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posted: 6/11/2017 1:00 AM

Context will help today's thinkers think

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Kathy Graham must have one heck of a view from her workplace hangout near the top of one of Chicago's iconic skyscrapers: Principal of The HQ Companies Inc., a four-company consortium of businesses that operate at high C-suite levels in the economic, financial and strategic sectors, Graham's business perspective provides useful context for entrepreneurs thinking ahead.

We can benefit from Graham's insights as we consider our business' futures -- grabbing a moment or two when we can ignore tweets; terror attacks; North Korean nukes; the Russians; and the possibility of a new Watergate.

First, though, we need context for Graham's context.

"We're in the middle of a massive tech revolution," she says. "Business owners need to be very aware of how high-tech their industry is -- and is likely to become." Technology, Graham says, "is the world we have, and it's the world we have to play in."

There's reason for Graham's tech-heavy perspective: Technology, she wrote in her 2017 forecast, "moves economies, jobs and profit."

Bingo! Jobs and profit are challenges business owners presumably can manage, with full awareness that technology drives the types and numbers of people hired for changing occupations and, subsequently, the dollars to be made.

Graham talks of dodo (or essentially gone) jobs -- and, by transference, sectors where technology is changing (or has changed) companies, their employees and the way work is done.

Examples? Graham notes that an inventory check which would take a clerk all day in a large warehouse can be accomplished in an hour by a drone. She talks of restaurants where diners place their order using a computer at their booth -- and pay on the same computer.

Graham mentions cashiers, no longer needed in checkout-free grocery stores -- think an Amazon store in Seattle -- that automatically track, and bill, items shoppers remove from the shelves. Truck, bus and taxi drivers face risk from driverless technology which changes how transportation companies operate.

General practice doctors are being replaced in India and Brazil by machines that, Graham says, follow the mathematic evidence as they diagnosis patient issues. Lawyers, financial advisers and accountants who are generalists rather than specialists face the same risk, she says, -- as do the professional firms that today hire them.

It's not just that technology is making some jobs obsolete; it's that technology threatens to do the same to businesses that pay employees to do those jobs.

On the other hand, Graham lists hot sectors where opportunities are both technical and, she says, high thought. Among Graham's hot sectors are cyber security, which includes risk management, processes and training; repair professionals -- not just HVAC companies but those businesses whose employees can keep increasingly complicated machines working; and physical security, especially, Graham writes, "in times of uncertainty."

Add your own ideas to Graham's hot sectors: Landscaping businesses that will have automated lawn mowers? Repair emporiums for driverless cars? Think of the fun you'll have thinking.

• Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write him at Listen to Jim's Business Owners' Pod Talk at © 2017 Kendall Communications Inc.

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