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Entrepreneurship is the foundation on which the future of business will be built. With the fractures in manufacturing and supply chain, which became evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an immediate opportunity to start businesses with innovative models and solutions, and those having services or products that fill our current challenges and needs. Among established small businesses, which are the backbone of our communities, many are struggling to regain their footing during this challenging and unprecedented time. If we approach the future of business with a new outlook, discarding what we knew to be true about the past, creating what will be true about the future, businesses will transform, going from a position of vulnerability to a position of strength.
When businesses are enduring difficult times, either due to internal or external catalysts, we must all have a distinctive approach to confronting these challenges and crafting customized solutions. While many businesses are looking at the situation from a linear standpoint (“How can I take what you already have and just tweak it to find a solution?”), businesses who approach the challenges using an out-of-the-box thought-process will be the ones shaping the future. When revitalizing business plans, innovating models, or helping a distressed business to recover and accelerate, focus not only on ways to do it differently, but create a unique roadmap for your company, measuring these changes through integration and implementation, so that you can quantify the impact to your stakeholders, customers and employees. Businesses should not simply improve or solve a problem in their operations; they MUST find ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors, carving a unique niche for themselves in an overcrowded marketspace. This not only increases profitability, but it generates value, impact, consumer confidence and profitability.
While this is a very disruptive time for business, disruption leads to transformation. As businesses around the world are channeling large portions of their budgets into cybersecurity and making sure their employees have access to technology and connectivity while working remotely, and as physical office space sits empty, we are embracing this as our new way-forward. Even when this pandemic stabilizes and it is safe to go back to “normal”, it will be far too costly and inefficient to put things back the way they once were. We can’t go back to normal when normal was clearly the problem. KPIs are up, overhead is down…welcome to the new norm.
Many business experts are advising clients to pull in their sails, but I fully disagree! You are missing a phenomenal opportunity! This is the time when fortunes will be made, and fortunes will be lost. While many businesses will sit back licking their wounds, waiting to see how the dust will settle, those who are proactive, examining the gaps that are appearing, and formulating unique solutions will be the ones leading the pack into our transformational future. There is a way back “in” for every business and industry. Finding it, however, requires us to step out of the cattle chute of “business as it’s always been done”, and begin to look at our businesses through fresh eyes, understanding that it may require us to scrap much of our existing model in favor of innovation and change. When adversity becomes a chapter in the handbook of our business, remember that you are the author of the story. You determine what happens next. Whether the story ends or continues depends on your willingness to step out of your comfort zone, being brave enough to disrupt your existing model, and lead the way in a new direction. The beauty in writing each chapter of our lives is that we can take the eraser to the words and redo them any time. Life is never written with a Sharpie. If you make a mess of today, forgive yourself and start fresh with the sunrise.
“While this is a very disruptive time for business, disruption leads to transformation”
“This is the time when fortunes will be made, and fortunes will be lost.”
During COVID-19, we witnessed the breakdown of our global governments at many levels. As businesses, we count on our governmental policies to be our beacon in the night. One of our biggest lessons-learned during the pandemic is that we must take responsibility for our own circumstances. We’ve allowed ourselves to get too comfortable in the somewhat erroneous belief that our government will be able to come to our rescue in times of economic downturn, natural disaster or, clearly, pandemic. Perhaps we are learning a hard lesson about our role in our systemic recovery and resiliency. As we re-evaluate our strategies, implementing new mechanisms and policies which will transform our operations, we must establish contingencies for the fractures which have appeared – and continue to appear, in our supply chains, operations, distribution and services. It would not be unreasonable to use the past few months as the measure by which we reshape our strategy, ensuring that we weigh each catalyst and consequence to formulate flexible and adaptable plans for our new enterprise models.
2020 was about as predictable as the path of a Kansas cyclone. Not long after stepping into this new decade, as we all know, the world was blindsided with an unexpected reality – COVID-19. We went from commuting 90 minutes to/from the suburbs to commuting 30 seconds to our home office, which, for many folks, was/is the kitchen table, serving the dual purpose of conference room and classroom. Schools morphed into computer screens, airports became parking lots, and an elbow bump became the new handshake. We were gearing up for March madness, only to be shocked with an unexpected ‘madness’ in March. Four months ago, the education of our children was a daily routine – mindless clockwork. What time they get on and off the school bus; their spring sports schedules; SAT and ACT testing dates…all written in marker on our calendars. Why write it in pencil? These expectations and benchmarks were as predictable as the solstice – rigid, routine, unalterable.
Progress doesn’t stop because of a challenge, in fact, challenges are the catalysts for progress. It is said that the Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones, it ended because of PROGRESS. We aspire to more sophisticated medical care. We find ways to use technology to automate and innovate. We create processes and operations to make our businesses competitive and relevant. As parents, we strive to enable our children to progress beyond us in terms of quality of life and success. Progress implies forward motion. Why then, in the face of COVID-19 and the challenges we are facing in our businesses, would we want to go BACK to the way things were? Why would we want to regress into the past – a past that was clearly laden with systemic fragility, catastrophic failures in governmental policy, supply gain inefficiencies and gaps, and ineffective plans for the management of risk. We can’t go back to normal because ‘normal’ was the problem.
“One of our biggest lessons-learned during the pandemic is that we must take responsibility for our own circumstances”
“Progress doesn’t stop because of a challenge, in fact, challenges are the catalysts for progress”
There is no magic formula which will determine how we emerge from the challenges of 2020; however, we need to look at this new year with a different mindset. Instead of letting 2021 shape us, we must shape 2021. Our success or failure is not predestined, arbitrary or accidental. We cannot attach blame or pass away the accountability. Too often, business owners or leaders fall into the ‘victim trap’, believing the there’s nothing they can do except lick their wounds and ride out the storm. However, to emerge from unprecedented and challenging times in a position of strength, flying as lead-bird, you cannot waste one minute ‘waiting it out’. While large multi-nationals have the internal teams or the access and resources to engage the large consulting firms for guidance and direction, buoyancy, weathering this storm and the subsequent recovery is much more challenging for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Small business owners bear the brunt of responsibility, carrying the weight of continuity, feeling the greatest impact from unexpected setbacks, closures and/or lapses in the supply chain. Small business owners are often required to step into all roles and positions within the company, meeting KPIs for the entire operational force. Being frugal with resources, doing more with less, and shouldering the uncertainty are, too often, the burden – and the survival strategy deployed by struggling small business owners. With the right tools and perspective, however, coupled with the courage to ‘reinvent’ in the face of adversity and challenge, small business owners have the singular opportunity to distinguish themselves, moving ahead of the pack of competitors, shaping themselves to be the vanguards of the future.
Accelerating our business depends on our ability to understand the need to re-strategize, then being courageous enough swerve off the pathway, recognizing that we have the power to pioneer a way-forward for others to follow. This is the motivation that will keep us driving ahead. But it all begins by making a commitment to persevere in the face of adversity and the determination to find the right key that will fit the lock of our new future.