20th Apr , 2016
Business evolves to take advantage of rapidly changing markets and technology platforms to deliver and interact with customers.
Some areas of business move relatively slowly, whilst others change so rapidly, it can be hard to keep up. If you examine what was happening to business and social change a decade ago compared with today, then it is easy to see that the way we do business continues to evolve at an increasing rate. We now need to expect and be prepared for even more change in the future and to stay ahead, we need to be adaptable, flexible and remain fit and able to keep up.
From a business perspective there are constant issues arising from the rate of change that require awareness, scrutiny, flexibility and adaptability. These include:
Technology or IT is probably the biggest change issue of all. It spans all businesses in all industries and sectors and in specific areas such as communications, hardware and software platforms, mobile devices, cyber security, social media, and cloud.
Crowd funding was practically unheard of in the last century, but is fast becoming a recognised way of connecting with potential supporters and customers. Crowdfunding is one-way small business owners can raise capital to start a business, launch a new product or service, or fund other company projects. The crowdfunding process starts when an entrepreneur puts out a call for financial support to the public, typically on the Internet through sites such as Kickstarter. Supporters then pledge to fund the project with a certain amount of money, and if the total pledges received meets or exceeds the goal set, the supporters make their donation (they do not have to contribute if the goal amount is not reached). Funds raised through crowdfunding are not paid back as they would be with a loan, but the business raising the funds will often provide free products, discounts, or other incentives to those who contribute.
The take up of online transactions is also trending and growing. Traditional forms of shopping, advertising, banking, researching, communicating and training, have changed dramatically -namely people do not have to physically be in a shop, print brochures, go to a bank branch, go to a library, meet people face to face in person or attend a training session in person. It can all be done online.
Cyber security continues to be a critical area of growing concern in 2016 despite the ever updating sophisticated software geared to prevent hacking. Precautions must be taken to avoid loss of sensitive information and revenue.
Cloud also continues to increase importance in its ability to store and backup data. Again vigilant attention to possible breaches needs to be addressed.
Different skills sets are evolving.
Take Sales and Marketing- it is always a buzz issue. From recruiting and training good sales and marketing people, to securing the necessary sales is a continual process. This process has become more complex- take for example the emerging role of the market analyst:
In the USA alone there were 290,000 market research analysts employed, with approximately 30% of them working in the professional, scientific and technical services industries. Others are employed in the finance and insurance, information, management and wholesale trade industries.
Consider a typical day for a market research analyst’s tasks that might include:
• Collecting and analysing data on customer demographics, preferences, needs, and buying habits to identify potential markets and factors affecting product demand.
• Preparing reports of findings, illustrating data graphically and translating complex findings into written text.
• Measuring and assessing customer satisfaction.
• Forecasting and tracking marketing and sales trends, and analysing collected data.
• Measuring the effectiveness of marketing, advertising, and communications programs and strategies.
• A market research analyst will need at least a bachelor’s degree in marketing research or a related discipline like statistics or maths. Regardless of the degree the coursework should include business, marketing, statistics, mathematics and survey design. Some jobs may require at least a master’s degree.
• Market research analysts may receive certification from various Marketing Research Associations. Such certification, is based on education and experience, must be renewed typically every two years. In order to qualify for renewal, one must take continuing education classes.
• To be an effective market research analyst you must be able to communicate well in writing and orally, and be detail-oriented. You also need good critical thinking and analytical skills.
Social Media is another example of trending business applications and interactions with clients, customers and the public to get awareness and, customer relationships, and ultimately sales. Take Facebook which was originally a personal form of media and has since expanded into a business medium. Twitter also lends itself to business communication and of course LinkedIn is highly recognised for business connections and sharing information. These all need to be worked into the business marketing and IT strategies.
Scams threaten just about everybody be it from a personal or business perspective. The best protection is to be diligent and subscribe to a government operated scam watch site.
Advisory Boards with similarities and difference to traditional Boards have become more popular the past few years. A diverse board brings a variety of skills and experiences to the table. No business is too small to benefit from having an Advisory Board and it is a powerful management tool that no small business should be without. The advisory board gives you access to business people with open discussion, sharing ideas and concerns as a formal process.
Your Advisory Board is composed of people with a genuine interest in your business and a desire to see it do well and act as a management think tank, acting as a sounding board, a source of ideas and expertise and give you honest feedback.
Start ups are risky, but there is much more help available for new business owners and entrepreneurs than there used to be in the forms of business coaching by professionals. Governments have programmes in place to assist start ups and selective business mentoring can offer more personalised and specialised service.
Recruitment has changed significantly and remains a potentially volatile issue for businesses and business owners. The cost of employing inappropriate employees can be enormous as is the risk of legalities associated with employing new people. Using a reputable recruitment consultancy has the advantage of minimising risk in these areas.
Top executives need independent support. Retaining talent and developing top executives is now recognised as an imperative method to improve business performance. An independent business mentor can share skills and experiences to help senior executives in many ways, such as: transition into a new role, assist with relationships within an organisation, discuss ideas, and have trusted and friendly support.
CEOs need support too. They continue to hold enormous responsibilities and are accountable to the board and shareholders. Most could do with the support of an experienced International Business Mentor who can share their experiences from many different perspectives such as the relationship and reporting to the board, as well as technical issues. Furthermore a supportive sounding board is invaluable.
Evolution in business will continue and change will continue unabated. The skills and experience you need to succeed in business and to survive will change. Well experienced International Business Mentors can help fill your experience gaps and help you think and adapt to the strategic changes and choices you will no doubt face. You are not alone.
Chris and David Cartney April 2016