Transformation is not enough: why you need to be ‘business ready’

While transformation is undoubtedly a key priority for every South African business leader today, focusing on it is not enough to achieve robust and sustainable growth.

Particularly given the tough local market conditions, with South Africa having now entered a technical recession, you have to be business ready to succeed in both the short and long term.

Indeed, there are multiple factors now at play, in addition to the transformation agenda, which savvy business leaders must take into account.

There is the constant pressure of digital disruption, the steady slew of new competitors entering every industry, and an exceedingly pressurized macro economic environment — to name but a few challenges.

So, what does it take for today’s leaders to ensure that they are business ready — and well positioned to grow in the next several years?

Talent is key

To begin with, leaders must ensure that they have a fully qualified staff complement in place. In such a competitive and fast paced business ecosystem, businesses simply cannot afford to cut corners on skills and talent.

Moreover, it is key that employees are engaged and motivated — according to research firm Gallup, companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share.

Sadly, most employees are not engaged, and this is arguably the first place to begin when looking to take your business to the next level of growth.

For those of us within the marketing and advertising sphere, another critical element to consider when becoming business ready, is how to access procurement officers.

These are, in many instances, the gatekeepers to the highly prized brands and companies that one seeks to work with… so why wouldn’t you place more time and resources into accessing them more directly?

Staying on the proactive note, agencies too often wait for briefs to arrive — instead of actively seeking and creating their own work.

Furthermore, agencies miss out on critical opportunities to upsell their services. It is something that many other industries — such as financial services and insurance — have perfected.

They are brutal in their ability to upsell at every opportunity. This is certainly a lesson that we can learn in the softer spheres of marketing, advertising and communications.

Make your services indispensable (and visible!)

A critical part of becoming business ready today undoubtedly involves positioning your business offering in a highly strategic way.

To begin, it is important to commercialise your company profile by making sure that the market truly understands what you do, and how you do it.

Harnessing tactics such as preparing credentials presentations and producing key market insights can achieve this. In short, become a thought leader in your client’s industry — and take it as an opportunity to be both creative and disruptive.

Become a specialist

Another way to become truly indispensable and valuable to your clients is to specialise. Become the best, or among the best, in what you do — and avoid making your services too broad and generalised.

If you can achieve this, clients will learn that they can rely on your business for a specific, desired outcome.

Arguably, as every industry becomes more crowded and cutthroat, those that specialise will ultimately thrive. Specialisation can also enable you to become a growth partner for the long-term, as opposed to an occasional supplier.

True growth partners must also learn to understand the business strategy and unique requirements of their clients, so that agencies can source the relevant commercial opportunities.

Finally, to be fully business ready in today’s fast paced, hyper connected environment, agencies need to be responsive, agile and have access to an always-on supplier base.

Ultimately, the customer is king, and every customer demands both speed and efficiency.

Increasingly, this is making smaller, bespoke agencies and businesses more attractive than their larger, more cumbersome counterparts.

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