The business year in review


3 enduring success factors through the turbulent teens

It’s a time of uncertainty – a decade that’s been dubbed the ‘turbulent teens’.1 With business models evolving, automation impacting the nature of work, and increasingly unpredictable global events, it may feel difficult to keep your business on an even keel. New competitive threats and exciting tech-powered ideas have made ‘pivoting’ the mantra of many business strategists.

However, building a business for the long-term also means focusing on the things that are stable in time. The more interesting question, as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos noted, is “what’s not going to change in the next 10 years.”

“In our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that's going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It's impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, 'Jeff I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher,'” he said in 2015.2

In this year’s Strictly Business, we focused on three key areas that will still power the success of your business in 10 years time: People, Culture and leadership, and Customers. Here’s a quick roundup of what you might have missed.

Powering your people

No matter what you sell, your business is all about people: your staff, your customers and the wider community. ‘Working with great people’ is the number one reason for happiness at work3 and happier employees lead to happier customers.4

GSA Insurance Brokers’ Paul Hines shared his secrets for keeping his most talented people happy, and how he has fostered a sense of genuine care. “We are a ‘high performance, high rewards’ environment and nothing is off the table. We need to know what really matters most to each person, we all have different motivators and few people are solely interested in money.”

Diversity is a key ingredient for high performing teams – but only when the culture is also inclusive. Employees who feel a sense of belonging at their company are five times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work – as these simple ways to create psychological safety at work demonstrate.

Taking a holistic approach to understanding your people also helps them do their best work – and live their best lives. “People want to stay in an environment that demonstrates it really cares about wellbeing, stress management, health and personal relationships,” EnHansen Performance’s Kristen Hansen explained.

Proactive leadership and a positive culture

Building a strong, cohesive culture with an aligned sense of purpose is not a new idea – and it will still be just as important in the decade to come. This begins with answering one important question: why do we do what we do? The answer will determine employee engagement, customer loyalty – and become a guiding light through the turbulent teens.

We also shared some tips for leading through adversity. “If the leader doesn’t have a healthy perspective on a situation, there’s no chance the team will either,” life coach Shannah Kennedy told us. And if you’re feeling a little burned out at the end of a challenging year, know that successful leaders take self-care seriously.

Putting your customers first

We’re often told ‘the customer is now in control’ thanks to technological change. But Walmart founder Sam Walton famously said “There is only one boss: the customer” long before the phrase ‘disruption’ became mainstream.

As Jeff Bezos explained, once you know what your customers want now, and will still want in 10 years, “you can afford to put a lot of energy into it."

And that may mean shifting your business models to provide it better, faster or more cost-effectively than your competitors. Xero’s Trent Innes and CTB Advisory’s Rick Hipwood shared their stories of success – and how they accessed new markets for growth through partnerships and streamlined systems.

The art of the sale also still comes down to tried-and tested approaches, as Macquarie’s Craig Griffin explained in this video on winning pitches. “If you boil everything down in a successful pitch – and I don’t think this has changed in the last 20 years – the most important thing people get wrong is not focussing on the customer need,” he said.

While the channels of communication and delivery may have changed, the things that made your business successful in the past will continue to matter in the future. And with the fourth industrial revolution well underway, 2018 is likely to be the year to harness the potential of those new tech platforms to make your long-term success factors more efficient and cost-effective, and set new benchmarks for customer experience.

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Unless stated otherwise, this material has been prepared by Macquarie Bank Limited ABN 46 008 583 542 AFSL & Australian Credit Licence 237502 ("Macquarie") for general discussion purposes only, without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this general information, you must consider its appropriateness having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs. The information provided is not intended to replace or serve as a substitute for any accounting, tax or other professional advice, consultation or service.