As more household names disappear from our High Streets on a seemingly weekly basis, it is time for that sector to start basing their strategies in reality and not in some fantasy world which doesn’t exist or in some bygone day which is not returning.
During 2012, I saw a sharp increase in organisations from one particular sector coming to me for advice and support in developing new strategies to carry them safely into the future. These organisations were seeing their world changing and historic certainties had become present day doubts almost overnight. Their world was changing and their strategies needed to reflect that fact if they were to have a safe, healthy future.
The sector I refer to is the Third Sector, that area made up of charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises although the description of a sector facing a new world of uncertainty after decades of security could as easily fit the High Street.
The key challenge, among many, faced by the Third Sector organisations that came to me was that of reduced funding. Government and local authorities have drastically cut what funding they have available for the sector while other funders have found resources limited by a range of issues brought about by the ongoing downturn in local, national and international economies.
In order to continue with levels of service, care, development and intervention provided during the last decade, these organisations are facing a stark choice; diversify your income streams or shrink and possibly die.
Of course, I have come across organisations unwilling to change. Prepared to cross their fingers and hope the next funding bid is successful rather than plan for life in their new reality.
The parallels with the High Street are uncanny. We see a minority of businesses adapting to changing consumer habits and tighter consumer budgets while others close their eyes, cross their fingers and plan for a world where consumer habits are unaffected by the internet age and disposable income has been unaffected by the economic crisis.
The strategies of these companies are based in fantasy, a place in which no successful strategy will ever be based. Good strategy is of the real world. It is, of course, informed by the past but it is not dictated to by history. The place a good strategy is taking you is the future and a better future at that.
Next time a High Street chain closes and blames consumers for shopping on-line; instead of blame they should ask themselves if they were aware habits had changed why their strategy had not reflected this reality. And, if they were not aware, why not?
The Third Sector is grasping the fact that the world is a changed place from even five years ago. The High Street chains need to do the same, and quickly, before more household names go the way of Jessops, HMV, Comet, Blockbuster and far too many others.
© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited, January 2013