As we approach the last days of this year 2014, which was so difficult to pull off, we have two options: either put our hopes in hitting the jackpot at the traditional Christmas Lottery on 22 December or aim for the longer term and think about what we will do starting 1 January, just in case we don’t get to retire before then.
As this is the most likely scenario, why don’t we spend some time exploring the challenges we will face this coming year in terms of business? How do we face them? Because it is obvious that this year will surely be a year of change. At least considering how things are looking up in the last quarter of 2014 the economy seems to be picking up.
Or at least that is what we are experiencing from the business market standpoint: things are
«happening», new initiatives are started, companies invest in marketing, new products are launched, quotations are requested and confirmed, more people are being employed. It seems as though everybody were looking at 2015 with a certain degree of optimism after the severe economic crisis and restructuring which has put every player in a quite different competitive position.
However, this optimism is not without difficulties. We advance below some of the challenges for 2015 which we consider to be the most relevant in order to make the most of your growth opportunities within the next 365 days.
First challenge. Feed growth
For the last 6 or 7 years, most companies which have survived have succeeded in doing so thanks to a great transformation. They have reduced costs significantly. They have eliminated everything considered superfluous and even some things that were not redundant in order to focus their business in a few things and try to achieve survival profitability.
If, as it seems, the coming year is a year of growth, the first challenge we all have to tackle is feeding this process. And this means, in a competition arena which is dramatically different from the pre-crisis situation, taking some very specific measures:
Are we ready to inject resources variably depending on growth? Or will we put the burden on the same team and make the same efforts instead of switching mindset, getting out there with new drive and try and make the most of positive synergies? In other words: in terms of sales and marketing processes, do we have the right amount of sufficiently focused quality resources to go from «farming» and maintaining our current business to «hunting» for new opportunities with renewed momentum?
Do we have a portfolio ready with new services and products which we can launch in the next six months? Because besides having continued operating in the past, if you really want to seize the opportunity arising in 2015 when your customers start spending and investing more, you must be ready with new proposals which meet their current difficulties better. And supposing you already have some new material, which process will you follow to launch it into the market? What timing and resources will you put in place?
Are we clear about where financing will come from to meet our new operating funding requirements resulting from our growth’s success? Up to now we have had to restructure and focus our financial management on surviving and we have taken some hard measures to adjust our costs but, are we ready to manage growth? Are our processes agile, dynamic and efficient enough? Can we invest in replacing the rigid, work-intensive and expensive manual control for some more agile and automatized processes and use the cash surplus to finance the new growth plan?
Second challenge. Improve client management.
Just like for the first challenge everything depends on how we approach the transaction, for the second challenge we basically depend on the changes occurred on the customer’s side in the last years. Most likely our client database has not grown significantly in the last few years and now we see the chance of finding new clients and new geographies to make turnover grow. However, this brings us to some new questions:
How are we going about client management? What degree of customer knowledge and information do we have? How do we feed and exploit our CRM processes? Are we able of extracting value from this information? Can we help our client by using such knowledge? It is a good opportunity to validate any new ways of interacting with customers we may have incorporated and see whether we use technology actively and in an integrated manner to manage our clients through tools such as social networks, webinars, newsletters, chats and real-time discussion forums. We can keep on working as we did before the crisis, but there is a huge opportunity for change.
Much of our growth will come from a geographical expansion in the market. In the past few years we have probably had experiences where we have been exposed to international markets in order to survive. Small trials which have allowed us to try out internationalization. The challenge now is escalating the effort. What do we have to do in order to make our business really multinational and global? How can we dynamically interact in multiple simultaneous geographical locations? How to chose? How to prioritize the market we should proactively serve? Or in practical terms: How can we incorporate pull-demand generation mechanisms into our global processes, such as inbound marketing, in order to allow us to filter and reduce the cost of massively penetrating into international markets?
Finally, what is my (new) business card? What do my clients say about me? What have we learned and how have we handled these past years with our clients? What can we showcase? How can we make others talk about us? And if they did, what would they say? Put differently, how can we make sure that we will still walk the path of growth together with the clients who have worked with us during the bad years and support the growth of new clients?
Third challenge. Talent management.
If you have reached this point in the article and you are feeling the spirit and anticipation I feel as I write, I’m sure you are already thinking about a couple of initiatives you could implement from January in order to take on some of these challenges and seize these opportunities.
And facing critical initiatives, we need to appoint the best people to carry them out: People we trust, who are more than prepared and who always go the extra mile. Motivated people. People you can always rely on… up until they are headhunted by a competitor.
Thus, the next challenge you will have to face in 2015 is one we are not used to dealing with anymore: retaining talent. In the last few years the problem was letting go of the worst or of those we could not afford, but now things will change. Competitors will be in your same growth and opportunity situation, which they will feed with the best people: people having the expertise and passion to embark on a new adventure. People who probably are members of your staff.
Have you thought about how you will align your performance evaluation and compensation and profit processes with your growth challenge? What changes will you make to favor it and still count on the best?
The challenge of growth brings about other issues such as adapting the organization, staff turnover, new functions, recruitment of new talent and succession plans. Have you already implemented a plan for this purpose?
What new skills and competences do you need? How will you develop them? Where will you find the talent? In a more dynamic market, how will you find the time to analyze the best profiles, contact them, attract them and make them join the clockwork that starts working at full pace?
As you see, there are quite a few difficulties associated to the opportunity of growth. But these challenges are good and different, undertaking them will strengthen us and will make our business a better business.
We can use December as a training month. A foretaste of those new year’s resolutions, among which you surely have working out more. So let’s get on with the program now, let’s make our business start working out in December. In the midst of the year-end closing, lunches, dinners, Christmas parties and other fun activities, let’s take the time to review our challenges, choose some of them and develop action plans, work-out plans, that will allow us to have a more successful and stronger year 2015.
Otherwise, we can always put our hopes in the Christmas Lottery, right?
What about you? What do you think?
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