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Change Management

The Coming of the Empathetic Economy

Dion Chang, trend analyst and editor of ‘The State We’re In: The 2010 Flux Trend Review’, believes that the economic disasters of 2008 and 2009 have given us all a wake-up call. He speaks to Entrepreneur about the new approaches people everywhere are taking to life and work.

Monique Verduyn

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When Dion Chang refers to the dawn of the female century, he’s talking about a different way of doing things that counters the aggressive, bullish behaviour which gave rise to the recent global meltdown. A number of signifiers are pointing the way to a new world order fuelled by the rise of civil society, the green movement, the evolution of social networks and a decline in conspicuous consumption.

The Consumer Voice

“The consumer has more power today than ever before,” he says. “Across the world we are seeing the rise of civil society and the people’s voice. It’s very much a female energy typified by the rise of social media. Consumers have found freedom online where they can shop comparatively and customise just about anything they want. Interestingly, we are witnessing a disjoint between the online experience and the offline reality. It may be more impactful, for example, to Tweet about bad service from SAA than it is to contact the airline’s call centre.”

Another case in point is Facebook’s focus groups, which have message boards where vocal supporters and dissatisfied customers alike can post messages. Everywhere, consumers are forming their own clusters, whether through Facebook or other networks. It’s a phenomenon that Seth Godin referred to in his book Tribes: We need you to lead us, in which he focuses on the need for people to take charge of their lives, to bring about change and to take the opportunity to become leaders in their own tribes.

Going It Alone

With many of the retrenched being too old to start their careers over or too young to retire, entrepreneurship is set to take off. “Again, it’s about the reassessment of value systems,” Chang says. “A guy who’s been in corporate law will suddenly decide that actually, he wants to be a yoga instructor.”

The shift in value systems, Chang notes, also results from the fact that people are fed up with banks and big business, which have been blamed for precipitating the global financial crisis.

Business in Africa

Turning to our own continent, Dutch entrepreneur Rutger-Jan van Spaandonk’s contribution to The State We’re In homes in on the realities of doing business in Africa. To harness the potential of the continent, he maintains, businesses have to see Africa as a consumer market, an incubator for new ideas and an exporter of things like agriculture and talent. “True entrepreneurs are seeing opportunities,” says Chang. “It’s not easy to do business on this continent, but if it were, it would be less attractive to early movers.”

The New News

Media industry expert Irwin Manoim muses on the oft predicted death of print media and the rise of news. “Thanks to prolific bloggers, people are increasingly able to choose their news,” says Chang. Information that is deemed to be important enough is rapidly shared with others in their interest group.

The Rise of PR

One of the most insightful chapters in the book looks at the rise of PR as the new advertising. “People want experiences, not adverts,” says Chang. “They want to be entertained, not interrupted. Rather than being told or shown, they want to be involved.”

Some of the most successful promotional campaigns are viral and they work because they are so engaging and fun that people send them on to everyone they know.

“The point is that advertisers need to take note of how consumers are living today – they are involved, connected and in search of meaningful experiences. Reinforcing a brand message with big, expensive ads is just not good enough anymore.” It’s a sentiment corroborated by the vast number of brands on the market and the alacrity with which consumers unapologetically move from one to the next. “Talkability” says Chang, is what meaningful advertising is about today.

Talent Management

Talent management specialist Italia Boninelli, in her contribution on the war for talent, points out that one of the dominant trends in SA is in fact the war for experience.

“The lack of institutional memory is a big problem in the South African business world,” says Chang. “Young managers in the workplace grew up in the boom and have never experienced a recession. Management development programmes have tended to focus on technical and managerial skills rather than business acumen and leadership. The number one reason people leave their jobs is because of their relationship with their boss. With that in mind, it’s worthwhile developing the people who are tasked with leading others.”

A sought-after trend analyst and consultant, Dion Chang is an innovator and creative thinker who sources new ideas and gauges their effects on society. He has 15 years’ experience in the magazine and fashion industry. In addition to running his trends analysis company, he is also a freelance journalist.

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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Change Management

6 Timeless Strategies That Drive Successful Entrepreneurship

Adhere to these key principles to build a high-growth company amid changing circumstances.

Timothy Sykes

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In today’s ever changing business climate, an entrepreneur can easily become overwhelmed. It’s vital, though, to stay focused on your goals for the company.

Even with a firm strategy in place, every entrepreneur should do these six things to clear a path to success:

1Study the competition

As an entrepreneur, you need to know who your competitors are. You also should understand the rival product or service that is being offering.

This knowledge will help you better market your product or service to stand out, perhaps even using your competition’s weaknesses to your advantage.

2Conserve cash no matter how good business is

Frankly put, live as cheaply as possible.

Entrepreneurs should be as conservative with their money as possible to be able to deal with any rough patch that arises. Conserving several months’ worth of operating expenses in the bank will help you survive most unforeseen circumstances.

3Research new products and services

Understand emerging products or services on the horizon that could improve your company’s operations.

Do your homework.

  • Are you taking advantage of all technology has to offer?
  • Is there an app that could help you manage your time more efficiently or a service that lets you delegate ordinary tasks to free up more time for priority projects?

4Don’t tackle huge markets at first

huge markets

Avoid expanding into large markets in the initial stages. Thinking “if we can capture just 1 percent of China” could turn into a mistake. Niche marketing can be extremely cost effective if you keep three things in mind: Meet the market’s unique needs by offering something new and compelling. Speak the market’s language and understand its hot buttons.

Your language should be in synch with that niche even for the minor aspects of a marketing campaign like the company’s slogan.

5Listen to customer feedback and adapt

Salespeople know the adage “always be closing,” referred to by the acronym ABC. Entrepreneurs have an acronym, too: Always be adapting, or ABA.

But entrepreneurs can evolve their business only when they’re listening to customer feedback. It may not mean much if one customer doesn’t like your product but if this is true for many of them and they’re requesting another feature, listen and be ready to adapt.

Whether you’re adapting your marketing plan, simplifying a product or responding to new trends, pay attention to customer feedback. Be all ears.

6Respond to change

In business change is inevitable and those capable of responding are flexible and versatile.

An entrepreneur must be prepared to accept change and adapt business operations accordingly. Be flexible. If a shift in your product or service is warranted, don’t be left behind. Realize from the start that where you are is likely not to be where you’ll end up. A lack of adaptability can result in loss in customers, profits and even business failure.

As an entrepreneur, understand that the world is evolving rapidly. Even a company founded a year ago could change the world today.

Yes, the world customarily commends big players like Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey. Yet there’s room for everyone in the game. Entrepreneurship in emerging markets could very well be a major factor in the return of a hearty global economy. Why couldn’t you be a part of that change?

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Change Management

Yellowwood Future Architects Are Helping Their Clients Understand The New Future

The world is changing. And young, digitally-savvy consumers are becoming an increasingly large and powerful segment. So how should your business adapt to the changing face of the consumer landscape?

GG van Rooyen

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Vital Stats

  • Player: David Blyth
  • Position: CEO
  • Company: Yellowwood Future Architects
  • Established: 1997
  • What they do: Yellowwood is a South African marketing strategy consultancy. It helps clients find top line growth for their businesses by offering strategic focus and insight into customers.
  • Visit: www.ywood.co.za

Yellowwood Future Architects specialises in helping its clients understand their customers. It is a crucial task, since no organisation can survive long-term if if doesn’t have a deep understanding of the people who buy its products and services.

But even companies that pay great attention to their customers can find themselves struggling to understand the mindset of the modern consumer. Why is that? Well, the consumer landscape is changing drastically, especially in Africa.

“Globally, the youth market is the largest the world has ever seen, and Africa has the majority of these young people. According to the latest census figures, South Africa’s 15 to 34-year-olds total in the region of 19,5 million, or 37,6% of the total population of 51,7 million. By comparison, South Africa’s Generation Xers (the 37 to 56-year-olds) number under 12 million. With direct youth spend in South Africa sitting at a hefty R130 billion per annum, marketers need to sit up and take notice of the youth market. “They are not just ‘the future’ as we are often told — they are ’the now’,” says Yellowwood CEO David Blyth.

This means that no company can afford to ignore the youth market. As Blyth says, they are having a profound effect on the economy already, and this influence will only grow as they age.

Related: Turnover Doubling Every 10 Months – Honeybee Has Set Its Sights To Scale Speedily

So what does this new generation look like? What are their wants and needs? And what do they expect of the brands and companies they interact with?

They want relevant marketing

The days when consumers could be seen as passive receivers of marketing materials are over. Young consumers expect the right information at the right time. They don’t want to be spammed with information that’s not relevant to them, but they do want information to be instantly available when necessary.

They have a lot of disposable income

Young consumers have a surprising amount of disposable income. How so? They live with their parents longer than previous generations did, and they often rent instead of buy.

“We are seeing a shift in how young people spend their money. Many of them aren’t paying a bond or monthly car instalments, which gives them more disposable income,” says Blyth. “Depending on your industry, this can have a profound effect on your business.”

They demand authenticity

“Don’t try to be cool,” says Blyth. “Young consumers want brands to be real — they don’t want to be fed an inauthentic marketing line.” According to Blyth, they want to be approached on equal terms.

They want value

“Brands are important,” says Blyth. “But we are also seeing that young consumers want value. Brand alone isn’t enough. There is simply too much choice out there these days. Combine this with an uncertain economy, and a unique value offering becomes critical.”

Related: How Flick Visual Foundry Found High Rewards By Taking A Narrow View

They want dialogue

As mentioned earlier, young consumers aren’t willing to be the passive recipients of marketing material. These days, engagement is key.

“Thanks to platforms like Twitter and Instagram, consumers have a loud voice,” says Blyth. “And they aren’t afraid to use it. They will let you know if they’re unhappy, and they will expect you to respond. They want two-way conversation.”

They are socially conscious

“Young consumers are very socially conscious. They care about social issues and the environment. So it goes without saying that they expect companies and brands to care about these things as well,” says Blyth.
They are complicated

Perhaps the defining characteristic of the youth market is its inability (and unwillingness) to be pigeonholed and broadly defined. Young consumers are incredibly complex in their wants, needs and demands.

They can appear self-centred and very focused on instant gratification, but research has also shown that they are incredibly concerned about the future, and very conscious of social and environmental issues.

What this means is that the days of approaching marketing in a linear way are over. The world is becoming more complex, consumers are becoming more demanding, and companies have no choice but to keep up.

Related: Business Partners Limited Explain What It Takes To Have The X (Fundable) Factor

Take Note

Never assume that you know your customer. Customer research should be an ongoing activity. The world is changing quickly, and companies need to keep up. They need to evolve at the same speed as their consumers.

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Change Management

Developing Your Business’s Ethics Policy

It’s not enough to have a vision statement and values; you have to integrate them into your company’s culture.

Entrepreneur

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Definition: Business ethics is the study of proper business policies and practices regarding potentially controversial issues, such as corporate governance, insider trading, bribery, discrimination, corporate social responsibility and fiduciary responsibilities. Investopedia

In training values and ethics, many “what if” scenarios should be developed so that employees can learn to react to possibilities.

Once you have defined what’s acceptable and what is not, plan how the organisation will respond to employees who do the right thing. For example, if someone makes a business decision that is consistent with organisational ethics, but causes the company to lose business, show that person as a positive example.

Related: The Ethics Coach on How to Maintain the Integrity of Your Brand

Next, examine negative situations. Most lying in organisations isn’t for personal gain but to avoid embarrassing consequences.

If you frequently take success for granted and consistently punish failure, you can count on people changing the numbers to look better than they should, blaming others for their mistakes or hiding errors.

In summary, you should:

  1. Specifically define values and ethics as they relate to suppliers, customers and employees.
  2. Train employees using realistic examples relating to your own business.
  3. Examine how you respond to success and failure. within your organisation.
  4. Reinforce all who make an improvement, not just a select few.

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