How did Circuit City go from a Mom and Pop store with a mere $13,000 investment, to the best performing Fortune 500 Company for any 15-year period between 1965 and 1995, to bankruptcy and liquidation in 2009? What must leaders do not only to take a business from good to great, but to avoid plummeting from great to gone in a constantly evolving marketplace?
Alan Wurtzel, son of Circuit City founder Sam Wurtzel, took over as CEO in 1972 and implemented a successful long term strategy that simplified the company by unloading unsuccessful acquisitions, expanded the few winning divisions, and preserved the distinct employee culture his father created, positioning the company for unprecedented success. For almost 50 years, Circuit City was able to successfully navigate the constant changes in the consumer electronics marketplace and meet consumer demand and taste preferences. But with the subsequent decline and ultimate demise of Circuit City in 2009, Wurtzel had the rare perspective of a former company insider in the role of an outsider looking in.
Believing that there is no singular formula for strategy, Wurtzel emphasizes the “Habits of Mind” that influence critical management decisions. With key takeaways at the end of each chapter, Wurtzel offers advice and guidance to ensure any business stays on track, even in the wake of disruption, a changing consumer landscape, and new competitors.
Part social history, part cautionary tale, and part business strategy guide, GOOD TO GREAT TO GONE: THE 60 YEAR RISE AND FALL OF CIRCUIT CITY features a memorable story with critical leadership lessons.
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About the Author
Former CEO of Circuit City Stores, Alan Wurtzel led Circuit City to be one of the nation’s largest retailers of consumer electronics and appliances. He joined the company in 1966 as Vice President of Legal Affairs, served as CEO from 1972 to 1986. He was Chairman of the Board from 1984 to 1994 and Vice-Chairman from 1994 to 2001. Circuit City was profiled as one of 11 companies in Jim Collins’ bestselling book, Good to Great.
Since retiring from Circuit City, Wurtzel has split his time between for profit and not for profit activities. Early on, much of his time was devoted to higher education and K-12 educational reform. He’s served as a trustee of Virginia Commonwealth University, a member of the Virginia Board of Education and the State Council for Higher Education. He was also a director of several not-for-profit standards-based education policy organizations including New American Schools, National Center of Education and the Economy, and the Council for Basic Education. As a member of Virginia’s State Board of Education, he actively participated in the formulation and adoption of the current Standards of Learning program.
In the private sector, Wurtzel served as Director of Dollar Tree Stores, Inc., and from 1989 to 1996, he served on the Board of Office Depot. He has been an active investor in startup companies and remains on the Board of two privately held companies.
Currently Wurtzel is a trustee of The Phillips Collection, where he has been active in developing and spearheading its expansion and investment plans, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, an environmental group dedicated to saving the Bay and his alma mater, Oberlin College.
Wurtzel received a B.A. from Oberlin College and a J.D. from Yale Law School. He is married to the playwright, Irene Rosenberg Wurtzel, and has three grown children. He lives in Washington, D.C. and Delaplane, Virginia.
What People are Saying About This
Alan Wurtzel led Circuit City to extraordinary success, one of a small handful of Fortune 500 companies to make a leap from good to great. Years later, Circuit City ceased to exist. Any understanding of what makes great companies tick must also consider the question of how they can fall. Alan Wurtzel’s own analysis of the company he built to greatness, and its subsequent demise, adds to our understanding."
Author of Good to Great and How the Mighty Fall
“Good to Great to Gone illustrates the vital importance of listening to your customers. Without them your company has nothing.”
NY Times bestselling author of Delivering Happiness and CEO of Zappos.com, Inc.
“Alan Wurtzel’s Good to Great to Gone adds color and context to many of the compelling business strategy principles outlined in the Pursuit of Excellence.”
Co-author of In Search of Excellence
“Circuit City, founded when the South’s first TV station opened in Richmond in 1949, went on to become an iconic Virginia company. It was the premier TV and appliance retailer in America with more than 500 stores from coast to coast and sales exceeding $10 billion. Alan Wurtzel, the CEO who conceived the strategy that took his family business from Good to Great, focuses on the development of business strategies and the habits of mind that brought Circuit City to the top and then to the dust bin of Virginia business history. He tells the dramatic story in a compelling way.”
Mark R. Warner
U.S. Senator from the Commonwealth of Virginia
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I recently read this book and personally knew Mr. Wurtzel during my years at Circuit City from 1982-1985 and 1995-1997. The earlier years were the best for me although I put in easily 14 hour days sometimes to keep the POS system up and running. The basic issue I see from a business perspective is - the culture changed - not of the people but of the management. The later management including the board apparently did not have visibility, accountability and morality of the earlier owners. This was, in my mind, the #1 reason for the decline and eventually death of Circuit City. Reading this book was like watching a train wreck happen in slow motion. It wasn't pleasant. Ever hear of the Abilene Paradox? The writing in this book details classic examples of the paradox. Classic case of having "Yes" men and women running the business when you need at least one person to be obstinate, churlish and curmudgeon to put the brakes on bad ideas. I saw a few grammatical errors and typographic errors in the book but I worked around them. Sorry to see Circuit City go - I knew a lot of people affected by the bad decisions. Signed, Good Years, Good Times.