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Kodak Struggles to Remain in Business

Updated on October 15, 2011

Kodak Struggles to Remain in Business

What Can We Learn?

Kodak, the empire that made photography possible for the average person, is struggling to remain viable and in business.

George Eastman had a passion for photography and cameras. His passion took him to London, the center of the camera and photography world, where in 1880 he created several new inventions and patents in the industry. As often is the reality, Eastman had to work in another industry until he could make his living doing the work that inspired him, photography, cameras, and the photography processes.

George Eastman was the first person to develop the roll of film. Up to that time the photographic image was made by a dry plate method. Eastman had also patented a plate coating machine prior to his invention of the roll of film.

In 1892, upon returning to the USA, George Eastman founded the Kodak Company. Photography was still relatively new. Kodak opened up the wonderful world of photography to the average person. He is credited with creating amateur photography.

The Kodak marketing slogan was “You press the button and we do the rest.” Indeed for over a hundred years Kodak did 'the rest.'

Kodak provided the cameras, film developing, developing chemicals, and the paper to print the pictures on. At one point the city of Rochester, NY, the Kodak Corporate home, employed over 60,000 Kodak employees. Today the city has fewer than 10,000 Kodak employees.

The company manufactured products all over the world from their headquarters in Rochester, New York. They manufactured products in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, France, Germany, and Australia.

George Eastman’s four business principles were

· mass production at low cost

· international distribution

· extensive advertising

· a focus on the customer

Kodak also took the familiar and highly regarded growth and business sustainability strategies of diversifying and partnering with other companies.

They partnered with Motorola for 10 years to combine Kodak’s imagine science system with Motorola’s mobile device design. The partnership did much to improve the camera phone.

Kodak is also partnered with Chi Mei El of Taiwan. This partnership’s goal is to further apply the two companies’ abilities to display applications in items such as digital cameras and portable media players.

Kodak expanded their product lines to include digital cameras, digital video cameras, digital photo frames, imaging systems and sensors, printers, photo hosting service, and scanners.

The world’s first digital camera was invented and built by Steven Sasson an engineer at Kodak in 1975.

Yet, Kodak did not seem to capitalize on the digital market boom. Eastman-Kodak remained in the film photographic business until recently.

Kodak has not been without other business problems. There were lawsuits over patents and rights engaged with Polaroid and Apple. Their environmental policies were widely criticized and they were named one of the worst polluters in the USA.

In 2011 their stock dropped to an all time low of .54 a share. In 2010 Standard & Poors removed Eastman Kodak from its S & P 500 index. Eastman Kodak Company was removed from the Dow Jones Industrial Average index in 2004 after 74 years of being listed on the Dow.

Today, the future of the company is problematical as Chairman and CEO, Antonio M. Perez, and President and COO, Philip J. Faraci, have engaged the prominent international law firm of of Jones Dahy for advice.

What can students of business learn from this scenario? A business person, who is always a student of business, hopes to continually develop analytical skills and business abilities. The business student’s goals include creating successful modalities for their lives and work places.

The classical study of business shows that most of the business actions of the Eastman-Kodak company were correct, well-measured, and successful.

Yet, today Kodak is fighting for their very business lives.

What happened?

The author is pondering the passion of George Eastman. George Eastman had the passion. His passion drove him across an ocean to the center of photography world where he took a lowly bank teller job until he could afford work full-time at his passion. This passion brought him back to the USA where he founded an empire.

Passion for the thing you are doing. Passion creates whole worlds.

That conclusion is too simplistic for the author.

There are many reasons for the downfall of a once strong and viable company.

There is a thing called a Chinese Knot, where when one knot is untied, there is revealed another knot, and another knot, and another knot, and another knot……..

The answer as to “What happened?” is suspected to be more like the Chinese Knot.

Still, what happened?


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