Nigel’s crystal ball for 2023 and beyond

Nigel Toplis and his friend Tony offer their thoughts on what business may look like in the future

Nigel’s crystal ball for 2023 and beyond

I have spent years debating change and the effect of change, not just in business but also in our personal lives. My friend Tony Kenton is what I would call a ‘strategic business thinker’. He is a good guy to have on your side during a crisis and a better one to help ensure you don’t suffer that crisis in the first place.

In a recent chat between ‘two grumpy old men’, I suggested that Tony should write down his vision for the future and include a few tips about what business might look like in seven to 10 years’ time. I then thought I would do the same and it seems as though we both have a very similar outlook.

So, having looked into my crystal ball, here are my thoughts regarding the remainder of the decade. What will 2023 and beyond actually look like? Firstly, the whole concept of work has changed, and will continue to change indefinitely. Pre-pandemic, and for decades before that, most people understood what a ‘working week’ referred to.

Although we had experienced some massaging of the typical 40-hour week – due to the rise and popularity of ‘flexi hours’ – we all had a general understanding of how work operated.

We may have accommodated the novelty of some people ‘working from home’ but in the majority of cases, the ‘working week’ usually consisted of most people working in an office or shop or factory environment for between 35 and 37 ½ hours each week.

Fast forward to post-pandemic and things have changed dramatically. Home working, social media, globalisation and ever evolving technology are changing everyone’s concept of what work currently looks like.

And these sweeping changes will gather pace over the next few years, thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI), automated marketing, artificial personal assistants, robotics and nano-bots.

According to my friend Tony, green issues will play a major part in a changing world, affecting the cost of power, food sustainability and climate change. He says the way we do things further down the track, will be almost unrecognisable to what we see today – in virtually every aspect of life.

He predicts an evolution in health care, a revolution in electric and autonomous transport, along with major changes in agriculture, retail, manufacturing and travel. I have always welcomed change. I have always believed that change can inspire greater creativity, leading to new and better ways of doing things.

Human nature, however, is to be wary of change and some people may even try to resist it. But, frankly, this is futile and impossible. If you harness change and ride its waves, you will be one of the first to benefit and prosper from it.

In short, ‘change = opportunity’. So what should businesses be preparing for in 2030? And what will they be selling? I believe that most change does not mean substituting one thing for another, but rather one thing complementing something else – an expansion, rather than a straight swap.

Some things, such as vinyl records, will become more niche, while other items will be phased out over time. An example of this may be the prospect of diesel no longer being the main form of fuelling a vehicle. But these things may never actually die out completely.

Regarding business in 2030, here are some tips from a couple of grumpy old men:

1: Think value and margin. Sell something with a high enough margin to ensure long-term financial security but which also adds value to your customers, so they continue to return.

2: John Maynard Keynes, an economist during the first half of the 20th century, always believed that the optimum situation for a business was to enjoy ‘restricted supply and high demand’.

3: Be unique and as individual as possible. Try to make it difficult for others to replicate what you do. Niche does not necessarily mean small, because it can also equate to being hugely profitable.

4: Be visible. Working from home is not ideal for ‘real businesses,’ so run yours from a location where you can meet and greet customers.

5: Don’t be a supplier. Be a partner. Use your intellect, experience and knowledge to work with customers rather than them being part of your team. Choose to be either a commodity player or a supplier of added value. Be the first, and be easily replaced by a cheaper alternative, but build a relationship and become ingrained into a customer’s psyche.

6: Give your customers business models and solutions, not products or services. Relentlessly demonstrate the value you could bring to them.

7: Mind the gap. Your job is to fill the gap that your customers can’t or refuse to do for themselves.

8: Relationships remain vitally important. Customer intimacy will still be critical. Remember, people pay more for what you know rather than what you do. Intellect remains absolutely essential.

9: Remove all examples of ‘hassle’ from your customer’s day-to-day life. It’s your job to take ‘hassle’ away from your customer and is the first step towards forming a trusted relationship.

10: Care. Always care about your customer, your staff, your suppliers, your planet, your wellbeing and your family. Because today’s society requires care and tomorrow’s society will demand it.

We are becoming more holistic, where the ‘whole’ is more important than the individual segments. Simple business efficiency, coupled with indifference, will not be enough. Customers will expect and demand more humanity as the world evolves. Finally, take inspiration from a poster Tony shared with me, which reads: ‘There are two rules for success. One: Never reveal everything you know. Two …..’

Nigel Toplis
Nigel Toplis