The Future of Business: Wrap-up & Reflection

Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending the Future of Business event hosted by Firefly. Potentia was a key sponsor of the event and we were proud to support an event that really hit home around where business was heading and where it is (or should be) right now. Given it was the first event of its kind, I was particularly excited by the proposition of the ‘TED’ style talk sessions Anthony Baxter (CEO of Firefly) had described to me prior.

The premise of the day was set with Richard Bell, CEO of Unfiltered, laying out the reality of business in 2017 and how many businesses are not ready for the ‘digital wave’. He highlighted a recent survey carried out by PwC which indicated more than 40% of all current jobs will be made redundant with the adoption of AI and machine learning within the next 7 years (with customer service and transportation roles at most risk). A scary thought, but one Richard was quick to note that we needn’t be scared of - instead businesses need to understand that change is coming, fast, and they need to be ready.

Richard himself chatted through his life experiences in a ‘live interview’ style of questioning and it was incredible to hear how someone so young (he’s 28) has been able to achieve so much. His key takeaway was to always ensure you think of growth in business in an ‘abundant manner’, always taking the calculated risk to ensure you remain ahead of the curve rather than sitting counting the pennies.

Having set the tone, the crowd was clearly engaged with what information would be shared throughout the day. John Ball chatted through where Google were making the biggest plays in machine learning and AI spaces and highlighted the ease in which smaller businesses can adopt some of their solutions to help with growth in the digital era.

Anthony Baxter then came on to talk through the Firefly story, sharing how they went from $100 and a bedroom office to a thriving $2m business in less than 3 years. His direct and insightful nature of speaking certainly engaged the audience further as he shared some top tips for successful digital marketing strategies, including partnering with a proven agency like Firefly.

After a light lunch and an opportunity for people to network briefly (I had the opportunity to chat with a couple of small business owners who were very keen to hear about how they could propel growth through digital and marketing strategy) we heard from Anna Campbell, Chief People Officer from The Warehouse Group. Whereas much of the morning had been focused around the latest and greatest in tech the afternoon was clearly dedicated to the people side of business and how, despite the rise in AI, people will always be the determining factor to success. Anna started off by highlighting that with the imminent arrival of Amazon into NZ smaller kiwi business (along with the giants) need to be ready for what is coming, and that it was people and the ‘experience for the customer’ that would determine whether retail business would survive.

With people at the heart of every decision being the key take away from Anna’s presentation it was the perfect introduction into what I felt was the most insightful talk of the day from Matt Johns from Humankind.

Humankind, a business built on the premise of building sustainable workplaces, clearly found a gap in the current market. Matt began his talk highlighting that for a memorable and proven CX (Customer Experience), you need to ensure your have an astounding ‘EX’ or Employee Experience. Many businesses forget that the employee is the greatest asset and that unnecessary red tape and processes internally essentially lead to a poor customer experience and a poorer bottom line. Matt, who clearly knew how to engage an audience, was really hard hitting on the lack of understanding of the EX in NZ and implored the audience to ensure that they take away at least one piece of information to implement into their business. I took comfort in knowing that at Potentia the EX is very strong, however I certainly felt there were some key things that could assist in us being even better.

The day wrapped up with a panel style interview with three very differing success stories. Josef Rakich (#1 fitness trainer globally), Casey Eden (CEO, Neighbourly) & Cate Cameron (GM, 4 Seasons) all shared their vision for success. What resonated with me most was the importance of social media in today's world and how many businesses are not across this yet. Following the completion of the speakers the crowd were certainly ready to get into the networking part of the evening!

Heading away after a few drinks and the opportunity to speak with a couple of the speakers along with other business owners, some of the key takeaways for me were:

  • Less than 20% of businesses have a plan for the digital wave that is coming
  • Generation Z want to be apart of something and not just ‘work for the man’, but almost no businesses are ready for this generation of employees
  • Rule your calendar not the reverse - a key challenge for many business owners
  • Treat employee experience like customer experience

It was a great opportunity for me and Potentia to be part of a very topical and ongoing discussion around business moving into the world of AI. I had the opportunity to chat to a variety of business owners and managers who were intrigued and buoyed by some of the takeaways from the event. Our expertise in helping businesses take on the digital challenge was certainly relevant at this event and we look forward to partnering up with Firefly again for the next event in the Future of Business series as it was clearly the start of something exciting!