watching if I were CEO Reed Hastings:1. Well-armed entrants from other sectors: For example, Wal-Mart has been trying to get into the online rental business for a couple of years. With Vudu it seems like they've got the technology, and because of their video sales, they've got the connections and partners. Wal-Mart can kill anything in its path if it sets its sights on it. Best Buy could take a chunk too. 2. Aggressive players who "get" technology: Amazon will continue to push the streaming business, Apple has shown it wants to branch into video rentals more aggressively, and Dish Network bought Blockbuster recently, with the obvious idea being that they wanted BlockBuster's contracts with Hollywood so that they can start streaming movies. 3. Concerned suppliers: It's to their benefit to have competition for their product. A supplier can encourage and assist by sharing ideas with new entrants or existing players. Hollywood studios like to control their destiny; they will look after their needs first. 4. Hubris: This tanks careerists and successful businesses. It's the old, "I'm golden, nothing can stop me" attitude that can bring down even the super successful. 5. New technology deployment: If you've streamed from Netflix and watched it abruptly stop playing a few times in two hours, it can be a real turnoff. Somebody out there is already figuring out how to use new ideas and technology to reduce costs and at the same time increase customer satisfaction with watching a movie at home.
If you were the CEO of Netflix, what would most drive your decisions about your five-year plan?
John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion dollar organizations and launching start-ups in both the U.S. and Canada. The author of two published books, he is frequently seen providing advice on TV, in magazines, and newspapers.