Here are seven ways to help your firm stay ahead of the game:
Harness the right technology
Mobile phones, laptops, desktops…for most of us, they’re vital for any business. But it’s not just the devices; the technology behind them is key. When you’re researching kit for your business, ask yourself, “Who does this best?” You only have to look at Apple’s Watch… Who would have thought a device the size of a 50p could keep track of the FTSE 100, arrange your New York conference and pay your gym membership – all while you’re giving that board presentation? Install the most innovative technology and everything else becomes streamlined – freeing up time for new ideas.
Knowledge is everything
Take an online training course, book conferences, read entrepreneurs’ books, listen to business speakers… Whatever you do to stay relevant in business you need to keep learning. And that goes for your employees too. Professional qualifications are only the beginning – you have to learn to keep learning. As Randall Stephenson, chairman of US telecoms giant AT&T told the New York Times: “There’s a need to retool yourself and you should not expect to stop. People who do not spend five to 10 hours a week in online learning will obsolete themselves with the technology.”
Know your enemies
As Brexit bites and the US election looms, knowing who your competitors are – direct and indirect – will allow you to make your products, services and marketing stand out. And you can use that knowledge to create strategies that take advantage of their weaknesses, whether they’re new to the market or established. Whatever line of business you’re in, from marketing to customer service, quality to innovation, sales to price strategies, every area of your company is racing towards one goal. And once you understand where your rivals are at, you can start to outrun them, however competitive the marketplace is.
Put yourself on the front line
Remember when you worked in your business as well as on your business? You knew what your customers wanted, you dealt with their concerns – and then your business grew and became successful, so you went upstairs to focus on strategy. I’m not saying you should take your eye off those strategic tasks – far from it – but going back to the trenches once in a while will allow you to hear your customers’ voices again, and you’ll see the little tweaks that can make a big difference.
Ask impossible questions
Or at least ask the right questions. Don’t say, “How do we increase sales?” Instead, ask, “Have we got the right staff to deliver what our customers want?” Or better still, “What do our customers need, but don’t yet know they need?” Asking difficult questions of yourself and your team creates energy, and energy leads to innovation. And it’s that spirit of constantly moving forward and reinventing yourself that will keep you ahead of the pack.
Give them wings
The more you expect of your employees, the more they deliver. One of the principles of Jung’s 1921 model, Psychological Types, is that everyone has an inbuilt urge to grow. Part of that process is learning how we operate and react to those around us. Tools like the Myers-Briggs Indicator can help identify potential leaders by uncovering strengths and gaps in the team. It can encourage staff to work together more effectively, develop thinking skills and change the culture of your business – leading to increased creativity.
It sounds simple, but time away from your desk can give you space to daydream, to think, to come up with the next big thing or solve a difficult problem. Flashes of inspiration come in the quietest moments – being busy all the time can mean you don’t hear new ideas.
Jazz Gandhum, CEO and Managing Director of leading edtech firm, e-Careers Limited.