The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.’ – William Arthur Ward

Study the truly great business performers in retail and other sectors and you see some startlingly simple commonality to their success…

  • A strong focus on the end game
  • Passionate engaged cultures (the internal brand)
  • A fundamental belief
  • Speed to market
  • Agility in decision making
  • Customer centricity at the heart of their business, not just in the implementation
  • Investment in continuously listening and improving while focusing with laser-like intensity on all the ‘basics’ of their business

Building great independent systems and frameworks across all operational processes of a retail ecosystem are the foundation of every great and ‘fit’ company. Their profit is always substantially higher than those of companies which don’t reinvest in themselves to align strategy and processes to ensure market fitness.

Conversely, many less successful businesses tend to blame external factors.

As Amazon launches in the Australian market in 2018, how many media statements will we see in 2018 and beyond with retailers blaming Amazon’s entry or strategy for their downfall? Yes it will be disruptive but there is no doubt that many of these businesses may be attempting to cover up internal business issues that would have impacted the company’s future regardless of Amazon’s entry.

Have you ever noticed how most events that impact on our business fitness happen within our control and not the other way around?

In fact many of the global and domestic retail operations delivering exceptional results have tended to take advantage of a downturn by tailoring their message and offer and focusing on all items within their control. Focusing on getting fit for business and then fit for growth rather than blame the ‘downturn’ or ‘disruption’.

Here the great parallels between the way we conduct business and the functioning of an elite sports team play a part. For example, how many times do we see sportspeople blame the referee for a poor decision which is perceived to have cost the game, as in businesses, some of the less fit have tended to blame economic circumstances – such as the global financial crisis – on their unfit business performance and failing attempts at building a strong multi-channel ecosystem.

How we deal with the “in the moment” situations, while positioning ourselves for the inevitable change in the economic cycle is key to our business fitness. We know that only the truly focused businesses play the game as full on participants, knowing that winning is within their power and is the ultimate goal.

Amazon will certainly disrupt the status quo, but it’s also an exciting time for innovation and growth for the Australian retail sector. We are currently working with a series of clients on their strategies for living alongside Amazon, bringing in insights from our international partners from many countries around the world who have clients several years into this journey. It may seem daunting, but Amazon’s entry is certainly not the apocalypse.

If you’re considering your ‘living alongside Amazon’ approach, don’t blame the referee. Just remember the importance of having:

– A highly developed game plan suitable for YOUR unique business: what are your 3-5 year goals for the business? Ignore what others are doing, look at your internal capabilities, ethos and goals and define them in a strategic game plan.

– Skillful and committed players – now is the time to increase focus on training, measuring and lifting the bar.

– Be brilliant in the basics of delivering great value through outstanding customer service. This will bring significant value in the form of customer loyalty in the long term.

– Invest in sound counsel to provide clarity and a challenging perspective.

– Stay true to what you are great at and let the other “opportunities” pass on by. We see many retailers time and time again get starstruck by new digital technologies, but is it truly worth the investment?

– Keep your business offer innovative and fresh if you want to motivate new customers to do business with you.

Never forget, most events that impact our business happen within our control and not the other way around. ‘Blaming the referee’ is not the language of fit businesses. Focus on what you can control.

We are excited to be hosting several of our international partners from Ebeltoft Group in Sydney this week, who will be sharing unique insights with us on the impact of Amazon from their respective countries. We look forward to sharing these learnings with our clients and community in the coming weeks.

First published on Inside Retail on April 5th 2017