Archive for January, 2019

Here’s one thing you can be certain about in 2019

Monday, January 21st, 2019

dog“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

(Yogi Berra and others).

January is the month for pundits to place their best bets for the year.

We need not go very far though these days to know what nonsense those bets usually amount to.  In respect of outlooks and outcomes for 2019 the bookies are the only winners.

One thing you can be sure of in these uncertain times is the need for a growth mindset.

Most businesses I’ve been involved with spent plenty of time in 2018 paring things back, making economies and reducing unnecessary expenses.

This was entirely necessary.  Pessimism and uncertainty were the predominant feelings in most board rooms.  Even those businesses who are in growth were beset by doubts, challenges and change.

No one was immune from negativity.   Darkness seemed to loom like never before.

Now for January consumer confidence is down again and Joe Staton from Gfk has written:” In the face of ever-rising costs, and the threat of higher inflation, combined with uncertainty around the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, it’s no surprise that consumers are in a chilly mood and putting on a glum face when they look at the prospects for 2019. Sad to say that an unhappy and uncertain New Year beckons, despite good intentions from all points on the economic and political spectrum.”

However there is data that provides some evidence to the contrary if you take a long term perspective.  That uncertain as the outlook is, its no more uncertain than it has been for years.

The longitude survey from Gallup has been looking at emotions globally for more than a decade.

On the one hand it will surprise nobody that emotional wellbeing took a downturn in the latest report which came out last autumn versus the previous report. On the other hand, despite the headlines that this inspired, the PEI (Positive Experiences Index) is actually flat from a decade ago.

Despite the headlines. Despite the politics.

Gfk’s consumer confidence level too looks a lot less depressing in the long view.

In light of this the tactics need to switch.  Rather than focusing on battening down the hatches, it is time to set a limit to the gloom, be positive and be open to a growth mindset.

Without a growth mindset transformation is painful and difficult. With one you can “be the change” as Gideon Spanier asserts. With a growth mindset, you have a better chance of delivering growth, both personally and for your organisation.

There’s lots of ways to grow.  One of the exciting aspects of this is that it’s much more interesting and colourful than the dark greys of pessimism. Here’s three paths to consider for growth in 2019.

Firstly, can you find a way to get existing customers to buy more?  This might be through product or service innovation.  It may be by streamlining the customer journey, opening new paths to purchase or as simple as reducing website load times or making the “buy now” button a big bigger.

Secondly, could you target more people?  Customer segmentation is still very predominant. It can go too far.  Read Byron Sharp for a point of view that would insist on food and drink brands targeting anyone with a mouth, skincare brands targeting anyone with a face, and entertainment brands targeting anyone with time for leisure.

Thirdly become famous for what you’re good at.  Fame is often dismissed as showy or extravagant.  Yet real front of mind and spontaneous awareness is very worth while.  Getting talked about for the right reasons isn’t easy but it does pay back, and an integrated strategy is essential to deliver on this, integrated through the line and throughout the customer journey from awareness to repeat purchase.  This works on a personal level too.  Work out what you’re great at.  Double down in that area and make that your focus for fame.

Is anything or anyone certain in 2019?  Perhaps only that a growth mindset is essential for any growth.

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True grit: does it always work to your advantage?

Monday, January 7th, 2019

supermario“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never” Winston Churchill

I’ve always been inspired by persistence.  When you fall down, you get back up again.  Yet a fact based argument in the much resp‎ected Harvard Business Review challenges this idea. Cass Business School’s professor Andre Spicer says that there’s in fact a “weak link between grit and performance”, and also that “people who tend to be tenacious are also those who get trapped into losing courses of action.” Spicer has a point. There’s a difference, a big difference, between not giving up and finding new approaches to problems (admirable) and not knowing when you haven’t got a chance of success but continuing to hit your head on a brick wall (dumb).

Churchill gave the speech quoted above in 1941, not to Britain as a whole, but to the boys at his old school.  Not just boys who would be fighting for their country one day perhaps but also those who would be building businesses in times of peace.

It echoes his great speeches to the nation of course and also the spirit of entrepreneurship that is evident in small business and start-ups.

Whenever Justin Cross (from MediaCom’s start up for start ups Blink) introduces us to a tech start up there is a spirit of doggedness that comes across.  The spirit of doing things differently and hoping to change the world.

There are a lot of start-ups. 9 in 10 people in the UK are considering starting up in a business of their own. There’s 80 start ups launching every hour.  At a recent seminar of small and medium enterprises: “The State of the SME nation” a panel of small business owners talked about their reasons for setting up in business for themselves.  Hearing them talk about their jobs sounded like a description of living in SuperMarioLand.  Hazards kept cropping up out of the blue (one owner talked about her surprise in learning that she needed liability insurance of over £5m to sell a few pictures at a market), and also good luck and opportunities mushroomed unexpectedly.  The general spirit was that so far everything had worked out if not as planned certainly better than they’d feared.  For every hazard then at least two business beneficial mushrooms.  Similarly at Red Magazine’s Smart Women Week, where I was interviewed by Cyan Turan last month for a “Grow your business” session, that same spirit of optimism and breathless excitement shone through.

Every business is subject to change. As Antonio Lucio fb CMO recently said: “change is inevitable, growth and success are not”. Growth and success need a plan, need a strategy, and in Vuca times need resilience. (Vuca is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous).

Wherever you work these days, in your own business or in a worldwide corporation, we need this spirit of resilience to progress.  The spirit that allows you to face challenges as if your livelihood depends on it.

As Jim Collins says in “How the mighty fail and why some companies never give in”:

“Never give in.  Be willing to change tactics, but never give up your core purpose.  Be willing to kill failed business ideas… be willing to evolve into an entirely different portfolio of activities… but never give up on the idea of building a great company”.

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