Klaus Harnack on Doing Business with a Vision

Klaus Harnack is General Manager at Hachmeister+Partner, a keynote speaker, and a member of CURAZE, FemaleOneZero’s innovation network. He has over 20 years of experience in the fashion and lifestyle industry, where he uses his expertise to support business growth. He breaks down what makes an effective business vision

Klaus Harnack from Hachmeister+Partner

1. Which topics and issues drive today's business?

4 key issues are currently driving business in the fashion & lifestyle industry:

1) Digitalization / Omnichannel Retailing / E-commerce

2) Sustainability / CSR

3) Customer Centricity

4) Strategic restructuring

2. ... And what are the biggest challenges?

The issue of digitalization has once again gained enormous momentum thanks to Corona.

In the medium-term, however, the overriding challenge will be sustainability. There will be no future without a systematic rethink of the entire supply chain, where the consumers are now finally in the driver's seat; they determine what will play out. So, the vast majority of companies will have to put their business models to the test and restructure strategically.

3. What innovations and tech trends do you find particularly exciting? 

In my view, the most outstanding aspect of innovation is artificial intelligence. It will fundamentally change not only our business processes but also our job profiles and our society.

4. Which thought leader has inspired you recently?

David Attenborough, with his documentary A Life on Our Planet. At the age of 93, he has created a moving film, as well as a unique legacy for us all.

5. Why do cultural change and digital transformation belong together?

We have no use for digital transformation, or even digitalization-triggered efficiency, without a change of mentality and approach in the direction of sustainability.

Without this shift in company culture, digitalization definitely falls short. It's high time we fundamentally question whether the principle of quantitative growth really is a law of nature. It is much more important to focus on qualitative growth that conserves resources. Only the synergy of economic and ecological competence in politics, companies and institutions can and will enable a successful future for our future generations.

6. In one sentence, what's a topic that we should no longer be discussing in five years?

Climate change should no longer be questioned or discussed in 5 years, but rather addressed resolutely, with concrete action implemented according to binding international agreements and treaties.

7. What makes companies and their leadership successful in the long run?

WHAT: The essential skill is a capacity for a permanently customer-centric product and service innovation. This ability is necessary, but not sufficient, for success. And on its own, it's becoming increasingly inadequate to succeed at sustainable business.

HOW: Behind innovation lie a sustainable VALUE PROPOSITION, a USP (unique selling proposition), a sustainable and strategic success positioning. This foundation gives a SOUL to all of the company or brand's products and public relations; a face, a signature, something people can recognize. In its best form, this gives rise to credibility, reliability, individuality and differentiation. It largely elevates individual products from comparison with competitors. At the same time, it also removes them from the price comparisons and price competition that could ruin their chances in the market, placing them in a larger, more sustainable context and thus securing the future of a company/brand.

WHY: The all-important factor, however, is the why. Few companies live by a truly great vision, a conviction, a unique approach. To paraphrase Simon Sinek, "People buy what you believe." The "buy" in this context applies both on an internal and external level.

Apple is perhaps the best example in the world of how to live by great vision. There are many companies with good technologies, capital, skills. But there are very few that combine these resources with the belief in something truly great. The key is to found your thinking on this innermost core, and not the product. This is perhaps the secret, the magic of sustainably successful companies, regardless of their size.

A founder like Steve Jobs can achieve this congruence of WHY/HOW/WHAT with ease. However, this is a challenge for all of the next generation. Time is running out, and they must continue to live by their values, their legacy, their vision of purpose, but to adapt them to a new zeitgeist.

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