Due to the digital revolution, many systems and processes that were once done by hand, such as invoice management or assembly line production, are now automated. Industries steeped in tradition, such as manufacturing, retail or my industry, the gem industry, are adapting in real time to the changes mandated not only by consumer demand, but also by the need to survive. However, it is also important to maintain the traditional values that made your industry viable in the first place. Here are a few insights I have learned in the past 14 years into marrying the two.
Personal Touch Is Key
E-mail, social media and messaging apps have made rapid communication to as many contacts as possible easier than ever, but there is nothing that beats the personal touch of forming a strong connection with a phone call or, better yet, a cup of coffee or group dinner. Once removed from the digital barrier, you are able to build real bonds that are not only beneficial for the client in the short term, but also create meaningful relationships that will help your business grow.
For example my company attends a multitude of industry events across the globe in our most important markets. We use such events to network with our existing customers, to mingle with peers and to create new partnerships that enable us to continue to grow.
To get started on your own journey, look for industry-specific events within your field and go. Whether it’s traveling to a trade show, going to a symposium or finding niche meetup groups, it’s important to build relationships among peers. You may just find your next customer there.
Once you cultivate those relationships, nurture them in a way you would a friendship. If they are in town, take them out for a cup of coffee, or better yet, treat them to dinner. A little hospitality goes a long way.
Social Responsibility Is Not Just a Buzzword
Nowadays, brands are tying themselves to social causes as a means to build their businesses. Whether it is giving a pair of shoes or glasses to someone in need with each pair purchased or donating a percentage of a purchase to a good cause, it seems to be the standard instead of the exception.
My industry emphasizes social responsibility and ethical business practices, and in recent years we’ve put an emphasis on self-policing. For example, I serve on the board of a council where membership is earned by adhering to a particular code of practices.
If your industry has any specific philanthropic endeavors, take the time to volunteer within those organizations. Not only is it a great way to meet like-minded people, but you also get to give back. Of course, it’s always great to volunteer as a team. Take time away from the office to prepare meals at a soup kitchen. Set up fundraisers for your community group. Or simply start a donation drive. Having that collective bonding experience cultivates a strong team morale, which can ultimately boost your business.
Automation Breeds Efficacy
As the only organization in our industry established in the 21st century, we had to find ways to stand out among competitors who have been established for decades in an industry that is built on tradition. Modernizing your niche in your industry could mean utilizing available software like QuickBooks to better process profit and loss statements or social media planning software to build out a more robust social strategy. Some platforms even have additional tools to automate tasks such as employee onboarding, and your entire HR platform is available to you to make everything simple. From inputting expenses to requesting time off to picking insurance plans, it is all available in one place that is readily accessible to everyone. It saves time and money and, ultimately, allows your employees to focus on specific tasks.
Migrating processes to digital does not mean you have to lose the core values of your business. It makes your life easier, and in turn, you can pass that down to your clients, customers and employees.
Ultimately, the foundation of a successful business is finding the happy medium between modernity and tradition. By marrying personal connections with digital innovations, you too can find a more successful, sustainable business model.