History in the Making – “Bites or Bytes”?

While current political news focuses on the rising cost of higher education, I marvel at those who neglect the obvious value of gaining priceless knowledge and experience from the “School of Hard Knocks.”

While “change” appears to be a leading buzz word in every aspect of the media today, very few organizations and individuals seem to acknowledge the need for it. Dissatisfied with their current situations, they do little, if anything to change it. They’re content to sit back and wait for circumstances to favor them. They balk at attempting new strategies. They refuse to benchmark. They reject new technology. They continue to do what they’ve always done. They disappear.

Why do you think that is? Could it be feasible that their fear of change is greater than their need to survive? Are they hiding behind the fact that they’ve been in business for years? Do they believe a title (Board Member / CEO / President / V.P. / Manager / Supervisor) will protect them from obscurity? Is it educational credentials? It’s been proven that those too are worthless unless there is evidence that you’ve applied what you learned. History slaps us in the face with the fact that none of the above make a difference in a rapidly changing world.

If the world around you is changing and you’re arrogant enough to believe you don’t have to adapt to it, your demise is inevitable. Every industry offers examples of once respected business leaders who have faded into oblivion simply because they refused to change in the face of chaos resulting from global competition, an economic slowdown, and increasing industry demands.

How many times have we heard the old adage: “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got”? Most everyone has heard it many times but most disregard it or simply don’t believe it.

Donald E. Wetmore, President of the Productivity Institute, says: “if you (and I) continue to do what we do, the way we have always done it, then, within the next five years, we will be obsolete.” That’s not a threat. That’s a pretty safe prediction. We see evidence of this theory everyday in the news.

Now let’s go to “school” by examining recent news releases by two proven business leaders who are facing obvious challenges by responding with creative strategies and an openness to change. What’s so intriguing about the choice of strategies embraced by these two marketing masters lies in the fact that each has chosen the previous path of the other. Interestingly enough, both tactics may very well be successful.

McDonalds, world’s largest chain of fast food restaurants, has decided to upscale.

Starbucks, the largest multinational coffee and coffeehouse chain in the world, has decided to begin reaching out to the on-the-go customer.

It’s almost as though they’ve decided to exchange strategies, philosophies, and identities to an extent. Look for the following changes in both locations in the very near future.


  • Starbucks has more than 14,000 stores and opens an average of six new locations every day.
  • They are testing an 8-ounce “short” $1 coffee offering and free brewed coffee refills. The catch? You can only get the deal in Seattle-area outlets for now.
  • The company has outfitted many locations with drive-through windows and tried selling breakfast sandwiches to compete for morning sales with McDonald’s. They brought in significant revenue but were discontinued when employees complained the smell of egg-and-cheese sandwiches overpowered the aroma of coffee and cheapened the store experience. In addition, time spent on sandwiches took away from the focus on coffee. The move to eliminate the sandwiches, which bring in more than $140 million in annual revenue, was a tough decision but Schultz said that input from his baristas during the past three weeks influenced his decision. That fact in itself is rare isn’t it? … Leadership listening to staff—what a concept! The sandwiches will be replaced with “a breakfast menu that delivers what our customers are asking for.” This is a prime example of trying something different, realizing it didn’t work, and readily adapting.


  • The fast-food giant plans to bring baristas and espresso machines to nearly 14,000 locations in the U.S. this year.
  • Customers will be able to order lattes, mochas, ice-blended coffees and other specialty drinks.
  • The company has already rolled out Wi-Fi wireless broadband technology in many of their locations. Want some WiFi with that Big Mac?
  • It’s all part of a company strategy to turn McDonald’s from a grab-and-go fast-food chain into an order-and-stay restaurant where customers can surf the Internet and linger over coffee.
  • McDonald’s doesn’t expect to earn money initially from its Wi-Fi service. It hopes instead to attract more customers and sell more burgers and fries.

Bottom line:

Will these bizarre strategies be productive for Starbucks and McDonalds or will their loyal customers rebel against such radical change? Who knows? It’s certainly going to be interesting to watch. The important thing, however, is the fact that neither is resting on their laurels at a time when both are striving to counter the housing market collapse and the stock market’s volatility, which has caused the nation’s consumers to keep a weary eye on any and all disposable income.
Both organizations are doing something. Time will tell whether they chose the right strategies. However, history tells us that something is better than nothing.

Homework: Keep an eye on Starbucks and McDonalds as they face the consequences and possible benefits of initialing change to insure survival.

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.

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