My wife says I often tell new people we meet several things about myself. High on the list are: I was an accountant and my father owned a camera shop. I often say the latter, when friends, or strangers on the streets of Chicago, ask if we would take their picture. Like Eastman Kodak, the former corporate giant, my photographic knowledge and skills are all out of date. Cameras are now phones (we do have iPhones) and taking pictures and viewing them now has very little to do with what I learned in my father’s store.

So why write about a fallen corporate giant like Kodak? In part, because I knew and lived the story. And in larger part, because it can serve as a warning to today’s corporate giants just how fast and far you can fall. Eastman Kodak, like IBM, Apple, and Facebook, invented a whole industry: getting people to take and print pictures. And like these other modern giants, at one time, Kodak had a dominant market share, increasing sales, profits, and even a lot of cash.

When we owned the camera shop, we sold Kodak film, Kodak film processing chemicals and paper, Kodak darkroom equipment, Kodak prints and slides and of course, Kodak cameras. They did it all. Now they do almost nothing. Their stock once sold for $50; now, 15cents.

So what happened? Just about everything went wrong. Just as Sears ignored Walmart, Kodak’s Leaders and Culture dismissed the emergence of both Japanese cameras and Fuji film. As the world was experimenting with digital photography, they kept churning out their films and processing until no one was buying it. Their printing business, once legendary, was recently sold for peanuts to Shutterbug; another entity Kodak ignored!  Kodak also had thousands of patents on everything from photography to imaging to printing to whatever. They never tried to really license or sell these until it was too late.

Articles and probably books, can be written about what went wrong. But it gets down to a giant corporation with one main business whose Culture and Leadership seemed content to milk that business till the end. They went bankrupt and were forced to dispose of every asset they had. In the end, even their name, like Polaroid, will be sold. But don’t get me started on another innovative photography giant that disappeared.

Now, you may be thinking, well, that was Kodak. It could never happen to Apple or Facebook, they are unique and special. So was Eastman Kodak in the days of my father’s shop and even into the year 2000 when their stock was still $50. But when giant firms fall, they fall fast. Even the Wall Street Wizards can not predict the timing or the bottom.

Culture and Leadership are the key factors in any organization. They are often called the flip side of each other. In my book, The Business Zoo, we end with this critical subject that in some ways, ties everything together. They also drives firms to great success or to their untimely end.

And if you work in an organization that dominants its industry and has only one, main successful business, you better do a better job  managing your business and planning your future than some of these fallen giants of industry.