Climate of Fear or Climate of Opportunity

Climate of Fear or Climate of Opportunity

In my role as CEO of Business SA, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for South Australia, I remain close to those who take calculated risks to better themselves, their organisations, families, employees and South Australia. After the seismic turbulence of the last 18 months, who could blame the owners of many small to medium sized business for thinking about packing it in?
However, have we ever stopped to think what would happen if business owners lost their individual and collective appetite for risk? Have we even dared to quantify the dire economic and social consequences of a scenario where hundreds or even thousands of business owners pulled up stumps because it is simply too difficult to earn a living, let alone build any meaningful wealth? Personally, I don’t even want to consider this scenario as it is not a pretty picture on so many levels.

All I can say is kudos to the business community. You are the true heroes of 2020 and 2021.

So, let’s consider why so many business owners have kept on keeping on, even when things have looked so bleak. In my own experience, it sometimes comes down to a conscious and personal choice about whether to live in a climate of fear or a climate of opportunity. Let’s face it, over the last 18 months, we have all seen examples of both and have probably even experienced both ourselves.

This is not about being Pollyanna and ignoring the sometimes seemingly insurmountable challenges of operating a business in a global pandemic with disruptions, lockdowns and restrictions. Quite the opposite. Instead, it’s about being extraordinarily resilient. It’s about having a very different mindset, one that keeps telling you that there is always a way forward no matter how bad things may appear.
Again, kudos to the business community. I am in awe of your strength and fortitude.

If this conversation resonates with you, I now encourage you to think about another seemingly insurmountable challenge. Climate change.
With the recently released United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report stating that planet earth has entered “Code Red for humanity”, we have every reason to be fearful. Very fearful. However, it’s that very fear that will motivate us to act. Also, are we asking ourselves the right questions? Maybe, just maybe, there is an opportunity here.

As a jurisdiction, South Australia has one of highest uptakes of renewable energy on the planet. We are also leaders in everything from container deposit legislation, single use plastics, waste and recycling, battery storage technologies, wind farming, blue carbon innovation, sustainable water management and agricultural practices. We have real opportunities for green minerals, green steel production and green hydrogen, and the State Government has a plan to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 (based on 2005 levels).

Let’s consider why? Well, that takes me back to South Australia’s entrepreneurial spirit and the creativity and resilience of the business community.

Ahead of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November, Business SA will host its very own Climate of Opportunity luncheon in Adelaide to explore the challenges for international trade and growth in the low emissions economy.

Guest speakers will include Hon David Speirs MP (Minister for Environment and Water, South Australia), Steph Lysaght (Consul-General of the UK), Akhil Abraham (Head of Climate Diplomacy at the British High Commission, Canberra) and a panel of South Australian business leaders who will discuss how we can position our businesses for future success in a changing world.

Thank you for reading my blog : The Martin Haese Report.

If you haven’t already joined my network, you can sign up for free. Please do not hesitate to recommend my blog to any of your friends, family or colleagues who share our common interests.

With kind regards,

Martin Haese MBA

International Women’s Day

In my role as CEO of Business SA, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for South Australia, and my former roles as the 78th Lord Mayor of Adelaide, General Manager of Rundle Mall and as a national retail entrepreneur with over 200 employees, I have never taken for granted the talent, commitment and contribution of the individuals and teams that I have either employed or worked alongside. The majority of which have been women.

On Tuesday this week, Business SA celebrated International Women’s Day with a 300-person event in Adelaide’s CBD. It is timely to reflect on what this day means and why it is important.

To go back to its earliest days, International Women’s Day was born out of the USA and Europe. The first National Women’s Day was held across the United States on 28 February 1909. In 1910, when the then leader of the Women’s Office of the Social Democratic Party in Germany tabled the idea at the second International Conference of Working Women, a unanimous vote was secured, and the first International Women’s Day was officially celebrated the following year on 19 March 1911. The date was then moved to 8 March in 1913.

Times were certainly different then, including in Australia where it had been only 9 years since the Australian Commonwealth Parliament passed an act enabling women to vote in Federal elections.

How times have changed, and mostly for the better.

International Women’s Day was first held in Europe in 1911
International Women’s Day was first held in Europe in 1911

In local history, Dame Nancy Buttfield became the first SA woman elected to the Federal Parliament in 1955. In 1966, the first woman was sworn in for jury service. In 1969, women were awarded equal pay for the same work as men and on 24 June 2010 Adelaide expat Julia Gillard was sworn in as the 27th Prime Minister of Australia, the first woman to hold the nation’s highest office.

There are so many more examples I could list including my own godmother Dame Roma Mitchell who was Australia’s first female Judge, first female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, first female Vice Chancellor of an Australian University and the first female Governor anywhere in Australia. Dame Roma was also a strong advocate for social justice who backed her words with action.

Dame Roma Mitchell AC, DBE, CVO, QC (1913 – 2000)
Dame Roma Mitchell AC, DBE, CVO, QC (1913 – 2000)

I now encourage you to consider your own workplace and take some time to appreciate the extraordinary achievements of so many South Australian women, past and present. In fact, dating back to the pioneering days through to today, my wife Genevieve has devoted her energies toward uncovering and sharing the stories of many great South Australian women. These stories have been recorded in HerStory, a project supported by the City of Adelaide and the History Trust of South Australia.

Genevieve Theseira-Haese, Lady Mayoress of Adelaide 2014-2018
Genevieve Theseira-Haese, Lady Mayoress of Adelaide 2014-2018

Age and experience are not prerequisites for making a difference in society. With social entrepreneur Isobel Marshall named as Young Australian of the Year for 2021, International Women’s Day takes on extra significance for younger women across our nation. Bravo to Isobel and to her business partner, Eloise Hall.

Isobel Marshall, Young Australian of the Year 2021
Isobel Marshall, Young Australian of the Year 2021

It’s important to remember that although significant progress has been made since 1911, this work is far from over. Equal opportunities are still being fought for in some industries. In many countries, women’s rights are vastly different than our own and in others, almost non-existent.

As a man, I cannot understand on a personal level every struggle that women encounter. However, I can lead by example. As a former business owner, former Lord Mayor of Adelaide and now CEO of Business SA, I value the equal contribution of women in commercial and civic life.

Over 75% of the workforce of my own company were women, I led the first gender balanced Council in the history of the City of Adelaide and Business SA proudly has a 65% female work force. Business SA’s Chair, Nikki Govan, is a strong leader and successful businessperson and many of Business SA’s senior team are qualified, skilled female professionals who add value to the organisation every day.

Business SA team members
Business SA team members

Let’s aspire to a time when a nominated day representing the achievements of women in business may not be entirely necessary, as they will be celebrated every day, with fair conditions, safe working environments and equal pay.

Let’s also aspire to a day where for every single organisation it’s not about filling quotas, it’s instead about filling the organisation with hard working, capable employees that span genders, preferences, ethnicities and religions.

While we work towards these important outcomes, I encourage you to watch the following stories that were shared at Business SA’s International Women’s Day luncheon event held in the SkyCity Ballroom in the City of Adelaide on Tuesday 9 March 2021.

Thank you for reading my Blog : The Martin Haese Report.

If you haven’t already joined my network, you can sign up for free. Please do not hesitate to recommend my blog to any of your friends, family or colleagues who share our common interests.

With kind regards,

Martin Haese MBA

Did you find your purpose in 2020?

Did you find your purpose in 2020?

Today, I write to you in my role as CEO of Business SA, the peak body for the business community in South Australia. When 2020 started, never did I imagine that I would be standing on a ladder in Adelaide’s CBD addressing a 150-strong crowd of business owners at breaking point.

In all the twists and turns of 2020, for myself and my team, this was THE defining moment.

It exposed the pure heartache and despair that business owners have endured in the wake of COVID-19.

This show of solidarity from the hospitality sector was raw and emotional. People were open and honest about their fears for the future and in many ways, this was the moment where Business SA, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for South Australia, truly found its PURPOSE.

In terms of Business SA’s role to support business owners, not only in the hospitality sector but right across South Australia, this moment doubled our resolve to support those who take a risk.

It is the risk takers who will ultimately drive our economy forward from this pandemic. Not business associations, not Governments. Entrepreneurs are our largest employer. They are also creators and seekers of opportunity. It is our role to support them through the good times and bad.

This year saw pivoting, resilience and mental health become words that we have become all too familiar with.

However, these words are much more than cliches. They have helped businesses to survive … and, we say to you all, a very big WELL DONE.

As the State’s independent and local Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Business SA has played its role in supporting 17 different industry sectors in 2020.

When the Summer bushfires devastated South Australia, Business SA personally contacted and offered support to more than 100 businesses impacted by the fires.

We then “pivoted” ourselves, delivering more than 40 virtual events and webinars throughout the year while our Business Advice Hotline answered 12,800 calls from business owners.

We brought together 50 industry associations to discuss their concerns and ideas to assist economic recovery from COVID-19 and later launched a 9 Point Plan to Skyrocket SA.

We held South Australia’s biggest Mentally Healthy Business Breakfast, which was livestreamed across 10 regions and attended by almost 200 business owners and more than 3,200 people online.

Business SA also advocated consistently to Federal Government, State Government and even Local Governments to fight for more financial support for businesses.

But we know it has been you, the business owner, who has done the heavy lifting this year.

We have stood with you, but you have done the hard work and we thoroughly commend you for it.

We wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and success into 2021. We hope you have an opportunity to re-charge over the break and we encourage everyone to buy local this Christmas.

When you support local businesses, you are supporting local jobs. This is something we’ll need more of next year. Also, when you support others, your organisation’s PURPOSE all of a sudden has more clarity and becomes a lot more meaningful.

Thank you for reading my blog : The Martin Haese Report.

If you haven’t already joined my network, you can sign up for free. Please do not hesitate to recommend my blog to any of your friends, family or colleagues who share our common interests.

With kind regards,

Martin Haese MBA

Environmental Leadership

ENVIRONMENTAL LEADERSHIP

Welcome to the Martin Haese Report, the sixth in my series of musings on entrepreneurial leadership. With COVID-19 having wreaked havoc across industry sectors around the world and in turn disrupting how many do business, a growing number of people are asking whether it’s time to reconsider the business community’s relationship with the natural environment. I am one of those who believe that it is now timely to discuss how entrepreneurial and environmental leadership intersect.

COP21 Paris 2015
Before we commence, some context that qualifies me to share my thoughts on this topic. In my former role as Lord Mayor of Adelaide, I was invited to attend the United Nations COP21 in Paris in December 2015 where I spoke at several functions including the Sustainable Innovation Forum. It was at COP21 that I grasped the significance and strategic importance of South Australia’s renewable energy leadership and the high regard in which the State is held on the world stage.

It was also in Paris that I signed the Compact of Mayors, met with world leaders who are committed to environmental and economic leadership, and committed to educating myself about climate change adaptation, mitigation, the growth of low emissions industries and the circular economy.

Over the ensuing years as Lord Mayor, I focused my energies on translating South Australia’s renewable energy leadership into practical actions within the City of Adelaide. These included the City of Adelaide’s Carbon Neutral Strategy 2015-2025, the Carbon Neutral Adelaide Action Plan 2016-2021, Sustainability Incentives SchemeSolar Savers Adelaide, the roll out of electric vehicle charging infrastructure and many tree planting, waste and water management programs.

In January 2019, South Australian State Minister David Speirs MP appointed me as Chair of the Premier’s Climate Change Council (PCCC) where I have since worked alongside a talented group of fellow Council members to advise and inform the State Government on climate change adaptation, mitigation and the importance of low emissions industries in South Australia.

In September this year, I (virtually) attended a number of sessions at Climate Week 2020 in New York City where I watched HRH Prince Charles’ inspirational address;

Has COVID displaced climate change?
While the global pandemic continues to dominate the headlines, there is a growing anxiety that some other pressing issues are being neglected, most notably climate change. This is a topic that was swept to the top of the national agenda when the drought culminated in last summer’s devastating bushfires, but was quickly set aside with the onset of COVID-19 only three months later.

But rather than despair, I suggest that the pandemic may in fact provide an opportunity to reassess, recalibrate and refocus on climate change issues, as COVID-19 has resulted in many people developing a greater awareness and appreciation for the natural environment.

For many, COVID-19 has forced a rethink about how we consume, where we consume, and who we consume from. This is resulting in a protracted shift towards people wanting to buy from and do business with organisations that either have an environmental sustainability policy (ESP), a goal for carbon neutrality, are actively involved in the circular economy, or have greater transparency about their waste cycle.

Consumer behaviour is changing
Consumer sentiment and behaviour is changing and if businesses don’t respond to the needs of their customers then they are often not in business for much longer. With more organisations putting measures in place that govern how and where they invest, there is a stronger emphasis being placed on whether organisations are making investments into climate aware and climate appropriate companies.

Insurable risk is another key consideration in business decision making, and assessing climate risk is already driving behavioural change within the business community. To illustrate the point, in January 2020, the Vice Chairman of BlackRock discussed their plan to avoid investments with high sustainability-related risk as climate concerns are driving a sweeping change in the way the firm invests and manages its $7 trillion in assets.

An opportunity rich environment
With rapid advances in technology, changing consumer behaviour and new demands being placed upon institutional investors, the low emissions sector is clearly the next big thing. If the steel, plastic, aluminium, cement, food and agriculture sectors were each to adopt circular and low carbon practices, not only would 9 billion tonnes of carbon be saved by 2050, a multi-trillion dollar carbontech sector would be unleashed.

In the following video, I share my thoughts on how climate change and technological innovation are catalysing the growth of low emissions industries and greater innovation within the circular economy.

However, while the economy is clearly important, I caution you against thinking that every climate related problem or opportunity must be considered in pure economic terms. After all, it has been that very thinking that has got into the predicament we currently find ourselves. Sometimes doing the right thing should be justification enough.

Thank you for reading my blog : The Martin Haese Report.

If you haven’t already joined my network, you can sign up for free. Please don’t hesitate to recommend my blog to any of your friends, family or colleagues who share our common interests.

With kind regards,

Martin Haese MBA

Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship

A quick lesson about the importance of being agile.

The inter-relationships between creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship are already well documented. With organisations operating in such highly competitive environments, creative thinking has become a crucial way to differentiate in a crowded marketplace.

Whether that manifests itself as the next big idea or as an improvement to an existing process, it almost always starts with creative thinking.

It is well documented that in order for an organisation to embrace creative thinking, management must tolerate failure. The old adage of ‘fail small and succeed big’ has never been more true when it comes to the application of creative thinking within organisations.

Welcoming creative thinking within organisations also requires a degree of agility. A few short years ago, I was asked to keynote a musical gala at Adelaide Town Hall. Prior to going on stage, it was brought to my attention that there were slight issues with the schedule as the next artist was caught in traffic and running late. This is how I helped the emcee get everything back on track before I delivered the keynote speech!

Do Social Entrepreneurs create change?

Welcome to the Part Four of a series of musings on entrepreneurship. 

Do social entrepreneurs create change?

In last month’s blog post of The Martin Haese Report where we discussed Disruption, I described the ways that big companies such as Gillette, Michael Hill Jewellers and Nike have used social causes to disrupt their customer base and target Millennial consumers.

However, it should be noted that Millennials are not the only socially conscious generation and many large companies have been supporting worthwhile causes for decades. 

Some of this support has been overt as in the case of Ronald McDonald House and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter in Australia and some of it slips quietly under the radar like Bunning’s support for school gardens as well as community clubs and other causes through their regular sausage sizzles.

What has changed though, is that conscious consumerism, the idea that organisations have a soul and care about something beyond their bottom line, has been elevated up the list of things that customers consider when making their purchasing decisions.

When organisations use social causes as part of their marketing toolkit, we might see ‘buycotts’ and boycotts at the extremities but for the most part, consumers tend toward the responsible centre and an organisation's support for social causes has become a contributing factor to purchasing decisions rather than a deal maker or breaker. 

Having said that, any organisation that adopts a social cause or even a charity as part of their strategy must do so in an authentic way and become genuine champions for that cause.

The public are, quite rightly, unforgiving of lip service and publicly hostile to hypocrisy.

Social Entrepreneurs

Most people associate the term ‘entrepreneur’ with the world of start-ups, business or commerce, but if we go back to the first blog in this series, Are entrepreneurs born or made? I offered that entrepreneurialism is a mindset or modus operandi and entrepreneurs are people who;

1. Create and/or recognise opportunities

2. Assume the responsibility for the risk involved in new ventures, and

3. Have the managerial skills to gather and deploy the required resources

While these skill sets are particularly well suited to the business world, each is also transferable beyond. 

I would argue that social entrepreneurs require another skill, the gift of persuasion, because while entrepreneurs can promise a financial return on investment, social entrepreneurs often deliver less measurable outcomes.

Social entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes, from NGOs, micro finance, social enterprises, community groups and non-profits through to regular businesses that put social issues at the centre of their offer. In fact, the sector even has a name, as its often referred to as the ‘for purpose sector’. 

NGOs

Oxfam Christmas Catalogue

Oxfam Christmas Catalogue

Non-Government Organisations are some of the most visible socially entrepreneurial organisations and include global names like the Red Cross, Oxfam, Medicine Sans Frontieres, Sea Shepherd, Amnesty International and Greenpeace.

Just like any entrepreneur, each of these organisations has a driving purpose or ‘big idea’ that defines their organisation and their every action.

With regard to NGOs, some might argue that the first item on my list of entrepreneurial attributes, ‘Creates and/or recognises opportunities’ might read ‘recognises existing threats or problems’, but it largely depends on how you define ‘opportunities.’ Personally, I have always been inclined to think of opportunities and threats as two sides of the same coin. 

For example, Oxfam’s goal might be to end world poverty which, at first glance, seems like a problem to be solved. However, one of the ways they have gone about this, is by recognising the opportunity to empower small producers in the third world and providing access to western households (via Oxfam shops and a wholesale arm) for their products.

Micro Finance

When I was the Lord Mayor of Adelaide, I had the pleasure of meeting Professor Muhammad Yunus who shared with me his extraordinary story of social entrepreneurship. He signed a copy of his latest book, ‘A World of Three Zeros’ for me. I have read it twice.

Professor Yunus - Grameen Bank

Professor Yunus - Grameen Bank

Professor Yunus began working on what would become Grameen Bank in 1976 in the wake of a devastating famine that struck Bangladesh in 1974. The idea was simple, a community development bank that could make small, low interest loans to impoverished families without collateral. 

His first loan of $27 (USD) was seed funding for a group of 42 families to make products for sale.

Professor Yunus expanded this micro finance concept to villages near the University of Chittagong and gained the support of the national, Bangladesh Bank. 

In 1983, Professor Yunus’ project was granted the status of an independent bank by the Bangladesh government and despite setbacks from natural disasters, it has grown to 2,600 branches, approximately 9.08 million borrowers and an estimated 97% of the borrowers are women. 

Professor Yunus was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2006. He has written several best-selling books including one called ‘Building Social Business’. I recommend that you read it to further your knowledge on this topic. 

The success of Grameen Bank has inspired and paved the way for similar social enterprises such as Kiva. 

Where Grameen Bank raised funds from donor agencies, the Bangladesh central bank and later by selling bonds, organisations like Kiva raise money through crowdfunding.

Kiva has lent $1.3 billion to 3.3 million entrepreneurs in 78 countries. 

Not for profits

While the term ‘not for profit’ can, for legal and taxation reasons, define various types of organisations, I am using it here to describe charities and social enterprises.

Every charity has been set up for a specific purpose, be it restoring eye sight for children (Sight for All), alleviating poverty (St Vincent de Paul), or funding nurses for breast cancer sufferers (McGrath Foundation) however, the most successful charities use entrepreneurial skills and traits to serve their purpose.

Dr. Peter Pratje - The Orang-utan Project

Dr. Peter Pratje - The Orang-utan Project

For many not for profits, fundraising is an important part of their activities, but it is not always their sole reason for being. Countless organisations need our donations to continue operating, but their goal is behavioural change.

One such organisation is the The Orang-utan Project

The Orang-utan Project does all of the things you might expect of a not for profit dedicated to saving Orang-utans. They call for donations, take bequests and operate tours, provide sanctuary and prepare orang-utans for release into the wild, but all of this is somewhat insignificant to their actual purpose which is to raise consumer awareness of the destructive nature of palm oil production - the very reason they need to do all of those other things. 

It is estimated that 300 football fields of South East Asian rainforest are bulldozed every hour to make way for palm oil plantations – just allow that to sink in for a second.

The resource being gathered and deployed here is not anything as simple as finance or materials, but something much more elusive – the consumer’s conscience.

Given the sheer magnitude of food and consumables that contain palm oil, this is a big issue.  

For profit, social enterprises

The Bread and Butter Project - Tania

The Bread and Butter Project - Tania

For profit, social enterprises often begin as a philanthropic gesture but quickly discover, almost as a bi product, that their purpose and products are profitable

Such was the case with the Bread and Butter Project when Paul Allam convinced his business partner at the Bourke Street Bakery to help him set up Australia’s first social enterprise bakery.

The Bread and Butter Project is a successful, artisanal, wholesale bakery that trains and provides paths to employment for some of Sydney’s most marginalised and underprivileged citizens.

The Bread and Butter Project is able to boast that every one of their graduate bakers, since their launch in 2013, is sustainably employed.  

When your product has a social conscience

I recently listened to an audiobook called “The Magic of Tiny Business: You Don't Have to Go Big to Make a Great Living’ by Sharon Rowe. 

Don’t let the title fool you, there was nothing ‘tiny’ about Sharon’s business, she is the CEO and founder of Eco Bags - the original, reusable shopping bags.

Sharon, a young mother was working at a training company when she founded Eco Bags in 1989. It was a response to two things - the sheer waste of single use shopping bags and her desire to live life and run a business without compromising her lifestyle or the things she believed in.

Her ‘market research’ involved walking the streets of New York and taking note of compliments she received for shopping with reusable string bags.

In her book, she describes how she started by selling reusable Eco Bag shopping bags from a stall at New York’s Earth day celebrations in 1990 and her success there led to more markets before becoming a wholesaler. 

In 2007, reusable shopping bags became subject to the ‘Oprah effect’ when Oprah Winfrey presented Eco Bags to her audience during that year’s Earth Day episode. 

This publicity led to a swift uptake in reusable bags and ultimately bans of single use plastic bags in some states and territories with Eco Bags riding the wave and reporting $16 million USD in annual sales. Coincidently, South Australia, the place that I live in, is also a leader in container deposit legislation and is progressively banning the use of single use plastics for certain applications.  

The ‘tiny’ in the title of her book does not refer to the size of her business but her approach and despite running a global company, she still makes time in her work schedule to swim every day.

The audiobook, written and read by Sharon Rowe, is available to borrow as a free download from the South Australian Public Library Service 

Social entrepreneurs creating employment

Sarah Gun - Founder of GOGO events

At a local level, I enthusiastically mention GOGO Events, an Adelaide based social enterprise that creates and manages magnificent events.

So, what’s the big difference?

GOGO events, founded by Sarah Gun, is an internationally award-winning enterprise that employs marginalised people and provides them with a meaningful path to sustainable and purposeful employment in the hospitality sector.

All of their events, big or small, corporate or community, create a positive social and environmental legacy.

Bravo!

 

Social entrepreneurs and the sharing economy

While organisations such as Airbnb and Uber are often cited as examples of how the sharing economy works, neither of them is, in the strictest sense, a part of the share economy - they are both service model businesses. 

Airbnb hosts rent their properties to guests while passengers pay Uber for their driver to take them somewhere. 

Better examples include Share Waste - an organisation that connects people with excess green waste to people who can convert that green waste into compost or Grow Free an organisation that enables a network of home vegetable gardeners to share excess produce through small carts with other gardeners and the public.

While Share Waste doesn’t say how many contributors they have, their members are well supported online with interactive maps and a smartphone app to connect people while Grow Free has in excess of 170 members carts in its Australian network with a few more springing up in New Zealand and the United States.

5 steps to introduce a socially conscious purpose to your company or brand

  1. Be authentic and select a cause or charity that you and your organisation can genuinely get behind, then make a long term and consistent commitment.
  1. Ensure that the cause is a good fit with your organisation’s values and target market. This extends to making sure that the products you sell are consistent or at the very least, not counterproductive or potentially hypocritical. I’m thinking, in particular, of a large chain of liquor stores in Australia who recently supported Dry July. I am also thinking of recent adverts from the world’s largest cola brand extolling their environmental credentials and hi-lighting their recycling efforts. 
  1. Involve the entire organisation. I know of at least one large company that takes gold coin donations for their casual days. The money is collected and donated to a charity or cause that every employee voted on at the start of the year. Other companies have recruited their customers, giving them an opportunity to decide on which charities they support through a percentage of their purchase.
  1. Understand that supporting a cause is part of your company’s marketing plan then immediately forget it and work generously towards supporting the cause. The general public can easily distinguish between genuine support and when you are just looking for a pat on the back.
  1. Extend your support beyond simply fundraising. Photos of the CEO handing over a novelty size cheque look fantastic on social media but their impact is limited. In my experience, it is better to be involved in many smaller and perhaps more meaningful projects throughout the year than a photo op at the end. That doesn’t mean you can’t promote your involvement, but reliable word of mouth and social media shares are much more valuable and effective than full page newspaper ads.

Social entrepreneurship is evolving and continuing to redefine itself. It is also growing. Cities such as Berlin are fast becoming global hubs for social entrepreneurs. There is also a strong relationship between a city’s start-up scene and the number of social ventures within it. 

While there are a number of similarities shared between commercial entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs, there is one essential difference to consider - social entrepreneurs have the propensity to solve the problems that governments, small business and corporates can’t or won’t … and that makes them increasingly influential within communities.

Thank you for subscribing to my blog : The Martin Haese Report.

If you haven't already joined my network, you can sign up here for free. Please don't hesitate to recommend my blog to any of your friends, family or colleagues who share our common interests.

With kind regards,

Martin Haese MBA

Next blog post: Part Five – Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. What happens when things don’t go to plan?

Disruption

Welcome to the Part Three of a series of musings on Entrepreneurship. 

Disruption

What is disruption?

Welcome to the Martin Haese Report. If you have already read my previous posts about entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, you will have noticed that one word has influenced both - disruption.

For the last decade or so, the word ‘disruption’ has usually been preceded by the word ‘digital’ and many businesses have gone down the path of building their digital footprint with websites, online stores, blogs and dedicated social media teams. 

These platforms are all valuable tools for businesses and even the humble corner shop should, at the very least, consider updating their details with Google. However, each of these digital tools are just that - tools.

I closed out my last post in this series with the statement:

“For many years, the biggest threat to most businesses was competitors with cheaper prices - a relatively easy problem to counter, but over the last decade or so it has been competitors with better ideas.”

Disruption happens when a new idea is enabled by technology.

I cut my teeth in the retail sector and retail has a long history of disruption. From the first chain stores of the Hudson Bay Company in the 1670’s through to mass production made possible by the first industrial revolution, disruption in the retail sector has been ever-present. 

The World's first shopping mall - Southdale Centre, !956

Southdale Centre, opened in 1956, was the world's first shopping mall. Designed by Victor Gruen, the shopping mall significantly disrupted the retail sector.

The advent of the department store in the mid-19th century, vending machines and mail order in the 1880’s and supermarkets, big box stores, credit cards and suburban shopping centres in the mid-19th century were each significant developments resulting in various levels of disruption. This has all happened in an industry that the pundits first pronounced dead in the 1880s when the Sears catalogue was produced. 

In the last quarter century, we have seen a sharp acceleration in the pace of new technology and with it, an explosion of new ideas.

Suddenly, anyone with a computer can open a shop and take orders from around the world, but it will be new and better ideas that determine which ones will be successful or not.

Global Disruption

In my last post I talked briefly about the epic disruption caused by the widespread use of the iPhone and I used it as an example of how it upended the photographic industry in a very short period. 

By enabling access to the internet, smart phones became increasingly indispensable and adding a camera meant that our way of thinking about photographs was always going to change. 

Smart phone technology didn’t happen in isolation - it required big leaps forward in both internet connectivity and wireless technology, but it has disrupted and destroyed many industries and created many new ones.

Happy 40th birthday - Sony Walkman

The Sony Walkman turned 40 on the 1st of July this year and it is important because this unassuming little box changed many lives.

The Sony Walkman

The Sony Walkman turned 40 this year, forever changing the way we listen to music.

The recorded music industry emerged as a disruptor to the sheet music printers at the beginning of the 20th century. Phonograph records had been available since the 1880’s but back then, new technology took a little longer to catch on. 

Recorded music enabled broadcast radio in the 1920s which brought music to the masses and with it came an explosion of artists, record producers, sound engineers, recording studios and companies, record player manufacturers and record stores. 

Many industries emerged from that first idea and the music industry grew apace.

Video killed the radio star … or not?

Video Killed the Radio Star by the Buggles was released in 1979 and the song predicted the demise of records and cassette tapes. It was, unsurprisingly, the first video aired on MTV in 1981.

Coincidentally, the beginning of the disruption of the music industry began in the same year with the release of the Sony Walkman - it was the triumph of an extraordinary idea over an otherwise good one.

The Buggles - Video Killed the Radio Star

The Buggles predicted that the future of music would be visual, in the same year that the Sony Walkman was released.

Up until that point, music wasn’t very portable - at least not in the way it is today.  Radios, record players and cassette decks were getting smaller, but most people still listened to recorded music in their cars or more commonly in their homes. 

Music videos seemed like the next big thing, a logical next step forward. However, music videos weren’t revolutionary as adding visuals didn’t radically change the way people listened to music, only their visual appreciation of it.

The revolutionary development or ‘better idea’ was in fact allowing people to listen to their favourite music anywhere and at any time and the industry continued to grow.

So, where did it all go wrong? 

Even better ideas.

Advances in technology led to digitised music in the form of the compact disc and later digitised music files, stored on your device or on the cloud - streamed, downloaded and endlessly shared.

By making the physical product redundant, the music industry has saved billions of dollars but that in turn has led to the demise of many jobs in the associated industries that supported it.

Some argue that it has also affected the quality of new music - when people paid for records, we had David Bowie - now we’ve got Chris Brown.

Local Disruption

Global disruption is usually easy to identify but what of the small-scale disruption going on around us every day?

Talking to business owners, I have noticed that many are doing it tough while others seem to be doing better, and this is most apparent in the food and beverage industry.

In the last few years we have seen the emergence of a new kind of business owner, one who is both entrepreneurial and curatorial. 

This new retailer has observed a niche in the market and has created and ruthlessly curated their business to that fill that niche.

A tale of two cafes

Not that long ago, successful cafes were much larger and had seats for 80+ people. 

They sold coffee and served a tried and tested menu of focaccia, bruschetta, pizza, pasta, cakes and ice cream - something for everyone.

Patrons would find a table, then go to the counter to order their food, shuffle across to another counter to order their drinks and come back with a table number and wait for their food.

This format worked well for a long time but lately that format has been challenged by a new type of cafe.

New Cafe

A new cafe format has emerged to cater to a new generation of patrons

For starters these new cafes are harder to find. They pop up in the least expected places. They don’t always want or need a mainstreet shopfront and they don’t need to pay inner-city rents because there are plenty of customers and very little competition in otherwise under-serviced suburbs. 

These new cafes are a lot smaller and less likely to be fitted out by a commercial shopfitter - they often have mismatched chairs and tables and the smaller size means they are quieter and more intimate.

Most of these cafes offer a wide selection of vegan and gluten free options because they know that an estimated 12% of Millennials identify as vegetarian or vegan and the percentage of Generation Z is likely to be even higher.

Don’t be surprised if your cup and saucer or knife and fork don’t match - it’s almost as if they’re saying, “who cares about the utensils - we’re all about the food.”

The lessons for traditional retail 

If food and beverage operators are finding niches and exploiting them, why aren’t other sectors of the retail industry?

There is an orthodoxy that every retail business should be heavily data driven like the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sector - an orthodoxy that involves no human curation and puts them into direct competition with the likes of Amazon.

I recently read this from Seth Godin in a blog post about curation:

“Amazon is good at selling everything, but they’re terrible at selling a thing … The platforms (Amazon et al) are built on the idea that the audience plus the algorithm do all the deciding. No curation, no real promotion, simply the system, grinding away. This inevitably leads to pandering, a race to the bottom.”

He goes on to say that, in the past:

“Curators and their curation led to promotion and attention. There was a cost to picking junk, and a benefit to earning trust.”

and it is this trust that builds customer loyalty much more effectively than a rewards card or complicated points scheme. 

You can read the whole post here

It is also entirely possible that many retailers have failed to change with the generational shift in the market. In some cases, the business practices that made them successful and endeared them to the Baby Boomers and Generation X are now their biggest liability with Millennials and Generation Z.

Disrupting your own customer base.

What do Nike, Michael Hill Jewellers and Gillette have in common?

Until recently, they all had a younger target demographic but an older client base - the customers that made them successful were becoming their liability.

When you think of Nike, Nike wants you to think of young, lean and strong sporty types, but their loyal customer base is often the exact opposite.  

Michael Hill was just another jeweller selling expensive baubles to Baby Boomers using the imagery of Generation X.

Gillette is a heritage brand and part of the global Gillette/Schick duopoly for razors, both are under increasing pressure from subscription razor models (another ‘better’ idea)

Millennials are just as rebellious as every preceding generation and wearing the same brand shoes as your dad or the same ruby earrings as your grandmother was never going to wash with them.

Faced with this reality, those companies made concerted efforts to win Millennial customers by deliberately letting go of some of their existing customers.

Nike 

Colin Kaepernick, Quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, began protesting his country’s treatment of minorities in 2016 by kneeling during the national anthem and he continued to do so at every game throughout the 2017 season. 

Many Americans were incensed and Kaepernick was heavily criticised.

Under increasing pressure, Kaepernick opted out of his contact to become a free agent but was not picked up by another team.

While standing up (or kneeling) for what he believes in did not align with any of the other NFL teams brand values, another brand thought Kaepernick was a perfect fit.

In September 2018, Nike launched a campaign to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their “Just Do It” tag line. 

Colin Kaepernick - Nike - Just Do It

Nike chose Colin Kaepernick to disrupt their customer base

The campaign featured Serena Williams, skateboarder Lacey Baker and others but it was the inclusion of Colin Kaepernick that ‘inspired’ some Nike wearers to make YouTube videos of themselves threatening to boycott the brand and burning their Nike branded T-shirts and socks.

It would be easy to think Nike misjudged public sentiment, but I would argue that Nike doesn’t make mistakes like that. It was instead a calculated attempt to distance themselves from people they didn’t want to wear their brand in order to attract people they do want wearing their brand.

The campaign resonated with Millennials and Generation Z and Nike sales and shares soared in the direct aftermath.

Michael Hill Jewellers

Support for marriage equality has been high in western democracies for at least the past decade but especially amongst younger people and inter-racial marriages barely rate a mention.

But still, there was controversy and like many other things that older generations get ‘worked up’ over, most Millennials simply couldn’t understand what the fuss was about.

This sentiment was fertile ground for marketers tasked with differentiating their client from their competitors and in 2015, Michael Hill Jewellers released their stunningly beautiful ‘we’re for love’ campaign.

This two-minute-long advert marked a departure from hackneyed jewellery advertising with their unrealistic portrayal of glamorous women on the arms of handsome men or sparkly product shots. 

This ad shows product but if you blink you will miss it - the focus here was on real people and real love, no matter what form that takes.

I remember bumping into a jeweller after this ad was released and it came up in conversation. He was shocked that they chose ‘such ugly models’ by which I assumed he meant ordinary people.

This ad signaled to younger people (by far and away the largest target market for wedding and engagement rings) that Michael Hill was the destination of choice.

Gillette

There’s nothing trendy about razor blades - at least not since the heyday of Punk Rock in the 1970s and it’s difficult to instill brand loyalty in what amounts to a grudge purchase.

Until recently, the razor blade duopoly had little competition but the subscription models have chipped away at the younger market (older users generally don’t buy their own blades) by removing the hassle of having to remember to buy them, then lining up at a special counter and having to ask for them because they aren’t kept on the shop shelves. 

Earlier this year, Gillette set out to win Millennial hearts and minds with an advert squarely aimed at toxic masculinity with the ad riffs on Gillette’s tagline asking, “is this the best a man can get?” 

The ad caused an immediate backlash from some consumers and again, angry customers posted videos of themselves binning Gillette products on YouTube.

But for many, the ad tapped into the horrific revelations exposed by the #metoo movement and shone a light on other aspects of society that are all too often tolerated or excused. 

Here was a big corporate calling out bad behaviour, no matter the cost of doing so.

It is difficult to gauge the impact on sales, Gillette reported that sales were down 3% on the previous year but without access to historical sales data, we don’t know if 3% down on last year is an improvement in their long-term sales trajectory. 

We do also know that Gillette management reported post campaign sales were in line with pre campaign sales suggesting that Gillette gained as many customers as they lost.

5 ways to become a disruptor.

1. Embrace disruption

When speaking to business owners about disruption, they invariably see it as something they must counter rather than something they should be actively encouraging.

I can guarantee you that your competitors who are growing and thriving, those ‘challenger businesses,’ have a very different view of disruption - they see it as an opportunity. It often helps to cast your mind back to where it all started and think about how you would open your business today, knowing all that you know now.

2.  Think

I recently read about a senior executive who displayed a large framed poster in front of his desk that simply read ‘THINK’.

His reasoning was that we all spend far too much time working in the business rather than working on the business and the poster was a constant reminder to stop occasionally and think about the bigger picture.

When I owned my retail business, I consciously set aside most Fridays to work ‘on’ my business and not ‘in’ it. I credit this discipline as being one of the key reasons why the business was able to achieve size and scale faster than many others.

I often break the process into smaller pieces, concentrate on one aspect of the business and depending on the situation put myself in the customer or employees’ shoes before looking for pain points and opportunities.

3.  Competitor analysis 

Every now and again, someone will ask me for business advice. If it’s an industry I’m unfamiliar with, I will often ask what their competitors are doing and I’m frequently shocked by how many people say they don’t know. 

Getting out and about to see what the market is doing is one of the most important things you can do - If you don’t, you’re running your business in an echo chamber.

4. Educate yourself

You’re already reading my blog so that’s a great start but also consider booking yourself into an industry conference or trade show, take a short course in social media marketing or read books or listen to a business podcast. 

I am a voracious reader and often come across books, biographies, journals and articles that I sense you would benefit from. To provide you with even greater value, I will soon share some of these with you in future posts on the Martin Haese Network. 

You have the entire sum of recorded human knowledge at your fingertips - use your time wisely. 

5. Ask for help

Nobody expects you to have all the answers, so ask for help. 

Your first step is to ask your employees (see The Talent Within: Entrepreneurial Employees) but failing that, customers, colleagues, close friends and family each have different perspectives and they all want to see you succeed. 

Thank you for subscribing to my blog. 

If you haven't already joined my network, you can sign up here for free and please don't hesitate to recommend my blog to any of your friends, family or colleagues who share our common interests.

With kind regards,

Martin Haese MBA

Next blog post: 

Part Four - Social Entrepreneurs - can the world’s problems be fixed by entrepreneurs?