It’s been a tumultuous year for business. On a global level, major political changes bred
feelings of uncertainty, despite consistent stock market performance. In the face of these challenges, our entrepreneurial sector continued to flourish and many UK SMEs prospered in 2017. But expecting to maintain relevancy and sustainability in competitive and fast-paced markets, might not get more challenging next year.
Technology advances, the emergence of new business models and an expanding pool of customer data will add to the challenge. With all businesses facing similar threats and opportunities, it’s how you respond that will make all the difference in 2018. That’s why it’s important to have a clear understanding of the challenges ahead.
Here are five misconceptions that have stuck in our collective business psyche that need to change before year end.
- I know everything about my business – When you’ve built a business from the ground up, it’s easy to see how see how you might think you know everything about your product, services and customers. But without the right data, you’re running blind and leaving yourself vulnerable to market changes and competitors. Small business owners often run their business intuitively and are under the illusion that, because they’re ‘close’ to their customers, they don’t need the ‘data/insights their customers are generating or sharing through buyer behaviour – online or in store. Small businesses should take advantage of their nimbler business structures and systems to invest in cloud solutions that enable them to get a more holistic view of their customers and act quickly to demands.
- Only big businesses are susceptible to disruption – We often hear how large organisations are leaving the door open for emerging competitors, but the reality is that no business, large or small, is safe from disruption. Small business owners can be just as insular as their larger counterparts and be more focused on closing deals, managing cash flow and fulfilling orders than preparing for the future. Small businesses need to ‘shake’ themselves out of this philosophy of abundance. The great customers you have today might not be there tomorrow and business owners must always have one eye to the future. Understanding your customers, their behaviours and anticipating their needs will enable you to adapt to meet demand down the road.
- I’m already innovating – Many businesses have a limited view of innovation. True innovation goes beyond making product changes or adding new solutions and features. It means challenging the status quo and understanding that the way you’ve done business in the past may not work in the future. Businesses of all sizes need to be willing to ‘disrupt themselves.’ It requires a deep introspection and often, external consultation to challenge the old ways of thinking.
- I’m dealing with too much data – Data is the new business currency and the main driver of growth. But many business, specifically larger organisations, have found themselves stranded on islands of information. Their data pools are growing but being disparate, it’s limiting growth across the organisation. Without a single view of their customers, businesses struggle to manage inventory, identify duplicate resources and rein in costs. Businesses that are using data to unlock new insights often cannot put that data to use quickly enough. It could take up to a month for business leaders to see meaningful data insights and by then, the ship of opportunity has sailed, and valuable time and resources have been wasted. You might be collecting a lot of data but until you break down your data silos and consolidate the information in a way that’s meaningful, it’s all for naught.
- I’m not ready to go ‘global’ – The days of selling and providing services to those only in your immediate vicinity are gone. Ecommerce has quite literally opened a world of opportunity for businesses, large and small and continues to blur traditional borders. With greater connectivity and mobility, it’s easier than ever to reach new types of customers. While the US will continue to be a lucrative market, the UK businesses should be looking for opportunities to reach new markets – particularly reaching into China. It’s home to the world’s largest internet population, with online sales hitting $769 billion in 2015 and set to double by next year. Businesses that can get the jump on this developing relationship will have a massive competitive advantage.