NineMSN: Final thoughts on 2012 and where to in 2013?

In my final syndicate meeting of the CEO Institute this week, our discussion on end of year sentiment was varied. Was 2012 a good year or a tough one? These were the findings. How does it reflect what you experienced? And what does 2013 have in store?

1. For most, 2012 was much tougher than ever before. We trod with caution and worked harder and longer hours. Senior management rolled their sleeves up. Headcount was re-evaluated. Even larger corporations looked at ways to lock down and innovate. Redundancies happened. Productivity was the focus.

2. Business owners and families had to do more with less in an environment that is increasingly unforgiving and challenging – it pays to be on the ball, step back and look at the bigger picture. Those that did have pulled through, those that haven’t may have to sit up and listen or experience the consequences.

3. Flexibility became key. Companies recognising they need to be large enough to survive but small enough to change – a continual challenge for large companies, a benefit of being small.

4. The world has continued to get ‘smaller’ as the search for services is available on our doorstep but from long distances and suppliers with no brand. We continue to find goods and services, cheaper, faster and better from new online, global avenues.

5. Social media became mainstream in 2012. Social activity has re-shaped our behaviour personally and professionally. Grandma’s read bedtime stories on skype to grandchildren on the other side of the world. We research prices before we buy, in store, we look up commentary on hashtags to see what news is trending before it ever makes it to printed media. We tell the world what we are doing in less than 150 characters. In 2012, Australia’s internet audience reached 15.7million.

6. We are increasingly open to disruptive brands and we are seeing power move from large traditional institutions like banks to the innovators and disruptive entrepreneurs whether in retail, banking, or sourcing new services. Consumers are open to change, price conscious and with decreasing brand loyalty.

7. Our digital resume is the way we find out about each other. We Google you before we meet you. We take your LinkedIn profile seriously.

8. The world is changing at such a rate that we must learn to ‘pivot’ our business and thought processes now – and chop and change with the tide. It used to be about focus, perhaps it still is, but modern entrepreneurs don’t go into business for the long term to do ‘one thing’. Start-ups go in for the kill and exit fast. ‘Crowdfunding’ the process of collecting money for your product before it launches is changing the way we do business – a ‘ready customer base’ before you start. Unheard of a few years ago.

9. ‘Full price’ is a dying thing. When did you last pay full price for something? To shop in a retail outlet without sales signs is almost a non-experience. Retail is having its worst season ever.

10. Big Data is the new buzz word for capturing our personal buying patterns. Privacy is dead – the detail of our lives owned by others – frighteningly so. If you had to read every privacy statement that came your way you could be fully employed for the next few months. Re-look at the one you got from Google or Facebook in the last 12 months – did you sign your life away? Most did.

11. Facebook is becoming the new Google. Facebook has your data. It can track what you are doing, what you are buying, who you know, where you visit and your preferences. Worth them tracking? Worth them selling? Watch this space. Facebook knows all about you if you are actively using it.

12. We are increasingly entering into a new age of philanthropy and corporate social responsibility. Consumers want brands that ‘do something good’ other than just provide their core service. Our younger generations want to share valuable experiences that deliver benefits to people over possessions. My teenage kids are deep thinkers but communicate on multi-platforms all at the same time.

How do you feel about the year 2013 – the year of the Water Snake? Some say we will need to move like the snake to dodge our way through our most difficult year yet. Brace for the ride!