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Thinking Business

It’s the future Jim, but not as we know it…

The past two years have not only brought a signifi cant downturn in the world’s economy, but they have fundamentally shaken many of the traditional beliefs and values that we relied on.

The more we learn about what caused the fi nancial collapse, the more we question the very foundations on which we base our businesses – and in some cases our lives. Most of us have grown up believing that banks are safe. We had no idea about the levels of ‘gambling’ and ‘fi nancial product packaging’ involved in passing on debt around the world. For the past decade or so, talk has been of globalisation – how technology and the internet have enabled global markets, the need for a mobile workforce and how large corporations drive demand, innovation, business models and ethical practices. We were fed the view that ‘big is beautiful’ and that success is always about growth. Oh, how different the world looks now. It is clear that many of the previous ‘norms’ have not been delivered. Indeed, in many cases, they have been proved to be fl awed. The recession has allowed alternative models and thinking to rise to the surface. Success is no longer simply about wealth and growth. Lifestyle and personal values are much more important. Individuals are questioning why they need to conform to models that fail to motivate or excite them. Technology and the internet are helping to accelerate changes in buying and supply habits – both business and consumer. Small micro- businesses and virtual organisations can now leapfrog large multi-nationals to penetrate specifi c product or market niches.

The successful business of the future is not necessarily ‘big’ in terms of number of employees or asset base. It is likely to be very dynamic, focused on a niche. It will exploit technology and the power of social communities for its resource, expertise, suppliers and customers. Big may no longer be beautiful - micro might be the way forward.

What’s the alternative? By Steve Gilroy Traditional model

Business size and structure • Traditional employer-employee • Full-time focus, 5-day week • HQ hub and spoke model • Success = growth, size

Banking and fi nance • High-street and local banking focus • Overdrafts, traditional loans • Banking service = lender of choice • Long term relationships

Employment models • Employees, full-time and part-time • Single careers, single employer • Work time and holiday time • Home and offi ce separated

Design and manufacturing • Requires large investment, so big companies have the edge

• Capital equipment intensive • Viewed as easy to outsource • Not attractive to school leavers, graduates

Sales and marketing • Sellers have knowledge and control information fl ow to buyers

• Marketing and selling ‘shout’ at the market • Sales staff pitch, negotiate and close

Skills and careers • Belief that qualifi cations = better career, better salary

• Focus on single career choice • Separation of job and home life • Focus on education and qualifi cations being formal, one-shot in early life

Future alternatives

Business size and structure • Virtual organizations, networks of ‘experts’ • More self-employed, collaboration • More part-time, lifestyle, portfolio careers • Collaborative teams, entrepreneurial

Banking and fi nance • New specialist lenders, niche focus • Online community lenders • Asset and Invoice Finance • Employee and stakeholder fi nancing

Employment models • Self-employed, contractors, activity focused • Portfolio careers, multiple employers • Global sourcing and workplace markets • Home working and community work ‘hubs’

Design and manufacturing • Niche designers and micro-manufacturers • Crowdsourcing for design, development • Local production ‘walk-in’ shops with low entry costs and ‘pay as you go’ services • Making things becomes ‘cool’

Sales and marketing • Information power in the hands of the buyers • Buyers switched to searching, recommendations, values and trust

• Sales staff as facilitators, guides, advocates

Skills and careers • Lifestyle more important than job • Shift to on-line learning, always on, informal, incremental credits

• Fuzzy boundaries between work and home • Portfolio careers and multiple sources of income

Member Bulletin | Summer 2010 3

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