Endless Capital Chasing Limited Opportunities

A phone call from a longstanding friend, who has recently returned from China to Dubai, full of great ideas to provide the mass affluent Gulf buyers with a digital portal to purchase  luxury retail goods at hugely discounted prices, reminded me that today’s challenge for most entrepreneurs is not access to capital rather it is access to great ideas. Travel, observation, ingenuity and self-confidence are the keys to profitable growth. Yet so often entrepreneurs and particularly corporate executives self-limit their own potential.

1. Short-sighted artificial travel bans are randomly applied to rescue management failure or excess (Barclays). Restricting travel, restricts learning opportunities, meeting new sources of innovation and creating new powerful relationships that will positively impact the firm’s productivity, image, growth and ultimately, profit.

2. We are so in love with our methodology and the beliefs that have defined our past, we fail to observe the changes that are affecting our futures (shifting demographics, technological advancement, wealth transfer, customer buying preference and so on). Failure to observe is largely a management failure in most organisations, to hold people to account firstly, for generating new ideas and secondly, applying that creativity (innovation) in the workplace.

3. We overly hold our brightest and best people to account for compliance with endless policies and procedures that stifle creativity, in the name of increased “security” (solvency etc) and minimising risk to the consumer (banks, financial services, insurance, farming etc.). Precisely at the point when technology is accelerating our lives and competition has never been more intense, demanding that we find  new ways to compete, new ways to attract new customers and new, relevant value for our best customers. Indeed many firms’ incentive compensation systems disproportionately reward those, who comply rather than those, who demonstrate high levels of ingenuity.

4. “Self-confidence” largely comes from acquiring the skills and behaviours needed to profitably grow a business. “Experience” is the culmination (the victories and defeats) of applying those skills and behaviours to particular growth initiatives. We don’t grow and become more experienced without trying and in many cases, failing, at first. Economies, governments, industry sectors and corporate organisations, who prioritise investment in and incentivise their people to acquire new skills and behaviours without a fear of failure are more often than not the ones today creating the most impressive growth opportunities (US, China, UK, Germany, pharma, healthcare, hospitality, technology and so forth). That isn’t so difficult to work out unless you choose to ignore the facts.

Most businesses with solid business goals can attract capital. What they lack are sufficient great ideas. When the top management of those firms shoot themselves in the foot, it is time for their Board and significant shareholders to speak up and hold them to account.

© James Berkeley 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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