A startup SWAT team could have saved Toys R Us

Pat Lynes
Toys 'R' Us Files For Bankruptcy
Source: Getty

It's a sad fact that, as we started this year, both Toys R Us and Maplin facing collapse in the same breath was inevitable.

Blame Brexit or market forces, a poor Christmas season or whatever else. The fact is they failed to adapt to the Amazon era.

Like so many high street brands, they didn’t re-engineer their operating model to focus on digital platforms and the customer experience. Toys R Us, for example, failed to adapt, leaving it stuck with a portfolio of large warehouse shops, and an unsubstantial online presence.

As for Maplin, it became far too expensive, and ultimately failed to compete with online retailers.

Read more: Maplin has collapsed putting 2,500 jobs at risk

Its USP was being handy in a pinch – if you needed something today, you’d go to Maplin and pay a premium for a product you could get online at a fifth of the price. With Amazon offering same day deliveries, its model didn’t stand a chance, and it was reluctant to adapt.

The issue is that a lot of executives at these older corporations are sitting within organisational structures that were fit for the nineties, and maybe the noughties, but are not fit for today’s rapid-pace, changing world.

Call it Woolworths, call it BHS, call it Blockbuster. History has a mean tendency to repeat itself. Which begs the question: which will be next to fall?

Digital transformation is no longer a choice for businesses, but a must.

In 10 years, there’s going to be a FTSE bloodbath if big corporates don’t shake things up and start future-proofing now, which requires boards to be proactive to change.

Read more: Toys R Us has fallen into administration

Some of these big businesses were set up over a century ago, and their structure has barely adapted.

These firms aren’t able to move quickly enough to make the changes that will save their business in the future.

The arrival of agile, tech-based companies has caused change to become a constant, iterative process, rather than one making changes in big three-to-five year chunks.

Solving business challenges by recruiting new staff members and working with management consultancy firms is rarely quick enough to react, and invariably adds to bureaucracy.

Instead, big businesses need to mirror the speed and agility of the new titans – startups.

Fast, intense, and incredibly purpose-driven: that’s what a startup looks like – not a cumbersome behemoth.

Being stuck in your ways is always at the cost of flexibility and innovation.

We take the SWAT team approach.

Bringing in a small outside team of experts offers a fresh, objective perspective to transformation that incumbent leaders – who are often intransigent to change the way things have “always been done” – simply wouldn’t see.

Being able to make bold decisions to solve corporate problems while coaching the permanent workforce can quickly enable necessary change, while mitigating against future disasters.

I’m so passionate that our Teams as a Service (TaaS) solution – parachuting in pre-gelled teams of the best business thinkers – can solve every business problem, I’ve even trademarked it.

Change is happening. Businesses that fail to act now, and fast, should prepare to go the way of Toys Were Us.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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