A Case Study of Bold, Transformational Change

This article is for the CEOs and Chief Strategic Officers thinking BOLDLY and going where other organizations have not gone before.

Recently I’ve observed and had the joy of working with a couple of credit unions making significant transformations and reinventing their business and service models. If you look at what these credit unions are doing, the CEOs often feel overwhelmed, lonely with their decisions, isolated, and even anxious and afraid. One of these credit unions is transforming from a large credit union that was locked in a 1960s business and service model. The other is almost like a DeNovo credit union merging with a much larger credit union while simultaneously evolving from a bricks-and-mortar model to an all-digital one.

For both CEOs, it feels like getting a huge oil tanker to do a U-turn; think about the news story of the tanker stuck sideways in the Suez Canal.

To give these and other transformational CEOs some “light at the end of the tunnel,” let me tell you about BMG.

Some of you might remember BMG as the company that would send you 11 LPs for one penny. Yes, you heard that right. It was a mail-order record company that was subscription-based. You get 11 records for one penny and then have to pay for three albums a month after that initial order. This is a case study of pivoting and transforming a company to survive the economic and consumer demands and thrive.

BMG was established in 1987 as a joint venture between Bertelsmann AG and RCA Records. Initially, it operated as a mail-order music club, where customers could order records, cassettes, and CDs through catalogs and receive them via mail. This model allowed BMG to build a substantial customer base and establish itself as a prominent player in the music industry. But, more was needed as the industry transitioned from purchasing records, tapes, and CDs to digital delivery.

They evolved, expanded, and diversified. In the 1990s, BMG expanded its operations beyond the mail-order business, and it acquired several music labels, which brought in a diverse roster of artists and expanded BMG’s reach. Additionally, BMG strategically invested in music publishing, film, television, and other entertainment sectors to diversify its revenue streams.

But BMG didn’t stop there; they merged with Sony Music Entertainment in 2004. With this merger, BMG announced a joint venture called Sony BMG Music Entertainment. The merger combined the music assets of both companies, creating one of the largest recorded music companies in the world. This collaboration enhanced their market presence, leveraged synergies, and navigated the rapidly changing digital music landscape.

This was when true transformation started, the digital transformation. To react to the rise of digital music platforms and the decline of physical album sales, BMG, like other music companies, adapted. In 2008, Sony BMG Music Entertainment was restructured, and BMG became part of Sony Music Entertainment. This shift allowed BMG to leverage Sony’s resources and expertise in digital distribution, streaming services, and online marketing to embrace the digital age.

Not one to rest on their laurels, in 2008, Bertelsmann AG decided to divest its stake in Sony BMG Music Entertainment and became Independence and BMG Rights Management. This divestiture resulted in another transformation. In 2009, it began focusing on music publishing and rights management rather than recorded music. BMG Rights Management positioned itself as an independent, artist-friendly music company, offering flexible deals and a more personalized approach to artists and songwriters.

Still evolving, BMG also started focusing on growth and acquisitions. It acquired various music publishing catalogs, including those of Chrysalis, Bug Music, and Primary Wave Music, to expand its publishing portfolio. BMG also expanded its geographical reach by establishing offices and partnerships worldwide, further solidifying its position in the global music market.

Today, BMG is a leading music company focusing on music publishing, recordings, and rights management. It continues to adapt to the evolving music industry landscape, embracing digital technologies and innovative business models to support artists, songwriters, and rights holders.

This BMG tale shows that significant change is not only possible but essential for survival. Remember, bold and meaningful change does not happen by accident. Navigating the necessary transformations to adapt to the future will require keeping the long-range strategic vision at the core of your decision-making and not getting too invested in one path, but being open to alternative, often less traveled paths moving forward.

About rich@leading2leadership.com

Rich Jones is the Founder/Principal of Leading2Leadership LLC. Before starting his strategic planning agency, he spent over 20 years in leadership roles in the financial services sector. Before becoming an executive in the financial services sector, Rich was an entrepreneur, building and selling two businesses and working for early-stage start-up companies in executive roles in marketing, business development, and seeking investment partners. With more than three decades of experience, he brings innovative thought to companies and executives. Rich published “Leading2Leadership, a Situational Primer to Leadership Excellence.” The book is available on Amazon.com and was designed to be used as a book study for leadership development programs; it breaks leadership skills into manageable situations for discussion and reflection. Rich works with credit unions, CUSOs, and vendors, designing digital, data, culture, marketing, and branding transformation strategies. In 2014, Chosen as a Credit Union Rock Star by CU Magazine, and in 2018, Rich received the Lifetime Achievement Award from CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council. A Marine and graduate of Colorado State University, Jones shares his expertise at www.leading2leadership.com.

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