The Dead Company Club

The Company is Gone But We Live On.

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Defunct Companies Repeat History

May 9th, 2013 · Company profiles

Hourglass repeats the same material

There are a lot of new gravestones in the Memorial Garden with some intriguing stories to them. It makes me wonder: are we living “Economic History 2, the Sequel”? Check out these stories.

South Sea Company

The South Sea Company was best known for spinning stories about future deals to inflate the value of its stock. They succeeded: shares rose 1,000% in one year. When the bubble burst, many people who bought on credit went bankrupt while others began selling short. The government stepped in to restore confidence but the crisis had severely damaged the credibility of the country’s leadership. Year: 1720

Dent & Company

Dent & Co. financed major economic and business development projects in Asia. When a major lender that financed Dent went broke, there was a run on the banks. Dent & Co. got trampled. Year: 1867

Lexington Motor Company

This mid-west auto manufacturer went broke as the result of a major recession. Year: 1923

Tucker Corporation

Tucker Corporation designed and sold cars. The SEC took the company to trial over questionable business practices. Although Tucker was found innocent, lawsuits from dealers and customers piled up and the company was forced to close. Year: 1948


Peruzzi was once the second largest bank in Europe. It was destroyed by making too many risky loans. This was before TARP and bank bailouts became fashionable. Year: 1345

Fortunately there is a happy ending. Many years later, Peruzzi was reincarnated as a successful consumer products company when ancestors of Peruzzi came to America in the late 1800s and founded Planters Nut Company. Planters was subsequently acquired by Standard Brands, who was acquired by Nabisco Brands, who was acquired by Kraft Foods.

Moral of the story: Let’s add The History of Failed Corporations as a required class in business school. And while we’re at it, perhaps we should let banks fail, just like Peruzzi. They might just reappear as sellers or manufacturers of tangible goods. But we must be patient. If history repeats itself, as with Peruzzi, it might take 500 years.

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Who Are You by Ed Maier

June 5th, 2012 · Coping, Solutions

Man sitting on a question mark

Editor’s note: Ed Maier is an executive coach, mentor, and business advisor at Think Straight. Talk Straight.  He has been helping C-level and senior executives for over 25 years in companies ranging from start-ups to multi-billion dollar global corporations. Ed has been very kind to share the following article from his newsletter. The topic is relevant to all of us. Take it away, Ed.

Who Are You?

In the last newsletter, I wrote about the job or career transition process.  Since that time I have heard from a number of people in the midst of their own process.  Many of them struggle with the question of what they want to do next.  Do they want the same type of job as before?  Do they want the same type of organization—public corporation, private company, not-for-profit, social or community service agency?

Know Yourself.  I call this the “know yourself” phase.  As you manage your own process,  I recommend you take time to define who you are, who you want to be and how you want to get there.  This may be the right time for you to take some risk and change careers or entertain that entrepreneurial dream.  Or, it may help you solidify your plan to stay in the career you have chosen.  In either case, you should allot some time to answer your own questions about where you are and where you are going.

What Stage Are You In?  Like any other process, this one has stages too.  They have often been described as:  shock, depression and/or physical distress, anger, panic, acceptance and rebuilding.  And you don’t move through them in a linear fashion.  Just as you move from one to the other, an event can occur that throws you back to an earlier stage.  I describe each of these stages briefly as follows:

  • Shock – You feel like a truck hit you.  You may be frozen in time or feel like everything is moving in slow motion.
  • Depression/distress – You don’t want to do much.  You don’t want to face those around you.  You might feel embarrassed.  Worse yet, you might feel some physical problems—stomach distress, insomnia, headaches, etc.  If the degree of this stage prevents you from acting on your transition, you should seek professional assistance from your counselor, psychologist or doctor.
  • Anger – You’re mad—at the boss, at the company, at your co-workers, at yourself, your family and friends.
  • Panic – You’re worried that you will not be able to replace the income level or job experience or position that you had in the past.
  • Acceptance – Reality sets in and you recognize it is up to you to get on with things.
  • Rebuilding – You start the real part of your search process.  You are recommitted to finding the next opportunity or career.

Each of us moves back and forth through these stages at our own pace.  The important point is that if you are stuck in one you should ask others for help to get out.  You will be amazed at the resources you have to help you – friends, family, clergy, mentors, coaches – but you need to seek them out.

Manage Your Emotions – As you experience these stages and your own search process, you will experience a variety of emotions.  Recognize this simple truth.  The events that occur and the people you meet along the way don’t trigger your emotions.  You do.  You are the one in control.  You give others permission to impact your emotions.

Your Transition Process – Once you have dealt with the truly emotional stages and enter the “acceptance” and “rebuilding” stages, create your own transition process.  The process I use is simple – Assess, Plan, Execute.  In this article, we will focus on the “Assess” stage.  In this stage, you assess the various factors that are important to you, but they should at least include the following:

  • Your economics and timeline.  How much do you have and how much do you need to carry you through to your next position?  Decide if you need to supplement your income while you are searching, or if budgeting and controlling expenditures are sufficient.  Create a budget and eliminate or significantly reduce non-essentials.
  • Determine, with cushion, how much time you have and identify support opportunities, if any.
  •  Identify your personal drivers – values, motivators, interests, skills, strengths, weaknesses, energizers, behavior style, hobbies, etc.  What is important to you?  What makes you want to get up and go to work each day?   For example, if a recruiter asked you what values were important to you, how would you answer the question?  You can have a great response to a question like that if you take some time to think about it.  The same goes for other drivers.  Ask yourself some of these questions and write down your answers.
    • What skills do you have?  For example, what are the five most important skills you bring to the table? How did they help you succeed in the past?  What skills are you lacking to do the job or enter the career you wish?  If there are gaps, what will you do to fill them?
    • What are your strengths and weaknesses?  What strengths do you have to exercise those skills?  What are your weaknesses and how will you deal with them?
    • What are your hobbies?  What do you like doing?  What do you dislike doing?  What do you have fun doing?  As long as you are taking time to do a self-assessment, why not consider the things in your life that you enjoy—the things that bring joy to your life.  Can you incorporate this in your thinking about your career or job?
    • What were your past experiences and what you have learned about yourself from them?  What has worked for you and what has not worked for you?
    • Summarize these thoughts.  Write them down.  Put them on a white board.  Create a spreadsheet.  Treat this as if you were analyzing a problem at work.  Use your own problem-solving process.  Look at these ideas, think about them and see what patterns form.  Share your thoughts with others close to you and ask what patterns they see.

Use this data to formulate your ideas on careers, communities, organizations, jobs, etc. that are a fit.

Other assessment ideas include:

  • Your behavior style.
    • Do you know what it is and how it has helped or hindered you in your past jobs?  There are an almost infinite number of behavioral assessment tools in the market place.  Before you spend the money, think about any you have taken in the past and refer to them.  If you wish to go through some form of assessment, talk to someone qualified to administer assessments. They can help you decide what it is about your behavior that you want to assess.
    • How do others see your behavior?  How do you know?  Have you asked your relatives, friends, mentors, counselors, former co-workers, clergy, coaches and anyone else who knows you? How does what they say compare to how you see yourself?
    • Your own career assessment.
      • What career do you desire? Is it industry-specific, functional-specific, geographic-specific?
      • Where are you in relation to your career?  Are you making your career or is your career making you?  Are you in a succession of jobs with little or no focus on a career?
      • What career paths interest you? How can you transfer your skills and experience?
      • Should you take a career assessment to help you find a direction?
      • How does the self-assessment you have performed align with the career you choose?
      • How do your past performance evaluations align with the career you choose?

Summary.  Your assessment should consider as many of these things and anything else that is important to your future.  Take the time to do it.  It won’t take long because it is, after all, all about you. Once you can answer the question (Who Are You?), you will be better-positioned to build your plan and execute it successfully.

As always, I am interested in your thoughts on these articles.  Feel free to contact me at  with your ideas, comments or questions.

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Borderless: Borders Is Gone

September 21st, 2011 · Losing a job, New members

Ode to a dead bookstore from Borders Employees

Borders employees penned the “Ode to a dead bookstore” and left it in front of one of their stores as they closed forever this weekend.

Ah, the frustration of working in retail. The customer is always right, but the newly unemployed workers get the last word.

Some times you need to get angry when your company goes broke. A better solution is to laugh. And I hope the Borders employees got at least a bittersweet smile out of this one.

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Do You Work For a Dying Industry?

June 14th, 2011 · New members, Solutions

Chicago Tribune building at night

Top 10 Dying Industries

Recently The Wall Street Journal reported on the “Top 10 Dying Industries” in the United States.

Except for the tux rental business, most of the targeted industries were obvious, where technology has made the old industry obsolete. Photofinishing, record stores, and newspaper publishers are a few (complete list below).

What is The Life Expectancy?

There are some industries that are shutting down slower than others. A key reason is habitual buying: consumers keep buying out of habit, inertia, or ignorance. Example: wired telecom providers.

It’s redundant to have a cell phone and a land line. Still, countless times I’ve heard friends say “But I’ve put my home phone number on so many school forms/neighborhood directories/resumes, I can’t possibly get rid of it.” And consumer reluctance to make a change is one reason why the wired telecom industry will die a long, slow death.

Other industries, however, are finding themselves on death row overnight. Video production services, which used to cost a small fortune to create a 30-second ad, can now be done on a Mac with Final Cut Pro, some lights and a camera. Because of this, there are more than a few highly experienced and talented artists looking for new careers.

The Worst Industries to Bet On in 2011

The complete list of dying industries recorded in The Wall Street Journal include:

  • Wired telecommunications carriers
  • Mills
  • Newspaper publishing
  • Apparel manufacturing
  • DVD, Game and Video rental
  • Manufactured home dealers
  • Video postproduction services
  • Record stores
  • Photofinishing
  • Formal wear & costume rental

My Predictions for 2012 Dying Industries

Other industries that are obvious choices that haven’t made the list yet:

  • Printing
  • Brick & mortar book stores
  • Nuclear energy
  • Discount gas stations
  • Mortgage banking
  • Post Office

In response to the WSJ article, DanN wrote:
“Dying industries look bad, but really it just means that capital is being allocated to more efficient industries (electronic books as opposed to paper books, for example). This should increase the standard of living for all b/c it increases productivity and allows labor to allocated to other tasks. The problem is that people are reluctant to change with the times and think their jobs screwing caps on toothpaste tubes should be there forever. This is an old and stupid way of thinking. Dying industries are not a bad thing but you have to willing to adapt (including acquire new skill sets) with the times. If not, you will left behind. People need to take responsibility to plan their own futures (and acquire the skill sets of the future) and not expect someone to give them a job.”

Yes, exactly. That is what adaptability is about. That’s what people do when their companies die: just like a cat, they twist around in mid-air and land on their feet. Somewhere. Which leads to my question of the day.

If you work in a dying industry, why do you stay with it?


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The Recession is Over, Right?

April 4th, 2011 · Company profiles, New members

liquidation sale signIncredible, isn’t it? I went to update the Memorial Garden, the list of dead companies, today. I expected a quick stop to record the demise of a few more companies. After all, the recession is over, isn’t it?

More than 100 tombstones later, I’m defeated. Companies continue to close, although the rate is slowing. Almost 1.5 million businesses closed in 2009 (2010 data not yet available, the statisticians must have closed shop). California, Florida, and New York were the net losers, with over 400,000 company closures.

Behind these failed companies are real stories of lives affected, some suffering far worse than others, Circuit City’s bankruptcy being one I’m close to.

But from this corporate rubble, two stories grabbed my attention. The first is Dolcis Shoes, a UK company that started in 1863. The company had been steadily losing money while expanding, right up to the financial meltdown and credit crunch. It closed in early 2008.

The Dolcis story – although quite a bit more upscale – reminded me of the movie, “Kinky Boots,” about a UK shoe company that has been hiding its losses by stashing unsold inventory in warehouse closets. When the founder’s son inherits the business, it is about to go under. However, along comes a savior of a most unexpected sort. Unfortunately, Dolcis didn’t find their good samaritan.

The other business failure is a common one, a European soccer club. HFC Haarlem was a Dutch club, started in 1889. They were declared bankrupt in 2010. I imagine a lot of sweat, muddy uniforms and curses haunt their playing fields after all those years. Many “football clubs” have filed for bankruptcy in recent years. I don’t know why – if you do, please let us know by adding a comment below.

Football – the kind with the round ball – is big business. According to Forbes’, Manchester United is the most valuable football club in the world, with an estimated value of $1.83 billion, followed by Real Madrid at $1.32 billion and Arsenal at $1.18 billion. Big expenses, big revenues. It makes sense that a world-wide recession would reduce ticket sales, advertising revenue and sportswear sales.

In the headlines, there are several notable business failures in recent months. BlockBuster and Hollywood Video, the storefront video rental companies, lasted much longer than I expected. With online services like NetFlix serving movies over the Internet to your TV or computer, and on-demand movies from the broadband carriers, I don’t know how they managed to hang around. Ironically, while BlockBuster cratered, I watched more and more Redbox kiosks appear. Redbox offers $1 overnight rentals of DVDs, with a limited selection of popular movies and recent releases.

I couldn’t ignore one final story, if only for the cheap shot taken in the reporting of the bankruptcy. In the Atlanta Bankruptcy Law News, Stephen Tanner reports:

“Anyone who has had the displeasure of dealing with debt collection firms will relish in the news that debt collector Hudson & Keyse LLC has gone bankrupt…”

I suspect that anyone who had been on Hudson & Keyse’s call list was relieved that the calls have ended. They might have felt like the company got what they deserved. But let’s face it: the people who worked for Hudson & Keyse probably didn’t enjoy being hated by the people they had to call. They worked for Hudson & Keyse because they needed a job, and that’s what they could get. Their former employees are welcome to The Dead Company Club too.

What are the latest stories about the “non-recession” from the field?

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