We are on the verge of a revolution that will take the impact of the internet and multiply it, creating changes like we have never seen before. Within a decade, 500 million cars, refrigerators, phones, robots and other devices will communicate online.
New technologies will bring benefits for our health, safer communities, an increase in global well-being, creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
The ability to reinvent not only your business, but also yourself, is the most important skill in the digital age. It doesn’t matter if you are driving a 2-person company or 200,000: you must be fast, flexible and always one step ahead of others.
The mentality to be adopted to be successful as a leader
Over the past 20 years, many tech giants who once dominated their target market have collapsed. Companies that seemed untouchable have failed because they have been unable to follow the wave of change. They have continued to follow the same strategy for too long, convinced that they cannot be wrong.
No company, organization or person will be immune from the transformation that will take place. When a change comes, it creates enormous possibilities, both for veterans and novices.
A shift in the market is not a threat.
It is a period of change from one state to another, where the skills needed to do your job change, when customers rely on new technologies, or when the economy changes its model. It can happen on its own, or be part of a bigger trend. What matters is that we recognize it as a reality and an opportunity.
Those who ignore the changes, or who spend a lot of money trying to avoid the changes, don’t get very far. The ability to recognize change, and to understand what it will look like in 3, 5 or 10 years, and to act accordingly, is what makes the difference.
The era of digitalization represents an unprecedented turning point. The individual trends may seem familiar: artificial intelligence, Big Data, virtual reality, autonomous vehicles, digital security. Put together, they will drastically change our world. If we don’t follow the wave, there is a risk that companies, sectors and even entire countries will fall behind.
As a leader, it is important that our way of working is in line with this idea of change. From the management model we use, to the team of managers we select, to our relationship with customers, every aspect of our leadership serves to ensure that our company does not fall victim to the changes that, sooner or later, will surely happen.
It is essential to know how to get out of your comfort zone, because a winning strategy today will not necessarily be successful tomorrow. We must continually analyze what is happening around us, from the choices of our customers to those of companies in our sector.
With this information, we must try to predict what the changes will be in the market, and what the situation could be in 3, 5 or even 10 years.
Let’s start from our goal: what does success mean to us? We must have a clear idea of what we are trying to achieve, and visualize our situation once we have reached the finish line.
Like in a chess game, we have to play the whole game in our mind even before we make the first move. An excellent technique for concretely visualizing the achievement of a goal is to write the press release that we will publish even before starting to act.
Our team is a fundamental part for success, so we must make sure that, at all times, the right people are not only updated with regards to planning and strategies, but also that they are aligned with the culture and values of the company.
We can consider our customers as a strong ally when it comes to strategy. It is precisely the customers that we must observe to understand when our strategy must change, and if we do not establish a relationship of trust with them, we risk losing them because we have not been able to give them what they needed.
Not every project is successful, and that’s part of the game. For each successful plan, there are others that, for one reason or another, have not been successful. When it becomes clear that a goal can no longer be pursued, one must have the courage to let it go, concentrating its resources on other goals.
The only way to be ready to face an obstacle is to foresee it from the beginning. So, in addition to predicting a successful scenario in detail, it is always advisable to predict what we will do in the worst case scenario.
Above all, we must remember that our corporate culture and purpose will always show us the right thing to do.
The guide to being a successful company
The mission of a company is one of the elements that characterizes it, and must be defined according to its strengths, but must take into consideration the needs of customers, in addition to the impact that the company can have on the market, and more in general on the world.
It is important to develop and maintain a strong awareness of the environment in which we operate, and to do this we must observe our competitors, studying their choices, but always considering them in the context of market changes.
If we see that the market is showing signs of change, we must try to anticipate competition, and make our move before the market moves. This is a key moment in our strategy, because if we move late, we risk not only someone coming before us, but also not having time to adapt to this new paradigm, with potentially disastrous consequences.
However, we must be equally careful not to interpret the characteristic fluctuations of the market as signs of great change, otherwise we risk expanding in a sector where there is no demand, wasting precious resources.
A very important moment in many large companies is that of acquisitions. These operations must be an opportunity for both companies, and it is essential that a leader be able to identify which are the right activities to acquire. First of all we must look for innovative companies, but we must make sure that they adapt to our corporate culture.
As far as we can prepare and plan, moments of crisis will come. Sometimes they will be caused by internal factors, other times by the market, but it is an inevitable moment in the life of any business. When a crisis arises, the most important thing we can do is keep calm.
The greatest leaders in the world, however different approaches they may have, have this in common: the bigger the crisis, the more they remain calm.
When a crisis arises, one must first understand whether it is internal or external. This simple distinction is the basis for how to deal with the problem. An internal crisis must be investigated in order to identify what the cause is.
Too often the effects of a crisis divert attention from what is the real problem. Resolving the symptom does not help resolve the cause. Once you understand what the real cause of a problem is, you need to decide what needs to be done, and do it quickly.
If the problem derives from the market, we must not fundamentally change our strategy, because it is not the cause of the problem. In this case, let’s turn to the market: our customers. Often they are the ones who can provide us with indispensable information to understand the situation, and therefore also to outline a strategy to adapt to this change.
Communication, both internal and external, is an indispensable tool to face any type of crisis.
The strategic importance of connecting with your customers
Customers are a fundamental part of our business. Without them, after all, we wouldn’t take a single step. The customer should not be seen simply as someone who spends money on our products, and our goal should not be just to sell them as much as possible.
It is important to be able to establish a relationship of trust with our customers, from the smallest to the most important.
From the moment a company becomes our customer, we start a journey that can bring benefits and growth to both, and it is important to face this journey together.
Our task is to understand what the customer’s needs are, and to offer him solutions that allow him to reach him better, not to sell him as much as possible. An “inflated” order will never be worth as much as a long relationship of trust.
In addition to the immediate value of his purchases, a customer is able to provide us with very valuable information about what is happening on the market. If technology advances, but we stand still trying to push an obsolete product, the customer will look elsewhere for the solution to his needs. This may be a first indicator of the fact that the market is moving, but we stand still.
If we have established a relationship of trust with the customer, he will contact us when he has a problem. From that moment on, we must try as hard as possible to find a solution, not only not to lose the customer, but also because the problem faced by a company could soon expand to others in the sector, and knowing how to face this type of difficulty can put us in a position of advantage over others. If we manage to act promptly, we are more likely not to fall victim to change.
In addition to looking at the competition and customers, a leader must be able to relate to his staff of employees. The people who work for our company are not only interchangeable gears, we must learn to give everyone the right value and the right recognition: from the cleaner to the manager, everyone plays an important role.
If an employee has problems, whether they are economic, family or health, we give them the support they need, we use the means at our disposal to help them overcome this difficulty. An employee who feels they are receiving support will be a happy, productive and loyal employee. The company is like a big family: you have to share both good and dark moments.
When choosing a team, it is important to evaluate a candidate from different points of view. Skills alone do not always guarantee the success of the operation. We must make sure that the candidate shares our values and our vision, and that he has at heart the achievement of the objectives that the company has set itself. In a large company, this becomes even more relevant, as a CEO cannot physically supervise all employees, so each executive must share the corporate culture.
For these reasons, it becomes clear that communication is an essential skill. Communicating with your customers, with your employees, with the media, can be a decisive factor in our ability to overcome a crisis. Each of us must constantly hone and improve their communication skills.
The world of startups: advantages and opportunities
We live in a world where, thanks to the technology and communication opportunities of the network, anyone can start a business and bring it to success. This is clear if we look at the number of startups that have revolutionized the market in various sectors.
Many of the innovations we have seen in recent years do not come from giants already on the market for decades, but from small startups that have the ability to adapt to the current state of the market, and the flexibility to change with it. Innovation is an engine that never stops, and promoting startups is a key element in making sure you don’t fall behind.
From large companies to governments, everyone must realize the importance of digitalization and innovation. A country that does not invest in startups is set to remain cut off in the years to come. It is important that politics take the field to promote this world.
Investments in infrastructure, digitalization, digital payments, educational platforms and digital skills will ensure that the new generations will not only not be victims of change, but will be an active part of this revolution.
But not everything is the task of politics: even large companies often play a fundamental role in the world of startups. Often, in fact, when a startup reaches a certain level of success, a large company in the sector tries to acquire it.
If the idea of a startup is modular, a large company will have the resources and channels to expand it, realizing the initial vision, and bringing profound changes to the market.
Staying in close contact with the world of startups allows us to see changes up close as they begin to take shape. We can see innovations, new technologies, new business models. It really is a world of startups.
To identify the startups to focus on, one must look in those sectors that are, or will soon be, in transition. Here, we must try to identify the companies that have the necessary technologies to bring about this change.
As in any case of acquisition, partnership or investment, however, it is essential to look at the startup’s leadership. If the culture and corporate values do not marry with ours, there is a risk of compatibility problems, which can often lead to failure.
Digitization will transform our lives, but it won’t do it alone. It will be led by hundreds of leaders, partners, investors, customers. There has never been a better time to transform the industry and create not only better products and experiences, but a better life for all the people in the world.