Keeping Up With Trends While Keeping Up With Business

To sustain and increase your company’s competitive position, you need to stay on top of trends.
March 14, 2012

Managing the day-to-day activities of your business is a challenge. Generating profitable sales depends on effective execution in key business areas: developing quality products, fulfilling customer requirements, complying with regulations, and the list goes on.

But to sustain and increase your company’s competitive position, you need to stay on top of trends. Smart, focused and consistent effort is critical. Here’s how to think strategically and act intentionally everyday.

Manage everything, but don’t do everything yourself.

“Set yourself up to succeed,” says Lydia Sarfati, CEO and founder of Repêchage, a manufacturer of professional skin-care products. Specifically, assemble a team that manages day-to-day functions in your absence. Put processes in place that support your operations.

Sarfati oversees a 50,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, an in-house chemistry lab and a sales force. Tracking global trends takes her away from the company’s facilities in New Jersey frequently. She relies on department heads and David Sarfati, her COO, business partner and husband, to make sure things run smoothly when she is away.

Another approach is to hire an executive assistant. Elle Kaplan, CEO and founding partner of asset-management firm Lexion Capital Management, runs all aspects of day-to-day operations. Her assistant attends to details so that Elle has the time to instill her vision in the company’s culture and provide leadership in delivering custom investment solutions to clients.

Focus on trends relevant to making your business great.

Defining the essential factors in your business’s success enables you to determine what trends (technology, business, economic, cultural, fashion, etc.) are most relevant to you.

“The most important challenge is the recruiting of talented writers. Excellent content is the key to our publication’s success,” says Lynn Truong, editor-in-chief and director of sales for Wise Bread, an online media company. Her focus is on identifying up-and-coming writers who can contribute to the company’s media outlets. She also notices trending tropics.

Sarfati tracks women’s fashion. “Fashion and beauty go hand in hand,” she explains. “There is nothing worse than strapless dresses exposing dry skin or a blemished back. Depending on the fashion trends, we develop different body treatments and products.”

To maintain a disciplined investment approach, Kaplan shuns “Wall Street flavors of the month.” Instead, she follows business innovation and encourages her team to do the same. This approach is valuable in acquiring and servicing an increasing number of clients.

Make trend-watching an automatic part of your life.

Lynn Truong recommends that business owners and execs “find or create their own automated tools to help stay current. You need tools that work hard to capture trends even when you sleep.”

She watches trends relating to rising stars in personal-finance blogging using an internally designed tool. It measures attributes such as website traffic, authority and social media influence.

Decide how to integrate trends into your business.

Information on trends is useless if you don’t have a method to integrate your findings into business activities.

Lydia Sarfati acts on trends annually. In 2008, for example, she created the Facial Bar concept in response to difficult economic conditions. The new product allowed customers to enjoy “luxury but at a lower price point and in a shorter amount of time. People didn’t have to spend hours in the spa. It helped boost retail sales for the spas.”

Because hot topics and talents emerge throughout the year, Lynn Truong analyzes trends weekly and reacts immediately by reaching out to writers. She also considers trends when she's developing annual plans.

Trend-tracking isn’t just about noticing what global happenings might impact the success of the business. These execs are also concerned about trends that may affect the success of their customers. How your customer looks in an evening gown, how effectively her investment accounts are serviced or how relevant blog posts are to her daily life—all these matter.

Julie Rains is a senior writer at Wise Bread, a personal-finance community that helps people get the most out of their money. Get daily money tips by following Wise Bread on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo credit: iStockphoto