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There are few things more unsettling in the world of business as encountering scared CEOs. And that’s what I saw a few weeks ago.

Alvin Toffler, the author of Future Shock, explained decades ago “future shock is the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time”.

It was the in-your-face nature of what has been happening and what will happen that was responsible for taking many of the 450 attendees at The CEO Institute’s Chief Executive Summit in Sydney out of their comfort zone.

Among the many insightful speakers was Stuart McLean, the Head of Enterprise at Google Australia.

He told the audience that most retail businesses are “becoming the most expensive change rooms in the world”. While shoppers are using smartphones to compare prices as they stand in stores, even using scanning functionality to find the lowest prices nearby, shopkeepers are trying to charge potential customers to try on shoes.

This is an old-world response to a new-world problem and it is bound to fail.

He pointed out that Gerry Harvey, arguably this country’s greatest ever retailer, had missed the boat and the point about where retail was heading – that is online.

And to add insult to injury for Gerry, McLean listed Kogan – the upstart online TV flogger who has publicly teased Gerry for his Luddite ways – as the brand to watch in the emerging business world.

Meanwhile, for all of those business leaders who are not sure about how they can make money out of the social media properties of Facebook, LinkedIn and others, the Google guy predicted that in the not-too-distant future email would be superseded by social. That is, people will prefer social media forms of communication over the more limited world of email.

As one CEO confessed to me: “I am pretty scared about what lies ahead in business but I have to say that I am glad to know what’s coming”.

The theme of the summit was that change is essential for productivity and that collaboration with the people in the know will help induce the innovations that are needed to keep businesses competitive in the future.

And something really innovative and different is needed in the area of sales and lead conversion.

Craig McKell, from the Revenue Performance Management Group at accountants, Pitcher Partners, showed the magnitude of the sales problem facing Aussie businesses.

From a survey called the Revenue Performance Index, he explained the sales closure rate from the average business is 2.4 per cent. So if 100 proposals are put out there, average businesses are lucky to nail three positive outcomes.

So, not only does business have potential challenges with a rapidly changing world, many operators are struggling right now.

The survey also found most CEOs have a “lack of confidence about the contribution of their marketing departments”. That is a serious internal problem and proves that CEOs need to change their business models and collaborate with different people to bring some shockingly positive new results.

If you’re looking to work on your business rather than being stuck in it, book in for a complimentary business assessment today with Switzer Business Coaching.

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

Published on: Wednesday, February 08, 2012

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