The thought of expanding your business into new territories can feel like standing on the edge of a cliff; terra firma beneath your feet and beyond, the vast unknown. You’ve established a business in a home market you know and understand, profits and growth are good, so why take that terrifying leap into unchartered waters?
In his essential entrepreneurial tome, “The Business of Expertise”, David C Baker explains that it’s often difficult to read the label on the jar when you're inside the jar yourself. This, in a nutshell, is why consultants exist. It can be difficult for business leaders to highlight the real issues when they're so close to them. It’s one of the reasons SMEs in the UK alone spend around £60 billion a year on expert consultants.
Making investment decisions for your firm is one of the great privileges of leadership. It's also, however, a responsibility that many business leaders still struggle with. As US business magnate Warren Buffett wrote in a letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholder in 1987: “The heads of many companies are not skilled in capital allocation. Their inadequacy is not surprising because most bosses rise to the top because they have excelled in an area such as marketing, production, engineering, administration or, sometimes, institutional politics.”
Small things change direction much more easily than their larger counterparts. If you’re going around a sharp corner at top speed, you’d rather be in a nifty sports car than a cumbersome people carrier. The same is true in business.
Any first year MBA student can write a business plan, and it’ll probably be a good one - in theory. But a business is much more than strategy, numbers and the bottom line. Your business is a collection of people; and while some may be motivated by the basic numbers, many more want to feel part of something bigger; something meaningful. We’re talking about company culture.
Big data is still big news. The likes of Google, Facebook and Microsoft, with its acquisition of LinkedIn, are undertaking digital land grabs to hoover up large quantities of data, be it medical or social, to feed their need for information. With these companies building millions of data points to nourish their machine-learning algorithms, what does big data now mean for the rest of us?
When Google launched in the late nineties, it was a simple search engine designed to make the internet easier to navigate. In 2016, Google is unapologetically an ad platform, with the Adwords pay-per-click (PPC) service generating a whopping 97% of its $73 billion sales in 2015.
For many businesses, PPC is an addiction; their sole means of generating web referrals, because they’ve turned off all other marketing activities.
It’s a risky game to play. While PPC is certainly making Google a lot of money, it doesn’t work well for all businesses. Cost-per-click may be as low as £0.04 in some areas, but the highest ranking keywords – those which attract the highest number of searches and clicks – can command fees in excess of £35. So, while PPC definitely can work for some, it can be an ineffective, expensive drain on resources for others.
Which leads to the question, when should a business adopt PPC, and when should they leave it well alone?
72% of CEOs indicated that the inability to attract and retain employees with key skills threatens their growth prospects, according to PwC's 2016 global survey of CEOs. In response, as many as 41% of CEOs are revising their work culture and behaviours in an effort to engage more closely with the people their businesses need to remain relevant and competitive.
A critical factor in improving the working environment is trust. Employees and employers need to confidently rely on each other to produce results. Where there are high levels of trust, employees are more committed to the company and are more likely to recommend it to other potential candidates through peer review sites such as Glassdoor.co.uk.