Fallen Leaders: Why it Isn’t Simply the Strong Getting Stronger

By Andrew Paparozzi
In February 4, 2010

In an earlier post, Who is a Leader?, we showed that Leaders tracked by NAPL increased their sales 45.6% during the 10 years ending in June 2009 while total commercial printing industry sales declined 2.5%. Is that simply the strong getting stronger?

Not according to the graph below. The red line tracks the performance of companies we call Fallen Leaders and the black line our industry at large. Notice how Fallen Leaders consistently grew at twice the industry rate through the 1990s but were not prepared for either the recession or the profound structural change that followed. Several didn’t make it. And the ones that did have grown at the industry rate—at best—since.

What happened? Some were overwhelmed by the changes redefining our industry. Some waited too long to address those changes. Some made the deadly mistake of
assuming that because something isn’t affecting us today, it isn’t going to affect us tomorrow. And some were just arrogant, believing that past success would guarantee future success. None ever questioned or were critical of their success, never asking, for example, Why are we doing well? And how do we maximize the likelihood that our success continues?

The lesson: In an industry being redefined by structural change, as the commercial printing industry is, it’s not the strong getting stronger. If it were, Fallen Leaders would still be Leaders. Rather, it’s the best informed, most prepared, most flexible, and most adaptable getting stronger. That’s a lesson some of our industry’s former stars have learned the hard way.

Fallen Leaders

Andrew Paparozzi

Epicomm's Andrew Paparozzi, Vice President/Chief Economist, is well-known for his accurate and thoughtful discussions on the economy and US commercial printing industry. A foremost author and speaker on economic business trends in the printing industry, Paparozzi heads Epicomm's Printing Economic Research Center.

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