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My experience working with a wide range of young businesses, from complex financial software through to artisan food producers says, it is easy to get distracted by products and forget that the underlying success drivers are the same regardless of what you make or do.

girl at wall

A visit to The Climbing Wall in Sandyford, a 3 week old fledgling business already packed with happy customers on a freezing January night made me stop to think.  What gets customers in this case to a business with no marketing or advertising budget?  What separates success and disaster for a young business in the early scary days?

“The wall” is an indoor state of the art climbing wall in Sandyford industrial estate. So, your business is very different, but the same answers apply and will help you succeed early.
  • Passionate attention to  all customers, including the ones future customers. I dragged along a friend who doesn’t climb, and had no intention of doing so.  She instantly felt welcome, even though climbing up the wall until then was something she only does at business meetings. Your customers may come in many forms and will have different needs. See the world from their perspective – are they confused? Scared? Stressed? Finding it hard to park? At the Wall you feel safe and at ease. And yes, of course, she climbed. And is now hooked.
  • Create a happy place where staff are as engaged as you are in looking after customers with care. Your staff must feel like a really core part of your baby business.  Get them on board and make sure to find ways of harnessing all their bright ideas about how to make your project a success
  • Know your customers intimately before you start. Alan and Brian really understand their market, and are well networked. They already understood exactly what climbers want and immediately ran simple high impact events that have built up loyalty, traffic to The Wall and loads of Word of Mouth publicity, always the most powerful form of marketing. This also helps you create a sense of community and shared values among your customer base, so your customers stay longer and believe in what you do.  Happy customers come back.
  • Be clever about how to position and communicate what you offer: .The Wall makes canny use of social media and press coverage to get the story out in a more targeted and dynamic way than any ad ever will.  Network, but be savvy about how you use that precious network.
  • Know your competition equally intimately, know when to compete (and how) and when to collaborate. Sometimes collaboration is the right strategy – work together and instead of splitting a new small market you can grow it together, creating greater awareness by acting as a group and attracting more people to a new service or product.
  • Good team - make sure all the practical stuff is under control.  The top team here includes a marketing whizz and an employment law specialist.  They have team skills to make sure the business is set up on a sound financial footing, property and planning skills and expertise to make sure design and operations are top class.
  • Finally – do something you love. The chances are you will be very good at it!
  Moira Creedon is a facilitator and consultant in Strategic Finance and has worked with both corporate and public sector clients worldwide helping decision makers at strategic level to understand finance and improve their ability to formulate and implement strategy. She teaches on IMI’s Diploma in Management and a number of Short Programmes including the Senior Executive Programme. See our Spring 2015 schedules here: IMI Diplomas Spring 2015 and IMI Short Programmes Spring 2015 [post_title] => 'Off the Wall' tips for early business success [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => wall-tips-early-business-success [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-11 20:58:52 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-11 20:58:52 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 11578 [post_author] => 7 [post_date] => 2015-08-28 11:28:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-08-28 11:28:31 [post_content] =>
Emma Birchall is Head of Research - Future of Work at the Hot Spots Movement. Here she has the opportunity to convert leading research into practical insights for clients who are looking to find new ways of using technology to drive human capital performance. She will be a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference on 8 October 2015.   IMI: Based on your current work – if you only had 6 words of advice to give a business - what would they be?

EB: Bring back the trust. They’re human.

IMI: What does this mean? EB: From collaboration to performance to employee engagement, everything we know about work is changing – but our businesses are seemingly slow to respond. People are more attuned to sharing posts, writing blogs, and providing instant feedback through ‘likes’ and ‘favourites’ than they are to completing surveys, so why does our approach to employee engagement still centre on a set of fixed statements and a rating scale? In their personal lives people collaborate naturally with those around them and have an amazing propensity to share even when there is no immediate benefit to them, hence the success of crowdsourcing sites like Wikipedia. So, why do we spend so much time and energy in organisations on encouraging people to practice these seemingly natural behaviours at work? The challenge for businesses is to disrupt every process and practice in the organisation by asking: Why does it exist? What are we trying to achieve? If we were to start the organisation from scratch, would we choose to create this? And perhaps most tellingly of all, would this practice exist if we trusted our employees? IMI: Where should we look for further information? EB: For further information, take a look at the Future of Work website or follow us on Twitter @HspotM: engagement Source: Emma Birchall is a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference taking place on Thursday 8 October. This event has now reached maximum capacity however if you would like to be added to the waiting list, please email your contact details and company name to [post_title] => "Bring back the trust. They’re human" Six Word Wisdom from Emma Birchall [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => bring-back-trust-theyre-human-six-word-wisdom-emma-birchall [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-11 20:45:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-11 20:45:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 16066 [post_author] => 7 [post_date] => 2016-09-13 12:24:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-09-13 12:24:52 [post_content] => Adrian Funham photo2Previously a lecturer in Psychology at Pembroke College, Oxford, he has been Professor of Psychology at University College London since 1992. He has lectured widely abroad and held scholarships and visiting professorships at, amongst others, the University of New South Wales, the University of the West Indies, the University of Hong Kong and the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He has also been a Visiting Professor of Management at Henley Management College. He has recently been made Adjunct Professor of Management at the Norwegian School of Management. Since 2007 he has been nominated by HR magazine as one of the 20 Most Influential People in HR. IMI: Based on your current work – if you only had 6 words of advice to give a business – what would they be?

AF: Every Disruption involves threat and opportunity.

IMI: What does that mean? AF: We live in turbulent times: times of both threat and opportunity that really test managers. So what are the fundamental principles of good management to ensure staff are happy, motivated and productive? Can you teach experts to become good people managers and if so, how? What is the role of money in motivation? And how can we engage rather than disenchant our staff? We know from futurologists that the world of work is changing fast, even though many predictions have not come true. But where we work, for whom we work and with whom we work are all in flux. How do you manage the older worker? What are young people really like in the work-place? What is the work-place and organisation of the (near) future going to look like? Finally, I address the (continual) management of change. Which strategies work best and why? No one ever said managing people was easy: but we can learn to do it better and ensure our organisation thrives and survives in an uncertain world. Adrian Furnham is a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference taking place on Thursday 29th  of September. To register please click here.   [post_title] => "Every Disruption involves threat and opportunity" Six Word Wisdom from Adrian Furnham [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => every-disruption-involves-threat-opportunity-six-word-wisdom-adrian-furnham [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-11 19:56:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-11 19:56:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )
Hugh Torpey

Hugh Torpey

20th Oct 2017

Hugh Torpey is the Content Manager at the IMI.

Related Articles

'Off the Wall' tips for early business success
"Bring back the trust. They’re human" Six Word Wisdom from Emma Birchall
"Every Disruption involves threat and opportunity" Six Word Wisdom from Adrian Furnham

Insights from NMC 2017: Mark Stevenson

‘It was better in my day’

It’s a refrain as old as time. The first caveman probably looked at their son making a tool and remarked about the flint being much flintier when they were a lad. And, whether it’s comparing flint or self-driving cars, technology will never bridge this disconnect between society’s elders and the generation that will follow them.

Mark Stevenson, Futurologist and speaker at the National Management Conference 2017, has a theory about this disconnect, and has formulised a set of rules that describe our reaction to technologies.

1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

3 .Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

In a business context, those in category 3 are the decision makers while those in category 1 are their audience. If a leader can’t communicate effectively to their audience, or at least be empathetic to their needs, that disconnect will grow until, ultimately, the product their selling will no longer be relevant to their audience.

The future is emotional (Photo source)

With the increasing pace of technological advancement comes an increasing risk, and rate, of this disconnect between a leader and both their customer base and workforce. As a result, it’s imperative for all organisations and leaders to become future literate, and make it part of their strategic thinking in a serious way.

Take self-driving cars for a moment. We typically look at a new technology like this and see how it would affect us personally i.e. will I own a self-driving car in ten years? In reality, we should be thinking much larger than that.

Are you in insurance? Premiums will change dramatically when it’s not based on risk factors. You won’t be able to raise the premium on a young male driver when they’re not driving the car.

Are you in transport or exporting physical goods? Will trucks be the first to become automated? What are the security and cost issues associated with that?

Do you manufacture tyres? Will more efficient cars mean the depreciation on tyres will decrease, impacting demand over time?

Do you work in radio? If drivers don’t have to concentrate on driving, will they concentrate on a TV screen instead?

Impacts from new technologies are hard, if not impossible, to predict, but a future looking leader will read the above and see the opportunities within the threats. The successful leaders are the ones that can take that future view, articulate the opportunities within, and communicate the strategy to people across all generations.

Rise of the Robots

Automation in manufacturing has been around for the best part of a century. The next generation of automation is starting now.

Unfortunately, as Mark pointed out, the risk of emerging technologies is as of nothing compared to the risk of automation.

Automation has happened before. A single barrel of oil = 23,200 hours of human output so, from it taking a hundred people to drag a stone across a mile of sand to build a pyramid for a whole day, suddenly a truck could do the same job in minutes. The difference between then and today is the speed of change, automation is coming quicker and faster than we can keep up.

The second difference is that this next revolution will be done intelligently. We aren’t just going to be using robots and intelligent machines to do things quicker, faster, better but smarter. It is predicted, for example, that 50% of all marketing content produced will be done by machines in 5 years. And, each time they do it they’ll learn how to do it better the next time.

According to Mark, we have two options when facing automation – either mass unemployment, or we change from muscle to meaning.


The Future is Emotional

Mark focussed on a number of sectors to demonstrate why leaders need to look beyond metrics like literacy and numeracy and start to vale and measure collaboration, care and other human and emotional capabilities.

In energy, the rise of alternative fuels is not just morally good, but profitable. From the rise of solar to projects such as those that are underway to take carbon out of the air and convert it to energy. In healthcare, there has been a dramatic reduction in the cost of sequencing genomes, making it feasible to regrow limbs, potentially reverse ageing and greatly reduce the impact of ageing in the health system. In finance, blockchain technologies could very easily replace typical banking structures and process in the future, making fraud much more difficult.

In this type of future, Mark says moral leadership is why people will work for you and companies that maximise citizenship over short-term profit will win. Any leader that introduces an innovation that doesn’t take into account its impact on the environment really isn’t innovating, and rather than simply assembling a board that is expert in finances and science, you’ll need a representative that is competent on the environment.

In the future, it will be networks competing against other networks, no companies versus companies, and it is the future-fit leader that will be able to manage this network. It won’t be through a CSR initiative, or developing an innovation space, it will be through a definable and communicable culture pervasive throughout the entire network.

As Mark put it, ‘there are two types of companies… the brave and the dead’.

Hugh Torpey is the Content Manager at the IMI. Hugh has written the above blog based on insights from the 2017 National Management Conference