Remaining Resilient in the fast-changing world of business- Ian Russell shows the way

Deliberations around how technology keep racing ahead and the need for businesses to adapt to change to serve customers in real time while remaining resilient permeates many discussions in recent times.

At the 26th MTN Business World Executive Breakfast Meeting, held on August 30, 2019 in Accra, Ian Russell, main speaker for the event, shared insightful thoughts and provided some answers.

The event under the theme, “Disruptive Leadership in a Fast Changing Business Climate” uncovered how business executives can develop robust leadership styles and skills to stay afloat despite rapid changes in the world of business.

Russell who is also the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO), of South Africa’s largest technology company BCX, explained that the Fourth Industrial Revolution phenomenon is non-existent.

However, what is actually happening is the constant avalanche of change which businesses should prioritize to enable them understand the needs and wants of customers.

“The way we work and live is changing. It’s a human revolution as well as a technology revolution,” he said, adding that “The avalanche change is absolute and constant and it’s coming to your business right now so you have to do something about it.”

For businesses to effectively adapt and remain relevant in this constant change, he proposed companies should focus and use the two most important asset of all businesses; Customers and Cash.

Customers, he noted are the most important part of any business: they make decisions (to purchase or choose a service) based on ease, access, value and relevance and failure to understand their needs and wants mean failure to understand how to respond to the change.

Cash on the other hand is what make things happen; what drives the business and pay salaries.

“Businesses fail to address these and are always bent on telling customers what they need, what is going to be sold to them and how delighted they are going to be to receive what is offered them,” he further said.

He exposed participants to what he termed as Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives which also ties into business growth and fuel companies’ drive to meet demands and needs of customers born in a particular era.

Explaining the phenomenon, Russel said Digital Immigrants are people born at a time when the level of technology and level of access to the “screen” and information simply didn’t exist but have learned to adopt and adapt their styles and behaviour with greater input from technology.

Digital Natives, on the other hand, are young people brought up with technology, processing power and the “screens”of today.

“This group understand intuitively how these things (technology) work in a way majority of us will always struggle. But it also creates an opportunity for that generation who are our future customers”

Charlse Osei Owusu, Coordinator for Business Development, MTN Mobile Financial Services in his presentation run through MTN Mobile Money’s 10th anniversary celeberations touching on the product’s entry into the market with basic services to how it has diversified over a decade into providing a myriad of financial services to the unbanked including loans and insurance through a tap on a mobile phone.

Stressing on the central role that agents play in Mobile Money transactions, he said,” Our agents are one major enablers for us. With over 130,000 agents across the country currently, customers can easily access the service making it possible to be visible to customers”

About Ian Russell

Ian made a debut into the world of corporate leadership with one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies, working to improve efficiency. He then joined a global bank, and pioneered initiatives focusing on technology and digital innovation. Ian is the former CEO of South Africa’s largest technology company, BCX- a $2bn business with employee base of 10,000 people. His tenure witnessed a focused re-engineering of the company which saw a massive shift of the brand towards innovation and disruption. Russell worked at other top companies such as Telkom, SAB Miller and Barclays in the areas of procurement, operations, supply chain and technology. He was also one of the initial architects of the Acquisition of Absa by Barclays in 2005. During his time at Absa, Ian focused mainly on re-engineering the cost base and led the highly innovative “One Absa” programme. Ian is also a renowned speaker and author.

About the breakfast series

The MTN Business World Executive Breakfast series running in its seventh year, is the leading thought leadership and networking platform for Ghanaian business executives and entrepreneurs attracting over 800 executives annually. It has hosted a number of international, motivational and business leaders including: Mac Attram, Robin Banks, Brian Tracy, Siya Xuza, Elikem Nutifafa Kuenyehia, Jason Njoku, Sharon Lechter, Mr Yaw Nsarkoh, Rosa Whitaker and many more.