Making it all happen

Agility, being tech-savvy and creating a work-life balance are musts in the business world of 2012 and beyond

An entrepreneur in these turbulent economic times may well wonder if a course on juggling would be helpful. Recent articles published by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA) highlight some of the requirements needed to stay in business these days—requirements that can create a huge amount of stress. They included: Agility in business is a must for survival, dealing with technology is imperative and a balance between work and life is necessary.

First let’s look at the idea of applying the word agility to business. In my old dictionary, the definition for agility basically applied the word to people and animals. Now it is being applied to the personality, spirit or dominant philosophy of a business. The gurus that define the business climate through studying and surveying business managers are saying change, change, change is what modern entrepreneurs are facing. Words like “quickly” and “rapidly” define how changes must be made. Management must intelligently identify what changes are needed and then figure out how to make the necessary changes.

For example, I’ll quote from the August issue of  CAMagazine: “The global population is projected to grow from 6.9 billion in 2010 to 7.6 billion in 2020, yet the working-age population is expected to decline in many countries. In Europe and Japan, 2010 marked the first time more workers retired than joined the workforce. By the end of this decade, other large economies such as Canada, Russia, South Korea and China will also have more people at retirement age than are entering the workforce. By 2030, the labour gap will have surged from 200,000 in 2010 to 8.3 million.”

The article goes on to explain that a  “demographic divide will soon arise between countries with younger skilled workers and those that face an aging, shrinking workforce. The war for talent will become increasingly acute in certain sectors, especially areas requiring high skill levels and more education. Desperate for workers, many companies will become more accepting of diverse employees and non-traditional relationships with them.  Companies operating in aging societies must craft methods of re-engaging the experienced base of talent. Employers may find they no longer define the workplace: as technology enables a variety of flexible working arrangements, employees’ priorities and preferences will dictate what the future workplace looks like. Companies that fail to respond to this change will fail to attract, retain or develop talent effectively.”

Scary as this reality appears, successful business leaders are going to have major problems getting workers and will have to learn to be agile to get the necessary work done in innovative ways that were once considered untraditional.

Secondly, technology is moving at such a fast pace one can hardly imagine what is coming out next. A recent CICA newsletter contained a word of warning for public accountants: “While technology has made life easier in many ways, it has also brought with it the challenges of constant interruption, distractions, and unrealistic expectations for an immediate response. Technology has diminished the boundary between work and home life, so it becomes even easier to take work home. Deadlines and heavy workloads often pull accounting professionals into leading unbalanced lives. Such lives have scant time for leisure, activities with family and friends, and everything else that brings joy and revitalization.”

The same holds true for entrepreneurs. Changes are necessary to utilize the benefits of technology but to do so intelligently is a major challenge.

Thirdly, the 2011 RBC Small Business Survey conducted by RBC and Ipsos Reid that was highlighted in the CICA Research Monitor Newsletter of November 30, 2011, stated that one of the top three challenges business owners say they will face over the next year is “work-life balance issues, like working long hours.” In fact, 35 per cent of the online survey of 1,400 entrepreneurs, who were either self-employed or owned their own small business, responded this way. Did you notice how the CICA warning to accountants quoted earlier dealt with this issue as well? So, in the same newsletter, some suggestions on dealing with keeping balanced were offered. They are as follows:

  • Make a commitment to wellness. This includes developing habits of healthful eating, getting enough sleep, and regular down time.
  • Learn stress management techniques—physical exercise has helped many.
  • Set realistic expectations of yourself and others.
  • Let go of perfectionism—for some tasks, good enough is enough.
  • Establish clear boundaries between work and personal time.
  • Say no to unreasonable requests, and offer reasonable alternatives.
  • Manage expectations with senior partners, colleagues and clients, and negotiate workable deadlines and trade-offs.
  • Make technology work for you, including knowing when to turn it off.
  • Build in daily buffer time for reflection, planning and prioritizing.

Entrepreneurship is not for the weak or lazy. It is demanding, but can be satisfying as well. It appears only the agile (perhaps those good at juggling), the strong and the determined will be successful in the decades ahead.

Lou Rogers

Lou Rogers is a chartered accountant and chair of Koocanusa Publications Inc. He obtained his degree as a CA in 1965 and spent the next 25 years in public practice in Cranbrook, B.C., retiring in 1990. View all of Lou Rogers’ articles

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