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The Most Exciting of Times for Business

April 9th, 2013

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Roger Harrop

By Roger Harrop

I believe that the times we’re in now are some of the most exciting for business – whether you’re a new start-up, the largest corporate in the world, or anything in-between!

Everyday we are seeing all kinds of amazing new technology become available (often free), everyday there are new markets opening up and opportunities for us to be successful and overarching all that are some very clear global and market trends which, if we can get our strategy right, represent significant opportunities for growth.

Nothing is a given anymore and we can no longer look backwards – even a few months, it seems, to help map out what will give us success in the future. What I’m seeing is that it is those businesses that have recognized this and as a result are challenging all their paradigms and are focusing on the basic fundamentals of business that are really flying.

What I’m also seeing is small and medium businesses starting to run rings around the large corporates – simply because the large corporates have an in-built inertia that often prevents them from changing quickly and truly challenging the paradigms that once made them great.

These times represent real challenges for business leaders but if you can spend more time up in the helicopter with your eyes wide open and with no preconceptions, then there are some exciting, stimulating and highly rewarding rides to have in growing and developing your business!

I recently digested an extensive, and highly illuminating, global trend analysis prepared by a major European firm of consultants looking at world trends through to 2030. There are some key trends that I would suggest every business should have in mind when planning their growth strategy for the future:

Demographics

World population is forecast to grow from 6.9 billion to 8.3 billion over the period and world populations are expected to age by an average of five years – a massive figure.

With this being an average, of course, it means that some countries are seeing populations age even faster and this opens up all kinds of business opportunities for us.

Nations, of course, have got to find a way to deal with this demographic but I don’t think the way to do it is what the Japanese Finance Minister Tiro Aso recently proposed:

He said that he sees elderly people as strains on the country’s resources. He called the country’s elderly who are no longer able to feed themselves “tube people” and noted that if he were in the same position he would feel increasingly bad knowing that treatment was all being paid for by the Government. He went on to say the problem will only be solved when the elderly “hurry up and die”!

Aso’s comments were especially harsh given Japan’s culture of showing the elderly the utmost respect.

Globalisation

Goldman Sachs have reconfirmed that the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) will be the top economies in the world by 2030 and this research suggests that those economies will grow by an average of 7.9% pa throughout the period.

We should all be thinking about how we and our businesses could be benefiting from that growth. Our newspapers of course love to comment on how the Chinese growth has stalled or the Indian growth has stalled but, let’s be realistic, almost no matter what happens, those four countries will be seeing growth significantly higher than anything that will be seen in the so called ‘developed’ economies over that period.

Then there’s “Next 11” growth countries: Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey, South Korea, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines and Vietnam. They are forecast to grow over the period by a, still very attractive, average 5.9%pa.

These 15 countries represent significant opportunities for all of us running business – do you have a strategy to address them? – I do.

Resources and Climate

Energy demand is forecast to increase by 26% and water demand by 53% and, as far as commodities are concerned, there will be a global shortage of both rare metals and food.

CO2 emissions are going to increase by 16%, global warming is going to lead to temperatures rising between 0.5°C and 1.5°C and the ecosystem is going to continue to see extremes.

We need to factor all this into our strategies.

Technology

We are already seeing amazingly rapid developments of new technologies but this report suggests that we haven’t seen anything yet!

The diffusion of technology worldwide is going to be at very high speed. It’s going to streak around the world and people are going to assimilate it, adopt it and use it instantly. Innovation is going to change lives fundamentally worldwide and the “next big thing” will be life sciences.

What does this mean for us in our businesses?

Big or small, we need to develop a culture which is able to firstly gain knowledge of the new technology as it appears, be able then to examine it and identify exactly that which may be of use to us, and then adapt it and adopt it extremely quickly.

Already we’re seeing this with just the adoption of apps, with the use of very straightforward new technology like smartphones, QR Codes and the like. – and of course this is no longer in any way country-dependent, wealth or economy dependent.

I use oDesk, a friend of mine with a business in Texas has all his graphic design and literature designed by someone in Vietnam who he’s formed a relationship with on oDesk. What you are reading now has been transcribed for me by a Kenyan gentleman in Nairobi.

We’re seeing this more and more. There is talk now about “Silicon Savannah” – an area of Nairobi where ground breaking new software development is happening. No longer does new technology have to emanate from California or Tokyo or from super computers – all that’s needed are bright people with access to broadband.

If we can do that we really can differentiate ourselves from the competition and can steal a march on them. But what I so often see is that this doesn’t happen because we are stuck with our ‘silos’ of responsibility – is it Marketing’s job? or IT? or if it might help our productivity maybe it’s Operations?

It’s none of these – it’s yours – it can only be the job of the CEO or business leader to make this happen, challenge the paradigms, remove the silos and get the organisation thinking differently.

Knowledge

The forecast is that by 2030 55% of children in the world will be in secondary education, the gender gap will be narrowing and finally, but absolutely fundamentally, there will be a war for talent. Demand for talented people will exceed supply from now through to 2030.

This requires us to take action now.

Harsh as this may sound, we can no longer afford to have passengers in our businesses. We need “10 out of 10” people everywhere. We need the most talented people we can find and if there’s going to be a war for that talent, then we have to start thinking about recruitment in a new light.

We need to “sell” ourselves and our business to prospective employees just as much as they need to sell themselves to us.

Our organisations need to be viewed as great places to work. Recent research clearly shows the increasing importance we are all placing on working for an organisation whose values we share.

We also need to see that organisation “walking the talk” in terms of those values but the research shows, worryingly, that less than 50% actually do today.

It is no longer good enough to have a committee write a mission statement, put it up in reception and on the website and then ignore it. It is vital that you clearly identify the values and be seen to live by them if you are to recruit and retain the very best people.

Incidentally I was hearing recently that Google have a belief that B-type people only recruit B and C-type people whereas A-type people always recruit A-type people. I’m told therefore that as a result Google’s most talented people all have to spend time recruiting (and at any moment in time 10% of their employees are recruiters) because they want the very best people recruiting the very best people to protect their future.

What do you do?

Responsibility

It’s forecast that there’s going to be increasing cooperation between nations throughout the period and that NGOs are going to proliferate.

Philanthropy is going to multiply.

Are these opportunities for you?

I’ve just read a fascinating book: “Smart Customers Stupid Companies” by Michael Hinshaw and Bruce Kasanoff  – and I have to say I agree with almost everything they say.

For example, they say:

“Disruption favours the smart customer”

“Innovators look through the eyes of their customers”

And the byline to the whole book

“Only intelligent companies will thrive”.

All over the world, I am meeting with intelligent companies that are thriving – whether it’s in the Indian sub-continent, the Middle East, Europe, Asia or America there are significant opportunities for all of us.

Success does depend, however, upon business leaders spending more time in their helicopter than ever before, looking further over the horizon than ever before, challenging everything more than ever before and mapping out a strategy for their business that brings true success in sympathy with rapidly changing trends rather than despite of them.

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Roger Harrop has spent over 25 years leading international businesses, including a plc, which puts him in a unique position to deal with present-day business challenges.

Based in Oxford in the UK, he’s an international business growth speaker who inspires and entertains audiences with his acclaimed Staying in the Helicopter® programmes. Over 10,000 CEOs, business leaders and others have achieved transformational change through his thought-provoking, entertaining talks laced with real-life stories and humour.

Roger is also an author, business advisor, mentor, consultant and independent director. www.rogerharrop.com – © 2013 Roger Harrop Associates

 

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