The rules for sustained business success haven’t changed in more than a hundred years.
Earlier this year, at a conference, I was chatting with a (much younger) consultant from another firm and I ventured a comment on the possibilities provided by emerging digital technologies. He looked at me with mild disdain as if to say
“What could you – a middle-aged man (true) who couldn’t get out of a bean bag chair if he sat in one (true), wouldn’t know one end of Shoreditch from the other (also true) and chooses to dress in suit, tie and black Oxfords (true again) – possibly know about digital?”
Flawed inductive reasoning on his part – let’s call the final score from our conversation 3-1 – but increasingly prevalent. And I spent the remainder of the day chuntering to anyone who would listen about unlearnt lessons from the dot.com era.
Still, this encounter did lead me to start questioning whether I needed to update my business wardrobe in some way to create a more digital first impression. The full digital uniform encompasses both geek chic (jeans and t-shirt because I don’t have anything else) and la mode du marketing (jeans and t-shirt because I don’t want to be seen as a suit). Neither really ‘me’ – fine for the weekend, but I would feel distinctly underdressed in a client meeting. Slightly less extreme is the dress-like-an-architect option to underscore modernism combined with creativity – white or pale open-necked shirt, beige chinos and moccasins. But for that look to work it needs understated colours and I have never grown out of a child-like love of bright, prime colours.
Fortunately, as is so often the case, help came in long-remembered words from my mother, who combined early adoption of consumer technology with a strongly traditional view of human behaviour. And in the context of the latter, one of her maxims was that you could always tell a gentleman by his watch and his shoes – attention to the finishing touches was all important.
Now the first part of following maternal wisdom for establishing my digiman credentials was easy: Apple Watch, job done. But I was struggling with the second part until I came across Barker’s Creative Collection and the shoes (pictured above) in particular. Of course Brogue shoes have been around for a long time (Wikipedia suggests since the beginning of the 19th century) and what I like about this collection is that it realises a traditional concept in new and exciting ways.
Similarly, the rules for sustained business success are the same now as they were a hundred years ago – you need to create value for customers by providing financial benefits:
- a better price
- indirect savings – savings on other costs
Or deliver functional benefits in the form of:
- a better quality product
- greater convenience
- a faster speed of response
- a wider choice
Or, tend to emotional needs by providing:
- greater security and lower risk
- a feel-good factor
All of which needs to be done in parallel with creating value for employees, partners and suppliers (in similar forms to the above) and in such a way that there is profit for shareholders – a complicated balancing act but one that has been in existence since the birth of the joint-stock company.
While these general principles remain the same, how specifically they are achieved advances with every iteration of invention and innovation. And the emergence of new digital solutions – developments in robotic automation, artificial intelligence and analytics techniques, cloud-based solutions, social collaboration tools and the proliferation of new data sources – creates a raft of vibrant possibilities for how traditional business goals can be achieved.
Classical concept, exciting realisation – what better metaphor for that could there be than a pair of tri-tone blue suede brogues? Anyway that is my excuse and I am sticking to it!
What do you think? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.