Two trend lines are speeding toward collision, and they will create the dawn of the OnTrendpreneur™ — one is caused by the merger/acquisition craze; the other is the result of new technologies that are about to eliminate many traditional job sectors.
Innovative, cutting-edge professionals who are first to identify and seize high-potential opportunities emerging in this dramatically shifting global economy will profit handsomely. Those who fail to recognize this OnTrendpreneur™ risk losing what they have and/or finding gainful employment in the future.
On the merger/acquisition front, as we forecast for 2016: “The cheap-money, zero-interest-rate policies of the Federal Reserve, mimicked with increasing skill across global economies, have further fueled the takeover, mergers and acquisitions landscape engulfing civilized nations… As items are shed from inventories because they don’t meet earnings metrics, opportunities emerge for savvy entrepreneurs who are able to identify the under-served market niches and fill them.”
As for technology eliminating jobs, the trend is accelerating far greater than conventional wisdom anticipated. Those growing market gaps and niche opportunities will be augmented by another powerful trend: The advance of robotic and artificial intelligence, while advancing rapidly in the service and retail sectors, is about to sweep across virtually every commerce and professional category.
Jobs on the low end of the wage scale in services and other areas will be hardest hit at first. Those jobs have been the only reliable source of employment, albeit low-income, for many in an economy stagnant for nearly a decade.
And while many service and manufacturing jobs have been lost to cheap-labor markets overseas during the last generation, no nation will escape the velocity and implications of the new-age techno revolution. The pattern of outsourcing jobs to China or India or Mexico because labor is cheaper will fade.
As business expert and author Mike Glauser, whose expertise is entrepreneurism, states:
“We’re outsourcing jobs to China to take advantage of cheap labor, but in May, the biggest factory in China that makes iPhones and products for Samsung announced that it has replaced 60,000 employees with robots. …A robot on an automobile assembly line used to cost $200,000. Now it costs half of that or less, and $4 an hour to operate. Each of the machines I saw being built will displace about 20 employees.”
THE NEW LANDSCAPE FOR ENTREPRENEURS
The convergence of these two rapidly advancing trend lines will result in limited product choice, since only products that meet high profit margins will be sold by the biggies, and a spate of dehumanized, cold services across the several industries that deal face to face with the public.
As we forecast:
“After years of consolidation, product choice has been sharply limited throughout the broad business spectrum… retail, manufacturing, service, communications, etc. With economies slowing and profit margins shrinking, products with small margins and thin returns don’t make it to market. From food to clothing, from digital to stationery and hardware, if they’re not selling big, the product lines are abandoned by the majors.” (Trends Journal, Winter 2016.)
Now paralleling this emerging trend is the explosion of automated devices — from kiosks that sell frozen yogurt to virtual-reality service counters at local financial institutions — painting the services landscape with the same homogenized, predictable customer experience as shopping at a chain store.
Moreover, these converging trends are accelerating at a time when evidence is growing that consumers want to buy nationally, shop locally, patronize businesses that value face-to-face customer service and, under the right conditions, can be lured away from the bargain-crazed mania propagated by retail chains and the big boxes.
“If you look at consumer surveys, just about everyone would rather shop at a local business if it has the right products available at the right prices,” said Glauser. “We’re rebalancing from high tech toward ‘high touch.’ There’s a very strong preference for supporting local business owners who know you and give you personal service, and there’s also a backlash against big boxes.”
WHERE THE OPPORTUNITIES ARE
In the months and years ahead, as the service industry becomes whitewashed by automated sameness, just as the retail landscape has become, a unique type of OnTrendpreneur™ emerges.
Entrepreneurs who understand the value of the personal touch will be on-trend to stand apart from the merger/acquisition and automation culture driven only by the bottom line. And it’s bigger than the buy local movement. It’s global.
The emergence of the OnTrendpreneur™ is in its early stages. What will accelerate OnTrendpreneurism™ is the role of the mega millennial demographic.
While compared to earlier generations, millennials may not be creating successful self-employment ventures at nearly the same pace, but shifts in the global economy expected in the months and years ahead mean the market gaps we speak of are widening, creating more opportunity for millennials to seize.
For a large portion of this generation’s entrepreneurs, the current focus on new ventures that are digital- or social-media centered will be augmented by other approaches. There are millennials on the cutting edge who are ideally positioned to combine their vast tech knowledge with more brick-and-mortar opportunities to drive true OnTrendpreneurism™ to the forefront.
In an increasingly volatile and risky economic climate, on-trend businesses will identify new challenges, find market gaps and develop the specific products, services or experiences vacuumed out by takeovers or robotic technology. TJ