Sometimes the only way is through

In this post I talk to you about the importance of innovation and resilience to adapt and lead change, with a real and recent example, that of the Netflix company.
Sometimes the only way is through.

One of the best books I’ve read lately has been “That Will Never Work” by Marc Randolph. The book tells the story of Netflix, written in the first person by one of its founders. I wrote about the book in my post from a while ago “Randolph’s Rules for Success”. Ever since I discovered the figure of Marc Randolph I have followed him closely because he seems to me to be truly extraordinary.

In life, we are often faced with challenges that seem insurmountable. Sometimes the only way to get over them is to move on and face them. This is exactly what Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph, the founders of Netflix, did when their company was on the brink of bankruptcy.

In the year 2000, Blockbuster was the king of movie rentals with 9,000 stores and 60,000 employees. Netflix, on the other hand, was just a mail-order DVD rental idea of two Silicon Valley geeks. They struggled for years to make their subscription model with no expiration dates or late fees work. But just when it seemed they had finally found success, the Internet bubble burst and their company seemed doomed.

Rather than give up, the founders of Netflix sought a strategic solution to keep their company running. They approached Blockbuster with an offer of cooperation that included a joint collaboration. They offered Blockbuster to run the physical store business and the Netflix team to run the online business, developing a new hybrid business between the online and offline worlds.

As Marc Randolph explains, “The meeting was going great. They asked good questions. Until they asked the most important question: How much is your business worth?” It was a subject they had prepared well. Netflix CFO Barry McCarthy asked for “fifty million dollars” for the sale of Netflix to the giant Blockbuster. Following this request, there was perfect silence. The words of the Blockbuster executives were “We’ll consider it,” but the Netflix team thought they were struggling to suppress laughter. After that, the meeting faded away. Within days, Blockbuster’s answer was a resounding no. The idea of selling the company to Blockbuster or collaborating with them hadn’t worked out. But as Randolph says, “NOBODY KNOWS IF AN IDEA IS GOOD OR BAD UNTIL THEY TRY IT.”

However, Hastings and Randolph did not give up. Randolph often says that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Randolph also explained that his father used to tell him “Sometimes, the only way is through.” The owners of Netflix learned that the only way out of their situation was to go through. They knew that the solution was not easy. They struggled for years to keep their company afloat but ultimately succeeded. Netflix went public and surpassed Blockbuster in revenue. Netflix became a leader in the entertainment industry and a world-renowned technology company. Today the company that Blockbuster could have bought in 2000 for $50 million has a market capitalization of more than $150 billion. And that company with 9,000 stores? Now he has only one.

The lesson to be learned from the Netflix experience is that CHANGE IS INEVITABLE AND THAT SOMETIMES THE ONLY WAY TO OVERCOME IT IS TO FACE IT, PUSH FORWARD, TO GO THROUGH IT. If you are not willing to innovate and adapt, someone else will do it for you. Innovation is key to success and survival in a changing world. Randolph says that “iteration, not ideation, is the most important part of early-stage entrepreneurship. You have to have a lot of ideas, a lot of bad ideas if you want to end up with a good one.” So bet on innovating, trying, adapting, and leading the change.


I finish with a quote from Randolph that I love: “Everyone who has taken a shower has had an idea. But it’s the people who get out of the shower, towel off, and do something about it that makes the difference”.

Xavi Roca

I am Talentist, I help organizations, managers and professionals to achieve high performance through enhancing their leadership and personal brand. I am passionate about leadership, high performance team management and Personal Branding, and I have dedicated my professional career to helping companies and professionals develop and enhance their talents and strengths to achieve their maximum development and performance.

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