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Crafting a Path to Success with Objective-driven Strategies

Crafting a Path to Success with Objective-driven Strategies

In the realm of business, success doesn’t just happen by chance. It’s a result of careful planning, strategic decision-making, and effective implementation. Just like tuning a radio to the right frequency, aligning your objectives, strategies, tactics, and implementation is crucial for achieving your desired outcomes. Let’s explore how these elements work together to create a roadmap for success.

Objective: Intent, Investment, and Asset Building

At the heart of every successful venture lies a clear objective. It’s not just about making money or creating a product; it’s about understanding your intent, investing wisely, and building an asset that stands the test of time. Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or a seasoned business owner, defining your objective is the first step towards realising your vision. Are you aiming to secure a return on investment? Are you looking to build an asset that generates long-term value? Understanding your objective sets the foundation for all your future endeavours.

Strategy: Purpose-driven Solutions

With your objective in mind, it’s time to chart your course with a clear strategy. Rather than chasing trends or following the crowd, focus on solving a problem for your customers. Be a builder, not just a seller. Your strategy should reflect your purpose and differentiate you from the competition. Whether it’s through innovation, exceptional service, or niche targeting, your strategy should pave the way for sustainable growth and customer loyalty.

Tactics: Executing with Precision

Now that you have a strategy in place, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Tactics are the nuts and bolts of your operation – the specific actions and initiatives that will bring your strategy to life. Position yourself to distinguish your brand, develop a system of delivery to enable seamless operations, build a purposeful team to empower your workforce, focus on growth to dominate your market, and create value to remove dependencies. The operator’s job is to execute these tactics with precision and efficiency.

Implementation: Leadership and Collaboration

Implementing your tactics requires strong leadership and effective collaboration. Identify team leaders who can optimise processes, integrate efforts across departments, delegate responsibilities, and inspire others to achieve their best. As a leader, your role is to provide guidance, support, and direction, ensuring that everyone is aligned with the overarching objective. By fostering a culture of accountability and teamwork, you can turn your strategies into tangible results.

Single-Simple-Scalable: The Key to Success

In the complex world of business, simplicity is often underrated. But as the saying goes, “keep it simple, stupid.” By focusing on a single objective, crafting simple yet effective strategies, and executing with precision, you can build a scalable business that stands the test of time. Whether you’re a start-up or a multinational corporation, the key to success lies in clarity, focus, and relentless execution.

Success in business is not a matter of luck – it’s a matter of strategy and execution. By aligning your objectives, strategies, tactics, and implementation, you can create a clear path to success and achieve your goals.

How to Resolve Partner Disputes and Make Better Decisions in Your Business

How to Resolve Partner Disputes and Make Better Decisions in Your Business

In the intricate world of business partnerships, success often hinges on the delicate balance of complementary skills, shared values, and aligned goals. However, even the most promising partnerships can hit rough waters, requiring careful navigation to steer back on course. Today, we delve into the journey of two business partners in the realm of PCB manufacturing, exploring the challenges they faced, and the innovative approach taken to resolve their differences. 

Our story begins with a partnership forged in the crucible of entrepreneurship, where one visionary entrepreneur laid the foundation for a PCB company, inviting another to join forces. With a 21-year age gap between them, they embodied a symbiotic relationship—one excelling in sales while the other championed operational delivery. From humble beginnings in a spare bedroom, their enterprise burgeoned into a bustling office and warehouse, a testament to their combined expertise and unwavering dedication. 

The Good and the Bad 

At its core, their partnership thrived on complementary skills, the cornerstone of any successful venture. For over two decades, they navigated the tumultuous waters of business, weathering storms and celebrating triumphs. However, beneath the surface lurked subtle fissures – a lack of formal agreements, a myopic view of the evolving business landscape, and the emergence of divergent values. 

Navigating Change 

As time marched on, changes rippled through their partnership, exposing fault lines that threatened to rupture their shared vision. Shifting agendas and evolving values brought simmering tensions to the forefront, challenging the very fabric of their alliance. The stage was set for conflict, but amidst the discord emerged an opportunity for reconciliation. 

Mediating the Partners 

Enter the mediator, tasked with diffusing tensions and fostering mutual understanding. The mediator introduced two empty seats at the negotiation table – one symbolising the customer’s perspective, the other embodying the essence of the business itself. With every decision scrutinised through the lens of customer satisfaction and long-term business viability, the partners found common ground. 

The Path to Resolution 

Through introspection and guided mediation, the partners embarked on a journey of rediscovery, reconnecting with the ethos that propelled their enterprise into existence. By revisiting their shared history and the challenges overcome together, they transcended personal grievances, embracing a collective purpose larger than themselves. 

In the intricate dance of partnership, conflicts are inevitable, but not insurmountable. By fostering open communication, embracing diverse perspectives, and prioritising the greater good of the business, partners can navigate turbulent waters and emerge stronger than before. As our story illustrates, the path to resolution lies not in discord, but in the shared pursuit of a common  
goal – the enduring success of the partnership and the legacy it leaves behind. 

https://omny.fm/shows/the-money-show/small-business-focus-achieving-growth-for-your-bus?in_playlist=the-best-of-the-money-show Strategies for Achieving Business Growth in a Stagnant Economy

Strategies for Achieving Business Growth in a Stagnant Economy

In a recent episode of The Money Show with Pavlo, the focus was on achieving growth for businesses, particularly in the challenging economic landscape of South Africa. Despite the stagnant growth of the economy, Pavlo shared invaluable insights and strategies for business owners to navigate and thrive. Let’s delve into some of the key takeaways:

Embrace a Growth Mindset

Pavlo emphasised the importance of adopting a growth mindset. In a stagnant economy, it’s crucial for business owners to shift their thinking towards growth opportunities. Being open to new ideas and continuous learning is essential for identifying and seizing growth prospects.

Understand the Economic Climate

While the overall economy might be stagnant, not all industries experience the same growth rates. Pavlo highlighted the significance of understanding industry dynamics and identifying sectors with higher growth potential. By focusing efforts on growth-oriented industries, business owners can capitalise on emerging opportunities.

Invest in Scalability

Scaling a business can be daunting, especially in uncertain economic times. However, Pavlo stressed the importance of building scalable systems and processes. By investing in infrastructure that can support growth, businesses can expand without compromising efficiency or profitability.

Differentiate from Competitors

In a market where many businesses are complacent or resistant to change, those with a growth mindset have a competitive advantage. Pavlo urged business owners to innovate and differentiate themselves from competitors. By offering unique value propositions and constantly evolving, businesses can attract customers and gain market share.

Focus on Profitability

Growth shouldn’t come at the expense of profitability. Pavlo cautioned against pursuing revenue growth without considering profitability. Instead, he encouraged businesses to focus on increasing profitability alongside expansion. Smart growth strategies should aim to enhance both revenue and profitability, ensuring sustainable, long-term success.

Measure Success Holistically

When evaluating growth, it’s essential to look beyond revenue figures. Pavlo advised business owners to consider factors such as increased customer base, market share expansion, and improved profitability. By taking a holistic approach to measuring success, businesses can assess their growth trajectory accurately.

Achieving business growth in a stagnant economy requires a proactive approach, strategic thinking, and a willingness to adapt. By embracing a growth mindset, understanding industry dynamics, investing in scalability, differentiating from competitors, prioritising profitability, and measuring success comprehensively, business owners can navigate challenges and unlock opportunities for sustainable growth.

Unveiling the Blueprint for Scaling Sales: Essential Insights for Business Owners

Unveiling the Blueprint for Scaling Sales: Essential Insights for Business Owners

In the dynamic realm of business growth, the journey to scaling sales is both an art and a science. Understanding the intricacies of this process is key for business owners aiming to unlock their company’s full potential. Let’s explore invaluable insights, shedding light on essential lessons for businesses looking to scale their sales successfully. 

Sales: The Core of Business Success 

At the heart of every thriving business lies a robust sales strategy. Sales are the lifeblood of any enterprise, regardless of whether it offers products or services. Without a well-defined sales engine, growth and success become challenging. 

The Science of Selling: A Delicate Balance 

Drawing parallels between the artisanal craft of baking and the science of selling, we find a delicate balance required for success. Much like precision in baking, sales demand a systematic approach. This intersection of science and art becomes the foundation for sustainable business growth. 

The Funding and Sales Conundrum: Finding the Right Mix 

A common misconception among business owners is the belief that a great product alone can propel a business to success. But a stellar product is only one half of the equation. The other half involves establishing a robust formula for commercial success, with a well-oiled sales engine driving the process. 

Navigating the Digital Evolution: Ground Presence Matters 

In an ever-evolving digital landscape, the shift from relying solely on digital platforms to find clients and customers, to the importance of establishing a physical presence is critical. Finding motivated salespeople is a global challenge, underscoring the necessity of a dedicated team on the ground to connect with customers on a personal level. 

The Secret of Selling: Understanding Your Customer 

The core of selling is understanding your customer. Instead of immediately presenting your product’s features, start by comprehending your customer’s problems and needs. Building this initial connection sets the stage for a successful sales process. 

Building a Scalable Sales Engine: The Key to Long-Term Success 

Building a scalable sales engine involves creating systems that consistently deliver on promises to customers. By prioritising the development of a reliable sales team and system, business owners can focus on growth rather than mere maintenance. 

As businesses navigate the challenges of scaling, embracing these lessons becomes a pivotal step towards sustained growth and success. Learn more in this podcast discussion on the sales engine, from The Money Show:

Nyad

Business endurance lessons from Nyad

In the dynamic landscape of business, the ability to navigate challenges and uncertainties is paramount for success. As we step into 2024, a year filled with global elections, geopolitical tensions, and economic complexities, the need for strategic planning and purpose-driven leadership is more critical than ever. Drawing inspiration from an unexpected source, Pavlo Phitidis shares his thoughts on how the world of business can glean valuable lessons from the extraordinary journey of Diana Nyad, a world record holding long distance swimmer.

Setting the Destination:

In a recent discussion on “The Money Show,” Pavlo & Bruce Whitfield, shared insights into the challenges and opportunities awaiting in 2024. Recognizing the turbulent waters ahead, Pavlo turned to a surprising source for inspiration – a movie called “Nyad.” The film follows Diana Nyad’s quest to swim from Cuba to Florida, a 100-mile journey through shark-infested waters and unpredictable conditions.

Nyad’s journey became a metaphor for setting a destination in the business world. As Pavlo noted, “Without a destination, you’re going to be swimming in circles.” In the context of business, having a clear vision and purpose is essential to guide strategic decisions and overcome obstacles.

Lessons from Nyad’s Journey:

Diana Nyad’s determination and resilience offer profound insights for business owners facing challenges. Her journey wasn’t just about conquering a physical feat; it was driven by a deep purpose to achieve something remarkable. A key takeaway from the movie is the importance of defining a destination and building a team around that shared goal.

Pavlo emphasizes, “Destination matters.” Without a clear vision, businesses risk swimming aimlessly, unable to attract the right talent and resources. The parallel drawn between Nyad’s swim and business ownership highlights the significance of planning, teamwork, and unwavering commitment.

Team Collaboration: Nyad’s success wasn’t a solo effort. Behind her remarkable achievement were a coach, a navigator, a nutritionist, and a team dedicated to her vision. In the business world, Pavlo draws parallels to successful entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs. Each of them began with a vision, assembling teams that shared their passion and commitment.

Dealing with Failure: The conversation delves into the fear of failure, acknowledging that failure is often seen as a black mark. However, the lesson from Nyad’s journey and the experiences of renowned inventors like Thomas Edison is that persistence and relentless pursuit of a goal lead to success.

Purpose Beyond Fame: One notable aspect of Nyad’s story is her pursuit of a greater purpose beyond fame or fortune. As Phitidis observes, “Diana Nyad never did what she did to be famous.” This echoes the idea that a business should be driven by a purpose that goes beyond financial success, leaving a lasting impact on the world.

As we navigate the business obsctacles of 2024, the lessons from Diana Nyad’s extraordinary swim resonate deeply. Setting a destination, building a committed team, embracing failure as part of the journey, and finding purpose beyond personal gain are crucial elements for enduring success in the business world. Let Nyad’s journey inspire business leaders, to swim with purpose and resilience, overcoming challenges to reach their desired destinations.

Remote work is for the birds Remote work saved our businesses in Covid, but could kill it if left unchecked

Elite Business: Remote work is for the birds

In this article, first published in Elite Business, Pavlo puts a question mark on remote working.


Businesses are about people. And people are about skills, thinking and action. If your people are less than that, you should be looking at technology to do that person’s job. It’s more reliable, dependable and far easier to manage. But it won’t create magic, innovation or culture across your business. People will and do. Remote working puts a question mark on that. 

Here are some reasons why.

Troubleshooting

When a problem arises, the ability to immediately resolve it by pulling people into a room before it cannot be done remotely. And if the problem and its solution need a multidisciplinary approach, which most problems do, then the right people in the room can step out after and all do what needs doing to get the job done. 

As your business grows, it is even more critical because the people in the room might have to coordinate and organise their teams to get the job done. It’s instant, and when it comes to retaining clients and building a brand (problem resolution builds a brand better than any marketing campaign), you need to get it done there and then.

Culture and value

Culture is nebulous, yet without one, your business creates a staccato experience for suppliers, customers, and employees. Values create the nous that enables your business and its employees to operate against an intuitive framework when needed. This intuition or unconscious response develops over time. It doesn’t build from the values stated in your website or reception wall but through living, breathing and observing the behaviour of all business employees, especially its leaders. 

If values create the framework and culture of the behaviour about what a company stands for, the best way to learn it is in person. Imagine a scenario where an employee enters the office of a manager. The door closes. A few minutes later, the employee leaves the office, pale and slightly stressed. Your colleague sitting next to you asks what went down. You explain what that employee did, and through that, you learn the authentic culture and values of that company. A word indicating a value, be it integrity, honesty, etc. means very little until it is understood and witnessed in practice.

Learning and training

While aspects of employee training are best offered online and therefore accessible remotely, the context, the application and the improvement of an employee’s performance arguably cannot be. We learn by doing not online engagements and content. Observation and “show and tell” are far more impactful ways of developing capability in your employees. Imagine trying to learn kung fu remotely rather than in the ring. Only when a punch lands do you genuinely understand how to take the theory and put it into a useful practice suited to your inherent abilities. The same goes for riding a bicycle, managing a project, managing a team, collecting a debtor book or selling.

Growth

Beyond a job, why do people opt to work in your business? I’ll put it into context in a recent meeting with a global law firm specialising in tax. Their brand exciting and innovative brand operates across a  federation of autonomous companies operating in 169 countries. In the past, they won recruits with their innovative approach to tax, assured learning and very quick exposure to exciting clients. Their vibrancy won them talent before bigger firms’ cold, hard salary packages. But, they have found that remote working has directly prevented the handover of relationships from senior partners to junior partners and associates. It has harmed the transfer of knowledge on the subject matter, the personalities making up a client, the industry, and it has stunted the ability of senior partners to pick junior partners effectively and for junior partners in return to compete to work with promising associates. 

Remote working is a privilege, not a right. If you are attracting employees who demand it, consider moving on. They are there for their comfort rather than the well-being of the business as active, engaged, committed contributors who go beyond fulfilling a functional role.

When is there a case for remote work? It should be part of your business-building toolkit. How to use it, when and where and then how to manage it is a future article. 

Positioning Your Business for Success: A Blueprint for Standing Out in the Marketplace

Positioning Your Business for Success: A Blueprint for Standing Out in the Marketplace

In the ever-changing landscape of business, where startups can skyrocket or vanish overnight, the journey from small business owner to industry veteran is nothing short of remarkable. What should you do when you’ve built a successful business over two, three, or four decades? Should you retire, or should you continue running the show until the end?

The Power of Positioning

Positioning transcends mere marketing—it’s the cornerstone upon which your business is constructed. It shapes your business’s identity, moulds its culture and values, and, when executed effectively, propels revenue and capital growth. To secure a competitive edge, business owners must understand their fundamental positioning and use them as a strategic guide to success.

Defining Your Purpose

Your business’s purpose is more than merely generating profits; it revolves around problem-solving. To unearth your genuine purpose, think about  your skills, aptitudes, and interests Start by identifying the problem you aspire to resolve, its cost to your customers, and the impact it has on their lives. Your purpose should revolve around addressing this problem effectively.

Shaping Your Products or Services

Once you’ve ascertained your purpose, it’s time to craft products or services that harmonise with it. Instead of starting with what you can offer, initiate your journey with the problem you’re resolving. This method ensures that your offerings are relevant and invaluable to your target audience. A profound understanding of the problem’s cost empowers you to set the appropriate pricing strategy and generate added value for your clients.

Crafting a Memorable Customer Experience

Your business’s purpose and offerings should organically lead to an exceptional customer experience. This experience transcends a mere transaction; it revolves around your interactions with customers. When your purpose and offerings resonate with your clients, they will feel understood and valued. This, in turn, paves the way for positive engagement and word-of-mouth marketing, thus creating a potent cycle of growth.

The Art of Saying Yes and No

Discerning when to say yes and when to say no is one of the most intricate aspects of positioning. In the early phases of business, saying yes to every opportunity is a common tactic to maintain positive cash flow. However, as you acquire a deeper understanding of your purpose and problem-solving capabilities, you must learn to decline opportunities that do not align with your positioning strategy. This discernment is pivotal for sustaining your focus and establishing a robust brand.

Positioning your business for success involves grasping your purpose, aligning your products or services with that purpose, and delivering an unforgettable customer experience. By concentrating on these components and mastering the art of saying yes or no, you can differentiate your business from the competition and establish a distinct and compelling position in the marketplace.

To listen to the full discussion from the show:

Elite Business: Crack the skills crisis

Elite Business: Crack the skills crisis

In this article, originally featured in Elite Business, Pavlo explores the topic of the UK’s GBP6.6 billion skills gap, exacerbated by inflation and tech advances, demanding attention. To succeed, prioritise growth and talent. Build a resilient business model and hire system operators to navigate the skills crisis and pursue higher growth.


Skills are short globally. In the UK, the skills gap cost businesses an estimated GBP6.6 billion. The subsequent challenges of inflation, war in Europe, and the accelerated adoption of AI and other technologies can only have increased this.  

This shortage of skills is not a problem if you don’t want to grow. There are two parts to this comment.

First, growth 

If you’re not growing, you’re dying because your competitors intend to, and in a low-growth environment, their growth will come from eating your lunch. Add inflation, and you are eroding the value you have built thus far. If you opt not to grow, look to exit and realise your value before it whittles away.

If you want to grow, there are two options. First, grow to maintain what you have. This pegs your annual growth rate at inflation, the tepid country growth rate, and your industry growth rate. It approximates 8% per annum. At this level, you are maintaining what you have. To grow beyond what you have, your growth rate should add another 5-10%, depending on your ambition.

Next, talent

In the instance of growth, you need a plan, and that plan needs two things. First, and most importantly, your time and attention to focus on growth. Next, a business model and team that allows your time and attention to focus on growth. Both mean you need to have a good team on board of the right people doing the right thing at the right time.

Across businesses I visit the following constraints regarding human talent become apparent.

  1. I need help finding the right people.
  2. I have people in senior roles who don’t have the skills or mindset to get the job done without my regular support and guidance.
  3. It takes ages for new employees to get up to speed and wash their faces.
  4. My “rock-star” employee is constantly toying with other opportunities.

The employment challenge is here to stay. Demographically, each year sees fewer people entering the workforce. Over 2.8m working people are sick, waiting for operations. About 500 000 able, capable 50 years and older, experienced people opted for early retirement. 

If structure determines behaviour, build your business to accommodate the skills challenge.

A business does not just emerge. It is built against an operating model. Your operating model must sympathise with the challenges of growth, size, and shifts in the economy.

However, the bones of the operating model that will resolve many of your human capital challenges remain the same. 

It begins with defining your business in terms of the customer segments you serve rather than the features and criteria of your products and services. 

Understanding these segments, what problem you solve for them, and what experience they want in the process forms the blueprint of your operating model.

Using the blueprint, build the operating processes and systems to deliver that outcome reliably. Systems are sequential activities that bring the experience of the blueprint to life, and that can be taught and measured. Do this across all your commercial functions that comprise that customer experience blueprint. In each function, these activities make up a job description. 

You can now hire people, not because they bring some of their superstar ability to the role, but because they can be evaluated and trained against the activities in their employed function. 

Hiring system operators, rather than mavericks and gurus, has several benefits:

Recruitment is simplified as you can assess through simple questions whether someone has the experience or capability to perform the tasks that make up the system.

Your employees are motivated and have a purpose as they know what to do and when to do it, to achieve a specific outcome. Their performance can be measured and managed.

Your business becomes less reliant on you, as the systems that underpin it are documented, trainable, and don’t depend on a few superstars to get things done.

This unlocks your time to focus on next-level growth despite the skills crisis. 

Dying at your desk should be lauded

BUSINESS LEADER: Dying at your desk should be lauded

In this article, first published in Business Leader, Pavlo argues that retirement is for the birds, certainly if you are a business owner. Creating a business is hard.


I was recently absorbed in a debate about retirement with a highly accomplished business owner. Having started her business 26 years ago after a successful corporate career of 12 years, we met to talk about growth. But that’s not how it started. Originally, we were meeting to discuss her company’s valuation.

Our conversation felt light, fleeting, almost whimsical. Something was wrong. It was as if she was going through the motions of the conversation that she felt she should have.

You have no interest in selling your business,” I remarked eventually. She looked surprised at my comment. After briefly pausing, she said, “I’d hate to sell it. But I’m in my 60s, and the pressure is immense. Family and friends are asking why I want to carry on. The debates get testy when, in casual conversation, I talk about new products, new markets, and new opportunities.

What is the response when you do?” I asked. “When is enough, enough. Aren’t you being greedy? You have earned the right to retire and other such comments,” she said, smiling tentatively.

The business owner’s odyssey

These kinds of comments come from many sources:

  • Peers who are corporate employees that either face a forced retirement, experience work as a political battlefield, or have lived a life in a narrow functional silo
  • Friends or family who want more of your time or envy your achievements
  • In family business scenarios, your successors may well want to lead and take the business in a different direction
  • Other business owners who, as competitors or friends, have a different lived experience of building, growing, and managing their companies, and who, exasperated, want out and project their lived experience onto you
  • Finally, the ‘Joneses’, where the collective view of life is that you work to earn your retirement and that is a key indicator of success.

But here’s the thing. Most business owners I’ve met do what they do for more than the economy. Through their business, they find inspiration, meaning, friendship and purpose. These are the ingredients of meaning. And when work becomes more than economy and meaning becomes the greatest driver behind why you do what you do, retirement is not a likely ambition.

The art of legacy building

It may sound idealistic, but I’ve witnessed it repeatedly. I think back to the first real client I had 16 years ago. A successful industrial baker who, after 27 years, had built a respectable £5.8m annual revenue business and wanted out. Unable to fetch the price he wanted, and a need to retire with dignity and pride, we met to discuss what needed to be done. I asked why he wanted to sell. “Every day feels like a grind, a slog, and as much as I have invested in my team, I’m square and centre of daily, weekly and monthly operations. I’ve tried to delegate and let go. I’ve tried to work ‘on’ my business, not ‘in’ it. I’m fed up. What I loved has become a choke around my neck.”

He vented for some time, and eventually, we mapped out a path to attract the valuation he wanted. 16 years on, with annual revenues approaching £100m, he remains fully invested and at the helm of his business. Each year, I ask him, are you ready to retire? He laughs and says, “Next year.”

If structure determines behaviour, how you build and grow your business will determine how you spend your time and attention. Should you find yourself experiencing growth that is stuck or stagnant, or alternatively, chaotic, and complex, you will tire, and retirement will be attractive.

It’s not how it has to be. The right blueprint to inform the design and development of your business will release your time to focus on the things that feed your soul.

John Milton’s (1608-1674) sonnet, “on his blindness,” captures the idea beautifully. He argues that everyone has a talent, and the job of life is to put that talent into service of humankind. Creating a business is hard. Building and growing it is hard. The trials and tribulations are what create meaning and value. Retiring such a talent robs us all of future prosperity.

Dying at your desk, then, indeed, is a life fully lived.

There is more foam in the AI coffee than actual coffee right now

Elite Business: There is more foam in the AI coffee than actual coffee right now

In this article, originally featured in Elite Business, Pavlo Phitidis explores the notion that while AI may not propel your business growth in the immediate future, grasping its potential value and applications is crucial for maintaining a competitive edge.


Recently, I grabbed a to-go coffee between meetings. As the coffee arrived, I tapped and left. It felt light, given the size of the cup. I lifted the lid and stared into the foamy abyss. Using the wooden stirring stick as a dipstick, I realised my large coffee was 70% foam!

It’s much like the current hype about AI.

If the job of a coffee is to have the caffeine keep you racy, pacy and alert, why the big cup if it is 70% foam? We buy with our eyes, and the psychological economics of different cup sizes and price points makes for smart retailing. 

The same triggers in our brain that let us buy with our eyes activate around the AI hype feeding hope and fear. And the world of AI did a great job of it with the introduction of ChatGPT earlier this year. And that is where it feels like it has stayed.

In response to the impact of ChatGPT, we sprang into action and spoke to our teams. The message was clear. You’re fired if you ever approach me with a question that ChatGPT could answer. However, if you ever come forward with an answer that ChatGPT provided and that you could not explain or argue, you’re equally fired. Two juxtaposed positions are dramatised for impact but point to a simple, clear message. Get with it on tech, or you are no longer relevant in the world of future commerce, and that future is now.

Mindset matters, and adopting the right one to technology is essential to stay relevant and solvent. But mindset on tech is not enough to use it effectively and profitably.

Over the last 6 months since ChatGPT sprung into the market, we’ve reviewed multiple AI solutions or strategies proposed by clients across most industries. By far, most have been theoretical in value or moribund in reality. I write from the position of established mid-sized businesses with annual revenues between £5m-£75m.

Theoretical in value

Be it the hype, noise and thousands of AI hack infographics on LinkedIn; videos on YouTube and articles in the digisphere, the world of possibility is interesting but not practical. From taking jobs, doing jobs, and creating new jobs, what started fast has slowed as quickly. Bringing real productivity gains into your business without losing a distinctive personality remains a hope and dream rather than an accessible, practical reality. Building AI is hard and expensive, monetising it across a broad landscape through SaaS offerings and overcrowded app stores is harder. 

Moribund in reality

Already, ChatGPT feels like it’s entering this categorisation. Has it become dumber? The quality of answers it offers on mostly similar questions I asked over the last 6 months has waned. It has left me wondering if a suite of privacy interventions has compromised its ability to generate more meaningful and robust answers. Even prompt engineering hardly distinguishes one answer from the next. Across marketing, content generation seems to have peaked already, with little or no impact on the cost and investment in time and money to use the ocean of AI options.

A profitable reality

Across more than 3,000 companies, we see an approach, rather than a neat AI app, win the day on digitisation and AI solutions. However, it’s not about a hack or infographic on bringing AI into your business profitably. Like most successful acts in business, it goes down to the basic principles of what informs your action in building your business and step-by-step patient work.

First, know what business you are in. It has nothing to do with your product or service whose sole job is to solve a problem for your customer. It is all about who that customer is. Broad definitions of customers harm your ability to get this crisp and clear. Narrow definitions of customer are notoriously hard to get right. Yet, they are the blueprint against which your business should be defined, built and shaped.

Second, articulate your commercial activities, processes and procedures using this blueprint. How they are designed and implemented must be determined by that blueprint. The smart way to do this is with your team. Their involvement will create ownership and accountability as well as measured outcomes.

Finally, these activities hold the key to digitisation and AI adoption. Whether across marketing, sales, fulfilment, administration or procurement, inefficiencies and dull processing requirements are the first areas that lend to digitisation. Try it with your functional teams. Ask what is the most tedious part of their job and start there. Take that activity and see how it can be digitised using off-the-shelf or native software. 

Don’t put the horse before the cart.

What is critical in this process is that you start at the beginning and define your business. For example, adopting software to digitise a marketing or sales process not designed and characterised by your customer segment’s behaviour creates a generic experience. Perhaps we no longer respond to canned marketing emails or automated sales engagements. If you start with the software, you will build what everyone else already has because they use software to create structure and systems, not the lived experience of the people in the organisations that engage and buy answers to problems. 

AI is exciting. We have baked it into our platform across 3 areas. It’s working okay. Each week, it gets better as we learn its limitations and potential. Adopting technology is a vital act of leadership. Leading it, adapting it and recognising that it does not hold all the answers but will hold many opportunities is a critical mindset.