We ventured into 2018 with a blustery start, courtesy of Storm Eleanor – a great metaphor for the year we have ahead of us. How is 2018 looking: blustery, benign or a bit of both?
I’ve spent the last few days reading many predictions, thinking through some of the key challenges and opportunities facing the business community, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to share a few observations and my tips for success.
- This will be the year that we stop talking the talk about the likes of AI. We start to see some companies delivering real benefits from the technology. However, this means that there will be some casualties among the start-up community, as those who raised money based on a good story won’t succeed
- We will debate whether AI is a friend or foe and start to see controls/regulations being put in place
- There will be a move back to face-to-face interactions. Technology has made it easy to communicate remotely. It is also easy to be tracked though technology – if you are a remote worker for example – so trust is not there. Increasingly, we are going to appreciate the importance of relationships, especially for sales activity, and face-to-face is key to building meaningful personal and trusted relationships
- Cybersecurity will be a key competency for every executive in every company. There is a lack of trust in big business as it is, and consumers don’t trust big data, so their data must be guarded jealously
- Consumers are becoming increasingly familiar with smart tech – Alexa caters to individual needs and Apple will launch Homepod, using Siri
Social / Economic
- The economic outlook across the globe is good. We have some challenges around inflation linked to Brexit, but we should be confident of growth
- Stock markets are toppy, and I think the UK will see a correction or slowdown at least, so a few bumps in the road are likely
- We will continue to struggle with the skills gap at all levels, which I would describe as more of a talent gap. Experienced people want flexibility and increasingly choose contracting or interim roles. The ‘gig economy’ creates a different type of relationship. There is an increasing distrust of big business and, among the younger generation, a desire to work in ‘cool’ companies. Brexit results in lots of talent repatriating
- We will start to see changes in social media, a move to authenticity less ‘fake news’. There will be more video content on channels such as LinkedIn. Used well, Twitter / LinkedIn are exceptional business tools, but too easily abused, I think we will see those companies act to clean up
- More power to the regions – new deals are already being discussed. I’m a big fan of our new West Midlands mayor, who is starting to make good progress. Coventry is the UK City of Culture 2021 and Birmingham will host the 2022 Commonwealth games, so regionally there are some great successes out there
- Unfortunately, the NHS is a political punchbag. What is clear is that the NHS is under huge pressure, and we are again talking of crisis. We are lucky to have such an institution, so I want to see action not words. Clinical negligence claims cost the NHS £millions. How can business help?
- I fear that Brexit will continue to be a key theme throughout the year, and there is a chance that continued weaknesses within the government could lead to a snap election and a change of government!
- I think it is fair to say that Labour’s policies would unsettle both the markets and the economy, so that is a risk to keep an eye on, especially if you are a retailer or outsourcer!
- Globally, Mr Trump will continue to sabre rattle with his foes across the world, which is unhelpful, and I fear that there will be the odd incident throughout the year. Iran is unstable, North Korea is what it is, and the Russians are always up for a dust-up
- The retail sector is changing, and if a retailer has not fully come to grips with its digital offering yet, then the odds are that it is too late. Department stores are particularly vulnerable, and I suspect we may lose one of the big names this year, despite a rush to create destination stores delivering a much-improved customer experience. Debenhams, Next and House of Fraser are all building new offerings to try and rival the likes of Selfridges
- Law firms will continual to drive change, most from a position of weakness having spent far too long counting their pennies. The smarter ones will embrace change, galvanise their people and run themselves more like a PLC rather than an LLP
- Insurers will continue to grapple with technological advances: drones, autonomous vehicles and connected home, as British Gas enters the connected home insurance market under its Hive brand
- Car dealers will continue to struggle as car sales drop, diesel car sales fall away, and we look to electric cars. Both lawyers and insurers will scratch their heads about where liability sits for autonomous vehicles that get involved in accidents
- A technology company will take over or set up a serious JV with a healthcare company to leverage big data and AI for the greater good (and profit)
Top tips for business success (these never really change)
- People first – focus on your people as they are your biggest assets / advocates or potential detractors (Ryanair – come on and listen!!)
- Delight your customers, listen to them, love them and develop two-way trusted relationships at every possible touch point
- The amount of change will never slow down; accept that, welcome it and develop a core change capability in your business
- Take calculated risks and never be afraid to say, “I don’t know” and ask for help, inside or outside your organisation
- Embrace TetraMap, get to know yourself and your team better
- Have fun and good luck!