Business Failure

Cheating, failure to innovate, and heated conflicts.

These are just a few of the reasons behind some teams’ failure to thrive.

Inevitably, people will disagree and something will need to change, even on high-performance teams. However, if a business can lead its teams to find solutions rather than further discord, making it through the tough times (and learning from them) is more likely to lead to success than insolvency.

Here are five examples of formally high-performing teams that failed to thrive (and the reasons for their ultimate downfall).

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1) LA Lakers

Let’s face it: Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant never hit it off. After the LA Lakers won three straight NBA championships from 2000–2002, these two uncompromising, Type-A players were paired up—and the team was never the same.

Unfortunately, the strained pairing was just the beginning of the LA Lakers’ slow demise. Bad trades were negotiated and good ones fell through. Players got injured and then healed too slowly. Coach clashes and backlashes took place over and over again. All of these situations resulted in a high turnover of both players and coaches.

A team simply can’t thrive in an environment of contention, frustration, selfishness, and uncertainty. It’s still possible to turn a team like this around, but only if cooperation, teamwork, and true leadership become the team’s true values once again.

2) Enron

Named “America’s Most Innovative Company” by Fortune Magazine for six years in a row, Enron was once a sweetheart of the Nasdaq.

The all-too-familiar story of greed and deception resulted in over 20,000 of Enron’s employees losing their jobs, their healthcare, and approximately $1.2 billion in 401k savings.

Since then, what has happened to those responsible for Enron’s remarkable fall from grace? Several of the top executives behind the scheme landed themselves in prison and one has died of a heart attack.


3) Borders Books

For years, Borders Books pretended the book industry wasn’t changing. Even when the company finally realized they needed to hop on the online-book-selling bandwagon, they relinquished control and redirected their customers to instead of starting their own online presence.

The need for online sales wasn’t the only realization that came too late for Borders Books. They also waited way too long to get their e-books to market and invested way too much into the CD-sales game—and just as digital music was coming of age. It seemed Borders was always lagging too far behind “the next big thing,” and when that was coupled with their high debt, they had no choice but to close their 659 stores and send their customers elsewhere.

4) Oldsmobile

Originally a true American icon, Oldsmobile was founded in 1897 and continued to manufacture its models for more than a hundred years. Considered GM’s innovation brand, Oldsmobile

  • Patented the first gasoline-powered vehicle
  • Was first to use chrome-plated trim
  • Introduced the fully automatic transmission
  • Had the first high-compression overhead valve V-8
  • Introduced front-wheel drive
  • Was the first to offer airbags as an option

After boasting all of these firsts, how exactly did Oldsmobile lose so much ground? Innovation halted. Design flatlined. And as both the American public and foreign auto companies began to prioritize fuel efficiency, Oldsmobile ignored it. When it comes right down to it, the company simply abandoned their core philosophy of revolutionizing the automobile.

5) Sears

We know it’s not dead yet, but Sears is in serious trouble. Fewer than 1,500 stores remain (out of the 2,073 in existence five years ago) and more are being considered for the chopping block. In fact, Sears Holdings has warned its investors that it can’t promise it will stay in business for the long term.

Decades before the internet, millions of Americans shopped from home using the Sears Catalog. However, in 1999, Sears began to suffer; low-price competitors and big-box home-improvement stores began to take their toll. And then, of course, came the online retailers.

Sears is not alone. Brick-and-mortar retail stores all over the U.S. are filing for bankruptcy. The CEO of Urban Outfitters, Richard Hayne, gives his opinion about why this is happening: “Our industry, not unlike the housing industry, saw too much square-footage capacity added in the 1990s and early 2000s. Thousands of new doors opened and rents soared. This created a bubble, and like housing, that bubble has now burst.”

So how did Sears respond to these challenges? Instead of investing in the Sears brand, they chose to cut marketing budgets and close stores.

What These Teams Needed

There are numerous ways each of these teams’ troubles could have been turned around well before tragedy struck. After all, their hardships are not unique among businesses. All they really needed to do was learn from the mistakes of others. But they didn’t.

For businesses to truly excel, executive-level leadership needs to foster a climate of high-performance teamwork, lead groups to solutions, and lead from a united, forward-thinking, and morally sound place. With those values at the forefront, leaders, teams, and companies will thrive.

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About the Author
CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.

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