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Shoot and Reload

Shoot and Reload

Reading time: 1 - 2 minutes

Ive just finished reading Killing Fairfax. A very interesting chronicle of the demise of Fairfax; especially so for someone who grew up and got his professional start in print media, with a bit of ink still running in his veins.

And it has some excellent lessons for businesses that face pressures due to change.

In short the book covers the period in the late 1990s and early 2000s when the internet was really coming of age for the new source of the public searching for what they had traditionally gone to print media for - job ads, property and cars. These were extremely lucrative for Fairfax as it was the dominant publisher in Sydney and Melbourne that ran these ads.

What it speaks to me about is how for sentimental and proud reasons many businesses fail to adapt to and adopt change. And consequently when the tide starts to go out they're left high and dry.

And a really salient statement is made in the book by Fred Hilmer, a one-time chief executive of Fairfax, when talking about the bleeding of revenue from Fairfax and what should have been done. He said "In hindsight, almost anything you did would have been better than keeping them. when you have a business as threatened as this, you should get out and start again."

They didn't. And in the process, after rural Press (my old employer) merged with Fairfax and the new company had a market value of over $9 billion, vast fortunes were lost (including $1 billion by a single investor alone) as the value plummeted to around $1 billion.

I see that there can be little room for sentimentality in business. You either get on the bus or run over by it. It may be you need to sell out and make a fresh start, or be left with a metaphorical corpse.

So will you be the Seek or CarSales of your industry, or the languishing "should have" Fairfax?


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