What We Learned from 2020 – Business Edition

Amidst all the disagreement and division we’ve grown used to, one thing’s easy for anyone to admit: 2020 was a messy year. Between a global pandemic, economic difficulties, ecological disasters, and political instability, everyone had their fair share of troubles last year. But, that’s not to say that the challenges presented weren’t also learning opportunities.

Businesses have had to learn and adapt. And, while many didn’t make it, some found ways to thrive, even in a time of many difficulties.

So, whether you’re starting a business in 2021, reopening the office to your employees and customers, or you simply want to ensure growth, read on for the most important business lessons we learned last year.

You Snooze, You Lose

According to a Yelp business report, almost 100,000 businesses in the U.S. permanently shut down as a consequence of the Coronavirus pandemic. The two most affected industries were restaurants and retail, while home, local, and professional services managed to stay afloat. And this isn’t exactly surprising.

If we look at the way consumer behavior is changing during these times, we’ll notice that some straightforward trends are likely to continue for the time being. For example, the surge in ecommerce is likely to continue. So is the decrease in discretionary shopping, the reduced frequency of buying, and the shift towards local businesses.

Taking all of this into consideration, business leaders need to adopt a culture of agility. Simply put, consumers are changing how, when, where, and what they buy. So, a company that wants to remain relevant well into the future needs to know how to recognize emerging patterns.

Is there a new product that’s growing in popularity? Are people looking for new ways of procuring your services? Perhaps your customers are using their mobile phones to browse your website more often than before?

These are all instances to which you can react. And, if you do it right, you might just find that the readiness to adapt your ways results in a boost to your bottom line.

Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

The second big thing COVID taught us is that diversification is necessary if we intend to manage risks.

During the first months of the pandemic, suppliers from many countries were forced to shut down. This left entire industries in a problem, with difficulty obtaining crucial parts and materials, unable to meet their production requirements, and forced into losses that could have been prevented. Similarly, sales channels like Amazon witnessed huge boosts in demand, which left many ecommerce businesses unable to sell non-essential products, left without ways to serve their customers.

Guided by these events, businesses must learn to diversify, if nothing else, to avoid problems such as these in the future. So, it’s not a bad idea to finally get started with omnichannel sales, reach out to new suppliers, and look at ways you can be more self-reliant.

Sure, we might not see a new pandemic in the next 20 years, but isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?

Remote Work Works

As many business owners had to embrace a WFH model, they struggled to make things operate smoothly. But, as leaders and employees became used to the new normal, it turned out that remote work isn’t that bad. In fact, about 35% of workers would prefer to continue working remotely in the future, according to a recent Gallup survey.

With this in mind, it’s not a bad idea to consider allowing full or part-time remote work, seeing that it may contribute to your employees’ productivity, wellbeing, job satisfaction, and work-life balance.

The great thing about flexible work models is that they’re relatively easy to set up, as long as you have the right digital tools. Plus, they can even help you cut costs.

A Shoestring Budget Is Not an Obstacle

By how much did you have to cut your costs in 2020? According to Gartner, CFOs have had to make quite a few difficult decisions during the pandemic. Budgets were cut, with marketing, real estate, and HR taking the biggest hits. Still, that did not prevent some businesses from attaining excellent results.

In 2020, the brands that made the most impact were the ones that realized that reaching customers didn’t necessarily depend on spending but rather on establishing connections. Some turned to user-generated content as a way to get closer to customers. Others worked on establishing credibility in a growingly distrustful world. Then, some decided to get closer to their target audiences by becoming more invested in the causes they supported.

The one thing in common for all of these ways of appealing to consumers is that they don’t have to be expensive. In fact, they can be 100% free, all the while allowing you to make an impact. So, if there’s something you want to stand by in 2021, last year was proof that it’s definitely worth staying true to your values.

Moving Forward

There’s nothing easy about running a business during globally challenging times. However, getting through the difficult period might just be the learning opportunity you need to move your business forward.

So, whether your team is returning to the office or you’re exploring a more permanent remote model, rest assured that with the right approach, you can make anything happen. Invest your energy into the right things – innovation, agility, and self-care – and you’re sure to reap the benefits.

Sarah Kaminski