Business in 2024

There’s a few stand out business trends dominating 2024 already. Now there’s no crystal ball to look into the future but I can’t see these trends slowing down anytime soon. With the downturn economic situation looming and costs of goods and services increasing, businesses are becoming savvy in their spending and searching for efficiencies left right and centre. The four big ones are tech, the environment, our customers expectations, and staff.

 

I am old enough to remember a time when there was no email, so for me AI is absolute magic!. As a small business, I was a bit reluctant to start using AI in the business, I thought we could do everything ourselves, but using AI is saving us time and money. We have used AI mainly in our marketing activities, for instance Canva’s Magic Write, Swell AI and DeScript (video editor) have all saved us time and money. I am seeing so many product based businesses introducing tech to handle all customer interactions and management.

 

 

The next thing I want to talk about is the environment and small business. I don’t know about you, we’ve got an office. Our office rubbish collection is just one big thing. There’s no opportunity to recycle. So if we want to recycle, we’ve got to do that separately.  We’ve got no control over our energy because we’re in multi offices, but they’re the sort of things that I think are really important. What we do have control over as a small business is our suppliers. It’s what we do on the daily about how we’re looking after the environment ourselves as a team. Being conscious of our environment is something that is becoming more and more important to our customers as well. And I’m really noticing on the mortgage broking side of my business, more and more people are asking for ethical, sustainable businesses to actually borrow money from, and that’s becoming a big consideration.

 

The next one is our customer’s expectations. I don’t know if you know this, but L’Oreal can match your foundation to your exact skin tone.  Nike will personalize sneakers for you, and they’re not that expensive!!  It’s really interesting what large organisations are doing to personalise an experience. Now, as small businesses, one of the things that we really do pride ourselves on is the ability to offer that personalised experience, but as our small business grows, things become less and less personalised. So how do you maintain that customer expectation while simultaneously being able to deliver at scale?

Back to AI!!

This works very successfully for chat, and for giving people a seamless experience. As customers go from one department or one part of your site to another, your branding, your look, your tone of voice, your communication with the customer is all the same. There is an expectation particularly if you’re in a product based business to be always on, to be always accessible and to be really fast with delivery. So we need to work out a way to meet this expectation in our business or bespoke a fabulous reason not to!

 

Data security should be VERY high on your list of important business functions. If you are aware of all the data hacks that we’ve had over the last 12 months, make sure you have systems in place to make sure that it’s encrypted and protected. And if you don’t, I would highly recommend having an IT specialist you work with regularly if this is not your field.

 

Our people in business are so important, and as I’m in Melbourne and Melbourne based businesses, we were really impacted by COVID, and that changed how we work. A lot of the sort of mid to large firms are really dragging people back into the office at the moment. But I think that there’s also a remaining expectation from our staff that there is flexibility. That needs to be discussed because it needs to work for you as the business owner and them as the staff.  I am a face to face  person. I like having my people around me. I don’t work well in situations where everyone’s isolated because it means that we can’t have quick solution discussion when something comes up. The nature of my business is that something always comes up. That doesn’t mean, however, that I haven’t got arrangements in place where people can work from home and make it as comfortable for them as possible. In my organisation people have different roles to play. It’s a difficult balance sometimes, but it’s a balance that is worth having open and honest discussions with your staff, your needs, your business needs, their needs.

 

Creating an environment of continuous learning and continuous growth in small businesses,  it’s not always possible to have someone with you forever. I have a tendency to employ people that are younger than me, and they’ve got their own career trajectory, and that probably isn’t staying working with me for 40 years. Being conscious of their timeline and their ambition and creating an environment of continuous learning and improvement, is a challenge to balance! It is worth it!

 

So those four things that I’m looking out for are tech and the growth of AI and how I can use it to save time and money in my business.  I’m looking at  very much trying to do more for the environment and  particularly on the small scale of owning my own business and not having some controls, but being able to control other things like choice of supplier, manually recycling, making sure that we’re using our resources responsibly.  We’re looking after our customers and personalizing as much as we possibly can that experience and also really very conscious around data and data protection  and looking after our people being flexible, having open communication and creating an environment of constant learning so that the business and our people can grow together.

Contact Phoebe

Phoebe is available for interviews, guest appearances, article commentary, and talks on a range of topics relating to property, mortgage broking, and personal finance (particularly for women!).