When a business gets to a certain size, the next step is, usually, to grow it. This is a critical point in a company’s lifecycle when the real question is ‘do we grow or do we scale?’
Founders go through this pain when they find themselves struggling to keep up with demand and paperwork.
The cycle is usually
- Start a business with a purpose – to meet a need
- Get busy
- Employ help
- Manage the help
- Realise you are managing and not doing what you started out to do yourself
Problem: scaling is not the same as growing
There is a point in every business’s lifecycle when ambition overrides purpose:
- Why did you start doing this? Because we saw a need in other people’s lives.
- How can you grow your client base? Go digital.
- Why are you going digital? To reach more people.
See the shift? Purpose has been pushed aside and scaling back to profit has become the incentive.
Take a training company, for example. Training of any sort is delivered best by someone who has experienced a process, seen the transformation for themselves, learnt how to be brilliant at delivering the method and who inspires trust, enthusiasm and purpose. And changes the way you work for the better.
A training company, however, is only able to reach as many people as they can stand in front of. So, they bring in more trainers who are also brilliant and do a great job.
Next step is that overheads grow and the training company needs more work, so they invest in a portal. They go digital.
The digital version of their training product is interactive, responsive, easy to access, can be delivered while you’re in the bath and doesn’t encroach on your life too much.
This is scaling. The only thing this grows is the training company’s top line. It certainly isn’t going to turn the brilliance the training company once delivered into ‘change’ in your daily life.
Scaling ≠ growing
The digital system may be the best there can be today but the brilliance has gone from the process. Digital may deliver a process efficiently but sometimes it genuinely gets in the way of delivering what a client needs.
Digital isn’t clever enough, yet, to listen to the room, turn the problems that get discussed into nuanced case studies and help a specific client to improve their business.
It may do this in time. It doesn’t do it now.
The answer, we believe, is to stay true to ourselves and only work with clients face-to-face or one-to-one.
The programmes room44 delivers are only available from a core team or by email with the same people.
The objective we aim at is to create a sense of purpose in you and provide you with the tools you need to change your company’s prospects.
We strive to create an environment in which change can occur and we prepare you to be the nucleator.
Our website says “Product innovation strategies for revenue and growth. It doesn’t say ’strategies to help you scale and distance yourself from your client need’.
Future thinking. Future proofing. It’s what we do.
Here’s one way we do it. Click to download the 10, 20-30 programme outline, new for 2020.
Companies are recognising that consumers are attracted to brands who do more than just tell them how great they are. Brands with a purpose rate more highly in the EQ stakes (for more about EQ/Emotional Quotient read my blog here).
Your brand marks you out
The legacy of a brand’s actions can get in the way of its being convincing to consumers today. ‘We will be carbon neutral by 2030’ or ‘committed to reducing unnecessary plastic by 2025’ are platitudinous examples of brands blindly following the crowd.
More and more, manufacturers and service providers must realise that setting a distant target for performance improvement is not good enough. Here are a few examples of why.
Brands make all manner of declarations to persuade consumers they are doing their bit to reduce plastics in the environment.
In 2018, Coca Cola pledged to recycle a used bottle or can for each one they sell by 2030. Every year Coca Cola turns more than three million tonnes of plastic into bottles and sells over 100 billion single use plastic bottles.
Surfers Against Sewage, an environmental action charity, collects waste products washed up on the beaches around the UK and records the brands it finds. They’ve been doing this for over a decade. Coca Cola was, and remains, the single most present brand of plastic rubbish around our coastline.
Consumers will eventually see the disquieting connection, as they’re kicking a Coke bottle down the beach, between the company’s commitment to recycling plastic and their continued production of more and more.
Other, newer drinks brands are already positioned to offer alternatives.
The UK government says that it expects to see a 50% reduction in human consumption of beef and lamb by 2050. ‘Plant-based’ and vegan foods are now available in every supermarket. There was a joke that went, ‘how do you know when there’s a vegan at the table? They’ll tell you.’ It’s not a joke anymore.
To a business making meat products, the timeline above leaves a comfortable distance until they need to worry about revenue contraction. But, between now and 2050, the same company will see a new CEO at least three times, and a change in CMO 10-15 times.
If consumers are making changes to their eating habits now, what should the company do? If it’s a good idea in 2050, it’s a good idea to consider it now.
McKinsey tells us that 60% of all clothing finds its way into landfills or incinerators within a year of being made. Within a year. Staggering. At the same time, production of clothing is up by 100% since 2014 and consumers are each buying 60% more clothing.
The Ellen McArthur Foundation tells us that 20% of global industrial water pollution comes from dyeing and treating textiles, and in 2015, carbon emissions from textile manufacture were measured at 1.2 billion tonnes.
To anyone with an interest in change, these figures are extraordinary.
Most high-street consumers aren’t that bothered and clothing brands are very happy taking their money now, despite what the brand’s future environmental intentions may be. Brands such as Know The Origin and Vildnis however, are emerging as sustainable, affordable fashion businesses and starting to get consumers’ attention.
If it’s a good idea for 2050, it’s a good idea for now.
Businesses who genuinely want to make a difference, grow a point of differentiation, and help consumers to do the right thing are emerging every day.
While established brands use bland, time-based statements of intent to persuade consumers their hearts are in the right place, challenger brands are making more immediate declarations and winning market share. This is how change-making companies with an interest in growth must also behave.
Why is Design Thinking useful?
The methodology of Design Thinking puts consumers at the front and centre of product design decisions. The purpose of innovation is to offer them new and better alternatives than are available today. The purpose of room44 is to help business to survive and thrive into the future.
You probably know that your company will have changed by 2025/2030/2050. It’s likely that you’re putting off the work that should be done to work out what it will change into.
As I said at the top of this article, if it’s a good idea for 2050, it’s a good idea for now.
If we can be helpful to you, let’s talk. Here’s my diary.
Future thinking. Future proofing. It’s what we do.
This may be a bit uncomfortable for some of you, so let’s start by talking about something that many people find funny.
I’m from Cornwall, and for many years there’s been a small but vocal movement for Cornish independence from the UK. Funny? It depends who you are and what your perspective is.
When Brexit first became a thing, some Yorkshire folk decided that it too had a claim for independence. ‘YEXIT’ was floated, and the arguments for its ability to stand alone sound pretty good: a population close to that of Denmark, a larger economy than some entire EU nations, and Yorkshire athletes won more medals than Canada in the Rio Olympics. Amusing? Not to Yorkshire. To the rest of us? Maybe, but stranger things have happened.
How we choose to look at issues reflects our perspective.
Here’s another one: according to a Hubbub, UK consumers buy, use and throw away 11 billion pieces of single-use packaging a year, and that’s just for lunch. That’s the equivalent of 276 pieces of plastic for every person in the UK – every year. On average, more than one piece of plastic every working day per person. Which kind of cancels out the argument that individuals can’t make a difference.
Now, as a consumer, I know that none of us wants to be responsible for plastic waste, but we do want to eat. The opportunities to use and refill our own food savers, reusable cups and rented tiffin cans are growing. The opportunities for buying single-use plastics are not yet decreasing, but they will.
Logically, the pressure on consumer behaviour and the financial penalties that will come to bear on the plastics supply chain will squeeze companies whose entire output is of plastic.
Most of these companies are still bullish. They think this is a problem for tomorrow because, today, their customers are supporting them. Phrases I’ve borrowed before are apposite again here:
- The difference between animals and humans is our ability to deny reality.
- When consumers stop buying crap, they’ll stop making crap.
Plastic manufacturers, on their websites, are still saying things like:
“We’re global specialists in packaging for food and drink, dedicated to making every consumer experience enjoyable, consistent, and safe. Our purpose is to help great products reach more people, more easily.”
“Make food look great.”
“A leading global design and engineering company in plastic products.”
With some simple research, you can see who is working to introduce pulp-based products and where the focus on plastic is still a priority. There remains a lot of ‘selling what we can make’ rather than ‘making what we can sell’ embedded in the psychology of these businesses.
In business, the CSuite is where strategic decisions are sanctioned. The Chief Marketing Officer is probably the person who gets to assess the options a company has. Every company needs someone in this position to battle against inherent short-termism that always bubbles to the surface when targets and financial planning are the focus.
Unfortunately, according to Seth Godin, the average tenure of a Chief Marketing Officer is about eighteen months. About the same amount of time a CEO takes to realise that there is no easy fix to the corner her or his plastic producing machines are in. Ironically, the person with the long-term strategic brain is the person your company is most likely to lose the quickest.
Whether you have a desire to change your business attitude to consumers’ and environmental issues, or you simply need to nail a new direction to the wall for everyone to buy into, you may well stumble at the first hurdle – picking exactly what to invest in, out of the noise in your market. Luckily, this is what we do.
Future thinking. Future-proofing.
Get in touch. Time is ticking.