Curium Solutions (US) – Simplified Performance Solutions

Insolvency bingo: 28 retailers have already gone bust in 2017. Who’s next?

By Donna Worsley

Curium Solutions’ new Digital Director and retail sector specialist Donna Worsley looks at the many challenges facing today’s businesses. Only those with a united and empowered workforce will succeed.

Recently, I met up with some old work pals for dinner. Conversation turned to business, the number of retailers that have gone bust this year, and who we thought could be next.

Not, perhaps, the most pleasant discussion for a night with friends, but it is worth thinking about because the root cause isn’t just impacting the retail sector. It isn’t all Amazon’s fault!

The truth is that as consumers we are far more demanding than we have ever been, and our demands are increasing.

We are an empowered force with high demands and high expectations, no longer impressed by ordering a book and it being delivered to our house just days later.

We live in a world where I tell my device what I want, and it’s delivered in 38 minutes. I mean, come on!

Add to these increasing customer demands, the business disrupters – the new business models popping up everywhere – challenging traditional sacred cows. No business sector is untouched by this: law firms, recruitment, financial services, travel and, of course, retail.

The Centre for Retail Research published a report stating that to mid-July 2017, 28 retailers had gone bust in the UK, compared to 30 for full year 2016.

Just this week, John Lewis revealed its profits had more than halved in the first six months of the financial year, blaming rising prices and weaker consumer demand prompted by Brexit. We are heading for a tough year.

Time and time again I see superb companies with the best strategies failing. Meeting customer demands, competing with technology advancements and new dynamic low-cost business models, and dealing with pace of change, next generation capability, data centricity (and managing lots of data), are not impossible.

There are success stories, and there is a common theme to those success stories: a united and empowered workforce. Those succeeding and surviving the 2017 turmoil are the companies which understand the importance of culture, clearly defined outcomes, clear communication, and investment in colleagues as well as customers.

Managing the change process is a fine art – I’ve certainly got some scars from my own experiences. They have taught me that best way to do it is with an army; the amazing individuals around you who give their time and effort to support you, your business and its growth.

Having the right strategy is one of the first steps toward success. Having an engaged army, bought into the strategy, right beside you and willing to fight is essential.

It’s not about adult-to-adult conversations anymore, it’s about human-to-human conversations, about driving the right outcomes through the right actions, rather than paralysing cultures of fear or control and command.

So, my question to you today, how would you describe your culture and is it holding you back?

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