We’ve seen a multitude of change since the start of the Pandemic and it’s continuing to come full speed. Although change is inevitable, we must work to remain equipped to handle the drastic and rapid post-pandemic change we’re experiencing. To do this, there are some areas that deserve our concentrated attention.
Here are some current realities that continue to change and will require us to pay attention, keep up, and take action:
The pandemic is over 18 months old and is not yet over. It will undoubtedly have dramatic long-term effects on our society in ways such as continued stress, virtual work and school from home, vaccines, and new social norms and public regulations. Schools are already planning to cancel snow days and utilize e-Learning when weather is bad. A multitude of businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter—this includes restaurants, bars, sporting events, concerts, etc. We need a better understanding of issues and responses to post-pandemic change.
Technology is accelerating and will have long-term effects on our economy as well as our lifestyles. Tech companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are dominating. I just got the holiday wish list from my grandkids, which includes a new iPad and phone. Apparel, trips, and personal gifts are lagging while tech leads in sales.
Climate change, slower population growth, and more diversity are significant features of our society. Except for Africa, much of the world is getting older and experiencing slower growth than in previous decades.
Equitable policies and opportunities. The general response to ignore these and other critical issues is unacceptable. Political, social, and economic change are dramatically slow. For example, the time it has taken to adequately address discrimination against minorities and women is embarrassing. Sexual harassment policies and enforcement are decades behind where they should be. 18% of the population is Hispanic and they are virtually ignored.
Stress levels are heightened as evidenced by increased crime, suicides, shootings, drinking, and divorce.
Wealth inequality around the world is increasing and no one is doing anything to stop it. The number of billionaires increased from 1,000 to over 2,000 between 2010 and 2020. Their wealth grew from $3.7 trillion to over $8 trillion. The top 10% represent 80% of the wealth in our country making wealth and income very different things.
The most perplexing part about all of this is that there are solutions to most, if not all, of these problems. We simply refuse to adapt or we adapt too slowly. How have we done a good job in reducing things like car fatalities, drunk driving, diseases like Polio, etc. when we seem completely unable to reduce bullying, illiteracy, poverty, discrimination, gun violence, and climate change?
Not only do we need to possess the willingness to embrace change, we also need to be equipped with the tools that will enable us to react to change and create an action plan to keep up. Here are some suggestions to improve the speed and effectiveness of change and adaptation:
Consider structural changes. For example, there are numerous articles and books on how elite universities recruit and educate the top 1% with little progress in growing or expanding diversity. They also have billions of dollars in endowment and have been growing their endowment funds at rates of 20-40% per year recently and, yet, they are doing nothing to enact change.
In contrast, Mackenzie Scott (Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife who has $60 billion) is changing the structure of charitable giving. She is a disrupter in that she focuses on equality, gives only unrestricted gifts (no building or school names), and donates significant funds to lesser-known institutions, like black colleges, to help transform their entire organization.
Focus on reducing stress. The pandemic has caused significant stress and unhappiness and we need to take action to reverse some of that damage. My neighborhood has made an effort to increase socialization, warmth, and fun. They sponsor holiday parties, social event, networking meet ups, etc.
In general, friendliness, courtesy, and decency could significantly improve things. Greeting someone hello, saying please/thank you, giving hugs, checking in on neighbors, and offering to lend a hand really goes a long way.
Prioritize the 80-20 rule. In the modern business realm, it has been proven time and again that 80% of business revenues are generated by just 20% of our customers. Yet, we all continue to waste time, money, and inventory dollars on customers that bring in a lower return. This tendency frequently adds unnecessary confusion and complexity.
By focusing on the products that you know your customers want, you’re making them feel much more confident—especially when you’re selling online. Instead of finding new ways to market products that simply aren’t selling, you may be better off pivoting and concentrating solely on what is selling. If you give people what they’re searching for, they’ll buy. If you don’t, they won’t. It’s that simple.
Remember technology is king. Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple will survive and grow as they become even more innovative and efficient. Traditional retailers with large real estate platforms and margin requirements are at great risk. Consumers are proving to prefer the perks of working at home, fast delivery, and other convenient Internet processes. Virtual offerings will continue to expand and be utilized and, therefore, they must be integrated into our structures.
Assess your digital branding and Internet presence. If you research anything about business today, it’s obvious that Apple, Google, and Amazon are three of the most important sales and communication vehicles. Nearly everyone uses their phone and/or laptop to research as well as buy products and services. I argue that digital activities and marketing need a special place in organizations and should be a major part of programs.
Don’t forget that service, image, and culture are frequently the biggest (and often least expensive) ways for small companies to develop a brand and differentiate themselves. Some suggestions: Focus on your target market and segment your ideal customer. Be polite, listen, and then act based on what you have learned. Become a trusted resource to your prospects by providing useful information that will help them make a good choice. Build an email list and send informative mailings on a regular basis. Keep in touch with potential and existing customers.
Creating and maintaining a positive company culture is a critical component in achieving excellence and establishing a great brand. A great strategy without a supportive culture will undoubtedly fail—I’ve seen it happen too many times.
Open systems are also becoming a critical aspect of great cultures as they often reject bureaucracy, authority, and hierarchy. Open systems encourage participation, diversity, new rules, and to some extent, chaos.
The post-pandemic change we’re seeing should be viewed as a critical opportunity to improve sales, profit, and competitive positioning. While there are some technical aspects to this, it is the thinking and integration of the components that can lead to success. This should not, however, become an excuse for ignoring basic good practices. Too many small business owners are getting burned by executing untested marketing strategies—and while it can be easy to get enamored with the latest technology or fad, don’t forget the importance of factors like analysis, expertise, and experience.
The current state of the world and the rapid advancement of technology are stimulating perpetual change that cannot be ignored. But, with the right mentality and a willingness to incorporate tools that will help you successfully adapt, you can thrive in this new normal.
Related: How to be a Better Listener