The past year has been a difficult time for all businesses. Some businesses have not managed to evolve to the changing landscape. Whilst others have been nimble enough to play to their strengths and come out on top. In many ways, the pandemic has weeded out the bad CEOs from the good ones.
But as we approach the back end of the pandemic, it’s important to look back, learn from the experience, and put in place a plan for the future. No doubt, the post-pandemic economy will be as unsteady and dynamic as it was during the corona-crisis. Here are the top 4 trends that we think CEOs need to be thinking about as they look to lead their companies out of the pandemic.
1. Artificial intelligence
Although it’s not always obvious, almost every single business relies on some form of artificial intelligence. We are in what some specialists refer to as an ‘Artificial Intelligence Revolution’. What differs from business to business is how sophisticated the AI is. Some companies will only use basic forms of AI (such as Google’s services) to support a few elements of the business, whilst others will deploy highly sophisticated AI software that is instrumental to the company’s operation.
But as markets develop, so do the tools. The limits of artificial intelligence are endless and groundbreaking software is developed every day. CEOs and company leaders must keep a watchful eye on emerging technologies that could support the growth of their business. Being the first to adopt early technology can make a massive difference to a company’s performance. In some cases adopting undiscovered AI tools can open the door to unexplored segments of a market. Being the first to make the most of groundbreaking AI could easily propel a business to a leading market position.
2. Digital over physical
The global restrictions brought on by the pandemic have redefined traditional ways of working and doing business, showing the true potential of digital. CEOs and company leaders have had to put measures in place to ensure working staff are able to continue working efficiently. Whilst many CEOs were initially reticent at the thought of operating entirely digitally, the outcome has been unexpectedly positive. Not only has the financial cost of working dramatically decreased for employees and employers alike, but opportunities for new business have also emerged.
The focus on all things digital has demonstrated that companies can operate efficiently without the need for many physical elements that were once deemed essential. This is particularly valuable to companies who have business in other countries or are looking to expand internationally. As we gradually return to a pre-pandemic life, CEOs and company leaders should not preemptively abandon all-digital connectivity efforts. Instead, they must take a step back and carefully evaluate what physical elements are essential to the continued success of the business and if any cost-effective digital strategies can help.
3. Deal flow generation
As the world changes, so do markets. This is why CEOs and company leaders must keep their ear to the ground and be ready to strike when new lucrative business opportunities emerge. Generating deal flow is a ceaseless challenge and it requires constant, vigilant attention to new market trends, industry changes and economic influences. CEOs who stay disciplined about continuously scouring the economic environment are the ones who will end up seizing opportunities before they are ever even communicated to the wider market.
This can have a profound impact on the success of a business. Being the first to hear about and subsequently act on a lucrative investment opportunity can propel a company to new levels. It can be the difference between being a market leader dealing with the very best in your industry and fighting for leftover deals that yield little reward. When it comes to deal flow, the ‘early bird gets the worm’ certainly holds true and having a strategic communications plan in place is vital to generating new deal flow.
4. Environment and ethics
ESG and CSR is a hot topic at the moment and this is bound to increase. It isn’t just a fad and ignoring this trend can have profound consequences for businesses. The past year has brought into perspective the fragility of life and the level of inequality that plagues the world. The short of it is people care considerably more about health, ethics and the environment. CEOs that embody similar values in their companies will see a deeper relationship with consumers, employees and business partners.
Competition is high and stakeholders only want to be associated with companies that embody morals they can resonate with. Even though it may have nothing to do with the business, CEOs who stay abreast of current affairs and proactively demonstrate that they care will end up having a competitive edge. Being able to better attract deal flow, bring in top talent and open doors to new business opportunities.
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.