The disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has raised many questions and resulted in countless articles about business relevance, resilience, purpose and longevity. Uncertainty is the only certainty, and what might have been a realistic ten-year plan two years ago, may well seem ridiculous today.
Yet, businesses concerned with their long-term survival still need to navigate the uncertainty and plan for the future. Terms like “agility” and “adaptability” have become favourites to bandy about but long-term business success requires far more than an acknowledgement of the need to be flexible.
Industry leaders who prioritise the question of business longevity as a strategic prerogative shared some of their insights.
Relevance is always a priority
Even a business that’s been around for half a century can’t ever afford to rest on its laurels. Teljoy, today the country’s foremost rent-to-own provider, made a name for itself in the 1970s, when they offered South Africans the opportunity to rent a television to partake in the excitement of TV finally coming to our shores.
‘We’ve been around for a long time and the business has inevitably evolved over the years. It’s thanks to this evolution that we remain not just alive today, but more relevant than ever,’ says Jonathan Hurvitz, Teljoy CEO.
Central to Teljoy’s strategic thinking is the understanding that the brand is in the business of offering consumers access to items they need. ‘It’s not about the fridge or the microwave or the laptop per se, but rather about a business model that solves a particular customer need in a way that aligns to what the contemporary consumer needs, wants and expects from a brand,’ Hurvitz explains.
The product or service offering can easily be changed or adapted, or even discarded, but as a business it’s key to focus on the value proposition first and foremost, as the product or service is merely a fulfillment of the value proposition.
Engage evolving consumer needs
Reagen Kok, CEO of digital transformation agency Hoorah Digital, agrees that longevity and relevance is always a strategic business concern. ‘Particularly in the creative industries, where it is easy to fall victim to the “flavour of the month” trap – you’re only as good as your last campaign, after all.’
He explains that, instead, Hoorah’s approach is to ensure they’re always engaging with the evolving needs, desires and preferences of the consumer. ‘A keen awareness (and anticipation) of social and cultural trends and nuances are a key part of playing the long game. Our relevance is reflected in our ability to appropriately respond to the prevailing zeitgeist, while ensuring our approach is supported by efficient business structures.”
Data plays a key role too, and increasingly so for businesses across industries. ‘The right data can be invaluable in informing business decisions, processes and forward planning to see you win in the long run,’ Kok says.
Foster a culture of learning
According to McKinsey, up to 375 million workers will need to change occupations by 2030. McKinsey also predicts that in about 60% of occupations, at least one-third of the constituent activities could be automated, implying substantial workplace transformations and changes for all workers.
In uncertain times, it’s important to surround yourself with a skilled workforce that can adapt to change. Fostering a culture of learning will help you prepare for unforeseen challenges.
‘It’s important to recognise the importance of the workforce generational shift,’ says Edmund Dueck, VP of Sales EMEA at Liferay. ‘Engaging millennials, reskilling the workforce, and investing in corporate learning are all new and significant considerations that will continue to be relevant.
‘Upskilling and reskilling are vital for a highly competitive and evolving business environment, making them both critical elements of a powerful business strategy that is future-proof,’ he adds.
The whole is the sum of the parts
A successful business is the culmination of a balanced focus on both the big-picture goal for the organisation and a commitment to ensuring that the day-to-day activities of the business run smoothly, efficiently, profitably and ultimately, serve the larger objectives.
‘It’s easy to become consumed by the minutiae of running a business, where the focus is simply getting the most pressing work done,’ says Hayley van der Woude, Managing Director at public relations and integrated marketing agency Irvine Partners. ‘Striking the right balance between sweating the day-to-day details, while keeping an eye on the long-term vision is key. It helps when strategic big-picture thinking is an active part of the KPIs of certain team members. In addition, balance and workflow are important so team members are empowered to step back from their daily grind and think critically and creatively,’ she says.
Considering that only some 33% of new businesses make it past the ten-year mark it is crucial to engage the question of longevity, relevance and resilience, particularly at a time when it has been proved that the only constant is change.