My article in BUSINESS INSIDER published 8thof August 2018.
It may be a cliché, but the assertion that everything in business changes kaleidoscopically perfectly describes today’s global economy. While rigid and entrenched business models are rapidly becoming a thing of the past, the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to change everything has forced contemporary leaders to face a host of new challenges. In the digital age, business leaders must be prepared to reset their habits and views continuously.
Today, one of the key characteristics of the business environment is its plasticity: customer behaviors, data flows, and political and economic conditions are constantly changing and evolving unpredictably. Uncertainty, and its attendant discomforts is the new normal. No managers, business owners or employees can (or should) be confident that what happened yesterday will happen tomorrow, or even that today’s strategy will be appropriate to tomorrow’s conditions. This lack of confidence poses a challenge for business executives and other leaders. What can they do to gain a sense of power over the organizations they manage? How can they regain a fundamental sense of control in an age defined by changeability?
In today’s world, leaders must understand that:
Everything is digital
A mere decade ago, business owners learned about the importance of displaying their products on the internet. They realized that having a well-designed website was essential for capturing the customers who prefer to shop in the comfort of their homes. But this web presence was viewed as an enhancement, an add-on to traditional sales channels. Marketers still relied heavily on tested and proved offline tools, such as surveys and mystery shoppers to identify customer needs.
No more. Technology is no longer an accessory. Every business is a digital business. Big data, cloud computing, social media, mobile apps and automated marketing have taken over. They are all deployed to conduct a variety of transactions and make purchases. The line between the offline and online worlds has blurred, if not vanished entirely. Anyone who aspires to run an organization must realize and accept this as a fact of life. Only then will they be able to build credibility in the eyes of their co-workers, customers and competitors.
In Poland, few managers and CEOs today inherited companies that were technologically advanced. Local enterprises, set up a dozen or so years ago, had to undergo profound overhauls to be able to compete successfully with global players that employ the latest management methods. Companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Uber were born digital, never used conventional tools, and these and similar digital natives have been setting the new industry standards; other businesses have had to measure themselves against the benchmarks they have established. As a result, leaders developing new business strategies need to bear in mind that the technology departments they task with building and supporting digital processes across their organizations will define their success (or their lack of it). Accordingly, business leaders must include technology experts when making key decisions, as they are the people most knowledgeable about the latest tools and how they are used globally. Today’s leaders need to understand that although technology exploration may be resource-intensive, neither competitiveness nor growth can be achieved without them.
They must watch the customer
The founder of the global shopping platform Alibaba.com has said, “We put customers first, employees second, and shareholders only third.”
That’s the way it has to be. Today’s customers are merciless, unforgiving, and empowered to express and act on their displeasure. They have no tolerance for slip-ups, slow service or outdated product ranges. They do not care to know that the procedures required to satisfy their needs take a great deal of time, effort and money to put in place. Once a new shopping model appears that allows customers to place their orders, pay and get their product within minutes, that model is demanded, unconditionally. Providers cannot negotiate those terms. Customers raised on global online stores rather than shopping malls vote for that model with their wallets.
What lessons can the modern leader learn from this? No matter how good and convincing your ideas may be, and how much money you have invested in developing your business, you are bound to fail unless you accept that the customer is the primum mobile, the center of the business universe, the alpha and omega. Therefore, one of the guiding principles of public relations to which modern leaders should adhere is to cater humbly and happily to any customer expectations. This is especially true when it comes to acquiring the new customers every business needs to grow. As Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has said: “If your customer base is aging with you, then eventually you are going to become obsolete or irrelevant. You need to be constantly figuring out who your new customers are and what you are doing to stay forever young.”
Read more in the full article.