Why Would You Stop Selling a Lucrative Product?

As I contemplated the strong response last week’s issue generated, I explored more of Simon Sinek‘s work.


Here’s a story of CVS, the big pharmacy company, eliminating tobacco sales. The hit to revenue would be $4 billion per year. A smart move? The financial pundits didn’t think so. They look at monthly or quarterly numbers as finite outcomes.
Sinek suggests that business, and life, are infinite games.


CVS’ motto was, “Helping people on their path to better health.” How does that fit with selling cigarettes? Their leaders decided it didn’t!


CVS’ earnings per share dropped initially by almost 10%. A year later, EPS had increased by 70% from just before they announced their decision.


Business decisions that align with one’s purpose work! Business is an infinite game! What happens next month, next quarter, next year, matters less than what happens in the longer term.

All around us are examples of people or companies winning by making courageous decisions. Examples:

  • CVS’ decision to stop selling tobacco – 70% improvement in EPS.
  • Our colonial forefathers’ switch from communal production to an individual incentive system. The flagging economy came to life!
  • Chobani Yogurt’s immigrant CEO challenged established business rules. A failed yogurt producer saved! (Here’s that story).
  • W.L. Gore (maker of Gore-Tex) operates with no assigned managers (Read about that here).

Uncourageous short-sighted decisions, with disastrous results, are also legend:

  • VW doctoring emissions test results. Very expensive, CEO fired!
  • Boeing rushing the 737X to market, short cutting pilot training requirements. The jury’s still out on that one – it could kill the company.
  • Theranos’ “Ponzi” scheme (Here’s Wikipedia’s summary of that story – it did kill the company.)

My friend and mentor Brian Tracy says (paraphrased): “Following the leader may work out. Following the follower is usually disastrous! It’s best to be the leader”.

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