Opinion: Brands may be future proofing but organisation structures are not...

May 10 2018

It is old news that the luxury and fashion industries are facing challenges in the current climate. Customer buying patterns have radically changed, while consumer engagement expectations are high and market conditions remain in a perpetual state of evolution.

Industries steeped in heritage and tradition can find it difficult to shift mind-set and innovate in a constantly changing marketplace. 

A successful future requires adapting to a new style of customer who buys luxury, vintage and Zara all in the same shopping trip, or orders online from the comfort of her own home. It also demands a new model for building organisations and teams.

The most innovative and progressive brands making the greatest strides - not necessarily only in fashion - are being bold and taking risks when building teams of talent.

Brands that are stagnating have gone for very ‘safe’ senior management teams, who have been circulating the industry with little or no outside experience to draw on. How can you think differently if you’ve never seen any alternatives?

In the past, leaders and HR Directors were programmed to play it safe. The market was never broken so there was no need to take hiring risks. Now it’s a brave new world and someone who has worked for a similar brand of a similar size having done a similar job before may not bring enough to the table for a market that demands constant innovation.

These broader capabilities can be most efficiently integrated by hiring independent consultants / freelancers with deep subject matter expertise. Oddly, this approach has often been met with resistance, particularly by luxury brands. An allergic reaction to the word consultant is commonly born from a fear of sharing information with an ‘outsider’ or past experience of consultants who did not deliver tangible results. But neither of these fears are legitimate excuses for failing to future-proof your business.

While there is an argument for being protective about company intelligence and brand secrets, we do need to accept that open-mindedness is key in a changing world. Until we can learn from other more progressive industries, we can’t succeed in the mission to disrupt and innovate.

Independent consultants who do not deliver are either not given a clear brief to work with - and therefore set up to fail - or they are not the right person for the job. It is a challenge to navigate the sea of Independent consultants to find those who drive productivity and deliver measurable business results, but the rewards can be exponential.

Building capability through hiring project-based talent is the future. It may not be appropriate for all positions, but where it is, it adds the impact and muscle needed for change.

It’s vital to set aside preconceived ideas and consider the value that the depth of knowledge and experience one individual who has conducted projects for Retailers, Private Banks, Consumer Goods and Tech companies could bring to your digital strategy or questions around organisational design, culture, and business architecture – not to mention the contacts and potential partners.

While it may not be possible to make radical changes overnight, it is achievable to make an honest review of the strengths and weaknesses in your senior management team, followed by an assessment of how an outside expert could help to disrupt entrenched approaches and propel thinking for faster and better results.

Heavy and stagnant management structures made up of people who are not plugged into the future may just be the end of the industry we all know and love, if we do not see the value of a new, more agile approach before it’s too late.