I suppose it depends.

Back in the 80’s I used to fly frequently with Pan Am. I really loved that airline. I loved the history of it. I loved flying the airline that made the first commercial trans Atlantic flights. Flight 001 circled the world always flying west and flight 002 did the same always flying east. Pan Am was the first airline to adopt the 747.

Then the fuel crisis of the 70’s bit into Pan Am’s profitability. Mismanagement took its toll. Then the Lockerbie bombing over Scotland finished the glorious career of the flying “Clipper” ships. After the Lockerbie bombing the public lost confidence in the safety of the airline. Many thought Pan Am would be a constant target. Sales fell and so did Pan Am.

The name and and logo were bought and attempts were made to resurrect the once mighty airline as a smaller, commuter airline. But the real Pan Am was forever lost.

I thought about this recently because of another company with which I am intimately familiar. This other company closed their American production facilities recently and have since terminated 75% of their employees as cost saving measures. The quality of their product line has fallen off dramatically. Instead of innovating and adapting to a changing market place, the management took the company down the road of “out sourcing”. During this period of shift to foreign production, as 100’s lost their jobs, management took pay increases. The story is all too common.

Sales are down. Quality is down. Margins are down. The company continues to lose money. This “other” company will never reclaim it’s place as number one in its industry. They used to sell a remarkable, American made product. They now distribute a commodity. Margins will continue to fall because their sole differentiation will be price.

A name, like Pan Am, is not the entity. Today’s little commuter Pan Am is no more the real Pan Am that this other company is what the name on their product says. A company can cease to be what it was. That’s really sad to me because I love business. I love businesses.

I can name many businesses that are no longer what their names once meant.

Until we realize that short term greed carries a great price, we’ll lose more companies. It’s too bad. We have all the tools and all the resources in this country to succeed. In the end, I think it’s worth making it work right here.

Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog
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