A company for the times we live in

A company for the times we live in
Now, more than ever, companies must structure their business projects which both reinforce their identity and look decidedly towards the future. Each company is unique and around it we must be able to generate what Gary Hamel described as "a revolutionary cause" which bestows upon the enterprise a collective commitment, a passion for achieving a better future, and a uniqueness which is projected onto all those involved in the organisation, and which ultimately, differentiates the company within the market.

 

Various considerations must be taken into account in terms of how this prolonged economic recession will impact our business when it has actually come to an end, and particularly how the wider economy will be affected. Clearly, although there are some signs of recovery, the recuperation will be a slow process.

All indications are that the majority of our companies will experience slower growth, something which will have repercussions on both the private and public sectors: Increased levels of unemployment will put pressure on our social welfare system, and at the same time public investment will be unable to match pre-recession levels. Furthermore, it will be fundamental to accelerate the process of modernisation, adaptation and internationalisation if we are to protect our businesses and our economy. In short, it will be a highly challenging situation for modern societies.

It is within this competitive framework that Basque companies must act. The question is whether in this new competitive environment, things will be very different from our pre-recession days. Opinion is divided. Some predict a return to the former competitive scenario, whilst others believe that the emergence of new markets, and the arrival of solutions and technologies, or even or a combination of all three, will make for a radically different competitive setting within which business will develop.

In my opinion, we must consider re-inventing our business to ensure a competitive edge in the new international market. This re-invention will involve optimising established business strategies as well as incorporating new elements into the equation. We will have to learn to operate in ever-changing and increasingly demanding environments. This will require perpetual questioning of our role within the new competitive framework, as Mario Benedetti tells us, "When we believed that we finally had all the answers, suddenly, all the questions changed."

The recession has finally brought with it a debunking of the myth that growth at any cost was the sole indicator of competitiveness. Hitherto, there was an obsession with scale in almost all business projects. I don’t believe that larger companies are more competitive per se, but rather that there is a minimum efficient size in order for a business to able to implement competitive projects.

The post-recession era will present us with more fragmented sectors and industries, where the number of niche markets will increase along with more differentiated models of business. This panorama will force companies to tailor their offer to the niche markets or groups of clients with increasingly specific needs.

Companies will have to foster a culture of continuous questioning, introspection and revision of strategy, as it heads into the future. This proverbial roadmap will be a long-term view into how international competitiveness can be achieved. It will take into account the need for adaptability to the economic and social milieu as an intrinsic and enduring feature. Moreover, by being cognisant of the evolving positions of clients, competitors and suppliers, this organic approach will allow for strategic fine-tuning, which will strengthen the firm. In my opinion, if we truly wish to adapt to the market successfully, strategic conversations will take on greater importance than in the past.

Many business propositions nowadays are soul-less offerings which fail to engage or seduce us. Such conventional, unremarkable projects have little prospect of long-term success, since all the players involved, in particular the members of the organisation itself, are unenthused from the word go. Additionally, since, in many cases, the recession has harmed our motivation for employee-shared companies, what we need to do is to create inspirational projects for people, which means the setting up of a new paradigm for integrating employees into organisations.

The modern business must breathe new life into the idea of employee-sharing for all those involved in the company, in terms of ownership, management and profit-sharing. To achieve this, creative approaches will be required in a number of areas: Firstly, imagination will be needed to overcome increasing levels of conflict. Secondly, novel ways must be found to connect people and develop their talent at the heart of the firm. Finally, the challenges posed by the 'genetic diversity' of internationalisation process, must be turned into something positive and enriching for the company overall.

In fact, I think modern times require a return to the old-fashioned principles and values of Community. Companies are essentially Communities of People who pool their talents for the common good, enriching the project with their attitudes, capabilities and expertise whilst committing to the future of the organisation.

The competitive company of tomorrow must have an inherently strong sense of sustainability, and an ability to turn prospection into coherent business direction, whilst resisting the temptations of short-term gains. To do so, it will need to maintain intergenerational commitment and fairer internal distribution of the wealth created. Combined, these positive attributes will serve to encourage greater engagement with the firm's objectives, and will more clearly define the playing field in terms of decision-making at all levels within the organisation.

Industrial companies, the true leaders in terms of boosting economic activity and creating wealth in the majority of territories, will have to strengthen and develop the features of advanced manufacturing: By increasing the value added in the offer, by ensuring that bespoke solutions can be standard, as well as by focusing on specific client niches and incorporating tailor-made services and solutions. Other features which require development are: optimising the potential of new technology through the integration of technology and strategy, and placing emphasis on design and incorporating new materials. All together, these characteristics will give rise to new business models.

We must incorporate an international vision into all activities in the organisation, as well as multi-location management which takes full advantage of 'genetic diversity'. Thinking globally and acting locally whilst clearly identifying where true value can be added. Indeed, only organisations which are capable of turning creation, experimentation and innovation into permanent modus operandi will be able to succeed. They will need to explore mechanisms of shared value creation with clients, and incorporate them into the design process of their services. In so doing, both internal mechanisms of innovation and open innovation will thrive; two key interconnected elements in a global ecosystem of innovation and knowledge.

Organisations must incorporate a series of values and operational guidelines to generate competitive capacity within this new competitive environment. Principles such as solidarity, a culture of hard work and commitment, experimentation and creativity, constant futurisation, multi-culturalism, engagement with ethical behaviour, and the social and economic milieu must all be included.

The key to configuring a modern firm, capable of competing internationally, lies in its ability to correctly fit together the pieces of the puzzle which I have attempted to outline above. This new company must fulfil the needs of Ruben Dario, who claims, "I love that woman. She is not superior in any single aspect, but she is the perfect combination of passion, beauty, intelligence, warmth and compassion." I hope that the Woman, who is fruit of our entrepreneurial endeavours, reaches the kind of perfection the poet sought.

*Publicado en Estrategia #0000003

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Sabin Azua

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