Your world will never be the same.
Sounds like a bit of an ominous statement doesn’t it?
Considering the amount of bad news that flows throughout our daily lives it’s nearly impossible to look at the above statement and attach a positive meaning to it, however I see great opportunity in what I am writing to you.
We are witnessing our world undergo huge changes almost daily. In the past few years, we’ve seen an historic shift of technology and economy unlike any other, and the transition is not near completion.
“The only constant is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.”
– Isaac Asimov
Change will always occur, that’s inevitable. As Asimov reminds us, a lack of acknowledgment or understanding of this change can make or break businesses [and lifestyles] forever.
Where Did The Money Go?
The advent of global economy and technology-enabled business practices are in a rapid state of flux. Growth and change are a given in business, but we’ve never witnessed such rapid transition in such a short time period, the effects of which are being felt on every streetcorner of the world.
The recent economic events and credit crunch are moving the tectonic plates of business and the cozy confines of national or local economy are shifting to a global platform. These shape-shifting occurrences are too large, too rapid and there are too many moving parts even for the experts to comprehend.
How does this effect you?
For starters, just look around your neighborhood, listen to your neighbors or friends. The global housing bubble has popped. This part of the puzzle will directly effect you, me, and every citizen on this planet as millions upon millions have based so much of their personal wealth, retirement, and family around their homes.
Next, consider that just recently the first of the Baby Boomer generation retired and a trickle began the first stage to what will certainly turn into a raging river of generational change. A large portion of the Boomers base their retirement on two major components: housing and the stock market. This is the largest generation we’ve ever seen. They will be transitioning to their golden years and many will be forced to retire due to health problems, job competition, etc. The problems we’ve experienced in both housing and stocks and the pressures felt by Boomers will shape the future of business significantly.
The massive transfer of wealth and earning potential from Boomers to Generation X is underway. Further, more jobs will be handed down to a smaller group of people, which will cause a ripple effect of opportunity. On the other hand there will be less total disposable income coming from the Gen Xers vs. the Boomers because of this. Many businesses will be effected as their sales are forecast on a premise of Boomer spending that simply will cease to exist.
You + Me + Technology
The advent of web technology and tools such as laptops, e-commerce and social media are contributing to a massive global population shift. We aren’t uprooting and destination-bound like people were in 1849 during the Gold Rush, but the tides are changing nevertheless. We don’t need to move houses, we have moved into a new virtual space in our minds and the impact is huge. We don’t do business like we used to, we don’t shop like we used to, we don’t interact like we used to, we don’t write letters, we don’t do a lot of things that were commonplace as little as 10 years ago.
In addition the growing trend of crowdsourcing will effect every aspect of life from politics and religion to science/technology and business. It’s also becoming common for corporations to listen in and have their customers or focus groups do the thinking for them. This is not a case of the evil overlord manipulating his pawns – many are willing to do the work – they’re even passionate about it. This is smart for businesses and brings about a more community-oriented, inclusive customer relationship in the process.
Do you think the Twitter trend on Capitol Hill will have an effect on politics? Do you think social networks such as Facebook will or the gravitation from television to online media will change business? You bet it will.
Your local shop
The speed and connectivity of web-enabled business has given consumers a power unlike they’ve ever had in history. This will continue to make a huge slice of the business pie disappear. A product seller or distributor will have to really take a look at their business model and ask themselves how they will be able to compete or how they add value. Many local storefronts have already become casualties of this movement. The reality is many store owners will be expecting customers to travel to them in addition to paying the shop overhead when often that same customer can compare dozens of prices, offers and customization options for the same product in an instant online.
Here’s where you’re wondering about the great opportunity I mentioned earlier…
As you’ve probably come to expect from my blog posts I am an eternal optimist for your small business. True, I see many doors closing and many businesses becoming extinct, but these shifts are being nothing more than opportunities for you. These shifts are part of the natural ebb and flow of the business life cycle. They are a reminder that the world will always change.
“Necessity, who is the mother of invention.”
When we look to the future we can feel comfort in the fact that we as people always do our best work in times of need. Right now business needs to change. Right now business owners are seeing their profits drop and necessity is staring them in the face.
Pattern-recognition is a survival method innate to many a living creature. The patterns are difficult to detect in the business world because it’s changing by the minute. Not having the time or knowledge to recognize these patterns might overwhelm some business owners into making a bad decision for themselves. The single most important work a business owner can do is to spend time on their identity. What is my business? Who are my competitors? Where is the business world going? How can I be positioned for where it’s headed? These are a handful of a hundred questions to answer for business success. The prevalent pattern is one of flow, of a shift in power from corporation to consumer, from passive television watching to active internet searching. That’s the pattern you need to see here. In addition, if you’re waiting for things to get back to normal, I’m here to tell you, they won’t.
Someone moved the cheese. Let’s find some new cheese.
I see great opportunity for businesses that create their own product. Today’s business world demands not only something to be created but it must be unique in what it offers or it will get lost in the shuffle. Give your business a unique product, something with value and it will be given every chance to succeed. Your business has a global reach. You have the ability to put your product in the hands of someone halfway around the globe. That is mind-blowing. You just have to put a product out there that will do the work for you. You can’t physically travel the globe in ways that your product can. Create a product that will do the walking and the talking for you.
I see great opportunity for unique service-based businesses. The key word here is ‘unique’. The ‘me too’ business doesn’t differentiate itself so it’s already going to have a harder time standing out. Create a service or add to your service by latching on to the wants or needs of your customer. What does your hotel customer need? What does your technology offer to save them time? How can you be unique? There are many free tools available online to help you gain the answers to these questions and distribute your message to your target. The sheer volume of social tools available to you on the web is incredible. These tools are essential to your service. Again, create something that will walk and talk for you.
Now is the time to spend as much time on strategy than ever. Now is the time for you to stop the busy part of business and really ask yourself how you can answer the questions I’ve raised.
The shift is happening.
Your world will never be the same. That’s a good thing.