To Have a Better 2021, Business Owners Need to Put in the Work
On New Year’s Eve, it felt good to leave 2020 in our rear view where I think we can all collectively agree it belongs. But that’s all that happened. The ball dropping did not end the pandemic, and businesses in the new year will continue to struggle with the effects of COVID-19.
There is always a feeling of hope intrinsic to a new year, but this year it’s a bit different. After the events of 2020, having hope for improvement isn’t enough. Business owners will have to put in the work to flip the script and experience a better year.
2021 is about learning from what happened in 2020 to take action, forge a growth-focused path, and take command of your business success.
The Pandemic Taught Us More Than How to Wear a Mask
The biggest takeaway from the 2020 pandemic year is that businesses in the new year (and beyond) cannot be caught off guard.
It’s easy to get comfortable or complacent with the way you do business. Maybe you hadn’t seen the importance of an updated website, or eCommerce capabilities, before the pandemic. Suddenly, customers were demanding online services that you weren’t equipped to offer.
The best way to ensure business success is to be prepared. No one could have predicted a pandemic, but we all could have benefitted from operating as though it was a possibility.
As business owners, we can be better prepared to take on challenges, no matter what befalls us. Here are the primary areas on which businesses in the new year can focus to make better decisions.
Establish Versatile Business Operations
The pandemic caused everyone to adopt completely different ways of doing business. For many business owners, it was a sudden pivot they found themselves wholly unprepared for.
Your business needs to be able to quickly adapt to whatever the environment or culture might be. Think about the major changes that came with the movement into quarantine, then out, then back in again. Employees were out sick. Customers stopped patronizing businesses in person. Indoor spaces became dangerous, but cold weather made outdoor service difficult without the right setup. Digital solutions became essential for customer service and communication. Businesses needed to adopt contact-free service, delivery capabilities, greater inventory, faster shipping, sanitized and protected shopping environments, and online accommodations for traditionally in-person services.
Sit down as a team and think about how you can plan for unexpected changes to your business culture. It might not be as straightforward as you think, so it’s important to consider all the ways you might need to change course to continue providing the best service. Some key points to consider might be:
- The expectations of your customers (consider all possibilities) and what your business needs to do to meet those expectations if you aren’t already.
- How well you understand your own business – is someone in each department able to take the reins if there are unexpected personnel changes or shortages?
- What elements of your business need updating? Consider more than just the updates you are aware of but may not be addressing.
Know Your Weaknesses
Being capable of taking on unexpected economic challenges means you should always be improving. And improvement can only occur when you know what your weaknesses are. While business teams consistently brainstorm about ways to enhance their services and perform better, a more telling exercise is to ask the question, “What could we do to fail?”
Discuss what you’re doing that’s bad for business. Talk about what those poor practices could lead to that would hurt your business. What are your vulnerabilities to unforeseen changes? Then, delve into those unforeseen changes – we’ve provided a few below – to understand how your business would fare, and what you can do to produce a different outcome.
- Sociological changes: In 2020, we saw major sociological changes, some of which altered customer perceptions of businesses. These changes weren’t isolated to major corporations like Amazon; on a broad scale, customers adopted different expectations for businesses in general based on sociological factors like how businesses treat their employees, how diverse their staff is, how they treat women and mothers, how much they give back to communities, how well they follow social distancing and sanitation protocols, or how sustainable they are. How can your business foresee and adapt to sociological changes that might impact your customers’ perceptions of you? Where does your business stand right now in light of these sociological changes from 2020?
- A new competitor: What could another business bring to the table that yours is lacking? Don’t wait until it happens to realize where you need to make improvements.
- A new technology: How could technology advances cause your business to fall behind or become obsolete? Is there technology you can adopt now that would enable greater business success?
- The political climate: How might the activity on Capitol Hill impact your business? Are there regulations or mandates that will require you to make changes? Are there existing requirements you need to meet but haven’t yet taken the time to address?
Businesses that had not invested in digital solutions faced greater challenges during the pandemic. These challenges were not, and are not, limited to website capabilities or a social media presence.
Ski areas for example, which have traditionally sold tickets in person at the mountain, suddenly have to manage reservations and online lift ticket sales so they can limit numbers due to COVID restrictions. They are also pulling out all the stops when it comes to patron communication, leveraging email, mobile apps, website updates, and digital advertising to ensure they are level-setting skier expectations for properly planning a visit to the mountain.
That level of digitally-dependent communication, especially for an industry not previously so heavily reliant on doing so, is one of the major business shifts inherent in today’s pandemic climate. You should take this time to reflect on how your business can leverage digital solutions – and while this includes updating your website or CRM, it should also include functionality, such as eCommerce, that you may not think you need now, but might need in a future state.
The Best Way to Stay at the Forefront of Your Business is to Stay at the Forefront of Your Brand
Above all, the most important thing you can do is focus on your brand. When your brand is in a good place, unexpected changes will be easier to take on, whether you are prepared for them or not. A healthy brand can weather a storm better than one that is underdeveloped and lacking customer loyalty.
Now is the time to focus on building your brand recognition by establishing a consistent look and feel, forging strong connections with your customers, and offering great digital experiences at every touchpoint. Focusing on your brand allows you to build up important relationships and customer loyalty, and even if it takes you some time to adapt to unexpected changes, your customers will likely be more forgiving and return to you once you can fully meet their needs.
Don’t find yourself in the middle of a pandemic – or any unexpected situation – before you realize your brand can’t measure up. Ask yourself today: “Is my brand strong enough to survive?” If you feel even a morsel of doubt, it’s time to lift up the hood and implement the right tools to build a stronger foundation for business success in 2021, and beyond.
Want help identifying how you can be better prepared? Contact us today.