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RIM ... What Would I Do?


It seems like everybody and his brother is having their say about the situation at RIM … and while I, like most of those commentating, am not qualified to run a multi-billion dollar public company, I think I have a perspective worth articulating.

I will never face the sort of challenges facing the incoming CEO at RIM, my company is a $110 million staffing company in Canada … but one thing I do know is that there are many similarities in running companies regardless of size, industry or location.

Most observers agree that RIM has been “passed by” over the last few years by Apple and then Google’s Android phenomena, the leaders at RIM did not react correctly to a changing landscape whether through arrogance, ignorance or just a “heads in the sand” attitude.

This week the joint CEOs, and founders, announced that they were stepping down and they would be replaced by an insider.  The new CEO has basically announced that he will “stay the course” … and whether he does or not, remains to be seen.

Many of the pundits speculating about RIM’s potential solutions focus on technology solutions … what next widget they need, what they should do with their current gadgets etc.

Here are some of my thoughts on fixing RIM:

1.  They need to develop and articulate a CLEAR action plan which has a 90, 180 and 270 day set of actions.

2.  They need to harness the brain power within the company … this is a company with incredible talent.  Find the thinkers, find the innovators and create “skunk works” teams that can develop actionable ideas for implementation.

3.  Any solution needs to be business driven, NOT technology driven.

4.  The company needs a culture shift … they used to be the de-facto business PDA.  That brings tremendous pride, and maybe that became arrogance … they need to get back to believing they are the best.  Involving the team will make them feel a part of the solution, rather than along for the ride.

5.  I believe they need to shake things up … they need some new blood, if not the CEO then other senior execs need to be replaced with people who can bring that fresh perspective.  The markets need to see things happening … bring in people from Apple, from Google, from IBM, from other innovative companies.

6.  They need to invest in some strong marketing … so that when the “new direction” is unveiled they can tell the world that they are back!!!

7.  They need to stop trying to compete with everyone … and FOCUS on what they are good at.  Did they REALLY need a tablet, why not partner?

8.  They need to see how they can take advantage of their core competences in the fast growing emerging markets … and dominate there.

9.  They might want to consider some acquisitions of their own … innovative, within the focus of the new strategy and a great message to the markets!

10.  One example of an innovative approach they could consider … develop a blackberry that is affordable by the average person in a low income third world country.  Take a leaf from the Tata book … they developed the affordable car, and the affordable hotel room for example.

People need to see action, and quickly … I do not think that the markets will be very patient with  a “stay the course” strategy.

Of course like any armchair CEO I don’t have anything to lose with my ideas, except of course those RIM shares in my retirement portfolio!

Good luck Thorsten Heins … you have a big job to do, and won’t be getting much sleep for the foreseeable future.  If you need any advice give me a call … I don’t mind protecting my retirement portfolio 🙂