Will you turn into Sears Tower?

Posted on July 7, 2009



I’ve spent the last few days on vacation in Chicago, IL. We’ve done the typical tourist sites and have enjoyed the beautiful ‘Windy City’. Tonight we concluded our day at the top of the Sears Tower. Actually I should say the building formally known as the Sears Tower and is now called the Willis Tower. Completed in 1973, this 108 story Sky Scraper stands as one of the tallest buildings in the world at just under 1,500 feet. In 1969, Sears, the largest retailer at that time, decided to build the record-breaking behemoth to house over 350,000 Chicago employees. To build the same building now would cost just under 1 billion dollars. It stood as a mighty global monument for the empire of Sears, Roebuck& Co. and it has been the shining center piece for the city of Chicago.

Sears moved out of the building by 1994.

As a industry built upon the archaic ‘mail order catalogue’, Sear simply could not keep up with the times. The most powerful retailer in the world is now struggling to survive. Sear’s methods were outdated and too slow. It recently lost it’s naming rights to the tower and it will be converted to the Willis Tower (A British insurance company) this year.

The lesson is simple; Today you might be the biggest, fastest, most profitable, and most recognizable organization (or church) in the world. Tomorrow you might get forgotten. If you don’t innovate and take risks, all your past successes, no matter how great, won’t keep you afloat. Even the biggest and the best in the world will fade in obscurity if they don’t innovate with the times.

Bad news is if you are big, you have to try harder than ever to maintain as an industry leader. Good news is that if you are small and unknown, this is the best time to emerge as a new leader in your industry- but you have to innovate, be creative, and take risks.

During these difficult economic times, its a good to be small and its a tough time to be big. The small really can change the big.