The running sales meeting joke of “let me just check my crystal ball” is an oldie but a goodie. When you are in the 10th month of a pandemic, as we are, the desire to know the future is stronger than ever. But without a crystal ball, we continue to live and make plans for ourselves and our companies not knowing what the months to come will look like.
We never know the future, pandemic or not, but we can always be smart and strategic in how we move forward, even in the most uncertain of times. Here are some tips to support you as you plan for 2021.
- Walk in your customers shoes. This is as important as ever. What are your customers’ current pain points? What’s changed for them through the pandemic? What opportunity is here for you to take good care of them, building loyalty and trust? Do you know if they feel supported? Maybe this is the time to ask.
- Keep your leadership team and organization on track. In a time of uncertainty, get your leaders focused on the things they can do to improve and grow the business. Now is the time to understand and address opportunities and innovate. We believe Strategic Entrepreneurship, a combo of being highly strategic mixed with the energy of being entrepreneurial, is the needed approach (read our article on it here).
- Take a close look at company culture. These times have both taken a toll on morale and have brought teams together in some meaningful ways. We certainly have seen the more human side of our teams with glimpses into their homes on group video calls. As you close the year, take a good look at what is happening right now in your company culture. What has shifted for the good and what could use some repair and renewal? What do you want to do differently in 2021 and what do you want to do the same? Perhaps it’s a good time to ask your employees through a survey - how are you and how can we help?
- Get creative about biz dev. Get some brainstorming going on about how best to do business development in a world where it is increasingly difficult to actually meet with potential customers. Mix it up. Pull in some folks from different departments, people who aren’t thinking of sales that much but know the customers and are creative. See what you come up with as a cross functional team.
- Pivot. Pivot. Pivot. If you haven’t done it yet, look for opportunities to make changes - new products, new markets, and more. This is still the time to make smart and quick shifts to set yourself up for greater success and connect with any opportunities or needs that have arisen during the pandemic.
- Take the time out to create a solid strategic plan for 2021. Make sure to commit to your annual planning process. If the pandemic has had a negative impact on the business, plan your growth track to get out of the hole. Maybe you are one of the lucky ones and your business is booming. What are your plans to sustain going into 2021? Make the effort to set time aside to ask the hard questions and make a plan that is both focused and flexible.
- Challenge yourself to get out of “Wait and See” mode. As tempting as it is, we have to move beyond any uncertainty and fear holding us back. It's essential to have a focus on the future and to be proactive. A familiar phrase with a small twist is true: “He or she who hesitates--for too long--is lost.” It’s a balance of course, but check yourself to see if you are making choices that are primarily defensive or if you are putting energy into being on the offensive. This is what you were trained for, CEO.
- Re-evaluate your network and your reliance on it. Are you going this alone or are you tapping into the support that is available to you? If you don’t have the benefit of a peer network, find one and get access to the ideas of other CEOs and their teams as we all search to find creative ways to grow and prosper in these unique times.
Who can know what this next year holds. As we say goodbye to 2020, I’ll close with a quote from best-selling author and “recovering lawyer” Bob Goff, “Embrace uncertainty. Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.”