Leadership trends

The Fourth Industrial Revolution demanded that CEOs take responsibility for the massive transformation of their businesses and for the astonishing impact that this transformation will have on the wider society and all the stakeholders. Success requires CEOs to develop the right leadership capabilities, workforce skills, and corporate cultures to support digital transformation and become agile to face the many uncertainties. A revolution in skills and a transformation of organizations is highly needed to sustain one’s presence in the marketplace.

According to blessingwhite.com, those who take into account individual values and personal differences while creating an environment of shared responsibility create a place where individuals enjoy work more and become more productive. Hence, the leadership trends that support transformation in the market and the economy are the following:

  • Coach and be ready to be coached: employees rely on the support of their companies to take on business challenges. Empowering employees makes them more innovative and intrapreneurial in addition to increasing their sense of belonging to the company. Empowerment should be preceded by delegation of authority.

Coaching should be purposeful and focused to enhance productivity. Being ready to be coached is rooted in the concept of being a lifelong learner to keep pace with the new trends of one’s profession. Leaders who seek and are open to feedback will be better positioned to gain the commitment and enthusiasm of the employees they lead.

  • Realize it is a millennial and Generation Z world: millennials make up 50% of the workforce. According to the data obtained from the LinkedIn survey, the number one reason millennials change jobs is to advance their career, followed by compensation and the desire for more challenging work and roles that are a better fit for their skills and interests. Research shows that millennials want to be challenged and are willing to work hard. They are positive, creative, optimistic and forward-looking. At the same time, they come with some pretty strong ideas about work/life balance, company values, and career expectations.

They are also a generation for whom a remote work environment and wearable technology are the norm. Leaders have to adopt a collaborative mindset to get the commitment of millennials and Generation Z cohorts. This generation is personally driven to seek education and professional development to increase employment opportunities in a world economy hit by many crises.

  • Create and leverage on a diverse work environment: Inclusive leadership must become part of the DNA of an organization. This kind of leadership surpasses tolerance and acceptance of others’ differences; it is about creating an inclusive workplace where employees representing all dimensions of diversity can thrive. Catalyst’s research identifies four core skills of inclusive leaders known as “EACH Mindset”.

EACH stands for:

a. Empowerment

b. Accountability

c. Courage

d. Humility Organizations like Catalyst have been able to demonstrate that there is an increased return on equity for businesses with more women and minorities in their executive levels. In addition, the research also shows that the more included employees feel, the more innovative and productive they are.

  • Vertical development, ownership development, and collective development: Vertical development refers to the advancement in a person’s thinking capacities. The outcome of vertical stage development is the ability to think in more complex, systemic, strategic, and interdependent ways. This comes in contrary to horizontal development, which is the development of new skills, abilities, and behaviors.

Horizontal development is most useful when a problem is clearly defined and there are known techniques for solving it. Due to the uncertainties controlling the business environment, vertical development has gained more momentum.

Ownership development: People develop fastest when they feel responsible for their progress and are involved in decision making and planning regardless of their position in the hierarchical structure of the company.

Collective Leadership: According to Simmons & Weinrich “[g]aining everyone’s participation is essential to a team’s success. Without an individual’s participation, the unique skills, talents, experience, and knowledge he/she brings to the team will be wasted.”

Ownership development: People develop fastest when they feel responsible for their progress and are involved in decision making and planning regardless of their position in the hierarchical structure of the company.

Collective Leadership: According to Simmons & Weinrich “[g]aining everyone’s participation is essential to a team’s success. Without an individual’s participation, the unique skills, talents, experience, and knowledge he/she brings to the team will be wasted.”

Factors Contributing to Better Collective Leadership

  • Open flows of information
  • More flexible and flatter hierarchies
  • Distributed resources
  • Distributed decision-making
  • Less centralization and control

Distributed leadership:

Distributed leadership can be considered to include shared, democratic, dispersed, and other related forms of leadership. It is a leadership style where leaders can emerge and exercise the power of knowledge wherever they are in the organizational chart. There are three premises of distributed leadership:

  1. Leadership is an emergent property of a group or network of interacting individuals
  2. There is an openness to the boundaries of leadership
  3. Varieties of expertise are distributed across the different levels of the organizational chart. Leaders might emerge based on the need of their expertise and how such expertise might be of impact

With the change in the pace of work, the impact of ever-changing technology, shifting demographics, increased environmental ambiguity, complexity, and uncertainty, being a leader is more challenging than ever before. Good leaders understand these trends and equip themselves with the skills required to embrace them. Effective leaders are characterized by being visionaries, a trait that leads to seizing opportunities and developing products and services to satisfy needs and wants not attended to by competitors. Leaders contribute to the competitive advantage sought by their corporations.

The environment and context of leadership have changed, becoming more multifaceted, unstable, and unpredictable. Because of these changing trends, a leader’s skills are more demanding in the sense of having more complex, adaptive thinking abilities and being vertically developed. With the new form of economy and the advent of information technology, more individuals now have the chance to show and exercise their leadership abilities to reach higher positions in the organizational chart or start their entrepreneurial ventures.

Leadership in times of crisis

The 17th of October marked a new era for Lebanon. The revolution which aimed at combating the unprecedented level of corruption had a very high cost. The level of uncertainty and volatility being witnessed since then has left its repercussions on the economic and financial level in a way that Lebanon hasn’t experienced during the civil war, post the assassination of late prime minister Hariri or even after July war 2006. Businesses are catastrophically suffering and the whole economy is in crisis. Classical leadership models won’t serve well in such critical times. Being Agile is not an option. Yet not all business leaders have what is required to be agile and to adopt the trendiest leadership models. Lebanon over the past 3 months has become a unique case study which demonstrates how leadership should be exercised during times of crisis.

Around 2,500 years ago, Heraclitus, a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, said, “The only constant in life is change.” Back then, Heraclitus was not able to refresh his Twitter or Facebook account to see that what was trending a minute ago would disappear from his timeline in few seconds.  In that era, the world was not disrupted by this many uncertainties, ambiguities, or complexities. The world was not interconnected as much, and consumers were not spoiled to the extent of updating their needs, wants, demands, desires, tastes, and preferences every so often. Despite all this, Heraclitus had the gall to talk about change!

With these new factors shaping our world, change has gained more momentum than ever before, which requires a kind of leadership responsive or adaptive to this change. Being a manager does not suffice; being a leader is indispensable. It is worth mentioning that even the leadership style that used to be trendy years ago has become obsolete in our new world of business.

Leadership in Action: Complexity

  • According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, organizations are launching more major change initiatives than ever before: three to five per year, on average.
  • The Corporate Executive Board reports that globally, half of employees expect a major change in six months.
  • IBM’s Global Chief Executive Officer Study shows that 79% of CEOs say that the level of uncertainty and complexity will get even higher; less than half say they are prepared to manage it.
  • Forum Global survey of 700 leaders shows that 72% of them report high or extremely high increases in uncertainty within their companies.
  • Forum VOC research indicates that twice as many business leaders say that “the ability to lead change” is a top business challenge as compared with 2010.

Triggers for New Forms of Leadership

  • The skills needed for leadership have changed—more complex and adaptive thinking abilities are needed.
  • The majority of managers have developed by virtue of on-the-job experiences, training, and coaching/ mentoring; while these factors are all still important, leaders are no longer developing fast enough or in the right ways to match the new uncertain environment. A global mindset is required to lead.
  • Companies are facing a development challenge, which is the process of growing “bigger” minds and developing more agility in dealing with problems.
  • The environment has changed—it is more complex, volatile, and unpredictable. In a study conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership, the environment in which leaders must work is characterized by the acronym VUCA. The letters stand for:
  • Volatile: Change happens rapidly and on a large scale
  • Uncertain: The future cannot be predicted with any precision
  • Complex: Challenges are complicated by many factors and there are a few single causes or solutions
  • Ambiguous: There is little clarity on what events mean and what effect they may have

Challenges for Future Leaders

  • Information overload due to complexity and the amount of factors that have an impact on businesses
  • The interconnectedness of systems and business communities
  • The dissolution of traditional organizational boundaries
  • New technologies that disrupt old work practices
  • The different values and expectations of new generations entering the workplace
  • Increased globalization, leading to the need for cross cultural leadership

Skills Required for Future Leaders

  • Reflecting the changes in the environment, especially since the competencies that will be most valuable to future leaders appear to be changing
  • Adaptability/agility
  • Self-awareness
  • Being culturally savvy
  • Constant learning and development
  • Collaboration 
  • Network thinking

Power and Leadership

Power is the ability to get someone to do something he or she would not do otherwise. Having an impact on the behaviors of employees to direct their efforts toward achieving a common goal or a shared vision is what leaders usually aim at. The form of power utilized defines whether the company and employees are being led or managed. In a notable study of power conducted by social psychologists John French and Bertram Raven in 1959, power has been divided into five separate and distinct forms:

  1. Coercive: uses the threat of force to gain compliance
  2. Reward: uses the right of some to offer or deny tangible, social, emotional, or spiritual rewards for others for doing what is wanted or expected of them
  3. Legitimate: uses the authority one has based on his or her position
  4. Referent: is rooted in the belonging one might have to a certain group, while sharing its values and beliefs to a certain extent
  5.  Expert: uses on one’s knowledge, experience, and special skills or talents. Expertise can be demonstrated by reputation, credentials certifying expertise, and actions

With the advent of information technology and knowledge economy, a new form of power gained momentum. Information power comes as a result of possessing knowledge that others need or want. Information can lead to a certain influence, impact decision making, establish credibility, and being in control. Providing rational arguments, using information to persuade others, and using facts and manipulating information can create a power base. The particularity of this form of power is that it is not linked to a position in the organizational chart. Any employee who possesses information that is needed to achieve the organizational goals is powerful. This leads us to a new form of leadership, which is distributed leadership.

When a person suffices oneself with coercive, reward, and legitimate power, one exercises a kind of managerial ability to run the business. However, when power evolves into the expert or informational kind, leadership starts to become more apparent.

Peter Drucker says, “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.” Leadership can be perceived as a process of social influence that maximizes the efforts of others toward the achievement of organizational goals.

Marketing trends shaping customer experience in 2020: what you need to know

Customers have developed voracious appetites for new content. To be visually appealing and to stand out, new content has to be updated in terms of its features, packaging, presence on convenient distribution channels, and digital media friendliness. If these conditions are not favorable, the content occupies the bottom of the feed or even occupies less shelf space, and accordingly, a lower positioning in the customers’ perception. Fierce competition that leaves consumers with a plethora of choices creates a challenge for marketers who have found themselves in an endless race of creating a unique experience for customers to avoid jeopardizing their loyalty or lower their retention rate. Retaining existing customers or attracting new ones requires adopting different techniques that had not been prevalent before. These techniques in dealing with the new generational cohorts have become indispensable to sustain a company’s level of competition or market share.

Trends in Dealing with Customers

Regardless of the industry in which a certain business is established, there are some new patterns of behavior that dictate the mode of operation. These patterns are focal for sustaining or developing an edge with respect to rivals.

Regardless of the industry in which a certain business is established, there are some new patterns of behavior that dictate the mode of operation. These patterns are focal for sustaining or developing an edge with respect to rivals.

Hence, businesses operating in this decade have to be concerned about the following:

1. Creating connections between customers:

While the economy of the last millennium was based on building assets by industrialism, the current economy rewards value created by building relationships and creating connections. The most valuable companies will connect buyer to seller, or consumer to content. For instance, Uber is the largest “taxi” company–yet they own no vehicles but still excel at connecting riders with drivers; and Facebook is the largest media company–yet they create no content, among many other examples of leading companies.

2. Customer experience:

The unprecedented bargaining power, which customers have acquired, has driven companies to compete based on providing their customers with a unique experience. Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) are urged to develop bleeding edge technologies to enhance customers’ experiences. Marketers and other key managers capitalize on Big Data and other analytical tools to make decisions and formulate strategies for that purpose.

Every smart phone adopted by one of the two billion smart phone holders is an opportunity for marketers to connect with a new client and create a unique experience, foster better customer loyalty and improved long-term engagement. Leveraging on the data required to fuel the outreach and building solid relationships founded on trust come as a replacement to mass targeting.

3. Developing human to human relationships

Companies are trying to appeal to the emotional side of customers in their marketing efforts. Striving for story-driven communication that is personal, conversational, empathetic, inspirational, and humorous arouses the interest of customers in a certain brand and creates more loyalty.

Digital Trends in Dealing with Customers

Being visible on the busy shelves and overcrowded newsfeed is a challenge that businesses confront in appealing to their customers. Customers have adopted some preferences in digesting information, which requires marketers to adopt technologies that serve that purpose. Sujan Patel, contributor to entrepreneur.com, says that the following trends can be leveraged on to enhance the appeal of the product and speak the language of consumers.

1. Virtual reality:

Virtual reality has come a long way since the concepts and products released in the 1990s and since the realities of today were believed to be mere science fiction. Technology like the Oculus Rift, which was bought out by Facebook to the tune of $2 billion, had a big impact on the way companies engage individual consumers.

Companies are now exploring improved control methods, this is why Facebook introduced hand tracking interactions are more seamless than using one’s own hands. Facebook will even be investigating brain interfaces in 2020! Virtual tours, one-on-one engagement, interactive and immersive commercials, enjoying a courtside seat at a game, or consulting with a doctor face-to-face are just a few ways marketing will likely shift in the near future through the use of virtual reality.

2. A new age of search

For years, consumers have been accustomed to the search engines of Google, Yahoo!, And Bing, which dominate the search market respectively. Facebook is currently adopting continued advancements to become a major player in this market. By expanding its search functionality, Facebook is able to tie in other components, which include call-to action buttons and payment messaging. This is accompanied by the ability to join groups and social discussions all in one platform that allows brands to create real digital experiences. Automation in 2020 will be more than a matter of convenience it will be an edge. Google is expected to earn $55.51B in ad revenues this year. This highly effective tools helps with everyday campaign optimizations, reporting, and tracking. Another search trend according to ComScore, is voice search. 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.

This changes the way that people search and what type of terms or phrases they use to find information. Finally, one should not forget visual search such as Google Lens released in 2017 by Google or the Microsoft visual search tool. This allows users to search the web using their camera. In fact, 62% of Millennials express the desire to search visually, more so than any other new technology.

3. Stepping away from evergreen to creating more spontaneity

Brands used to develop evergreen content, or content that can remain viral for an extended period of time. Starting 2016, we have been witnessing a growing trend in sharing content in real time, especially with the growth of Snapchat, Periscope, the moments of Instagram, and the live option of Facebook, among other tools. Hence, the trend calls for simple, brief, and timely content.

4. Location-based marketing growth

Despite having been experimenting with location-based push marketing for a few years, retailers and brands did not get the sought support from major phone manufacturers. To create an interactive experience, brands and retailers target the user directly at or near the point of engagement. Using Bluetooth technology, you can send push notifications to nearby devices, attracting the attention of your target audience to retail locations, a tradeshow, or a nearby restaurant, among other locations. “Applications go beyond retail or location-based marketing. For instance, SK Telecom and Seoul National University Bundang Hospital are using Bluetooth Smart Beacons to provide round-the-clock patient information and navigation to 6,000 daily patients,” Patel says.

In addition, using this method of mobile targeting, brands can target relevant audiences with ads based on demographics and other data points. These are consumers who are most likely to fit their ideal customer profile. The most popular location marketing is mobile geolocation marketing including Mobile Audience Targeting and Real-Time Location Targeting such as geofencing and beaconing. In a report by Factual, almost 9 in 10 marketers said location-based advertising and marketing resulted in higher sales, followed by growth in their customer base (86%) and higher customer engagement (84%).

5. New forms of payment

NFC compatibility (Near Field Communication), Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and Tap-and-go are some of the payment modes which started gaining momentum and will shape the payment modes of the upcoming decades. Bank cards now feature NFC technology to make payment become contactless. the process of authorizing transactions with a signature has become virtually obsolete. Banks also removed the signature requirement from credit card transactions, making advancements in payment security technology, such as EMV, tokenization, and artificial intelligence (AI) for payment data monitoring.

Another form of payment is related to Biometric authentication where consumers use their fingerprints to unlock their smartphones, authorizing mobile banking transactions and making mobile payments. Payment processes are some seamless thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) technology.  Shoppers can now select their purchases, walk out of the store and receive a receipt on an app or via email or text. In addition to this, it is important to note that payment security is still a top priority.

Trends in Communication

The quality of a certain product or service means nothing unless it is properly unveiled to the public. Keeping the updates of a certain brand or its competitive advantage within the realm of companies alone jeopardizes this brand’s positioning and share in the market. Bad communication would have a disastrous impact on the perception of this brand by consumers. Hence, there are current communication trends that brands have to follow to properly reveal the intended image to the target audience.

1. Real time content creation and scarcity of time:

The notion of time has gained more importance in the world of business as the competitive cycles kept getting ever fiercer, with complexity on the rise. When talking about scarcity of resources in economics, time has become an integral resource in addition to land, labor, and capital.

The elimination of activities and strategies that waste a client’s time has the potential to become a competitive advantage. Real time and relevant consumption of updated content meet the customers’ expectations. Snapchat and the communication dynamic it creates is a representative example.

2. User generated content (UGC):

User generated content (UGC) has become an important communication and marketing activity. Customers and other stakeholders are participating heavily in some of the brand-building activities. Customers trust peer recommendations more than a company’s sales messaging; hence, companies are adding features on their websites to facilitate users sharing comments or running competitions to engage audiences.

3. Brands are developing a sense of citizenship:

Companies are assuming a role in brand activism on issues related to sustainability, especially in matters related to environmental and social factors. 2015 was a significant year in terms of advancing the global sustainable development agenda following the launch of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate agreement.

4. Brands are developing a personable approach:

Corporate communicators are loosening up a bit and showing their more authentic and realistic side. Live social media chats with company leaders help in showing a more personable approach to communications.

It is not weird to check into a certain restaurant or mall and get greeted by the brand itself afterward or have your name mentioned by the brand in a reply to a comment you have written about the extent of satisfaction after a dining experience or using a certain product.

5. A shift from Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to Customer Managed Relationships (CMR):

According to Markus Kramer of brandsaffairs.com, CRM has become a cold, dry and rigid (transactional) science. He adds that for good practice on how relationshipmarketing works well with a very consistent and high degree of integrity and a real humanistic approach to the “relationship” aspects, one ought to take a look at the high-end luxury sector. Brands such as Aston Martin or Patek Philippe are mastering the process of genuinely bonding with customers. So are Apple and Harley-Davidson.

Marketers are asked to re-think relationship marketing. CRM is becoming a model of the past, CMR (Customer Managed Relationships) is the new paradigm. Brands must rework their segmentation models and the way they interact and communicate with their customers accordingly; they need to start the journey with the customers and not the other way around.

6. Purpose, real values and humanizing: Branding inside out:

According to Ernst and Young, appearance alone is superficial and will increasingly be recognized as such. Purpose driven brands are becoming increasingly able to demonstrate higher returns, more loyalty, and repeated business. Brands are embracing the concept of CSR and even looking beyond it. So both the outside and the inside of brands will need to be meaningful and led by shared and aligned purposes. Forward-thinking brands that add meaning to their customers’ lives will occupy more space in their consumers’ minds. Millennials and Gen Z cohorts find this approach of doing business more meaningful. Developing user-friendly interfaces has become even more important starting 2016. This can be referred to as humanizing.

Humanizing is about smarter cities, reducing complexity, innovation, and technological tools adapted to humans rather than the other way around. On the brand and product side, Apple and Bang & Olufsen are among the leaders of the humanization agenda. Consumers are willing to pay a premium for simple, beautiful, and reliable products. Brands, according to Kramer, should keep on improving what they have innovated until it is also fully humanized.

What is Social Entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurs are individuals who deploy innovation and market forces to fill social needs rather than seeking financial rewards (although rewards are not automatically excluded).

Many forces are driving this entrepreneurial trend and feeding into it. Bringing lighting to Africa, mobile banking to Bangladesh, and low-cost healthcare to Nepal, among other examples, are social entrepreneurial initiatives.

Two questions arise here: what do such enterprises need to do to achieve growth, and how can they do it?

RippleWorks, a private foundation that supports emerging market entrepreneurs by providing them with leading Silicon Valley executives as advisors asked these questions in a recent survey of 628 social entrepreneurs from all over the world. The research, conducted with analytical support from McKinsey, and funding from Omidyar Network, included interviews with 37 investors and 10 social enterprise leaders. The entrepreneurs reported that the two most important barriers to growth are the following:

  1. Money: Almost half of the interviewees said raising funds was “very” or “extremely” challenging. Other resources are not readily available either.
  2. Finding and keeping talented people: Three-quarters of funded, early-stage companies believe that the inability to access the talent they need will have a critical impact on their businesses. The prestige, pay, and job security of big companies are difficult to resist. Even when funded, social entrepreneurs cannot compete head to head on that basis.

Other challenges faced by social entrepreneurs might be:

  • Conflicts: While the overall goal is to meet a social need, there may be conflicts in how this can be balanced against the need to generate revenues to sustain the enterprise.
  • Voluntary nature: The traditional forms of motivation and organizing, in addition to the different managerial functions, might not be applicable to social entrepreneurs since the motives for work are different.

Key Characteristics of Social Entrepreneurs:
A social entrepreneur uses the same process of entrepreneurship but does so to meet social needs and create value for society. These people have the entrepreneurial profile but target their effort at a different, socially valuable direction.

Key characteristics of this group include being:

  • Ambitious: social entrepreneurs are driven by the purpose to reverse major social issues–poverty, healthcare, equal opportunities, etc. with the underlying desire and passion to make a change.
  • Mission driven: their primary concern is generating social value rather than wealth.
  • Strategic: like business entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs seize and act upon opportunities that others miss.
  • Resourceful: due to the limited access to resources, social entrepreneurs are exceptionally skilled at mustering and mobilizing human, financial, and political resources.
  • Results-oriented: social entrepreneurs are motivated by the desire to see things change and to produce measurable returns. These returns are related to making the world a better place by improving the quality of life, providing access to basic resources, and supporting disadvantaged people. 

Entrepreneurship and Gen Z

The new entrants into the world of entrepreneurship belong to Generation Z. The members of this generation have become eligible for employment starting 2016. The other option for Gen-Zers is to become entrepreneurial, either by choice—because they have spotted an opportunity in the market place—after which they are called opportunity entrepreneurs, or by compulsion, becoming necessity entrepreneurs, who start businesses because they cannot find work any other way. In all cases, an entrepreneur is one who creates a new business, facing risks and uncertainties for the purpose of achieving profit and growth by identifying significant opportunities and assembling the necessary resources to capitalize on them.

The history of the word “entrepreneurship” is fascinating, and scholars have indeed analyzed its meaning.

The definition used at Harvard Business School was formulated by Professor Howard Stevenson, the godfather of entrepreneurship studies there. According to Stevenson, entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled. The word “pursuit” here implies a remarkable, relentless focus. Entrepreneurs often perceive a short window of opportunity. They need to show tangible progress to attract resources with their limited cash balances. Entrepreneurs have a sense of urgency, which is of less impact at well-established companies due to the abundance of resources.

 “Opportunity” is the key word in all the definitions of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. Opportunity, according to Harvard Business Review, implies an offering that is novel in one or more of four ways.

An opportunity may entail:

  • Pioneering a truly innovative product
  • Devising a new business model
  • Creating a better or cheaper version of an existing product
  • Targeting new sets of customers with an existing product

What is Triggering Entrepreneurship?

  1. Industry is becoming more information-intensive and less labor and capital-intensive, which removes the traditional barriers for start-ups.
  2. The nature of the prevailing industries has changed after the economic crisis that facilitated the entrance of new entrepreneurs into the market. In the days before the economy fell into recession, the construction industry was unrivalled. However, this sector kept on falling while the recession gripped many regions in the world. 
  3. The cultural diversity of entrepreneurs: Virtually anyone can become an entrepreneur. The pool of entrepreneurs include young people, women, and minorities who used to face the glass ceiling, immigrants, part-timers, home-based businesses, copreneurs, corporate castoffs, and corporate dropouts, among others.
  4. Entrepreneurs are now being perceived as heroes. Business founders like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Phil Knight have achieved more stardom and popularity than renowned Hollywood stars.
  5. Colleges and universities that offer entrepreneurial education have become very widespread and many curricula have been designed to cater for this type of education.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Entrepreneurship

Despite the great appeal of the word “entrepreneurship” and the desire of many people to ride this wave, anyone planning to enter the world of entrepreneurship should be aware of its potential drawbacks

The opportunity to create your own destiny Uncertainty of income
The opportunity to make a difference by contributing to society and being recognized for your efforts Risk of losing your entire investment
The opportunity to reach your full potentialLong hours and hard work
The opportunity to gain impressive profitsLower quality of life and high level of stress until business gets established
The opportunity to do what you love and have fun at it

Risks Faced by Entrepreneurs

Risks Faced by Entrepreneurs

  1. Demand risk relate to prospective customers’ willingness to adopt the solution envisioned by the entrepreneur
  2. Technology risk is high when engineering or scientific breakthroughs are required to bring a solution to fruition
  3. Execution risk relates to the entrepreneur’s ability to attract employees and partners who can implement the venture’s plans
  4. Financing risk relates to whether external capital will be available on reasonable terms

Processes and Stages of Developing a New Venture

The typical stages of developing a new venture include:

  1. Assessing the opportunity for new a venture—generating, evaluating, and refining the business concept
  2. Developing the business plan and deciding the structure of the venture
  3. Acquiring the resources and funding the necessary resources for implementation, including expert support and potential partnerships
  4. Growing and harvesting the venture by figuring out how to create and extract value from the business

Developing the Business Plan

No standard business plan exists, but there are certain components that have to be available to make the business plan representative of the start-up and its potential. The business plan usually starts with an executive summary and includes sections related to the product, technology, development, production, marketing, human resources, and financial estimates, in addition to timetables and funding requirements. A typical formal business plan, according to Kaplan Warren, will include:

  • Details of the product or service
  • Assessment of the market opportunity
  • Identification of target customers
  • Barriers to entry and competitor analysis
  • Experience, expertise, and commitment of the management team
  • Strategy for pricing, distribution, and sales
  • Identification and planning of key risks
  • Cash-flow calculation, including break-even points and sensitivity
  • Financial and other resource requirements of the business

The New Product/Service Development Process

While the aim of the feasibility study and business plan is to test the practicality of a proposed project and create a roadmap, developing a product or service requires considering several factors across the four-step process:

  1. Concept generation: identifying opportunities for new products and services
  2. Project assessment and selection: screening and choosing projects that satisfy certain criteria
  3. Product development: translating the selected concepts into a physical product
  4. Product commercialization: testing, launching, and marketing the new product

In my next blog post, I will be sharing with you everything that you need to know about social entrepreneurship, appreneurship and intrapreneurship. The blog post will also feature some live examples and interviews so stay tuned! Until then, don’t forget to let me know your feedback and questions in the comment section below.

Appealing to Millennials and Gen Z Cohorts!

On the sidelines of my participation at the Social Media Marketing World in San Diego.

The virtual and the real are becoming more interconnected and intertwined than ever before. The line between offline and online is becoming blurred. Smart organizations understand this fact and take advantage of it to create a better presence for themselves in a fiercely competition marketplace.

Every business needs to get their message out there to impact the choice of consumers. With LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms making major moves to enable social selling with original brand content, businesses will have to deepen and expand their messages were they to successfully influence the masses. Businesses have realized that they cannot achieve the sought business reach without digital media.

The following facts have been gleaned from observing the marketplace:

  • Salespeople who use social media outsell those who do not
  • Peer recommendations are a main contributor to making a purchase
  • The vendor’s digital media content has an impact on the final purchase decision

Rising above the noise of the busy virtual and physical market is indispensable, and creating authenticity and excitement among consumers is crucial. Businesses are using digital media to echo compelling and original voices in order to standout.

Photo credits: Social Media Marketing World

Internet technology is accessible to people of different generations. However, Generation Z, the main current and potential target of businesses, is the first to have Internet technology so readily available at such a young age. Concurrent with the web revolution that began in the 1990s, cohorts of this generation have been exposed to an unprecedented amount of technology in their upbringing. Given the exponential growth of smart phones, technology became more compact, affordable, and accessible. Forbes Magazine suggests that by the time Generation Z cohorts enters the workplace, digital technology would be an aspect of almost all career paths.

The widespread usage of the Internet from a young age is a significant aspect of this generation. Members of Generation Z are typically comfortable with technology and they interact on social media websites for a significant portion of their socializing.

Appealing to Millennials and Gen Z Cohorts

If you want to appeal to and engage with millennials and Gen Z cohorts, video is a must-have marketing tactic. These generations prefer to find entertainment and education on YouTube to traditional channels like television. Snapchat, YouTube, gifs, Vine, and more are being used at a rapid rate. Platforms like Periscope and Blab have put live interactive videos into the hands of anyone with a smart phone. 

According to a Facebook post by the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg:

More than 2.32 billion users log in to Facebook each month.

More than 1.5 billion users use WhatsApp each month.

More than 1.82 billion users use Messenger each month.

More than 1 billion users log in to Instagram each month.

Social media now drives more traffic to websites than search engines. To stay relevant and appealing, companies, departments, and individuals need to know exactly where business technology is heading, and be sure to stay on top of each shifting digital trend. Remaining competitive necessitates being visible. Changing the strategic mindset, embracing constant change, and taking calculated risks is essential.

The growth of the Internet of Things, which has led to devices connecting more people in more useful and collaborative ways, triggers a transformation in every enterprise’s relationship with its community and stakeholders.

This shift will be a driver for the vision, data usage, and evolution of jobs and processes.

I will be sharing deeper insights on this topic in my upcoming blog posts, stay tuned!

Celebrating 30 years of World Wide Web

History of the Digital Revolution

The Industrial Revolution of the 19th century led to enormous increases in population, expansion of cities, and a boom in technology. Tremendous wealth was created by some; however, remarkable hardship was felt by others as mechanization eliminated their jobs. The real winners were the entrepreneurs who capitalized on the emerging technologies to create products, solutions, and services that did not exist before. With technological advancement, productivity increased, leading to decreased reliance on expensive human labor. Then came the Jet Age, the Atomic Age, and the Space Age. All of these were part of the Second Industrial Revolution, and each created tremendous wealth for a privileged few. For millions of others, it meant new competition and, eventually, obsoletion.

In the 1980s, a shift began from traditional industry to an economy based on the manipulation and exchange of data and information. Whereas the Industrial Revolution created tremendous wealth by allowing the mass production of goods, the Digital Revolution, referred to as the “Third Industrial Revolution” by some, has created an even greater opportunity to generate wealth.

Here are a few examples of how far we have come over the past 20-30 years:

• Vinyl records gave way to CDs, then MP3s, and now to streaming audio.

• The VHS tape gave way to the DVD and Blu-ray, and now to streaming video.

• Payphones gave way to cell phones (Motorola created the first mobile phone in 1983).

• Dial up Internet gave way to high-speed digital cable.

• The typewriter gave way to the computer.

• Mail evolved to the facsimile, then to email.

• Film photography transitioned to digital photography.

• In 1993, the World Wide Web was released to the public, and by 1996, the Internet was part of the mainstream consciousness. Many businesses listed websites in their ads.

• By 1999, almost every country in the world had an Internet connection, and more than half of Americans used the Internet on a regular basis.

After revolutionizing society in the developed world in the 1990s, the digital revolution spread to the developing world in the 2000s

YearCell Phone SubscribersInternet Users
199012.4 million2.8 million
20001.1 billion631 million
20104 billion1.8 billion

Hence, industry is becoming more information-intensive and less labor-and capital-intensive. This means that more and more traditional barriers to success in business are being removed.

According to the World Economic Forum, we are witnessing:

The Fourth Industrial Revolution emerge in a series of waves: the digital consumer, who enjoys more interactive and personalized experiences thanks to SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) technologies; the digital enterprise, which leverages SMAC technologies to optimize the cost of corporate functions and to transform enterprise collaboration for greater productivity; and the emerging digital operations wave, where  companies are truly revolutionizing business with the use of artificial intelligence, robotics, cognitive computing and the Industrial Internet of Things.

Fueling Newness to your brand…Lacoste paving the way

Rebranding is a risky business… A very risky one…However, it might be highly needed to sustain your presence on the red carpet of business.

Most successful companies ranging from startups to those enlisted on the Fortune 500 have had rebranding attempts. Companies might realize that they need to strengthen their perception in the eyes of their consumers and to keep up with the new heights they have reached. The current brand might not be compatible with the sought identity. A very important point to consider is the new demographic target you need to hit. When talking about the apparel industry, millennials have proven to love the athleisure segment which many glamorous brands haven’t established yet. This in addition to emergence of new competition, technological shifts or taste trends justifies and urges top brands to fuel newness…Otherwise, obsolescence is the fate. 

Accused of confusing messaging over whether it’s a fashion brand or an athletic wear brand, driven by enthusiasm to stay relevant, Lacoste started a strategy of fueling newness to its brand. Thierry Guibert who was appointed as a new CEO in the year 2015 says that “Lacoste was, some years ago, considered an old-fashioned brand, like your father wore Lacoste”. This justifies the need to be more urban, cooler and more casual to better appeal to the young guys and to the native digital citizens.

Lacoste faces a challenge of being chic enough to be desired and available enough to be accessible. Very lucrative combination to be achieved. From a critical perspective, Lacoste accessibility strategy had some flaws which raised a red flag. Lacoste was over present and more is less for a differentiated brand. This overexposure is considered a misguided attempt to be a fashion brand.

Driven by image elevation and bringing sales back to their own stores by eliminating less-expensive alternatives, Lacoste pulled out of many of its department-store doors, including Macy’s and Nordstrom locations.

To maintain its edge and to make better appeal to the new generation, Lacoste has done the following rebranding attempts:

Lacoste Joins Influencer Marketing Strategies via the legendary tennis player Novak Djokovic who is known for the values of sporting elegance, fair play and determination which he shares with the founder of Lacoste Rene’ Lacoste.

Lacoste has transacted its distinctive crocodile logo for one of 10 threatened animal species on a series of limited-edition polo shirts, designed to bring attention to the global state of biodiversity. The French brand made 1,775 polo shirts in total which corresponds to the number of individuals known to remain in the wild. This change happens for the first time in the brand’s history. The socially responsible purpose is saving our species.

Lacoste has given its buyers the chance to express their style and customize their polos with the croc, colors and initials of their choice. The customer is the playmaker.

Lacoste and Disney celebrated their milestones together. The prominent crocodile-logo-adorned tennis brand observes its 85th anniversary, while Disney celebrates the 90th anniversary of its charming Mickey and Minnie Mouse. So both brands eventually joined forces to create an anniversary collection of their own putting their iconic figures together… The result according to many fashion lovers was Pure magic!

Mathias Augustyniak and Michael Amzalag, who are a design duo and award-winning French art created a two-tone geometric alphabet to reinterpret the legendary crocodile and create pieces targeting the youth.

Lacoste announced recently that British fashion designer Louise Trotter will join the brand as its new Creative Director. This appointment marks a historic milestone for Lacoste as Louise will be the first female creative head in the brand’s history. Louise is eager about writing a new chapter in its history of the brand

Rebranding, uplifting or even reinventing your brand can be your panacea to maintain your glamour and edge. It is a very challenging task since your identity might be jeopardized. Lacoste has done it right so far with a driving force of fueling newness. Brand Manager Fred Abou Adal tells our blog that fueling newness can be through a strategy of changing the perception of an old item. He adds:

“Fueling newness is essential for any brand in order to constantly attract customers and especially Millenials. Lacoste’s winning strategy to renew the image of its iconic Polo has been through storytelling, giving this timeless item a strong heritage to the younger generations.”

When asked about Lacoste’s strategy, Haifa Najjar who is communication manager of Holdal Group, the distributor of Lacoste in Lebanon, says that targeting young consumers who look for chic uniqueness and promoting feminine styles to match “On the Go” needs was a smart positioning direction. Haifa adds:

“This also comes in line with Holdal’s vision to keep up with the market fast-moving needs and trends.”

Why Trends of Business?

I have always perceived the marketplace as a glamorous red carpet. Stepping on this carpet requires being trendy in order to capture the spotlight and trigger the camera flashes. Being photogenic and appealing cannot be taken for granted; it requires gigantic efforts, which, once exerted, make you glow. In the marketplace, the glow is the edge or added value a company creates with respect to rivals.

When your rivals are numerous and the competition is fierce, your spot on the red carpet is always jeopardized. The glory of the past won’t help you in sustaining your market share since your global competitors are becoming more innovative and entrepreneurial each day, and the consumers you have spoiled have gained unprecedented bargaining power. The only possible solution for keeping your glamour is keeping pace with the new trends of business. You ought to keep pace, or else you would become obsolete, old fashioned, and incompatible with the requirements of the carpet on which you have chosen to tread.

A pattern of gradual change in a condition, output, or process is what defines a trend. Since the needs, wants, preferences, and tastes of consumers are constantly changing, following the pattern of trend change is not optional. Out of the dozens of trends prevailing, I think that the most impactful ones are the following:

  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR)
  • Digital media and Big Data
  • The Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Innovation
  • Entrepreneurship (appreneurship, social entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship)
  • Leadership in its new forms
  • Marketing in its new forms
  • Trends of management, finance, and marketing, among some other select trends.

These trends shape the market mechanism and future careers, determining the products and services we consume (including the food we eat, the coffee we sip, the music we listen to, etc).

In brief, these trends sculpt our lifestyle. These trends have an impact on all the particularities of our lives and on corporate sustainability or obsolescence.

Today, the topic is more timely, crucial, and interdisciplinary than ever. Talking about these different trends will prove the point of this book and will make the red carpet more appealing. What about being trendy? Is there another choice?