Adapt to adopt success in SMB

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Small business is tough at the best of times and with automation and technology continuing to transform operations across all sectors at breakneck speed, successful leaders will be distinguished by their ability to adapt, empower and inspire those around them. 

Company owners have their fair share of perennial challenges to navigate, such as economic headwinds, volatile consumer sentiment, competitors off and online, supply chain and logistics costs – the list goes on and on. When you add into the mix costs of investing in automation and technology to drive cost efficiencies and savings, burgeoning leaders of small businesses may be persuaded that the only skills required are understanding balance sheets and financial considerations.

But a look at those with skin in the game reveals that the key leadership skills needed for success are more focused on the human side of the business.

Here are a few tips to help prepare small-business leaders for future challenges in the age of razor-thin margins and technology-enabled, increasingly-demanding consumers.

What do business owners think?

Data from CommBank (CBA) Insights National 2019 Report, a survey of 2,747 business owners, decision-makers and managers from businesses throughout metropolitan and regional Australia with an annual turnover of more than $500,000 and at least two employees, yields some notable insights.

The survey explored the forces driving change within Australian businesses and examined current and planned trends in skills development and training. The report showed strong links between innovation, adaptability, and an organisation’s sustainability; and also acknowledged technology as an important enabler to innovate and adapt to customer needs.

But the most critical aspect identified by the report is ensuring an organisation’s workforce has the skills and capabilities needed to continue to adapt as customer expectations evolve and the business environment changes. This includes effective communication, digital literacy, critical thinking, leading and developing people and adaptive mindsets.

Keys to leading

Leaders that innovate, adapt and use technology to enable change, while ensuring a company’s workforce has the same skills, are well-placed to face future, unknown challenges.

The CBA report also identified innovative companies are distinguished by several factors including greater confidence in their ability to adapt to external factors in their environment; and a higher focus on people factors and those that drive growth such as product, expansion, and sales and marketing.

Adapting humanity

Australian businessman Mark Bouris – who amongst many high profile positions was recent chairman of the Taskforce into Digitisation of Small Businesses in Australia for the Australian Treasury – says the key attributes he looks for when employing someone to manage a branch of the wealth management firm he founded, Yellow Brick Road, are: hunger, determination, energy, business acumen, networking abilities and a personality reflective of their local community.

Meanwhile, a global survey of business and HR leaders, conducted by services firm PwC asked over 1200 business and HR leaders in 79 countries to gauge the importance of 45 organisational capabilities.

Priorities such as creating trust and transparency, nurturing human skills, valuing human-centric working and well-being dominated the list of capabilities respondents believe are key.

The results also highlight the importance of promoting adaptability and employability within the workforce.

Capabilities that respondents rated as the most important such as building trust, human skills, and wellbeing are the ones where they are taking the most action on within their organisations.

Learn how to master your leadership skills and have a strategic impact on your business with skills that deliver positive results.

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