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Bring It On, 2021: Getting Ready For What Is Set To Be The Year Of Intention And Attention "You must have diversity on the top of your priority list. And by diversity, I mean weave diversity into everything you do."

By Maha Abouelenein Edited by Aby Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


Looking back at 2020, I think there were so many valuable lessons for so many of us as entrepreneurs, both personally and professionally. We learned so much about ourselves and what we are capable of, and we also learned what we cannot live without. So many of us learned to appreciate what we have, and for the first time in modern history, in our hyper connected digital world, we all experienced and witnessed the same thing at the same time ("We are all in this together," remember?).

And perhaps 2020 will also always be remembered for the catchphrase that characterized business meetings through the course of the year: "You're on mute." As entrepreneurs, there is so much we learned that as we plan forward for the year ahead. I think that companies received a big wake up call in 2020, and a good friend of mine said, "If a company had an underlying condition, COVID-19 would expose that." This simply means if there were parts of the organization that were not healthy, it would come to light during a crisis like a pandemic.

Based on the experiences we've had this year, I'd now like to share lessons from 2020 that you should not forget- while also listing the top five must-haves in your 2021 entrepreneurial playbook.


1. Stock up on generosity Lend a hand to those in need! This was an actual campaign by American brand Cotttonelle as people in the United States began stocking up on toilet paper at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis and creating a shortage in the commodity. To stock up on generosity means you should find a way to add value and contribute to your community. Find a charity that needs your help and can benefit from your support. Being kind and being a good corporate citizen matters.

2. Adaptability and flexibility We all heard the phrase "pivot," which means to adapt to what's happening in the market. You must adapt and be flexible to market needs and the current environment. Meet consumers where they are. Solve a problem they have. Businesses that showed their adaptability and flexibility thrived during the pandemic.

3. Mental health = overall health = overall happiness = overall productivity = overall satisfaction I am so glad this conversation is becoming mainstream and part of work culture as well. We cannot perform or be creative when we are not healthy- physical and mental health now share the same stage.

Related: Happy Employees Create Happy Customers

4. All marketing is personal All business is local. All relevance is local- deliveries, curbside pick up, local offers, and locally-based businesses all took center stage. Personalized marketing and experiences that expanded connections with consumers did well during the pandemic. Hyperlocal engagement is going to continue to drive importance with consumers and a valuable lesson that we learned in 2020.

5. Balance of short-term and long-term goals This is a game of innovation and survival. You must constantly innovate, but it's critical to balance tactical and strategic goals. You cannot just focus on short-term wins- you must really work on parallel paths for growth. So many businesses did this well- focus on short-term needs to get through the pandemic, and build long-term plans for the business that will help you scale your ideas and plans. Think of the travel industry- they had to focus on the short-term shutdown, but also plan for the long-term business rebound.


1. Every business is direct-to-consumer You must have a direct-to-consumer business model. This means you have to define one channel of your business that leads you directly to your consumer. Provide customers less friction and more convenience. Save them time and build a direct-to-consumer channel for your business. It's here to stay, and it will be the only way you will survive going forward. Look at every part of your consumer journey, and hack it (from last-mile logistics, to building an app, to payment options, and more)- even car companies are looking at direct-to-consumer models.

2. Businesses must find new ways to connect with consumers How is your digital marketing strategy? Are you able to direct message consumers through your app? Are you creating a database to email your consumers? And are you allowing consumers a way to tell you what they like or need? Open new channels of communications, and find new ways to connect with consumers. Events aren't an option these days, and so you must find new ways to connect, and I mean have a dialogue- not oneway communication!

3. Adopt a new workplace playbook Working from home is effective for some industries and companies, and employees love the flexibility. We have to adopt a new workplace playbook. Companies that are continuing to rely on digital collaboration tools must ensure they are sharp when it comes to employee well-being, employee recognition, retaining talent, and building a strong virtual culture. Companies that will be operating in an office environment have to find a compelling way to make it collaborative, inspiring, and reimagining how they work.

4. Bet on yourself Build your expertise. In a market environment where the talent pool has widened, you are no longer bound by your geographic location, which means you have more job opportunities, and companies also have access to recruit talent from anywhere that will compete with you. Build your skillsets. The hottest skills in demand are working with people, problemsolving, and self-management skills such as resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility.

5. Diversity is key You must have diversity on the top of your priority list. And by diversity, I mean weave diversity into everything you do. Build diversity in your team members and their experience. Ensure diversity in the communications platforms you are using. Remember that TikTok ban that was threatened? Don't run your business on one platform only. Bring diversity to your content- tell stories about your business, the people behind it, and feature customers too! Last but not the least, diversify your business model. Build multiple revenue streams to ensure you're pandemic-proof for the future.

Finally, I am calling 2021 the year of intention and attention- let me explain. We must act with intention in everything we do. What are your intentions with your customers? How are you bringing value to your customers? What are your intentions with your employees? Are you building a strong work environment that emphasizes employee well-being, transparency on your policies, and inspiring your talent to learn and grow? Work with intention. Market with intention. Listen with intention. Spend money with intention. Be intentional in your approach.

Once we have our intent, we must then focus our attention. First stop: where are consumers spending their time? The year of attention means we are spending our time, money, and resources where consumers attention is going. Pay attention to growing apps, trending insights, and follow the data. Data tells a story- you should read it. Entrepreneurs who understand customer attention win especially when it comes to marketing.

All said and done, take 2020 as a wonderful lesson, and a bridge to the future of how business will adapt and grow. Work with intent and pay attention. Force yourself to evolve, and take advantage of the shift. Find comfort in it, because things are still shifting. Stay low, and keep moving. Bring it on, 2021! You are ready.

Related: Why 2021 Could See More Startups From The Middle East Become Unicorns

Maha Abouelenein

Founder, Organizational Consultants

Maha Abouelenein is a communications expert and founder of Organizational Consultants, a communications consulting firm and Digital & Savvy, which aims to educate and coach people and brands on all things related to communications. You can follow her at @mahagaber, or check out her podcast Savvy Talk, which is available on all podcast players.

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