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SME 101: Entrepreneur, Live In The Future

I was recently thumbing through my favorite Instagram accounts, and this thought began to build in my head:

“Liz, to survive in today’s business environment, which changes faster than you can spell a nine letter name, you have to live in the future.”

Someone once said that to survive as entrepreneurs, we must create the world we want to live in. This mandates that while we exist here and now, our minds and brains must be calibrating the future. Future technology, customer behaviour and trends, spending patterns, culture, environmental trends and more.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Do you realize that in the year 2000 none of the following existed?

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Airbnb
  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • Kindle
  • Netflix
  • Uber
  • Taxify
  • Zune
  • 4G
  • Android
  • WhatsApp
  • Snap Chat
  • Oculus
  • Spotify
  • Bitcoin
  • SpaceX
  • Tesla

Almost all our products and services are enabled by technology and technology changes fast.

There has been more technological advancement in the last decade than the previous fifty years combined. And the pace is not decelerating, it is rather accelerating. Not only is technology advancement accelerating, technology tools are becoming cheaper, and easier to access.

I recall the advent of GSM technology in Nigeria, I was still a trainee at a commercial bank, and could not afford a simple Sagem™ handset. My boss (a manager) had to take out a personal loan to get his Nokia™ and sim!

Today, even the humblest of citizens has a handset or three in Nigeria.

What does this mean for your business?

It means that you have to [figuratively] master the art of logrolling.

Logrolling is a balancing game where you roll the log over a floating log and make sure your competition doesn’t push you off.

It also means that to ensure your business endures and succeeds well into the future; you have to have a more than nodding acquaintance with trends in your industry.

This brings me to what I really want to share: The business trends (often powered by technology) you need to both know and pull into your planning in order to survive.

The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI has been in existence with expert systems like what Mayo Clinic provided on their website to help people like me research symptoms. But its advancement has grown exponentially in the last 18 months. Research Facebook’s Oculus and you will see that I mean.

Anyone looking to set up a professional services business needs to understand AI. Can the service(s) you offer or plan on offering be executed by a super intelligent computer/robot like ‘Sophia’?

AI is going to put businesses out of service. It is already disrupting sectors with its strides. We are anticipating the launch of driverless cars, Elon’s Hyperloop, the Internet of Things (IoT) and much more.

Live in the future. Don’t be that business doomed to be put out of business by the rise of AI. If your business is in jeopardy, pivot. Start NOW to think of how to ride the wave, hijack the trend or get out of dodge!

Changing Customer Behavior

Those of us of a certain age who grew up in Abuja remember going to “Video World” to borrow movies on tape. Some won’t know what this means.

Before cable was affordable and CDs were the norm; long before Netflix or downloading whole movies off the net or contemporary cinemas; some of us had to go to a physical location (video club) to borrow movies on VHS tapes.

You leased the tapes, went home and enjoyed your movies. Thereafter you returned the borrowed tapes. Just like library books. And yes, they had late fees. We were okay with that. That’s how things were done.

This was a thriving business model, based on the fact that customers wanted to watch current movies. And were willing to leave the comfort of their homes to achieve this.

But customer behaviour has changed! This model is no longer viable. All video clubs I know of have closed shop – relics of a bygone age.

As an entrepreneur, understanding how human action impacts consumer trends is vital to building a successful business. Changing customer behavior is also going to affect entrepreneurs wanting to venture into medical/pharmacy businesses, retail, fashion, hospitality and even transportation.

For instance, repeat prescriptions are being delivered at home without the patient having to trigger a request every time.

Customers are happy today to buy items (including medication) online from sellers they do not know and may never meet.

People are becoming more altruistic, more conscious of their carbon footprint and have easy access to information on the web. Coupled with the growing ease of online financial transactions, customers are closer than ever to their product from source.

More conversations than ever before are going on between consumers and manufacturers. This has, is and will wipe out middleman styled entrepreneurships.

Live in the future, tweak your business model today on the assumption that your customers (from around the globe) have unfettered access to you, your goods and your information.

Growing Digital Platforms

Have you noticed the explosion of platforms? These platforms aid collaboration, chat, e-commerce, knowledge sharing etc.

I am stunned by entrepreneurs who still shy away from and have not learned how to successfully navigate these platforms to diversify revenue streams.

But for now, I want to emphasize about not just using digital platforms to sell your products but to market your brand.

Marketing expert Vatika says:

“As important it is for your business to have its presence felt in the market, it is equally important to let people know about you. A strong presence on the internet can be a great plus point during the launch of your brand/product/service.”

Do you have an up to date Facebook Business page? Realize that Facebook is taking over websites. So you do not really need a website if your Facebook business page is in order and up to date.

Researchers say that 70% – 82% of customers will investigate your brand online before they approach you. It’s now common in Nigeria for clients to Google your business to confirm your location, general email address and phone number (Hey, that’s how Siri finds you when she searches online!)

Think about it

Live in the future; get a solid digital footprint.

Live in the future; regularly update the information you put out in the digital world.

Live in the future; be relevant.

Each time you are planning or reviewing your strategy, I want you to ask:

“What can I break now in order to stay relevant in the future?”

When you challenge yourself and answer this question, I guarantee you that you will have a business with staying power.

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Liz Taylor

Liz is a trainer, life strategist, conference speaker and customer service consultant. She is the face behind the LizSpire brand and Chief Executive of Eva Wright. Liz finds mediocrity abhorrent and is driven to bring a full measure of Godly excellence in everything she does no matter how small. One of her consuming passions is helping people identify and develop their latent potential, and giving back to her community. She runs a pet project called “Save Nigeria’s Voice” that collects and routes used books to orphanages and rural schools. A prolific writer, she is the author of ’45 Reasons Not to be Ordinary’ and ‘Contemplations: Echoes of the Deep Vol 1’.

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