5 Business Consulting Trends for the New Decade
January 27, 2020
By Lisë Stewart
Over the past 10 years, I have noticed a number of interesting trends in business consulting. One of these trends is the reluctance of many organizations to try to plan any further than the next two to three years. “Things are so unpredictable, things are changing so quickly–how can we plan any further?” is a commonly asked question. Change happens so rapidly these days that it can seem daunting to even try and cast our minds forward. However, there are a number of key trends that were predicted a few years ago that are certainly holding true and will, no doubt, impact our work as either business advisors or business owners. Here are a handful worth highlighting:
- The rate of turnover in leadership and ownership positions in privately held businesses is staggering. Due to Baby Boomers’ coming of age, many business owners are finally stepping away from the businesses they have nurtured for years, if not decades. Recent studies confirm that not only will almost 50% of all owners and leaders leave their current positions in the next five to seven years, perhaps more alarmingly, many businesses will struggle to successfully weather those transitions. This presents significant challenges for potential successors, employees, customers and the advisors who serve them. It will be critical to make sure that all businesses have a viable succession and transition plan, along with the time to implement it. Remember, it usually takes three to five years to develop and execute an effective succession strategy.
- Women are taking over businesses at an unprecedented rate. Never before have we seen such a swift and growing number of women moving into leadership and ownership positions. This is a wonderful opportunity for them to bring new talents and unique leadership attributes to the work environment, as well as for business leaders and professional advisors to hone their skills in gender differences in management and communication.
- The intergenerational gap between our oldest employees (Baby Boomers) and our youngest employees (Gen Z), is creating both opportunities and significant barriers for building an effective organizational culture. These two generations view the world, communicate, contribute and learn very differently. Savvy business owners will need to learn about these distinct differences and then develop methods for helping both generations to continue to add value, passion and innovation to the workplace.
- American businesses must become both tech and trend savvy if we are to compete on a local basis and in the international arena. Technology is an ever-growing entity, one that changes daily, requiring unwavering attention and willingness to learn and adapt. Companies that will survive and grow are those that can stay abreast of technological advancements and tech-related risks, such as cyber security. In addition, these same advancements in technology—particularly our interconnectedness through social media—means that trend cycles and the resulting demands and expectations of customers are changing at an unprecedented rate. Companies must “right-size” their technology and pay attention to local and global trends. Inspiration, innovation, flexibility and adaptability are the keys to survival, and companies must be willing to work more proactively, efficiently and cost effectively to grow and thrive in this highly competitive world.
- At a time when politicians are constantly celebrating low unemployment, many businesses are truly struggling to find skilled employees to meet their organizations’ needs. Over the past 20 years, many educational programs at both the high school and college levels have been unable to provide the programs necessary to train the next generation of skilled workers for the jobs of the future. Many teenagers and young adults are leaving school without gaining the skills necessary to gain meaningful employment. This skills gap is causing, and will continue to cause, a painful barrier to success and growth for many of our nation’s companies, particularly in manufacturing, science and technology and health care.
So, what can we learn from and do with these trends? One word: Plan! Business owners must be prepared to learn more about how to help leaders transition into new roles, help women to move successfully into leadership and ownership positions, understand the intergenerational differences that can divide a workplace, and be prepared to guide our key employees toward training opportunities to build a skilled and innovative workforce. This requires an investment in continued education, expansion of our partnerships and networks, and a focus on helping our clients identify those strategic trends that will impact their businesses through this decade and beyond.