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10 Things CEOs need to know to survive in 2020

The innumerable challenges and crises that arise more quickly each day are forcing CEOs to adopt a new skill set and a new mindset.

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Photo by Brooke Lark from Unsplash.com

“CEOs are facing a daunting new level of challenges around social media, technology, political standoffs, and stakeholder pressures, says Stephen Miles, CEO of The Miles Group/TMG. “How a CEO acts and reacts around these challenges and crisis events today – and gets the company on board around the changes necessary – will be the moment of reckoning for a company’s survival.”

The person in the CEO role today is very different as a whole from 10-15 years ago, says Miles. “The innumerable challenges and crises that arise more quickly each day are forcing CEOs to adopt a new skill set and a new mindset.”

Below are 10 factors Miles and his colleagues at TMG have identified as essential focus areas for CEOs entering 2020.

1. Handling “social emotional events.” 

As we move into a ‘social economy’ with leadership actions being scrutinized and judged by millions over social media, CEOs are learning the hard way the consequences of not addressing this reality – and it often translates into their leaving the company. Responding to or taking a stand on today’s ‘social emotional events’ or issues – from plastic waste to the NRA to LGBTQ issues – as well as to a company’s own crisis events requires a new CEO skill set of being able to connect with the public at a completely different level.

2. Shifting from a “know-it-all” to a “learn-it-all” company with a growth mindset. 

The story of Microsoft under the leadership of Satya Nadella is a powerful example of embracing what Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck has identified as a ‘growth mindset’ – and how this approach can save a company. Nadella took the same assets that the previous CEO had and has added more than $850 billion in market capitalization. He has focused on a cultural transformation, moving from the fixed mindset Microsoft had held onto for too long. Under his watch, Microsoft has shifted from a ‘know-it-all’ to a ‘learn-it-all’ company that is open to learning and new ideas. More companies can learn from Nadella’s model as nothing can be taken for granted any longer in today’s rapid business climate.

3. Prioritizing investment in a business’s digital future. 

Digitization of every business has been talked about for the past 20+ years, but we have finally reached the point where this is real. For companies not in the tech space, investing in digital development means focusing on the ‘business of tomorrow.’ Many of them are so focused on winning in the business of today that they risk being late or outright missing the transformation to digital. But getting a company to prioritize digitization is not like Star Trek where a CEO can just ‘Make it so.’ The CEO must make this imperative part of their drumbeat from the top so that it gets the attention and investment required. Digitization requires a real focus and investment in building the organizational capabilities needed for a company’s future success.

4. Training the company, and the CEO, as an Olympic athlete.

The pattern of a company’s adding some excess during a good run and then shedding the excess when the run was over is coming to an end. Today, many CEOs see their companies as Olympic athletes – where it’s essential to maintain a top level of ‘fitness’ at all times and it’s everyone’s role to stay focused and not allow excess to creep in. CEOs themselves are also prioritizing their own fitness to stay sharp and withstand the physical toll of working in today’s very demanding global business climate with extensive travel, 24/7 communications, and more – a far cry from the wining-and-dining CEO of before.

5. Getting ahead of ESG “fails”.

The ESG – environmental, social, and governance – agenda for many CEOs has gone from altruism to ‘license to operate.’ ESG is the new normal. With plastic, for example, the companies affected have largely lost the narrative. The story has moved from ‘waste is bad’ to ‘plastic is bad,’ with plastic becoming the symbol for single-use excess. Corporations today need to stay out in front of the narrative before it gets hijacked and then turns their entire business model on its head. It is now sport to shame corporations and build a critical public mass to drive an agenda, so CEOs must stay hyper-attuned to the emerging issues that could pushed by stakeholders anytime.

6. Adapting to “shop local” as a possible new reality for supply chains.

Most multinational corporations have set up their supply chains to be truly global, but the 25-year business model developed around free trade and the frictionless movement of goods is now under real threat through trade disputes and protectionist policies. Companies are trying to assess whether this is merely a Trump administration blip or a new era of global protectionism threatening their existing business models and supply chains. If this is the new reality, many companies will have to shift their business models to a more local approach, which will cost more and take time to fully adjust. Many arbitrage opportunities around labor and other costs will be lost if companies are limited to more local markets for production.

7. Bracing for stronger regulatory action.

From heightened privacy concerns around technology companies to the newly appointed CEO of Boeing Corporation saying that the company now welcomes oversight, regulators around the world are finding a new sense of power – supported by a growing populist movement and an increased disdain for the corporation. Taking on monopolies is another area of focus, as the technology space has shifted dramatically in the two decades since the DOJ took on Microsoft, a company far less of a monopolist than what exists in many areas of technology today. We’re likely to see more actions taking on monopolists to either break them up or regulate them with a much heavier hand of the law.

8. Building competitive muscle as growth gets harder.

Every CEO we have advised over the past decade would tell you that each year has been harder than the previous year to find growth. In a ‘hard growth’ economy, the only way for companies to grow is to take market share from others, but the relentless focus inward on cost-cutting and disciplines such as zero-based budgeting have made it difficult to find executives who have built enough of a competitive muscle. CEOs will need their teams to get out of their more internally focused thinking and embrace a market-based approach that is driven by calculated risk-taking and creativity.

9. Preparing now for the next synchronized global recession.

Many industrial companies have been feeling recessionary pressures for the past six to eight months, and this is a worry for many CEOs. While the consumer remains strong, there are signs of the next recession being closer rather than further away. The swing card is the 2020 election and the potential for the Trump administration to complete further rounds of a workable trade deal with China. A deal would take a considerable amount of uncertainty off the table and likely extend the expansion for a period of time.

10. Shifting from linear leadership to managing to an outcome.

Companies are increasingly moving away from the vertical corporation, with its silos and asymmetries of information and linear paths to achieving goals. In today’s highly matrixed organization, executives must also lead horizontally, working with others and collaborating in a way that requires a lot more range to their leadership toolkits. They must consider the direct and indirect constituencies that will influence their strategic objectives. We have moved away from linear ‘Point A to Point B’ leadership – it is now about managing to an outcome.

“What all these actions have in common is a hypervigilance to external factors,” says Miles. “The always-on, 360-degree CEO who takes in input from everywhere and adapts quickly is the one who will outperform.”

Strategies

5 Tips for small business owners to help grow their business online

Choosing and registering a domain name for your business that’s memorable is increasingly important in an expanding digital marketplace, as it helps to shape your online business identity.

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Small businesses are embracing digitalization and catering to their customer needs through a variety of online channels. With new technologies emerging such as artificial intelligence, there is no time like the present to help your small business grow by taking advantage of the online world.

A GoDaddy 2023 global survey examined the status of small businesses including their ways to reach customers and survive in highly competitive markets. APAC countries surveyed, including Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, showed use of a business website, online store, ecommerce or a combination of them ranking at 57% of survey respondents. These results support having a strong online presence with multiple complementary channels can be vital for businesses to thrive and grow in today’s competitive digital environments.

With this in mind, GoDaddy shares five tips to help your small business grow with an online presence.

1. It starts with a domain name

When getting started, check availability of domain names for the desired name. A domain name can be considered a business’ piece of real estate and identity on the internet. It is a way for customers to easily find a business online.

Choosing and registering a domain name for your business that’s memorable is increasingly important in an expanding digital marketplace, as it helps to shape your online business identity. If the .com extension is not available, there are many new extensions available, such as: .shop; .co.; .photography; .tech, to name a few, for you to consider which can help define your business.  After choosing a domain name register it with a reliable hosting provider right away.

2. Build a website 

Websites help create visibility for small businesses and acts as a home base for your business on the internet, even if you have a brick-and-mortar store.  A website can help consumers easily find your business, learn about your product offerings and services, and contact you for more information.

A well-designed professional looking website can offer an engaging customer experience with the use of text along with photo images and video.  Having a website gives you control over the messaging about your business and can serve as a hub by linking with your social media channels.

3. Listen to your customers

The growth of your business is directly related to customer satisfaction. Listen to your customers and pay attention to the needs of your target market. Identify their problems and pain points. How can your offerings act as a solution? Is it possible to develop new products to help solve these problems?  Engage for customer feedback and keep an eye on customer behaviour changes and audience interests.

4. Develop a business support system

By developing a strong business support system, entrepreneurs can benefit from new ideas on ways to address a particular issue or ideas for growth. In addition to close family and friends, consider mentors and business coaches who can provide relevant insights into your business.

5. Review your business plan

Many entrepreneurs make a business plan at the beginning of their business journey, but do not take the time to revisit it from time-to-time. So, analysing aspects of that business plan like target audience and competitors, examining cash flows and what can make the business profitable, while also checking timelines to reach business goals is all equally essential to help ensure continued growth of your business.

For more information on how GoDaddy can help your small business: Domain Names, Websites, Hosting & Online Marketing Tools – GoDaddy PH.

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BizNews

Sticking with old technology can be a strategic move

As competitors adopt new technology in some markets, firms that stick with the old technology may experience an initial decline before actually rebounding and even reaching new heights.

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Technological innovation — especially disruptive innovation — is often heralded as the best strategy for a company. But new research published in Strategic Management Journal found that as competitors adopt new technology in some markets, firms that stick with the old technology may experience an initial decline before actually rebounding and even reaching new heights. While the rise of a discontinuous technology does pose a substitute threat to the old technology, it also further exposes niche segments where companies can gain a foothold with customers who favor the old technology.

The analysis by Xu Li, a professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science, used archival data from the traditional Chinese medicine industry in China during the 1990s. In his interviews with managers in the field, he found that some chose not to innovate along with their competitors. In many cases, Li found these companies were performing well, if not sometimes better, by not making changes. Inspired by these conversations, Li chose to study under what conditions a firm may benefit from not innovating.

Li found some prior research on why companies would stick with older technology, but none explored why — during times of disruptive change in the market — sometimes firms are able to survive and even perform better within a small niche with old technology. What Li’s paper showed was that adhering to the old technology can, in some cases, be an effective strategy that ultimately improves firm performance.

The data showed a U-curve effect for traditional Chinese medicine firms that chose not to adopt new technology: The decline in performance began as a few competitors started launching a new technology, but later recovered and reached new heights as most competitors had adopted the new technology and exited the old technology market. But a lack of competition within the niche group of consumers who prefer older technology essentially gave these firms a monopoly within a smaller market as fewer competitors remained.

“Even though the new technology is often superior in terms of functionality, it doesn’t mean that every single customer or customer segment will be willing to move to the new technology,” Li says. “It’s important to understand what customers like about your product. We tend to assume that if a firm introduces something new, then customers must appreciate the new thing or the newness of the offering. But that’s not always true. The emergence of new technology can actually reveal people’s preference for something older.”

The research also refutes the idea that when the market is small, a company won’t perform better — but that depends on how many firms are still serving this niche. If only a few firms are left to serve this market, a company has far more power to charge higher prices among loyal customers with few other options.

“When you see a firm that is not actively innovating, we tend to believe the firm must be either incapable or is suffering — it’s always a bit of a negative tone,” Li says. “Sometimes staying with old technology might actually be a strategic choice, because by doing so it might also lead to better performance.”

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BizNews

Customers prefer text over video to provide service feedback

More people indicated they would likely leave written compliments or complaints about service on a restaurant-provided tablet powered by artificial intelligence. A video message option appeared to discourage leaving feedback.

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At a time when one viral video can damage a business, some companies are turning to their own commenting platforms rather than letting social media be the main outlet for customer feedback. Only one wrinkle: in this context, customers appear to prefer writing a message rather than leaving a video.

In a recent study, more participants indicated they would likely leave written compliments or complaints about service on a restaurant-provided tablet powered by artificial intelligence. A video message option appeared to discourage leaving feedback.

With more restaurants and hotels turning to AI to enhance their service, the findings indicate that methods that require “low self-disclosure” would work better, meaning ones that don’t require customers to provide very much identifiable information.

“Some restaurants and hotels actually ask customers to create video testimonials that they can share, but for general customers, it seems they feel more comfortable with low self-disclosure. This is probably because people still do not trust AI to that level,” said lead author Ruiying Cai, a researcher in Washington State University’s Carson College of Business.

With a lot of hype around AI technology, many people have misperceptions about what it can do, Cai pointed out, perhaps believing it is capable of a lot more than simply recording a message.

The study participants reported being concerned about what would be done with their information in all the scenarios, but this was heightened with the option to leave a video.

For the study, published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management, Cai and her colleagues presented different online scenarios to a total of 439 people. The participants were first asked to imagine a restaurant where they had either good or bad service. Then they reported how willing they were to give the server compliments, or complaints, with either text or video on an AI-enabled tablet.

The researchers found that the participants were more willing to give feedback using text, whether positive or negative.

The scenarios also had participants receiving a theoretical immediate or delayed reward to provide feedback, namely a 5% discount of their current meal or a future one. For complaints, the reward timing did not appear to make much difference, which the authors said was not surprising as people tend to be more highly motivated to complain than compliment.

For compliments, the researchers found an interesting connection: with more participants choosing the delayed reward over the immediate one. This may indicate that giving the compliment itself is its own reward as it makes the giver feel good, Cai said.

“It’s a good start to think about how to encourage customers to leave more compliments which could be very important for frontline employees. It could also be beneficial for the customers themselves,” she said.

Even complaints are important to encourage, Cai added. As her previous research suggests, restaurants and hotels should make it easier for customers to complain to them directly rather than go elsewhere to air their grievances.

“There have been episodes when customers were not afraid of posting angry videos on their own social media,” Cai said. “If restaurants and hotels can encourage customers to complain directly to them, then they may be able to recover and solve that service failure before it goes viral online.”

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