I am always fascinated by what’s going on in the business world and social media has made it so interesting to watch at the moment, the changes are so fast paced. A few years ago, I was a Fellow at the Centre of Leadership for a local university – and we were doing some work on strategy. I came to the realisation that by the very nature of how it is done, academic thoughts on strategy as published cannot (even with the best intent) be totally relevant to the present day – solely because of the time it takes to publish a paper. So whilst the research is very useful and provides really valuable insight – an overlay of what’s happening at the moment needs to be applied in practical application of the knowledge. At that point in time, a crowd sourced strategy was being innovatively developed – seeking to bring together some of the current thinking from different people. I’m minded to think that even that would be quickly out of date, given the pace of change we now see.
I enjoy the pace of working in entrepreneurial businesses, unshackled from the bureaucracy necessary to run large businesses – but as I look around now, I see how difficult it is for owners to keep up with what’s going on. New social media platforms, customers with more needs and the platform to voice them and the barriers to entry largely removed. Starting a business has probably never been easier – do your own website, source your own products, do your own social media and marketing – and away you go. I know it’s all a lot more difficult that that – but roll back 10 years and the sheer price of a website was enough to make people think twice. That means that competition is there aplenty and being heard by your desired customers is hard.
More and more, I find myself working on the fly. Obviously we have a plan and a focus, but we have to be constantly inventing and moving ahead to make progress. That’s nothing new I hear you say, but the pace of it is. If you came up with an innovative idea a few years ago, you had an element of time to have it as yours and eventually your competition caught up. Depending on what it is, your competition can be out with a competitor product within a matter of days – new is not a competitive advantage for long any more. Customers have an opinion and can voice it very quickly – no ivory tower for brands any more.
If you listen to Gary Vaynerchuk (and if you don’t, I recommend a listen) you will know that he advocates just getting on with things, understanding what you are offering and who your customer is and going after them. It’s good advice – but his best advice is to not be afraid to fail, indeed to try to fail well – recognise the mistake quickly and move on. Out of the ashes of failure comes learning that makes the next move…the next ad…the next product…much better.
Running your business intuitively – backed up with some stats – has never been more important. Collaborating with like-minded brands and letting your customers be your opinion-formers is the norm – you no longer run a business, you are enablers. Bring the right people together, tell the right story and magic will happen.