Six  questions your business must answer if you‘re to compete for the future
Competitive landscape is constantly changing. In fact, what the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have taught entrepreneurs is that there is no permanent advantage in business.
There is also no assurance of continued revenue generation except a business regenerates and re-engineers itself. Doing this will help meet the changing market whims. It will also help the business organization harness new frontiers, driven by shrewd foresight, sustained debates and insights into trends in technology, fads, lifestyle changes, and regulatory.
The dearth of any of the aforementioned has thrown many well-worked enterprises off tangent. Take for instance Gokada [regulatory], Blackberry [lifestyle changes], and Yellow Taxis [Technological maneuver].
The consequences, both in human and financial terms can be austere. “Lay-offs”, “CVAs”, “restructuring”, “downsizing”, and “streamlining” – you hear all kinds these days – are some of the consequences of short-sighted management which had committed more intellectual and material resources into shoring up the present than projecting into what the industry, competition or the consumers would look like in the next 5 to 10 years.
It is often said that you can’t have your cake and eat it. Maybe, somehow, you have to spread the cake over the years ahead so that you can have just enough for brunch sometimes. In business, this witty introspection is valid. It is much more compelling to keep track of changes and prospect for them.
The ability to do this consistently accurately is the trade that marks and maps fortunes for businesses that choose to think and rethink to unfurl new processes, new ways, and new competences, for an unpredictable new generation of users and buyers of services and products. Who would have thought Amazon would turn JC Penny and Sear to mere ‘walking shadows’, or give Walmart a run for its money 2 decades earlier?
Why is it necessary to continuously future-proof your business?
- Today’s customers may be quite different from tomorrow’s customers – ask Xerox and Canon if the margins from inks on paper are sustainable
- Channels through which products reach the customers may change – Is Netflix and Amazon not dumping cable TVs and brick and mortals respectively?
- Who the competitors are may change – Are Washington Post and Time Magazine still competitors in the face of Facebook and Google’s superior media and ads revenues?
Developing a distinctive view of the future is not negotiable in building corporate perspectives. Any organization which neglects this fact will end up putting itself in trouble. That is why since 2015 there have been panic mergers, acquisitions and take-over here and there, by smart businesses which aimed to sustain existence. Facebook acquired Instagram and Whatsapp to defend its flanks. Nestle worked hard to climb on the back of Starbucks into the next-phase of coffee consumption in North America; Fox too put its lifeline in Sky.
If a business fails, it means someone trusted with the rein ‘slept on the watch’. It is like the captain of the ‘Titanic’ who failed to sight the iceberg from a safe distance. Most notably, these ‘Captains’ are the top executives whose shortsighted ambitions and ‘academic stubbornness’ make victims of past glory.
Hence, if caught unawares by a regenerated market and consumers, these ‘celebrated’ execs activate the next line of action by making the ‘asset sweat’, or ‘grow lean’, to support ballooning overheads as well as rein in R & D. These at the end of the day put pressure on the society as more people are laid off while businesses liquidate or downsize.
Perhaps, these could have been prevented if, according to C.K Prahalad and Gary Hamel, in their book, “Competing for the Future”, companies sincerely can provide timely answers to these ‘present’ and ‘future’ questions:
- Which customers do we serve today? Which customers will we serve in the future?
- Through what channels do we reach our customers today? Through what channels will we reach customers in the future?
- Who are our competitors today? Who will our competitors be in the future?
- What is the basis for our competitive advantage today? What will be the basis for our competitive advantage in the future?
- Where do our margins come from today? Where will our margins come from in the future?
- What skills or capabilities make us unique today? What skills and capabilities will make us unique in the future?
As new generations of consumers begin to take their health seriously, we have seen Coca Cola supporting its product portfolio with Diet Coke, Coke Light; Pepsi has also done the same. Walmart bought jet.com. BusinessDay has stepped up its online publications to take advantage of current preference for online content.
Tesla will soon become an unabating headache for Toyota and Volks. In Nigeria Fintech firms such as Sparkle, Carbon, and Paga may grow to harass the deposit money banks [DMBs].
The future will be scanty of pity for those businesses which won’t let the past be, to develop a clear view of the future. Therefore, developing new product concepts and building new competences by regenerating and re-engineering existing structure to withstand the torrent of an always changing business climate is the new normal.