Talented business leaders know that businesses need to change

  • Talented business leaders know that businesses need to change
Caroline Williams, Chief Executive, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce

Last month I made the point that Norfolk’s reputation is, and will be, defined by talented business leaders. I also wrote about the virtuous circle of great talent and great businesses attracting more of the same into Norfolk being a dangerous metaphor because going around in circles, no matter how virtuous, was not a recipe for innovation. It’s striking out and going forward that makes businesses grow, develop and diversify.

It’s always been necessary to do that of course; without new products, new markets and indeed new processes, the entire economy slows down and businesses wither. But now, in the 21st century, it goes deeper. Changing, or adapting, what you produce, or how you produce it, may no longer be enough. Now it’s about changing the culture of companies.

At one level the necessary cultural changes are hard wired into the technology. Any business that doesn’t buy into the revolution in technology will be left behind. It’s as brutally simple as that.

But, it won’t be left behind solely in terms of sales and profits. It will fall behind because unless it’s seen to be engaged with technology and actively adopting new ideas and solutions, it will fail to attract those talented business people that businesses, and Norfolk, wants and needs.

On another level there are equally important issues that are directly related to a culture. Young people, the seed-corn for our tomorrows’ talent, now have different views. The company car, the perks, the amount of holiday time - they  may come lower down their expectations from an  employer than wanting to know about the company’s environmental policies, and their views on diversity in the workplace.

Talented business leaders must adapt their thinking to ensure that they are creating the companies that will attract and retain tomorrow’s leaders. That too, is as brutally simple as that.

They need to accept that even the furious pace of today’s technological revolution isn’t the end game; it will carry on, with the younger generation soon grasping and employing technological developments that even the savviest management of today haven't yet imagined.

There will be new markets, and new ways of reaching them. New production techniques and demands for products and services not yet conceived. It’s true that there will be constants, never changing aspects of commerce that the best of the new generations will be receptive in learning from the best of the current leaders who will selflessly impart them, but it’s the ability to recognize the need for change, and the inevitability of it that will move us forward. 

All of that can be achieved only if the future of companies is now recalibrated to see change as a positive, driving force and current managers are equipped with the skills to meet these challenges and make changes.

Implementing cultural change, in all its meanings and implications, will be the hallmark of talented business leadership; the kind of business leadership that will sustain the potential of our county.

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