Written by Robby Thomas
By any account the year 2020 was tumultuous. In fact, in its aftermath 2020 will reverberate with us for the foreseeable future. It will take time to address the pain points borne of a once in a lifetime pandemic. A pandemic that has brought personal loss, social isolation and social unrest, and is not even close to being over. Many entrepreneurs are seeking answers with respect to what to do next. Given that the last pandemic occurred over a century ago, few of us can draw from that experience. With optimism on the horizon because of the covid19 vaccine, many see a silver-lining. Entrepreneurs are no different.
There’s nothing more important to entrepreneurs than engaging their entrepreneurial pursuits. It can be extremely difficult bouncing back from a disastrous year and many question whether it’s even possible. That said, we’re resilient people that love and live for comeback stories. Perhaps you’ve lost revenue, clientele and possibly much more. Instead of throwing in the towel, how about creating a recovery plan for your business or brand?
Here are four steps to consider as you approach your 2021 come back.
1) Review your business
Bolman and Deal’s Four Frame Analysis is a great tool to utilize as you look at your business objectively through each frame. (Pretend you’re a new CEO launching your new business today.)
The Structural Frame
This frame focuses on the architecture of your business. Areas such as strategy, functionality, systems and procedures. Revisit or refine your business’s structure based on effectiveness. Think strategically about where your industry is heading and how clients are choosing to do business as you move forward. Are your systems optimal to accommodate growth? Are you a brick and mortar when you should be thinking digitally? Do you need to streamline your products and focus on high velocity products or items? Do you need to pivot on what you’re doing or look at new opportunities in your space? Be thorough in your assessment. This often means breaking old mental models and being open to new ways of thinking.
Human Resource Frame
This frame focuses on how you effectively manage the balance between your company’s scarce resources versus the needs of employees. Are you getting the best performance from your team? How does your leadership empower employees to perform their job? How do you evaluate and improve this dynamic going forward? Take time to assess where you are and build for the future.
The Political Frame
This frame addresses the problem of individuals and or groups having sometimes conflicting (often hidden) agendas, especially in times of limited resources. How do you not get blind-sided, diffuse conflict and get buy in to help move your agenda/brand forward? Leaders must understand and effectively mitigate the power dynamics in their organizations. This is not just for large businesses. This applies to small organizations, groups and non-profits as well.
The Symbolic Frame
This frame is one of my favorites because it really speaks to your brand and what it represents. It speaks to people’s sense of belonging and purpose. It focuses on key guiding principles that can inspire and clarify the organization’s mission and direction. It includes creating a consistent culture that recognizes performance and delivers on operations, products and services. Think for a moment about brands that are highly admired such as “Starbucks” or “Apple.” Both are pricey but you’re not just buying a coffee or a computer, you’re buying two of the best brands ever created in terms of service, product quality and corporate culture.
2) Redefining Your Brand
Your brand is an intangible asset. It’s important that you are aware that people will form a perception of your brand based on what they’ve seen, heard or experienced. It can take a couple decades to build a reputable brand. And, it can take one bad decision to destroy it. Your brand stems from your core beliefs. It’s an extension of the ideals your business embodies. Perception is reality when it comes to your brand. Be true to who you are. In other words be authentic but, be certain to operate your business with a high sense of integrity. Think about your favorite brands and what makes them so appealing. Your personal brand is important as well, especially in the social media space. You must manage your brand image. Social media and internet communication lasts forever and will unwittingly shape how people come to know and see you and your brand.
3) Retool your operation
In the post covid19 era, businesses have adopted a “no touch” or “zero touch” philosophy in the delivery of goods and services. We’ll have to assume that this trend will continue into 2022. What this also means is that the trend toward digital technology will continue to grow. Digital platforms now dominate business meetings, food delivery services, film and media, and of course shopping. How do you strategically integrate your business with the upward growth trajectory of these emerging technologies which include digital currencies, to stay relevant? These are some of the key challenges and opportunities that await forward thinking entrepreneurs.
4) Reinvest in your Recovery
“Don’t call it a come back, I’ve been here for years,” were lyrics spoken by iconic rapper LL Cool J in one of his famous songs. They were words essentially used in his retort to those who counted him out. Perhaps your narrative is similar. If your business took a hit last year due to a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, you’re not alone. Many top brands have also felt the economic impact of covid19. Stimulus aside, there is no doubt this has been one of the most devastating events in our history. Yet, through all of the difficulty, tech companies such as Apple, Zoom, Tesla, Google and Microsoft have actually grown during the pandemic. Which leads me to believe that it is critically important for us to strategically align with industries that can deal with these types of worst-case scenarios.
As we reinvest, it is important to make sure we’re investing in ourselves to increase our knowledge of building a business in the 21st century. We should invest in the platforms that can help us operate our businesses more efficiently. And of course we should invest in the people that help us build our businesses.
Finally, 2020 may be chronologically behind us, but it will reemerge front and center as we approach this coming tax season. Beyond that inevitability, 2021 can be a time when you literally turn things around—not just because you desperately need to, but because you have taken the time to review your business, redefine your brand, retool your operation and reinvest in your recovery.