“If you’re not capable to maintain and refresh desire, why are you there?”
That challenge came from Jan Rok Achard, a circus consultant, when asked about Cirque du Soleil’s revised strategy. But it is a good question for all leaders to ask and answer about their business. Have we let the business get stale? Have we kept our customers on the edge of their seats? Have we proliferated products so fast that they aren’t special anymore?
Consider the history of one of the most innovative “plays” on an industry: Cirque du Soleil was founded in 1984 by two Canadian street performers. The company seemed unstoppable as it introduced shows across the globe, with 22 shows by the end of 2011, playing in 271 cities and attracting 5 percent of Las Vegas visitors.
However, in 2012, Cirque du Soleil didn’t turn a profit. They had saturated the market, diffused the brand and the “rarity” was gone, according to a departing executive.
That story sounds like many businesses—new concept, great growth, and then it stops and the cost-cutting begins while the executives figure out how to return the company to the growth it has become accustomed to.
The problem is that the solution is never an extrapolation of the past. The market is different now. Cirque du Soleil is courageously embracing a new future—one with less reliance on Cirque-branded shows, reducing their contribution to overall revenue from 85 percent to 60 percent, while growing special events and pursuing new products and a new investor.
No matter how grand the company or inspiring the innovation, basic business discipline applies. As leaders, we all have to be on our toes to monitor signs that the market is changing, and we have to be prepared to change with it.
Accolades to Cirque de Soleil for embracing a new future—a daring feat for many leaders.