Jun 2015

The People Factor

Posted by / in B4Blessing News, Strategies That Bless / No comments yet

What’s happening with people? Do we have more kids? More elderly? What difference does it make anyway?

Population changes drive what goods and services people buy and affect which businesses are sustainable. If there are no children, don’t open a kindergarten. If there are few elderly, the walking cane business probably won’t work well. We’ve also seen that changes in cultural norms can make changes in business opportunities grow or decline. For instance, the one child policy in China has resulted in fewer young people to take care of aging parents. Families in which both parents work create the need for daycare for both children and elderly.

The difference between demographic changes and technological changes is that we can see the demographic changes coming — and they control our lives in many ways. Once begun, it’s difficult or impossible to change direction.

Our world’s population is aging in unprecedented ways. Mortality is declining, as is fertility. Over the last 50 years fertility has dropped from an average of 5.0 to 2.7 children per female and is predicted to drop to the replacement level of 2.1. Improvement in health care means we live longer. Globally life expectancy has increased more than 20 years over the last 50 years – on average we live to age 66. By 2050 14 countries, mostly in Europe, will have more than 50% of their population over 50. On the opposite end, by 2050 14 countries, mostly in Africa, will have more than 50% of their population under 25. If you are considering business in Europe, the youth market might not provide the growth you want. If you are considering business in Africa, see what the youth market wants.

In my grandparents’ generation, the church did eldercare. Nursing homes, senior centers and the like were part of what the church felt was her mandate. Today large corporations or governments either run these centers – and it’s big, profitable business. Should we be looking at eldercare facilities as part of what we do as the church? It IS good business. Profitable business that can be done in a way that blesses. We could do this business in any country with a large and growing group of elders. We could bless both the elder and their family, sharing God’s love with nursing, games and activities, bringing in a pet or child to add vitality to an elder’s day, listening and recording their stories for a living history, healthy food or meals for shut-ins. There are literally hundreds of ways we can intersect the elderly with the love of Christ. When I look at a business’ sustainability and scalability I look for an area that is growing larger — this fits.

The other side of the demographic divide is the younger generation, which I call Gen-Mobile. They are mobile in their thinking and in their habits. They use mobile technology to keep up with friends as well as to make change. We’ve not seen a generation so concerned with social change since the Baby Boomers of the 60’s and their protests against the Viet Nam war. Gen-Mobile is well connected with lessening barriers of culture and country. They have friends everywhere using technology. They are idealistic (Arab Spring, Occupy Central in HK). They do short term mission trips, take gap years, start a business rather than go to college. One of our consultant’s sons spent some time in Asia as a videographer in Mongolia and other difficult countries. Now he’s on his way to South America to film there. This generation uses technology in ways we never thought about (read our companion blog about the young Brazilians).

There is an interesting connection here between the aging population, who are mainly the Baby Boomers who may have protested in the 1960s, but then settled down into corporate life and the job. It’s surprising how they lost that initial flair of resisting the normal, settled life. Its also surprising how they are getting it back as they retire. In the US I see lots of gray ponytails on Harley motorcycles! Early retirement is the time for taking back life.

The Baby Boomers are retiring, but they are healthier and wealthier than prior generations. They have knowledge and resources. Gen-Mobile has energy and a growing social consciousness. Is it possible that our Father has put them on the planet at the same time to make a difference in how business is done? How business blesses people? I believe that is the case. I’d like B4B to connect up these 2 generations to see what God might do.

How about you? Do you fit into this picture? What are your dreams? What strategies do you have that haven’t yet come to fruition? Would you like to push out a few boundaries and see what God does? If so, respond to this post and lets talk about what God might do. Should we think about doing something together in a region? Setting up a pattern that could be a franchise? What sparks your thinking?

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