I had to title this post “Business as Usual”… it’s what they always say. It’s safe. We’ve all heard it before. My employer has used it when acquiring companies in the past, and they used the phrase again when we were acquired by Teledyne Technologies in 2011. It’s “business as usual.” And it was for the most part. I noticed Antonio Perez, CEO of Eastman Kodak, uses it in his video in response to the recent Chapter 11 filing in the US courts. You know what I’m talking about.
Like many of you, I was sad to hear Kodak had filed for bankruptcy protection. Unlike more momentous happenings during my lifetime I can’t say exactly where I was when I heard about Kodak’s decline, but I recall thinking, “How could it be that after 122 years in business, a giant in the film industry, a household name and the inventor of the legendary Brownie camera is finished? Seriously? That’s it? We’re done?”
It can’t be. And, as it turns out, that’s not exactly the end of the story.
When the media report on news like this, they present it as if it’s a foregone conclusion that there will be no good results. However, after watching the video posted on the “Kodak Transforms” site, I’m optimistic about their recovery. The bankruptcy protection allows them time to rebuild and, more promisingly, they have a plan in place. As Mr. Perez points out, GM, Chrysler and, more recently, American Airlines all filed for bankruptcy protection and have come back stronger than ever. I believe the same thing can happen for Kodak and I hope it does.
There will be a lot of people making a lot of empty claims about why Kodak’s where they are today. Some may even be right, but it won’t matter. At the end of the day things happen—CEOs and Boards are imperfect, strategists get it wrong, companies grow and gain momentum and become more diverse and complex. And sometimes they lose focus (sorry I couldn’t resist). We are a scientific community but science is not black and white, and neither is the decision-making that sustains a business for more than a hundred years. My hope for Kodak is a color-balanced bright future in our increasingly digital world.