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The Business Lessons Hidden Behind Internet Headlines How to employ statistics shared on the internet as an instrument offering laser precision.

By Neil Petch

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The internet is a place full of information, opportunities and statistics. The problem is that these stats are not always relevant– and they are not always true. In a previous article, we looked at the famous "8% of salespeople get 80% of the sales" claim and why it is not all it seems.

Still, statistics can be thought-provoking, so we have turned our attention to the actual lessons they can teach us– whether they raise a smile, an eyebrow or even a business case.

1. We send and receive 269 billion emails every day
Let's start with emails since everyone knows we have too many, but just how many are there? This year, Radicati Group puts the number of emails sent and received every day at around 269 billion. Some days it can feel like every one of those is sitting in your own inbox, but the average office worker will send and receive about 140 emails per day by 2018. What does that tell us about email? It is often the first port of call for communication, but it is not always the most effective. It is worth considering walking across the office to speak to someone– it is more direct, urges an on-the-spot answer, reduces the potential for misunderstandings, and slashes the email backlog.

2. Nearly 90% of your business cards end up in the bin
According to Statisticbrain, the US sees more than 10 billion business cards printed every year. Of those, 88% find their way into the rubbish within a week. Based on those figures, we might be tempted to abandon the practice altogether, after all, it is a very traditional, analogue way of getting your details around. Well, not quite. Despite those numbers, the same survey found that 72% of business people would judge someone by the quality of their card and 39% would be put off by one that is "cheap-looking'. If there is a lesson here at all, it is that it is easy to take business cards for granted– they are relatively cheap, you hand them out, job done. Taking the time to stand out is worth it. If you are going to use cards, make sure they get noticed, not binned.

3. Don't get annoyed by LinkedIn anniversaries
If you are on LinkedIn, which 467 million of us are, you will be familiar with the wall-to-wall anniversary notifications– it is someone's birthday, somebody has a new job, that UX Lead you met a year ago just went freelance. It is easy to put these in the bracket of junk and to pay little attention to them, or even deem them outright annoying. Yet, there is another way to look at it. According to research conducted with LinkedIn, 85% of critical jobs are filled through networking. Relationships don't end with sending or accepting an invitation– every update is an opportunity to reach out and reconnect with people. Sometimes a change in circumstances for someone else could mean an opportunity for you and your business.

4. Social media can improve productivity
No, that is not a typo. While it is a popular belief that using social media flies in the face of getting things done –which is why so many companies ban access to the key networking sites– there is research to suggest it can actually make us more productive. Microsoft and Ipsos conducted a study and found that globally, 46% of workers interviewed felt social media could actually increase productivity, particularly around getting things done with colleagues and customers. Naturally, it depends on your line of business– the figure jumps to 52% in media and publishing. Sure, posting selfies won't help sales, but many in the survey felt that employers were missing the useful side of social– nearly 40% believe social tools can improve collaboration.

Related: Sales Statistics: Focus On Those That Matter

5. Meetings on the other hand, not so much
According to Attentiv, around 220 million meetings are held every month in the US with a staggering 63% going ahead with no agenda. Of course, you can't and shouldn't stop meetings altogether, but it is a good idea to consider whether a meeting is really the best vehicle for what needs to be communicated and achieved. If so, then the crucial thing is to get an agenda in place. Meetings of more than three people can easily lose focus, shift direction and end up filling the allotted time with another subject entirely.

6. Happy workers are 12% more productive
Research by Willis Towers Watson found that of those employees experiencing high stress levels, over half (57%) also felt disengaged. More engaged workers are more productive, and according to the University of Warwick the difference can be as much as 12%.

7. Many companies don't know why their "best' people are better
A report from CSO insights that divides salespeople into "world-class' and "everyone else' found that while firms could recognise some people performing better than others, fewer than half of the non world-class firms could articulate why. CSO found that for many companies assessment isn't an ongoing journey. Fewer than half had ongoing competency measures in place and only 23% were set up to share their own findings across the company. Even if that famous "8%' statistic were true, based on CSO's findings, many firms would have little chance of knowing. The message here is to turn your gaze inwards – why are your best people performing and why are others falling behind?

8. Around 44% of millennials expect to leave their job within two years
According to Deloitte, 44% of millennials aren't looking to stay for the long term. In a country such as the UAE that already has an issue with job-hopping, retaining quality staff will become more of a concern than ever. One answer is more money, which recruiters Robert Half noted is still a big driver, but there are others as well. Deloitte found that among those who plan to stay beyond five years, 68% have a mentor. Employees who want to settle also want to learn and good managers must be able to hire based not just on solutions to an immediate problem, but for long-term potential too.

9. Coffee boom = economy boom
In the UAE we consume 3.4 billion cups of coffee per day. While that's only 35th in the world, in terms of population, it is a lot and it is growing at 30% per year. Euromonitor believes our coffee habit could be worth AED409 million by 2017, and interest is shifting from simply a caffeine fix to a nuanced appreciation of the bean. What does that tell us about business? It is indicative of the UAE's vibrant, booming economy. It's a great place to set up and grow a new business.

10. A final thought
In the 10 minutes or so you have been reading this article, Google has responded to 24 million search queries and Amazon has racked up over US$2 million in sales. That is a lot of data, and money, and it explains why companies are investing in harnessing big data. However, while you need to think macro, you also need to think micro. More information isn't necessarily more knowledge and while it is important to embrace new ways of working, they shouldn't come at the expense of knowing how to generate quality leads and build lasting relationships. Social media and the internet are here to stay, but they can offer laser precision or a blunt instrument, depending on how you employ them. Allow your digital native millennials to harness the new, but make sure you mentor them in the old ways too.

Related: Trends, Analysis And Predictions For Digital Media In MENA In 2017

Neil Petch

Founder and Chairman, Virtugroup

Neil Petch actively assists over 300 entrepreneurs and startups to conceive, plan, and build their businesses on a monthly basis.

After launching Virtuzone as the first private company formation business in the region over 10 years ago, Neil has led the company to set up more than 16,000 businesses, making it the largest, fastest-growing and best-known setup operator in the Middle East.

As the chairman of the holding company, Virtugroup, Neil also leads VirtuVest, an in-house angel investment vehicle; Virtuzone Mainland, a provider of directorship services, corporate sponsorship and facilitator of local Dubai and Abu Dhabi company setups; and Next Generation Equity, a citizenship-by-investment firm. Virtugroup has invested in and supported the growth of multiple companies and delivered passports in over 10 different jurisdictions. Virtugroup also enjoys partnerships with Dubai FDI, the Chamber of Commerce, Dubai Holdings (ARN), VFS, Regus, Etisalat, KPMG, Aramex and Beehive, and has received awards from Arabian Business and Entrepreneur Magazine, among others.

In addition to starting up businesses, Neil has held leadership roles in several companies. He helped establish ITP, the largest media publishing house in the Gulf, which he oversaw growing from two to 600 employees. At ITP, he spearheaded the launch of over 60 digital and print titles, including Time Out, Harper’s Bazaar, Arabian Business, Ahlan and Grazia.

As Managing Director of ENG Media, Neil launched the Coast FM radio station and numerous magazines, including MediaWeek. For the last seven years, Neil has also served as Chairman of GMG, the world’s first interbank financial brokerage based out of Dubai, with offices in DIFC and London. Due to his extensive knowledge and expertise, Neil has been appointed a member of the ‘Ease of Banking’ panel organised by the Chamber of Commerce.

Having lived in over a dozen countries and with a career spanning over 25 years in the UAE, Neil has the ability to merge astute cultural insight with fresh thinking, leveraging his seasoned business acumen, intuition and black book to repeatedly bring ideas to living, breathing success stories.

Neil has appeared in BBC (Dubai Dreams) and ITV (Piers Morgan) features on Dubai, as well as programmes on BBC World and Sky. He has participated as a judge on the radio programme Falcons’ Lair, an entrepreneurship reality show loosely based on the BBC production Dragons’ Den, as well as a similar TV competition hosted by MAD Talks. He now hosts Starting Up on Dubai Eye 103.8FM, the only national weekly show for the startup community in the world’s startup capital.

Neil also lends his in-depth market insight to fellow entrepreneurs and helps cultivate Public Private Partnerships as a Task Force Member of the Advisory Council, a coalition of key decision-makers and prominent movers of the UAE business landscape, led by EMIR and the Ministry of Economy.

He is also a regular speaker, panelist, and economic commentator, specialising in the SME sector.

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