Don't see the rainbow in your rearview mirror
"Everything in the rear-view" is how [Don Cheadle] describes Hollywood's business plan, which seems to entail ordering more of what worked last year, so a glut turns up three years too late.
- Robbie Collin, April 17, 2016, The Telegraph
The wide-ranging article (shared by my personal media curator) was mostly focused on the Miles Davis biopic starring, directed and produced by Cheadle. What’s interesting about this comment for readers of this blog is how relevant it is to other business sectors beyond the Hollywood Hills.
This phenomenon, described by Cheadle, can be observed in every business sector. A unique success is followed by a time-lapsed “pile on”; but the time between planning and execution means that often the original idea is no longer as relevant, so that the copy-cat businesses are never as successful.
As I mentioned in my last blog, I am involved in annual business planning for various clients at the moment. Regular readers will know that I am a huge advocate of using relevant, targeted data to make informed business decisions. In my experience, you have to understand where you have been, and internalize your successes and failures, in order to chart the course forward. But you also have to have an idea of where you want your business to go and of the forces driving change.
The challenge is: how to stay ahead of what customers (and prospects) want? How can we keep building on the aspects of our business that are working for us (and, obviously, our customers), while introducing new approaches and initiatives that keep our operations relevant?
Canadian hockey legend Wayne Gretzky famously said:
“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”
The most successful businesses are not successful by accident. They have a plan and a vision. They know who their customers are, what they want to offer them and why it will be relevant. They also have an understanding of relevant, trending topics, our cultural Zeitgeist and can use that insight to influence the direction of their business planning. For me, that’s the “secret sauce” – a mixture of solid business data and a clear sense of your offering in the marketplace, combined with an understanding of consumer preferences and the cultural forces shaping society.
While my “secret sauce” recipe sounds simple, in reality, if it were easy to make, everyone would be doing it. Obviously, there are gifted visionaries that understand where the market is going like Gretzky. We’ve talked about Henry Ford in this blog before. Sometimes, it can take decades for the public to catch up to your vision because you are so far ahead of the trend, as was the case with Steve Jobs.
So how can you know where the puck is going to be? One direction to consider: the way our communities are being subdivided into interest groups seeking acceptance, recognition and engagement on their terms. We are, in my opinion, moving away from having a broad national or regional identity.
The transgendered community is one particular group that has been catapulted into the public eye and is now having a significant impact on Canadian society, and will also be making a mark on Canadian businesses. This past June, the Ontario government announced that it would be introducing a third option for people who do not identify as male or female on its provincial drivers’ licences. You will now have the option of choosing “M”, “F” or “X”. This is a significant win for the trans and non-binary gendered people’s community. It will also require a response from businesses. We believe that other provinces will follow suit and require similar attention. The federal government is also reviewing how to meet this challenge with documents such as passports, census forms and more. This type of cultural shift can be viewed in a similar way as efforts to make public spaces accessible for those with mobility issues, or requirements around bilingualism both federally and officially in some provinces.
So our advice for today:
We recommend our forward-looking clients consider how they can update and modernize their processes, policies and procedures. We want our clients to be proactive and address the new gender classifications on official documents in advance of any prescriptive legislation. All-In wants our clients to be ahead of the curve, not catching up.
We also suggest our clients go beyond the necessary technical, tactical accommodations, such as appropriate washrooms and data fields, and thoughtfully create safe, welcoming spaces for their employees and customers who identify as transgendered. This should be a strategic directive within every business.
Looking more broadly at the LGBTQ+ community (also referred to as the Rainbow Community), we believe there is, here and now, significant opportunity for Canadian businesses. The LGBTQ+ community is a powerful consumer group with significant societal influence with greater buying power than any ethnic or other identifiable market segment in Canada. Younger Canadians, in contrast to previous generations, are increasingly likely to identify with this group. As Crown Corporations and operators plan for the gaming industry’s continued sustainability, the intensifying importance of this group cannot be ignored.
Don’t find yourself looking in the rear-view mirror and wishing you had been proactive about adapting to the new cultural (and soon to be legal) requirements. Start thinking about this need for your business in your annual planning. Take the lead and make inclusivity a platform for your business now.