How Your Business Can Be Ahead of the Curve by Looking Backward and Thinking Forward
Time marches on, but the past teaches us what to avoid, anticipate, and hope for in the future.
The recent catastrophic event in Texas cut a wide swath of devastation, leaving 4.4 million people without electrical power — including heat and running water. Once incredibly proud to be about 90% energy-independent, a natural phenomenon no one could predict brought the Lone Star state to its knees. Rendering millions of people displaced and helpless, this tragedy left people wondering where they will sleep, when they will eat and ultimately — how could this happen?
It’s horrible that it takes a tragedy to provoke change, but sometimes it is the only motivator. For the people of Texas and all people everywhere, transcending adversity relies on the ability to see the positive potential in a situation, even in times of extreme hardship.
Looking backward for guidance going forward
Looking back, the formation of many innovative companies began with change. The founders of Home Depot, the first big-box home improvement store, were fired from their local hardware store. One year later, the first two Home Depot stores opened in Atlanta, Ga. Groupon, a website that promotes companies by offering deals on their products and services to consumers, developed right in the middle of the 2008 recession. This company’s aim was two-fold: promote struggling companies’ products and ease the public’s financial burden with discounts.
The point? Adversity inevitably brings change, and this trend of change spurring innovation is constantly recurring. Therefore, entrepreneurs and businesses should always think of how to turn today’s adversity into tomorrow’s bright star.
Knowing positive change is on the horizon was little comfort for people in Texas. It was also a hard pill to swallow for businesses suffering the effects of a yearlong pandemic. Companies of all sizes and all realms should take a hard look at what happened in both situations. In doing so, one truth keeps sounding loud and clear: Complacency in times of prosperity is a recipe for disaster.
It’s no secret; the most successful businesses never let their guard down. Even in the best of times, they never stop thinking forward, trying to anticipate the next patch of rough water. Therefore, when the unexpected hits, it’s not so shocking because their preparedness level keeps them functioning at top levels, not merely treading turbulent waters trying to survive. Companies at this level have the resources and the ability to reach out and help those struggling. And this ability to pay it forward is a real blessing and lifesaver for those in dire need.
Building a disaster-resistant company: Be ahead of the curve
So, how does a company adopt this way of functioning? It all comes down to infrastructure. First of all, a great leader must have passion for their purpose, and they must communicate this purpose with a joint mission and a clear vision on how to achieve the company goals. You will not be capable of building a rock-solid team without a rock-solid foundation.
One common misconception in business is that the leader is the most important person on the team. The leader is essential in the process of building the team. But after this accomplishment, the ultimate victory for any leader should be a company that can run like a well-oiled machine without their presence. The most efficient companies have made everyone replaceable. No one should have such a specialized function that productivity sufferers if that person is gone.
At the start of the pandemic, millions of businesses were scrambling to implement and learn the process of remote work. And yet, there were some companies out there that had been doing it for years. As you can guess, these companies fared the darkest moments of the pandemic much better than others because they did not have to introduce and learn a new way of working at the moment or, on the fly, as they say.
Companies with remote components merely flinched when everyone else was wincing and on the verge of a meltdown. One can attribute this calm composure to a high level of preparedness. Did these businesses predict the pandemic and the necessity for working remotely? No, but their willingness to try something different at some point led to a new way of doing things that worked for them. Having multiple paths to achieve your purpose instead of just one will always be a plus when the unexpected arrives.
For most companies ahead of the “pandemic curve,” going remote was a fiscal decision several years ago. The businesses that took a hard look at their priorities and placed luxurious corporate office space far down the list also seemed to have another trend. Many of these businesses spent their funds on acquiring quality employees and state-of-the-art technology because these elements are the future’s driving forces.
Learning from adversity
What businesses should learn from tragic times such as the pandemic and the Texas energy crisis is to be better prepared. This preparedness level comes from a strong leader who communicates a clear mission and vision of getting there. This leader must also build a phenomenal forward-thinking team that works toward the common goal. And maybe most importantly, this team and their leader should never let their guard down during prosperous times. Instead, they must always anticipate adversity, so they can avert it without much disruption when it arrives.
What’s done is done. In Texas, the people must learn from the tragedy so it never happens again. It is the same with post-pandemic businesses. The goal should always be to see adversity as a positive forerunner of change and to adapt accordingly.
We’ve all learned a lesson or two, no matter what our level of preparedness. We must adjust to the changes and get ahead of the curve by not settling-in with new habits. We must always learn from the past so we can keep thinking forward. With this mindset, the next potential disaster will not be so crippling.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor