Published in BRW 14 March 2014
Richard Branson has declared 2014 is the year of the entrepreneur. Rightfully so, as macro movements that have shaped economic and cultural shifts the last few years are changing our behaviours. Start-ups and entrepreneurs have benefited from these changes tremendously and will continue to do so this year and beyond.
Words – such as ‘risk’, ‘first-to-market’ and ‘serial entrepreneur’ – previously met with scepticism are now applauded and encouraged. It is suddenly cool to disrupt the market and be experimental – funding organisations are more likely to bet on your idea now. Innovators are being heralded as the boy/girl wonders of the new economy. Falling prices and global markets have made it less expensive to do business. Talent is more scalable and skills are transferable. And, the technology required to keep companies running is available more cheaply than before.
Here are five broad trends that will shape the entrepreneurial landscape in 2014
1. Sense of purpose
In his LinkedIn Influencer blog post, Branson notes, “The entrepreneurs who will succeed in 2014 will need to focus upon having a purpose beyond profit for their business.” This is more relevant now in a world where attention span is limited and products and services shelf life is reduced. As highlighted in a Forbes article on Trends that will shape consumer behaviour this year, people are seeking more depth and meaning and are taking ethical responsibilities seriously.
For entrepreneurs, it is crucial to identify and communicate what their business’ sense of purpose is with consumers and stakeholders. Having a sense of purpose can be as simple as revisiting the values of your company and employees to see what contribution you are making to the community and the society. Think about the ethical footprint of your brand.
2. Personalisation vs privacy
Social media and digital technologies have taken bespoke and personalisation to a whole new level. Brand conversations are all about you. While consumers enjoy personalisation, there is a very fine balance between knowing them and infringing on their privacy. It is highly unlikely the tension between personalisation and privacy will be fully resolved any time soon and entrepreneurs will have to take a long-term perspective on both. Those that value and treat customer data with the respect it deserves will build brand value and create a more sustainable business.
3. Collaborative culture
Almost every macro trends forecast, notes collaboration as a key trend shaping the economy. From Kickstarter, Airbnb to AirTasker (which recently partnered with Career One), collaborative consumption is redefining how we do business and live our lives. The internet has given us the opportunity to radically change the way we produce value. The new collaborative economy is fair, based on sharing, mutual help and sustainability. It is crowd-sourced, open-sourced and crowd-financed. This gives entrepreneurs – especially start-ups – the chance to:
- Create consumers and audiences around their passion, project or idea.
- Collaborate with members to find solutions and create scalable business models with minimal overheads.
- Give clients cross platform expertise and more comprehensive solutions in an economy where walls of distinction between sectors are breaking.
As highlighted in an OuiShare post, building a collaborative culture at your start-up is a great way to enhance innovation, efficiency, and overall chance of success, by encouraging information sharing and group creativity. Collaborative economies will also give one-person empires just as much opportunity to shine as other ventures with more people.
Global computing giant IBM has a chief storyteller. Both Commonwealth and ANZ Banks in Australia have recently recruited senior journalists to manage their content. Brands across the world are taking control of content and narrating their story to the world. Self-publishing is the future of communication. Words, pictures, video and animations – they all come together to communicate not just who you are, but difference you make to lives.
Richard Branson’s blog post on LinkedIn received over 6000 LikedIn shares, 3000 Facebook likes, 722 tweets and over 600 comments – that’s just engaged readers and not including eyeballs to the article from his over 4 million followers. In a world where brand advocacy is increasingly measured by digital conversations, entrepreneurs have to become experts in telling their story to audiences. As Forbes noted, “Rather than just one story, we are seeing powerful story worlds with multiple strands of narrative on multiple platforms, allowing the various threads to permeate viewer’s lives.” Entrepreneurs need to be more proactive than reactive – especially on the digital front. Transparency, authenticity and engagement in telling stories is what separates the most admired CEOs in the worldto the worst ones.
5. Support networks and communities
Accelerators, networking platforms, angel investors, crowdfunding, mentorship assistance and support organisations; there is more support than ever for entrepreneurs and start-ups. While in the past, the entrepreneur community and corporates worked independently to each other, now big brands are realising the value of working collaboratively with entrepreneurs. Dell, Commonwealth Bank, NAB, Ernst & Young, Telstra and many others are creating bespoke activities that acknowledge and support entrepreneurs – particularly women entrepreneurs.
As mentioned in a Salesforce blog post, “Companies and emerging start-ups have realised partnering can lead to innovating together. The net result is corporations are gaining an early pulse of innovation trends, while start-ups are gaining market validation and invaluable industry connections and advice.”
The playing field has levelled; opening it up for new entrants who wouldn’t have considered starting their own business previously and for current entrepreneurs to up their ante. What’s your game plan?
To read the article in full, please visit BRW.com.au here