CTRL-ALT-DEL – It's Time For A Business Reboot

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Maybe the Internet changed much more than we think? Maybe businesses have to reinvent not only themselves, but the entire industry they serve?

Its very survival could depend on it.

The truth of the matter is that the business world is changing. Not year by year, but moment by moment. Big business is being beat-up by two guys, a clever spin on a traditional industry, a rental lease on some garage space in Menlo Park and a couple of iPhones.

What’s a business to do?

There’s this great little story (no one knows how much of it true or how much of it is fiction, but here it goes): In the 1500s, Hernan Cortes was the captain of eleven ships with more than 500 soldiers headed for Mexico to conquer the Aztecs. After his ships arrived in Mexico, the sailors and soldiers were not in the best of shape. Some of them fell ill on the journey and some had lost their motivation. Several of Cortez’s crewmates wondered what would happen to them in this strange new land. If they faced challenges or resistance, how would the crew return home? The crew asked Cortez what the plan would be to get back home. The captain had the perfect response: He burned the ships.

There was no going back. The only direction to go was forward. The old ways of doing things were about to be rethought.

In fact, there were no more “old ways of doing things”… a new way had to be de?ned. The story of Cortes and the burning of the ships ripples through to the present time. So much has changed in terms of what it means to be a business owner: the global economy, how we connect to our consumers, technology and new platforms, and the marketing and communications we create to connect more effectively with them. The new breed of entrepreneurs must burn the ships. The traditional ways just don’t cut it any more.

I’ve modernized the concept of "burn the ships." It’s time to: CTRL-ALT-DEL.

New channels, new tools and new business, like new lands, calls for new strategies, tactics and plans.

It’s time to reboot business.

Hoping for innovation on the traditional quarter by quarter strategy is not going to save your business or your industry. The pace and rate of technology is at the point where these new media channels and platforms are simple for anybody to use (kids, teens, adults, boomers and older), and they’re not only using them, they are creating their own experiences and sharing them with the world.

How do you compete? You CTRL-ALT-DEL.

Success is going to come from those who really analyze and implement the latest shifts and trends in business, technology and media, and how it affects their organization (from innovation and business development to marketing, PR and human resources). This concept of CTRL-ALT-DEL is not simply about “change management.” CTRL-ALT-DEL is about “change business”. It’s about “change industry” and it’s about “change business models.” Zappos is more than a great example of superior customer service, iTunes is more than a great example of how to sell songs for $0.99, and Kogi BBQ is more than a great example of how to use Twitter to sell Korean BBQ tacos. They are all prime examples of how specific businesses hit the CTRL-ALT-DEL on their business model, and in the process reinvented the industry they served.

Being on Twitter, having a Facebook Page or uploading videos to YouTube is one thing: thinking about how to CTRL-ALT-DEL your business and imagining what that will look like in the next 2-5 years, is a whole other game. The tools and platforms are just that: tools and platforms. The real "game changers" are those who figure how those tools and platforms to help them to reboot their business model.

Which businesses do you love that have used the CTRL-ALT-DEL buttons on their business model?


  1. Thanks for doing a post on this Mitch.
    I heard you speak on the subject at #TAOM and it is great to revisit it.
    I am fortunate enough to work for radio stations who are embracing the new forms of engaging with our listeners that have taken the conversations from one way to two.
    And because I am in sales 🙂 this has opened up who new opportunities for the clients who are in partnerships with me to connect with our listeners in whole new ways. Hoepfully they are looking at their businesses in new ways as well.
    I’m loving the challenges and the opportunities of switching things up.
    CTRL – ALT – DELETE away 🙂
    Leslie MacDonald

  2. Most of my clients and businesses around me (in Puerto Rico) have a very resistant culture to change. Most business owners are risk averse and it is very difficult for them to re-adjust or in most cases to put in place the CTRL-ALT-DEL (or burning the ships) is something they see more like Business or Financial Failure.
    I have been able to use Social Media and other new technologies to convince them to move into new ventures but even when I demonstrate a Return On Investment they look for a way to tie it to something else other than the Root Source of where the income came from.
    On a business that keeps reinventing itself is JetBlue which I think might be the main reason why they are able to offer great prices and excellent customer service in such a difficult industry. I can see a good alignment in JetBlue’s Culture from the physical check in counter, flight attendants, online twitter managers, and top management.
    One I would like to see catch up because I see they are doing a great job on the Online World but they are suffering in their Brick or Mortar stores is Best Buy. I can see a huge disconnect in what they preach online or broadcast via various channels and their commitment in most of the stores I have visited.
    Great post! I saw the Hernan Cortes part of the Post and I knew I had read it before.

  3. CEO who are not thinking of how to change their business, industry or job, should quit and go watch plants grow.
    It doesn’t mean they have to do a wholesale makeover of their organizations but just to consider the possibilities should be a personal management routine. They will thus ensure their survival

  4. No business can afford not to CTL ALT DELETE nowadays… Whether they aim for lowest cost in their market specialty or to be recognized for a unique product, unless they can decide and turn around as rapidly as their competitors (be agile), they risk disappearing. PAUSE. PAGE DOWN. DELETE.
    I would like to see cities CTL ALT DELETE.
    Unlike the previous generations where people typically stayed in a house their whole life and their children did after and so on, citizens are no longer captive of a city. A city has no monopole over its citizens. People move easily across the planet, imagine between cities.
    Working on keeping their tax rate low and competitive with other cities and at spending efficiently that hard earned dollar, social medias could help them spend the money where it really counts as the needs of its citizens could then rise transparently through the help of social medias. Just imagine…

  5. The world is changing extremly and the internet is developing rapidly. Therefore, want to be a success, it is a chanllange to keep up with the speed of the development.

  6. Businesses must be prepared to change. This doesn’t mean that you simply jump on every new bandwagon; instead watch, learn and think. Build this process into your strategy and you’ll be in a position to make informed decisions. Do this and allow your long term strategy to remain flexible enough to embrace change.
    With social media especially look inwards for expert opinions. Your part time receptionist might be a great source of help on Facebook for example. These are the people who are changing the world in which we do business. Pay attention and they’ll help you make the right decisions.

  7. Great way of summing up recent events, Mitch.
    I agree that the “Internet has changed more than we think.”
    In fact, I think the redistribution of economic forces caused by the Internet has played a much larger part in the recent recession than the media has portrayed.
    Whole sectors of the economy (retailing, music, publishing, distribution, etc.) are being CTRL-ALT-DELeted whether they like it or not.
    My favorite businesses are the new ones that take advantage of the Internet to empower entrepreneurs and small groups.
    This includes retailing tools like CafePress.com and Etsy.com (not to mention eBay), community-fostering tools like Ning.com, community organizing like Carrotmob.com, and the free broadcasting tools of BlogTalkRadio.com and Ustream.tv that I use for my own Click Millionaires Show all offer revolutionary opportunities to those smart enough to seize them.
    Corporate life no longer offers the security it once promised. Using tools like these can transform both the corporations and the people who work there.

  8. Three of the examples you cite, and possibly all four, do not illustrate your point. While iTunes was a new business inside a company, it did not replace an existing business in that company nor did it alter the general direction of the main business. Zappos was a new method of doing something old, but I don’t recall a chain of Zappos shoe stores prior to Zappos.com. Twitter was not just an entirely new business, it was an entirely new market and its commercial success is not yet proven.
    How about some examples of real CTL-ALT-DEL where a business scrapped the way they were doing business and went an entirely new direction? How did they fund the cut over? Did customers follow or did they have to rebuild brand loyalty?
    I hate to bring in fiction, but I have been very impressed by the story line in Caprica. Find the scene where Daniel Grayson addresses the board of Grayson Industries and tells them that defending the declining revenues of sales of Holobands, the majority of their current revenues, in an increasingly competitive market is a losing strategy and that it would drain money from the next project that would make the company its next fortune. Then lets find a real world example.
    In reality is CTRL-ALT-DEL anything more than the previous Blue Ocean Strategy?

  9. Doing a CTRL-ALT-DEL is much easier said than done when you are running your own company as you set the culture and enviro and expect everyone else to jump on board.
    Doing a CTRL-ALT-DEL when you are in a corporation, especially the ones that are not “creative” like Oil and Gas feels insurmountable at times.
    Easier said than done that’s for sure.

  10. The internet really has changed a ton. It changes how we operate as companies and how we interact as people. Some of it is really good, and other aspects are unfortunate. I would agree that it is time we need to take a hard look at ourselves and make changes where necessary, even if that means starting anew.

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