From the potential disruption caused by Brexit to the looming threat of protectionism, the challenges facing entrepreneurs today are significant, but Max Steinberg says opportunities for growth and success exist abound.
Max Steinberg, CBE, Chair of the 2018 International Business Festival
In times of uncertainty, it can be tempting for entrepreneurs and business leaders to apply the brakes, to hold off on making decisions around hiring and investment. However, the only constant in business is change, and any kind of uncertainty for a business environment is also a chance to capitalise on the opportunities this presents.
From the potential disruption caused by Brexit to the looming threat of protectionism the challenges facing entrepreneurs today are significant, but opportunities for growth and success abound.
In the early 1980s, I was working with then Secretary of State Michael Heseltine to attract investment to the city of Liverpool in the midst of sharp industrial decline, and a period of civil unrest. While our mission was challenging, we could see the potential where others couldn’t. Flash forward to today and Liverpool is once again a centre of growth and vibrancy – the centre of the second largest regional economy in the country.
It’s an important example of how, in turbulent times, sticking to your vision – but also being willing and able to take risks – can reap huge rewards.
If you are committed to finding opportunities for your business in times of change, there are three key things you must consider: what the global economy means for you, the role of technology in propelling your business forward, and the power of networking.
Capitalise on global opportunities
If your clients are local, your company relatively small, it can feel that global economy has little to do with your bottom line, but most SMEs are part of world trade even if they don’t realise it. Whatever your product or service, it can be a link in a very long, world-spanning chain.
The scale and age of your businesses shouldn’t discourage you from thinking global. In fact, a recent survey of CEOs and CFOs by KPMG revealed that SMEs in particular stand to benefit in times of international change. While a third of business leaders in the survey predicted a negative impact from a complicated withdrawal by the UK from the EU, 43% felt they could secure a competitive advantage.
As Chair of the International Business Festival, I’ve often seen small businesses secure major international investment opportunities because they were willing to be bold and make the leap into international markets. If you don’t know where to begin, export experts from the Department for International Trade are an ideal first port of call.
With the latest growth forecasts showing the UK’s export performance looks set to remain robust, this is the time to think global and develop a solid understanding of what markets and trends are affecting your sector internationally.
Embrace new technology
Too often companies and their leaders take a reactive approach to technology, adopting new digital solutions only after they have become widespread or unavoidable. As a Chief Executive, I have seen first-hand how being proactive is absolutely fundamental to growth - and technology is a field where the early bird definitely gets the proverbial worm.
Digitisation and technology is a key area where smaller, more agile businesses can benefit from disruption. For example, new research predicts that by 2020 85% of questions will be answered by virtual assistants, as advancements in AI and automation march on.
This is just one example of new technology that can help small businesses to be more efficient. Many SMEs may be tempted to stick to what they know when it comes to technology, but doing so runs the risk of your business falling behind the competition. Whether it’s chatbots to handle client enquiries, cloud based computing or smart digital marketing, technology can considerably boost your business in a range of ways by improving productivity or simply helping you catch the eye of an investor.
Don’t go into hiding: network more, not less
It is often said that it’s how we act during times of crisis or challenge that truly defines us, and in my experience this is absolutely true in the world of business and leadership. The connections you make and relationships you establish in times of change are invaluable, and the smart entrepreneur networks more, not less, during uncertain times.
No one stands out as another subject line in an inbox, so get out there and advocate for your business in person at networking events. Meet the people who matter face to face, get expert advice, and see how your industry is really handing the changes it’s facing. For example, Paul Moorby, founder of a traffic and parking management company called Chipside, attended the International Business Festival in 2014 and 2016, after founding the business on just £10. Paul made connections that now have him travelling the world as part of trade delegations with the Department for International Trade, representing the best of British business in new markets abroad.
The International Business Festival will welcome hundreds of international buyers, suppliers and investors from key markets including India and China. Your next global business partner could well be in Liverpool this June. You need to be able to make that face-to-face connection with them.
In a changing business world, entrepreneurs need to adapt or run the risk of falling behind. Leading through change is challenging, but if you can find a competitive edge, it is entirely possible to turn a challenge into a highly lucrative opportunity.
The 2018 International Business Festival runs 12-28 June 2018, for tickets and more information visit Internationalbusinessfestival.com
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