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Five inquiries for business executives in uncertain times


It seems like we are currently seeing the business world's equivalent of Billy Joel's 1989 hit song, "We Didn't Start the Fire." The list of problems is endless: inflation, geopolitical unrest, energy, and labor shortages, changing employee expectations, rising interest rates, escalating cyber and data dangers, unquenchable investor expectations, etc. Just like the song claims, it is our responsibility to address and navigate the current economic landscape as corporate leaders. 

Despite the challenges, I observe many company and government leaders who are doing a good job of leading. I'd say that the glass is half full based on what we observe among our clientele. Why? Not because we are unaware of the many difficulties facing organizations today, but rather because we frequently observe innovation, change agility, and resiliency in many sectors. 

So what are the top companies doing today? They keep things straightforward and concentrate on what they can control. They are making a lot of effort to increase operating revenues faster than operating expenses. How? The similarities between businesses that I discuss with CEOs are startling. Many people are concentrating on the following five issues: 

1. Do I vary from others? 

Strategic pricing tactics, changing the value proposition, providing high-quality service, reducing response times, enabling cross-selling, and providing a distinctive customer experience are all part of differentiation. Leading businesses in a variety of sectors are using these levers to influence customers before, during, and after the point of sale in physical venues, digital channels, and platforms. 

Sales are more difficult to come by in regions with slower growth, so the top businesses are asking themselves: Why would a customer choose us? How are we to distinguish? How can we expand our market share? The good news is that, as long as leaders keep a laser-sharp focus in these areas, driving difference is totally under a company's power. 

2. Am I ready to grow? 

Numerous businesses experienced growth during the epidemic, and they anticipated sustained expansion, which resulted in huge headcount increases and the beginning of countless "special projects." Additionally, it caused delays in the integration of corporate acquisitions and the postponement of some difficult choices regarding operating models and standardization initiatives. These choices—or lack thereof—were taken at a period of low-interest rates and soaring stock prices. In contemporary marketplaces, companies do not have that same luxury. 

Profitable growth is essential, and it should be self-funded because investors are unlikely to accept declining margins as a means of funding growth or a lack thereof. What then should one do? Getting in shape and supporting your growth, is the solution. A corporation has complete authority over becoming healthy and funding its expansion. 

3. Is the amount I spend on IT efficient and appropriate? 

The future of many firms depends on their ability to reinvent themselves in the cloud. This entails generating real consumer distinction while spending less money.

But for too many businesses, transformation is still a long way off, and cloud advantages have not yet been properly appreciated. If your business fits this description, the market will probably ask you for an explanation. A lack of management alignment, a hope for a different future, or poor execution is frequently to blame for this. 

The best moment to think broadly about how to turn digital skills into company success is now, in close alignment with the executive team. This entails making investments in digital transformation across all functions, moving management decisions along more quickly, speeding change, and holding people accountable. According to the most recent PwC Pulse Survey, automation, digitizing old infrastructure, and self-service IT is considered the top objectives for cost savings and productivity, and 52% of CIOs are looking for methods to integrate analytics into processes to promote better and faster decision-making.

A corporation has complete control over raising the C-technological suite's IQ and promoting greater execution. 


4. Is my business portfolio too complicated? 

A divided world is forcing businesses to reinvent themselves, move to the cloud, deal with energy transitions, navigate geopolitical tensions, and reap the rewards of being a "global enterprise." 

Many people are questioning if their portfolio of enterprises makes sense as a result of these influences. To increase the possibility of a successful reinvention, many huge firms are carving apart certain businesses, either to collect money to help finance critical transformations, like the cloud or energy, or to streamline the whole organization. A corporation has complete control over what should be included or excluded in its portfolio. 

5. How can I lower my risk? 

There is more risk than ever. Companies must contend with risks linked to energy accessibility, supply-chain continuity, market concentration, inflation, legislation, public perception, data accuracy, security, and a host of other issues. 

Leading businesses nowadays strive to have a strong risk function. Starting with an impartial risk assessment and an aggressive gap closure is the first step. Efforts are being made by businesses to diversify their supply chains, ensure that they aren't concentrated in particular regions of the world, automate and outsource, reduce inflation, and invest to address gaps. Companies that properly manage risk will likely not be deterred in their quest for profitable expansion. Proactive risk management is more valuable than ever. Complete control over risk management is with the business. 

Even though there are more headwinds in the markets today, there will still be winners and losers. Companies may keep and gain the confidence and trust of their employees, customers, investors, and other stakeholders by aggressively prioritizing and concentrating on what is under their control. Equally, those who do not pay attention to these areas run the risk of losing the trust of investors, attracting shareholder activism, and probably most crucially, they run the risk of losing the trust of their staff, who are more dependent than ever on leadership. The good news is that with the correct emphasis, each of the aforementioned five categories is readily doable and is under management's control.

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