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What keeps CEOs awake at night?

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The conference’s keynoter, Phil Ruthven, is CEO of IBISWorld, an Australian market research company that specialises in long-range industry and business forecasting. So he was a good person to get to speak about, well, industry and business forecasting. His presentation was based on decades of experience (he founded IBISWorld in 1971) and an ability to see the big picture and the detail of a business and a market.

He is a personable and gently charismatic speaker and that combined with some of the points he made about employees made me wonder if he really is good to work for or if it’s a really good act. I’ll see if I can suss him out at dinner tonight (if he’s there) and get back to you.

The presentation slides (also basically Phil’s notes so lots of info) will be available online shortly and in the meantime here’s what jumped out at me as the most interesting.

  • Managing the net generation (people under 28 years old) is one of the things that has caused him some sleepless nights as a CEO.
  • His description of the economic history of Australia: when white settlement happened, we were in the hunting age and the GDP of the indigenous population was way better than the boat people from Britain. Then there was the agrarian age of agriculture, mining, banking, and commerce. He pointed out that the industrial age finished in Australia in 1960s—about 80 years after it did in Britain. And since about 1965 we have been in the infotronics age. Apparently the enlightenment age is next but he didn’t explain what that’s going to be.
  • The most important shift from the industrial age to the infotronics age is that business has reversed from being production oriented to being market oriented. Meaning that until 1965, producers dictated the rules. Prices were fixed. Consumers had no say whatsoever. Then with market orientation, the power has moved to the consumer.
  • The whole idea of being an employee will disappear (yay!) and future generations (today’s children) will see employeehood as being the last vestige of slavery. This was probably the point that I found the most interesting.
  • There’s no such thing as a bad industry; only bad companies. Some industries are filled up with bad companies but that’s a good opportunity to go in there with a good company. If you’re smart in what you do, there’s no industry that you should be frightened of.
  • Mature industries are stable. Growth industries are cool and sexy and attract everybody and become overcrowded quickly. (Social media start-up anyone?)
  • Cross-posted on Opinionate

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