Business Strategy | Leadership / Management | Organizational Development

CVS quits smoking. What do YOU need to stop doing?

It’s official: Smoking in America is dead.

I know what you’re saying: “Whoa, Bill — what are YOU smoking?”

Fair question, considering that almost 20 percent of Americans continue to smoke cigarettes.

Regardless, the death knell has sounded, courtesy of CVS.

The pharmacy giant has announced that it will stop selling tobacco products by Oct. 1.

"Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS / pharmacy is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health," CVS President and CEO Larry Merlo said in a statement. "Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose."

The decision doesn’t come without a price: CVS estimates it will lose $2 billion annually as a result of the move. But considering the company took in $123 billion in revenue in 2012, it probably won’t break them.

That’s not the point, though. CVS made a conscious decision to stop selling a product that kills its customers. It found something that it should stop doing, and it actually stopped doing it. Talk about a gutsy decision.

Bold moves like CVS’s are contagious, too. Mark my words, it won’t be long before other retailers do the same thing. The dominos will start falling. Smoking will slowly die.

Do you have the guts to do something like that?

You are doing something right now that no longer serves your clients — that, in fact, is a disservice to your clients. But you keep doing it, and why? Because (a) it’s what you’ve always done, and (b) you’re making money doing it.

Do you have the guts to stop doing it? Do you have the courage to look at the world from your clients’ point of view and say, “We need to stop doing this. It’s not helping our customers, and it’s not where the world is going.”

Rita McGrath might call that “healthy disengagement” — knowing when to shut down projects that hinder our future growth, and to extract knowledge and resources from those projects and apply them to something new.

Or she might just call it “doing the right thing.” I know I would.

Given the pace of change, innovation is more important than ever. So is quitting things that aren’t good for you anymore.

What do you need to stop doing?


Bill Sheridan