Commentary

By Tom,

How to survive in a Culture of Chaos

“You better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone…”

We are living through a period of flux. The rules of business are changing. Maybe there are no rules anymore. Corporate giants are falling left, right and centre whilst youthful startups continue to generate massive revenue. Iconic brands such as video-rental giant Blockbuster, national institution Woolworths, and long-time highstreet fixture HMV, to name but a few, have been forced into administration. The reason? They failed to move with the times. Robert Safian, of fastcompany.com, coined the term ‘Generation Flux’ to describe the emerging group of forward thinkers who are managing to not only survive but flourish in this unprecedented period of uncertainty. Unlike other generational labels, Generation Flux is not referencing any specific demographic; rather, the term refers to an attitude – a willingness to embrace the chaos and adapt to it, to accept that the climate cannot be controlled and to simply ride the waves as they come, so to speak. Treat business like golf: play the course you’re on. If your current business model is no longer working, throw it out. If people are no longer interested in the product or service you’re offering, make a change. It really is that simple.

What can you do?

On a more personal level, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be chained to our training or perceived areas of expertise, whatever they may be. We should avoid summarising ourselves as merely consultants or accountants or salespeople. These are just skills, they need not define us. Labels can be limiting. Labels can prevent us from reaching our true potential. Society is full of various labels and most of them do more harm than good. Skills are great but why let the ones we’ve already honed prevent us from acquiring new ones? We need to adapt. Learn new skills, if need be. Maybe the company you’re working with has enough consultants or accountants or salespeople or whatever. Maybe what they need right now is somebody who can use Photoshop or run an advertising campaign or even just fix the printer. If this is the case, why not put yourself forward? Try something new. Companies value team players who are willing to adapt themselves to the needs of the business. If we can’t predict the way things are going to go then surely our best bet is to try to prepare for all eventualities. Be versatile. Be resourceful. Most importantly, be willing to try new things regardless of experience or training. We shouldn’t fear failure, we should learn from it. As Samuel Beckett famously urged, “Fail again. Fail better.”

Companies that got it wrong – chaos culture casualties

So, what can we learn from the mistakes of the heavy weights? Well, let’s take Blockbuster for example. In the late 90s and early 00s, they stood idly by, seemingly safe in their monopoly, choosing to offer more or less the same service they had been offering, with great success, since their first store opened its doors for business back in 1985. And why not? At its peak, back in 2002, their netbloxxxmarket cap soared to an astonishing $5 billion. Things were good. Or so it seemed. Yet, all the while, lowly contenders such as LOVEFiLM, Netflix and RedBox slugged it out for a share of the market, offering crazy new-fangled services such as postal video-rental, vide
o-rental vending machines and, in subsequent years, online streaming services. Slowly but surely, each of these companies, along with many others, began carving themselves a slice of the market. Insidiously they grew and before long they’d estab
lished themselves as household names. And the rest, as they say, is history. Netflix is now the world’s most popular streaming service, boasting a user-base of well over 40 million, an estimated valuation of close to $25 billion and reportedly accounts for a staggering 50.3% of peak internet traffic in North America, alongside Google. In 2011,
Amazon took full control of LOVEFiLM in an acquisition worth a reputed £200m. RedBox continues to offer a unique service and, as of October 2013, accounted for a massive 47.8% of the physical rental market. Blockbuster underestimated the importance of new technology and overestimated the loyalty of their customers. They failed to start swimming and, as a result, sank like the proverbial: a cautionary tale indeed.

Companies that are getting it right – moving with the times

On a more positive note, in February of this year, Facebook agreed to pay a cool $19 billion for WhatsApp, an instant messaging platform launched less than five years ago which, in that relatively short period of time, managed to accumulate a user-base of 450 million people. Impressive, to say the least. And what’s more, this deal is no anomaly. Instagram, Tumblr, Skype… the list goes on. And that’s not to mention all the companies that haven’t been bought out and continue to trade independently. On the more business-related side of things, Xero, an online accountancy service for small businesses which we’ve encouraged many of our clients to utilise, is another company getting it right. They offer a cheap accounting service which puts power and insight back into the hands of small business owners and out of the reach of greedy accountants, saving them a bundle in the process. Xero are actually a perfect example of the way things are going. People don’t want to shell out for accountants or solicitors or any specialists, for that matter, who charge an hourly rate, if they can help it. And why should they? It all goes back to the old proverb really: “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Most companies we’ve encountered would understandably much rather be given the tools to take care of their own business, whether that means doing their own accounts, paying their own taxes (correctly) or fighting their own legal battles (should they arise) rather than pay an hourly rate for the assistance of a third party and pray they aren’t being ripped off. And that’s where we come in.

What are Optimal Compliance doing to stay ahead?

Here at Optimal Compliance, we find ourselves in a period of transition. We are in the process of developing various software apps which, when completed, will help us streamline our business. What does that mean? Well, in time we will have automated much of the tedious form filling and other administrative tasks we carry out on behalf of our clients which will allow us to put all our focus into what really matters, growing businesses. As we all know, meeting the demands of our friends at HMRC can be a trying affair at the best of times. However, we believe that we will soon be able to use software to massively speed up the process and, in doing so, free ourselves from the dreaded red tape – thanks, in no small part, to the hard work our software team – Jamie, Andy and Eddie – are putting in on a daily basis. For the rest of us here at OC, the automation process can’t come soon enough as we are eager to focus all our energy on helping our clients grow and develop their respective businesses because after all, that’s what we do best.

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