How to Adapt in a Rapidly Changing Economy
This year has challenged entrepreneurs’ expectations for not just their companies, but for themselves. Hustle culture is being replaced with balance and flexibility.
Balance and flexibility might not sound like a winning business formula. This year has proven, however, that adaptability matters more than the ability to grind out a hard day.
Whatever happens with the pandemic, rapid change will continue to be the name of the game. Here’s how to roll with the punches:
1. Be prepared to pivot
Many entrepreneurs are laser-focused on one business or one goal: theirs. While that myopic drive is what makes them effective, it can make pivoting a real pain.
This year has highlighted the value of a diversified business strategy. Canadian entrepreneur Ali El Gamrini has a content agency, nightclub, real estate business and clothing line. Realizing his nightclub was bound to take a hit, he refocused his resources around his real estate business.
Remember, this economic downturn is unique. Because its industry pressures are uneven, entrepreneurs need to double down on areas that will maximize their revenue. In this economy, flexibility is more valuable than focus.
Take it from Wu-Tang Financial: Diversify your bonds. Pivoting is an entrepreneurial skill that will be valuable well past Covid-19.
2. Identify the inevitable
One of the easiest things to do in business is to take your foot off the gas when you’re succeeding, but success is never set in stone, even if certain trends are.
Covid-19 has accelerated changes that were already in the cards. Digital banking has been rising for years, for instance, even if legacy financial institutions have dragged their feet. Their hesitation has allowed fintech leaders like FIS to get ahead in areas like points-based payments and remote work.
Remember what things looked like in your industry before March. We were already trending toward ecommerce and experiential services; the pandemic simply sped up the switch. Steer your innovation initiatives toward what’s inevitable. Always be thinking about what changes you can predict. You can’t anticipate disasters like pandemics, but you can see the arc of consumer preferences. Be ready to deliver solutions before and as those needs arise.
3. Make an 'any market' case
Another change that’s been on the horizon for some time is online learning. Although Covid-19 has made it the norm, it’s not going away entirely even if the pandemic ends tomorrow.
Right now, it’s easy to excel as an online learning management platform. Big names like Microsoft have teamed up with Canvas, boosting it to more than 30 million users.
Rather than rest on its laurels, Canvas has put together a student success survey. By identifying what works, what doesn’t and where online learning can improve, it’s building on its 2020 growth. Whatever the 2021-'22 school year holds, Canvas will have data to demonstrate its value.
Think about your market the same way. Once federal funding streams like the CARES Act run out, what will be left? What common ground will exist among the range of options?
4. Build a 'chameleon' team
Entrepreneurs are used to wearing multiple hats, but in uncertain markets, that apparel metaphor must also apply to their team members. If you have a star writer on your team, it’s time to ask: Can they also edit? Do they have design chops? Can they pump out social media content?
Pivoting is like playing musical chairs. Shifting the seats beneath your team is tough enough; you don’t want to find yourself needing to hire new players at the same time. Research published in Harvard Business Review suggests companies are struggling to fill on-site roles, despite the high unemployment rate.
Again, look for commonalities across your companies and trends. A software developer can contribute to all sorts of digital products. A seasoned marketer can pitch all sorts of different products to different audiences.
This isn’t to say that you should start firing team members who have narrow skill sets, but do remember that flexibility is more valuable in today’s market than it is in more stable ones. If you suspect you’ll need a certain skill soon, check whether someone on your existing team can step up. If not, start collecting resumes in case the need materializes.
Regardless of your company’s industry or size, be restless. Don’t pause and assume the world will remain the same. Diversify your bets. Take multiple swings at what may be the “next big thing.” You’re bound to knock one of them out of the park, even if it doesn’t happen in the inning or ballpark you expect.