We have a potentially misleading idea of success in business. We think of it as a signpost that we will someday encounter on the highway that is our journey through the rugged landscape of entrepreneurship; “Welcome, You Have Arrived At Success”, “Success Welcomes Careful Drivers” or “Success: Twinned With Wealth And happiness”. But as long as we keep our eyes by the roadside, waiting to stumble upon these landmarks, we’re all the more likely to pass by our success when we do arrive at it. The truth is that success is not a destination. It’s not somewhere where you can arrive, then take your foot off the gas and find a motel to relax in. Success is the journey; it’s mixed right into the asphalt of the road. It’s a constantly shifting set of goalposts, an algorithm with ever changing parameters. What constitutes success in business today may not carry the same meaning in twenty, ten or even two years’ time. Let your attention wander or take your eye off the road and you’ll find yourself drifting off the road altogether… And then you’ll have real problems.
Success today <> success tomorrow!
Even if you’re riding high upon a wave of success today, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we will carry that same success into tomorrow or the day after. If you’re to continue striving for success in a landscape where technologies, industries and consumer behavior are changing at an increasingly breakneck speed, no business can afford to rest on its laurels. Just take a look at Blockbuster video if you need a cautionary tale. Chances are that even younger readers will recall a time when a visit to the video chain was the hallmark of a Friday night in. We’d flock there night after night to enjoy expensive video rentals alongside expensive candy, popcorn and ice cream… But the industry changed around it and the video giant failed to move with the times. While its competitor Netflix moved into video streaming technologies, Blockbuster floundered in the face of change. Thus, we’ve seen how even a multinational titan can fade into relative obscurity almost overnight. If you’re to ensure that today’s success continues tomorrow, it’s important to keep the following in mind…
Thinking about tomorrow’s challenges today
With so much to occupy your attention on any given day, it’s understandable that your attention may well be focused on the here and now day after day. Many a well-meaning entrepreneur has, through staffing problems, misallocation of resources or a simple penchant for micromanagement, found themselves embroiled in the operational aspects of their business and thus neglecting their strategic commitment to their enterprise.
Trust your employees to use the skills for which you hired them and don’t be afraid to spend some time alone in your office. Keep a finger on the pulse of your industry, carry out competitor analysis and never ever stop using market research to keep up with the changing needs and desires of your clientele. This will inform your ongoing corporate strategy and help you to lay the foundation for facing tomorrow’s problems today.
Keeping an agile approach to tech
Technology will only ever play a larger and larger part of the way in which we do business. But while mediocre businesses invest in the technology they need to solve the problems they have today, great businesses focus on the technological needs of tomorrow, both in terms of scaling up their technological provision as they grow and in terms of meeting the changing challenges of industries that are in a constant state of evolution. In an age where entire industries seem to rise and fall in just a few years, our approach to technology can hold the keys to the future.
A good way to do this is by entrusting your IT provision to an outsourced third party and committing as much of your computing as possible to the cloud. Outsourced IT companies not only provide bespoke technical solutions for businesses like yours, they also regularly audit their provision to ensure that it is fit for purpose and able to navigate the changing challenges the business faces. Solutions can be scaled up as the business grows or scaled down if they are found to be surplus to requirements. Likewise, cloud-based software solutions can also be scaled up or down depending on the needs of the business and are constantly upgraded without the need for down time or disruption.
Making your operation more sustainable
We only have one planet, and if we’re to continue to live on it harmoniously, it’s incumbent upon all business to constantly revise their process to ensure that they are environmentally sustainable as well as economically. Fortunately, there are a plethora of ways in which you can do this and most of them will also save you money to invest back into research and development that will empower you to better face tomorrow’s challenges.
Going paperless is a step that many office based businesses have already undertaken, as is ensuring that the e waste created by broken, damaged or outdated tech is dealt with in an environmentally responsible manner. More and more businesses are choosing to use cloud-based technologies to facilitate remote working for their employees and subcontractors, thereby reducing the business’ carbon footprint. Using energy saving bulbs, switching your utilities to a sustainable provider and investing in alternative energy sources for your business can all go a long way in making your business more sustainable. In an age where consumers are paying more and more attention to the environmental commitments of the brands they use, demonstrating your commitment to a sustainable future will go a long way to maintaining the long-term integrity of your brand.
In an increasingly globalized business landscape, our unparalleled interconnectivity risks creating more division than unification. While utopian thinkers may look at the world as a single and seamless marketplace, more pragmatic CEOs see social, cultural and legal divisions, localized trading blocs, competing economic models and a new range of challenges for the next generation of business leaders. Global leadership skills are of paramount importance if your business is to weather today’s turbulent geopolitical landscape. Even if you don’t (yet) do business on an international scale, it’s likely that you use internationally sourced, components, products or labor.
Never stop growing
Just as your business should be in a constant state of evolution, so should you as its CEO. The more adept and accomplished we become, the more we realize just how little we know in the grand scheme of things. There are always new people to learn from inside and outside of your business. There are always skills that can be learned and developed and new areas in which to expand your skill set. Attend as many talks and seminars as your schedule will allow. Read voraciously and don’t be afraid to find inspiration in the least likely places. You should also keep a close ear to the ground in your own business and listen to the suggestions of your employees. Ensure that they have a safe and open forum in which they can give suggestions, critique and commentary on your organization from their perspective. Ensure that market research is not treated as a one and done but as a constant aspect of your business as you remain attuned to the changing needs of your clientele in an ever-changing market.
Only by retaining an open outlook, by embracing new skills and keeping an eye on the future even as you navigate the problems of the present can your future proof your business and ensure tomorrow’s success.
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