The recent financial crisis caused more than just an economic downturn. Major shifts are taking place in almost every industry around the world as new rules for success and failure are written. History tells us that the major winners and losers of a recession actually emerge only in the aftermath of the downturn – as the upswing begins. We therefore need to prepare ourselves for a decade of turbulence as we live with the after-shocks of the “Great Recession”.
The most successful companies will be those that find ways to be strategically responsive. To do this, it is important that everyone – at every level in the organisation – has an understanding of the forces that shape the next decade. Only then can they contribute meaningfully to your company’s success. You can develop these insights through regular analysis of your environment and strategic conversations with all of the people throughout your organisation. Their understanding will help them buy into your vision and strategies. And it is also essential for problem solving, creativity, innovation and the proactive identification of opportunities and threats in your industry and marketplace. Here’s a helpful framework: consider, on an ongoing basis, five key disruptive forces that will reshape the world in the next decade. These are the tides of change. Use this framework on a regular basis in your team meetings and informal conversations to make sure that everyone is ready for the next few years of turbulent change. Let me explain. There are five tides of change, each one outlined below.
Continued increases in computing power and the rapid development of digital tools to enhance and simplify our lives will dominate the next decade. The workplace has never been so far behind the technology curve as it is now. When I first started work (at KPMG in the early 1990s), the office had the best technology (the latest computers, mainframes, fax machines, colour photocopiers and more). I arrived early and left the office late in order to spend more time on the Apple SE/30s KPMG Johannesburg had just purchased (they’d make good doorstops now). But today, instead of trying to take things out of the office, young people are desperate to smuggle technology into the workplace. They’re frustrated at the out-of-date hardware, old software and restrictive IT policies that characterise many office environments. Companies need to catch up quickly and take advantage of the most important technology trends for business in the next decade: social media, augmented reality and mobility.
This is being driven not by teenagers who want to tell the world what they had for breakfast, but by our human desire to connect and interact. At last, computers have stopped creating space between us and are providing ways to connect us. This will change how you communicate – if your website is just a brochure and does not encourage interaction, feedback and conversation, you’ll be left behind. But it has even more potential to change your entire business structure, with collaboration at every level. For a detailed look at what social media might do to our industries, see http://tr.im/socialmedia2.
This is our ability to see the data associated with the physical objects around us. We’ll quickly get used to doing this, and your organisation could be left behind if you don’t make all the data anyone might like to see available to them in visually stunning ways.
And all of this will need to be done in such a way that it can be accessed and interacted with via mobile devices. Cloud computing will drive our ability to access any (and all) information anywhere, on any device or platform, all the time. In this world, geography counts for nothing and competition is everywhere. How mobile can your staff and customers be? How mobile is your offering? The next steps in the technology revolution are all about how we use technology to connect us and help us interact. Don’t be left behind.
2. Institutional Change
Almost every sector is in the midst of a period of disruptive change where the old rules for success don’t seem to hold true. This is because many industries are currently experiencing deep structural changes, including changes to the nature of relationships, the means of producing profit, how companies are structured internally, their risk profiles, where and how capital can be accessed, the basis for success – and failure, and the structure of the industry itself. Kenichi Ohmae foresaw this in his 2005 book The Next Global Stage: “Over the last two decades, the world has changed substantially. The economic, political, social, corporate, and personal rules that now apply bear scant relation to those applicable two decades ago. Different times require a different script.”
The key to understanding this disruptive trend is that we are finally being forced to deal with the implications of the shift from the industrial to the information age. We should not be surprised that it has taken nearly half a century for the implications of this transition to be fully felt. It took longer than that for the first motor vehicles and steam trains of the industrial revolution to mutate into the consumer economy epitomised by Henry Ford’s assembly line. By “institutional change” I mean that the very rules of an industry are changing. Most industries have these “rules” – the unwritten laws for success. It is inherited wisdom that everyone in the industry accepts as gospel. It’s hardly ever questioned. As we emerge from this recession I suggest two things:
- That the rules have changed – not all of them, but enough of them to make your industry feel like an unfamiliar place
- That competitors will question the rules and make changes that would have been unheard of just a few years ago. It would be better for you to be ahead of this curve, than behind it.
Each industry will be affected differently, but there is no doubt that institutional change requires new thinking from you and your team. Our default reaction to such seismic change is to protect ourselves. This will happen in your industry too. But now would be a good time to go against the flow, and question the assumptions that threaten to constrain you and your competitors.
The third of the five tides of change is demographics. There are many trends we could consider as we look at the study of changing populations, but the most important ones that will impact business in the next three to five years are: an ageing population (and changes in retirement), rising life expectancy, plummeting fertility rates, the potential for generational conflict, migration and diversity.
We took nearly a century to reach one billion consumers (roughly defined as the middle class people around the world who have disposable income and can purchase appliances). It will take us less than a decade to grow that number by another billion (or more). And almost all of these new consumers will come from the developing world – they will have different mindsets, languages, cultures and worldviews. At the same time, the developed world will get older, and migration from rural areas to cities, and from poor, overcrowded countries to rich, ageing countries, will increase. This points to a very different looking world in ten years’ time. A key part of management’s role in the years ahead will be to manage conflict between competing worldviews and demographics, and to find ways to release the wealth locked up in true “mindset” diversity – in both staff and customer pools.
4. Environmental Issues
You can’t walk past a newsstand these days without a host of magazine covers shouting something “green” at you. More often than not, it seems the articles are trying to fuel debates about whether climate change is happening or not. But, regardless of what you or I think about these issues, the governments of the world have made up their minds and are instituting policies and programmes to deal with carbon emissions and energy usage.
Energy will cost more, and therefore so will transport. Input costs will rise. Money will be made – and lost – in carbon trading schemes. But it’s more than just global warming we need to be worried about. As James Martin points out in his excellent book, The Meaning of the 21st Century, there are at least 16 major issues facing the world in the next few decades – each one of which could ruin the planet and change life on earth forever. These include pollution, extreme poverty, pandemics, runaway computer intelligence, dwindling water and food supplies, increasing violence and weapons of mass destruction, and more. Not only must you consider the possible threats of these issues to your business in the next decade, but you should also anticipate where potential opportunities will emerge for you. With activists and ethical consumers becoming ever more vocal, this issue has game changing potential in the next decade.
5. Shifting Social Values
If the previous four trends are changing the world as I have suggested, then it should not be surprising that people’s values, their dreams and aspirations, their expectations of what a good life looks like, their desires for their lives, work, families and careers are all changing, too. Many companies are hoping that we will soon get “back to normal”, but it isn’t going to happen.
The downturn has been more than economic – it has served to catalyse many social, political and values changes that had already been underway, and will now change the world forever.You need to consider how your staff, customers and business partners have changed their own expectations – not just in relation to you and your offerings, but to their entire lives and how what you do for them fits into these. This trend has the most potential to surprise you. Therefore, it is also the key to gaining access to the hearts and souls of your stakeholders – and that’s where the new sustainable competitive advantage in your industry is to be found.
Facing the Future
It’s not just the short-term challenges caused by the recent economic difficulties that have made business more complicated. Over a period of time, competition, the speed of change, globalisation and the technology that we’ve implemented have simply led to greater complexity. One of the ways that businesses have responded is to reduce layers of management and bureaucracy, passing responsibility and authority further down the line into our organisations. We thus expect people at all levels to act with the type of understanding, critical thinking, initiative, agility and responsibility that just a decade or so ago were largely reserved for people in the executive suite.
To be successful in the coming decade of turbulence and opportunity will require the involvement and commitment of everyone throughout your organisation. Nothing can guarantee your success. But by using the tides of change framework to guide your formal meetings and informal conversations, and to help focus your team on the forces that will disrupt your industry and change your market considerably, you can be off to a great start. The point is to make the most of turbulent times.
Innovate For Change – Think Like A Social Entrepreneur
Why consider the social entrepreneurship model?
Social entrepreneurship is an exciting business arena that finds new, sustainable business solutions to long-standing problems. Social entrepreneurs see social challenges (such as poverty, homelessness, poor infrastructure or lack of quality education) as an opportunity for change.
This approach brings together the best that business practices offer and blends it with the best that civil society offers (a social mission, broader stakeholders involvement and the engagement of the community). By generating income from business activities and reinvesting its profits back into driving its mission, this approach generates both social value and economic value simultaneously.
Why consider the social entrepreneurship model?
1. Seeing social challenges as opportunities
South Africa’s social and structural challenges, from our poor ranking in health and education to the high level of unemployment, provide a myriad of opportunities for entrepreneurs that are willing to roll up their sleeves and work to build a better future.
The recent winner of the recent Nation Builder Social Innovation Challenge, Lungi Tyali, is a great example of this mindset.
Across Africa, there is a dire lack of provision for the electrification needs of the majority of the population, especially in rural communities. In South Africa, at present, there are 3.4-million households without a formal, metered electricity supply; 2.2-million in formal and 1.2-million in informal households. Lungi Tyali is the CEO of Solar Turtle who, with her business partner, James van der Walt, created a solar energy solution for rural and off-grid areas. Solar Turtle provides a solar-powered kiosk in a container that serves as a hub for renewable electricity. During the day, the solar panels are open to collect sunlight and at night they are enclosed and locked securely into the container.
Related: How To Be A Social Entrepreneur
2. Social entrepreneurship has low barriers to entry
Many of the most successful social enterprises start off small with an enterprising individual seeing an opportunity in their local community and building from this small beginning. There is no prerequisite for a university degree of formal training. Growing social enterprises can thus also offer employment opportunities to unskilled workers and youth without experience, addressing South Africa’s high level of unemployment.
One such story is that of Nonhlanhla Joye, the founder and facilitator of Umgibe Farming, Organics and Training Institute. Ma’ Joye, was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and as a result, could not work to provide food for her family. She decided to grow organic vegetables in her backyard to feed her family. Unfortunately, the chickens ate all her vegetables and she had to come up with a solution.
She innovated a growing system using plastic bags. Before long Ma Joye was teaching other community members to use her growing system. A platform was born where poor communities started growing vegetables to feed themselves and collectively sell their surplus produce.
3. Corporate Social Investment, with purpose
Social enterprises also offer individuals and companies the opportunity to invest in lasting social change. Unlike traditional philanthropy, the impact of social enterprises has the potential to be much more lasting by directly providing affordable social goods and services, as well as employment opportunities.
Nation Builder, for example, is a platform* that brings like-minded businesses and civil society together in order to learn from each other and partner together for the greatest possible impact through wise and responsible social investing.
4. Personal actualisation
Perhaps the most rewarding advantage of being a social entrepreneur is the impact you can have on society, but this model also offers several personal benefits:
- working to solve issues you care about
- freedom to explore and create innovative solutions that can inspire change
- the opportunity to turn passion into profit
- working as your own boss.
Having The Perfect Product Isn’t Enough To Keep You In Business
The odds of the small business surviving aren’t stacked in its favour. It’s more likely to fail than succeed. That’s the bitter truth. However, once it’s able to shake off the niggling teething problems, watch it as it unfolds from a pupa to a beautiful butterfly.
There is a small bakery operates in my neighbourhood. It bakes bread; no cakes or other confectionaries. The best home-made bread that has your palates yearning for more. This is in sharp contrast with the bread produced by bigger bakeries. They also supply bread to the neighbourhood.
The bigger bakeries operate a model that is largely automated to the point that they lose a very important ingredient beyond flour, yeast and whatever goes into making bread. They lack the personal touch that gives it the home-made feel. This is why the neighbourhood bakery is preferred despite being pricier.
The small bakery isn’t without its flaws; avoidable flaws that may, sadly, sink the business. My view is more on the certainty of the demise of the business as observers would’ve noticed a slow yet steady decline in the output of the business. These flaws aren’t unique to the bakery, several other small businesses have share the same flaws.
Why would a customer who is willing to pay more for a product suddenly cease patronising the business. What other factor apart from higher price, in the absence of a drop in purchasing power, would make a customer buy bread of supposed inferior quality from the competition.
A couple of years ago when I moved to the neighbourhood the business was doing great. Even during a biting recession the shelves were always stacked with freshly baked bread of different varieties. Despite the excellent product on display, there was an unsatisfactory trend in the operation of the business.
For one, the sales personnel are rude. Having the right staff is necessary to grow any business, but when this very fundamental issue isn’t gotten right it will be fatal to the business. After all for how long would customers put up with poor service delivery in the face of stiff competition from bigger rivals.
Small business owners must realise that proper training of staff is as important as sourcing for capital and shouldn’t be overlooked as the survival of the business also rests on it. Bigger businesses in this regard always come out tops in comparison with their smaller counterparts.
Annually, big businesses spend billions of dollars on staff training for the simple recognition of the fact that having disgruntled customers, on account of poor service by personnel, is dangerous for business. Despite their size, big businesses tend to understand better the importance of the single customer. Also, how the discontent of a few customers can translate into poor sales which is detrimental to the business.
The mindset of a small business shouldn’t be different. Investing in staff shouldn’t be treated with levity to ensure the business not only stays afloat, but also grow it. Growing a business is in itself tough work, small business owners shouldn’t make it tougher by providing terrible service.
The neighbourhood bakery lacks this important feature and it’s been responsible for the steady decline in sales. I didn’t know the poor service rendered by the attendants had attained much notoriety until I was having a conversation with a group of individuals at a religious gathering and the issue came up. It’s a sad realisation.
For financial reasons small businesses aren’t known for recruiting the best personnel. Most employ the services of family members. While there is nothing wrong with this, it’s important to ensure such person is the best fit for the business. Employing family members may lead to a myriad of problems for the business. Therefore it will be in the best interest of the business not to employ an incompetent family member than have him ruin the business. This is a risky way of running the business.
The feeling of the customer towards the goods or services businesses provide is key to its success or failure. This is because customers can have the most unbiased assessment of the business rather than management and staff. Despite the poor service the bakery openly had on display, no one seemed to have bothered complaining to the owner of the business. So it may seem.
It will be in the best interest of a small business owner to leave an open channel for feedbacks from customers. This isn’t the case with the bakery and some other businesses face this challenge too which may lead to further problems.
The inability to provide an avenue for customers to channel their complaint to the proper individual creates a problem of inaccessibility. Accessibility happens to be an area of strength for small businesses because of their size. In larger businesses, despite creating channels for complaints there is usually no personal relationship between the owners and their customers. This is an area a small business shouldn’t be found wanting.
One would imagine that as a small business, the owner of the bakery should be easily accessible to interact with customers to in order to obtain feedbacks pertaining service and staff performance. This isn’t the case as the business clearly takes this important factor for granted. A lot of customers don’t know the owner of the bakery despite patronising it for years.
On paper the size of small businesses translates to easy accessibility. A closer look will reveal that the owners of small businesses tend to take a lot of things for granted. They fail to realise that they have to be consciously open to the idea and cultivate the habit of seeking feedbacks from customers. A small scale business has to maximise its potential for dynamism and flexibility. If it can’t take advantage of its unique qualities then it’s doomed.
There has been a reduction in the variety of bread baked and in addition to this is the equal reduction in the amount of bread on display generally. From observation it’s clear that patronage has taking a massive hit.
It’s painful witnessing the slow demise of a business with a good product due to its own failures. Having the perfect product won’t on its own keep the small business in business. The odds of the small business surviving aren’t stacked in its favour. It’s more likely to fail than succeed. That’s the bitter truth. However, once it’s able to shake off the niggling teething problems, watch it as it unfolds from a pupa to a beautiful butterfly.
Customers Are The Heart Of Innovative Businesses
Keep your customer at the heart of your business.
One of the main reasons start-ups fail is because they don’t create solutions that meet their customers’ needs. Failure is avoidable. Businesses that understand their customers feelings, challenges, expectations and motivations make themselves indispensable in highly competitive markets because they recognise that true innovation is led by customer insight.
An incredible example of a business that believes in innovation driven by insight is Netflix. They revolutionised the way people watch video content by listening to their customer’s needs. You’ve probably heard the story before: after paying a $40 overdue DVD fee, Reed Hastings co-founded Netflix. He was simply too busy to return his DVD. He recognised that this experience wasn’t exclusive to him, but that it was a problem that many people faced. He saw a gap in the market for receiving and returning videos more effectively, and that is how the $150 billion business was born.
If your start-up doesn’t fulfil a human need, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s not enough to have a cool idea. Ask yourself, “What is the market need behind the offering?” and then test ways of delivering your offering in the most user-friendly manner. Talk to your consumers, understand their likes and dislikes and establish your business purpose before haphazardly allocating funds to R&D.
You can’t go from being a California based DVD-by-mail provider, to becoming the world’s largest online video streaming service without a business plan. It’s important to recognise the step-by-step process of success. Netflix didn’t go from delivering DVD’s to pouring capital into the production of video content within six months. That sort of development would have bankrupt the company almost immediately. It took 21 years for the business to become content creators.
- In 1999, the company became a subscription service because they found that customers preferred paying a monthly fee rather than making a once off purchase.
- Then, in 2009, the company used investor capital to expand their DVD collection because their clients wanted a larger selection of movies.
- In 2010, the business expanded internationally because they saw a gap in the market across various countries.
- Finally, in 2013, Netflix created its first original content series because customers craved fascinating content beyond the overused Hollywood archetype.
The point is: Progress didn’t happen overnight. The business had to set goals and objectives. They then had to fund their growth by presenting market opportunities, backed by customer insights, to their investors. Establish your start-up one step at a time and make sure every progression isn’t innovation for innovations sake – it must be inspired by a human need.
Netflix was founded by a computer scientist and a marketing director. While one partner focused on Netflix’ service development, the other focused on sales. Since the company’s origin, collaboration and balance have been the cornerstones of the business’ success.
Netflix is currently composed of a diverse team of tech-professionals and designers. They understand the importance of combining technology and design to offer customer-inspired user-experiences.
After conducting consumer research, Netflix discovered that series and movie artwork influences viewing decisions by 82%. This has resulted in the creation of more descriptive and provocative designs. Netflix is known for leveraging human-behaviour to revolutionise their service offering.
As an entrepreneur, you can increase your ROI by partnering with the experts that understand human-based innovation.
Keep your customer at the heart of your business.
Entrepreneur Profiles2 weeks ago
8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion
Technology1 week ago
3 Things Africa Must Get Right If It Wants To Leapfrog Into The 4th Industrial Revolution
Business Ideas Directory2 weeks ago
10 Cannabis Business Opportunities You Can Start From Home
Lessons Learnt17 hours ago
What Comfort Zones? Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable Says Co-Founder Of Curlec: Zac Liew
Business Landscape5 days ago
How Schindlers Attorneys Became Involved In The Landmark Cannabis Case
Branding1 week ago
Why You Should Prioritise Brand Image
Get Organised4 days ago
How To Multitask Like Tim Ferriss, Randi Zuckerberg And Other Very Busy People
Increasing Productivity1 week ago
Take Responsibility For Your Company’s Culture To Boost Productivity