Dan’s Book Review: Built to Fail—The Inside Story of Blockbuster’s Inevitable Bust

Shall we talk about the epitome of a “woulda, shoulda, coulda” story? This is the real deal. Built To Fail: The Inside Story of Blockbuster’s Inevitable Bust takes us on a fascinating reverse fortune adventure illustrating how things should not be done in business. How the world’s leading movie rental business literally overlooked opportunity after opportunity only to find that straight path to failure.

Remember the ‘80s and ‘90s when your local Blockbuster store was packed on Friday nights as people came in to rent their movie choices for the weekend? And the line of cars on Monday morning when people were returning those tapes to the drop off box?

Remember when there seemed to be a Blockbuster store around every corner? Now remember the time when DVDs came out and were so much cheaper that you wondered why Blockbuster didn’t lower the rental fees for them? Or why they were so slow to get more DVDs?

Remember the first time you used the Netflix mailing service? I personally never got that whole mailing thing, what with being one of those people who want to watch what they want to watch when they want to watch it. But a whole bunch of other people did, which allowed Netflix to jump over Blockbuster when streaming came along.

One would think that Blockbuster would be the leading online streaming company, wouldn’t you? When streaming first became possible, Blockbuster was already on third base, while Netflix was barely stepping up to the plate.

But even then, Netflix knew they were in the entertainment business while Blockbuster acted like they were in the real estate business—a mistake that was one of the main ingredients in their demise (like Boston Market…take note Mattress Firm, Walgreens, and CVS).

This book, incidentally, was written by Alan Payne who was the company’s most successful franchisee, so he gives us a front row seat to what happened—Blockbuster had the wrong vision for the times. Their story is common in the history of American business failures from Digital Equipment Corporation (“Only engineers need computers”) to Kodak (“We’ll just make better film”) to Polaroid (“How about an instant movie camera?”).

Read this book if you want to know what not to do.

Here from the last chapter is a list of what we can learn from Blockbuster’s failures:

  • Clearly define your company’s purpose and its mission
  • Identify what drives your business and pursue it relentlessly
  • Measure what matters
  • Respect and learn from your competitors
  • If you are going to do it, be the best
  • Don’t talk about the future. Plan for it

There you have it. Read it and weep, and then learn.

Built to Fail: The Inside story of Blockbuster’s inevitable Bust

Author: Alan Payne

Copyright: 2021 by Lioncrest Publishing

Price: $29.95

Pages: 270