There’s been a lot of talk in 2020 about businesses making a pivot. Turning their attention away from what might be their strengths or core competencies and doing what they feel is necessary just to “get through.” In sailing when one literally needs to pivot the boat, it’s because they’re no longer catching the right wind. To make the pivot the sailor needs to go into the no-go zone – a place where there is no wind at all. Whatever momentum was had is lost in the no-go zone.
Our guidance: don’t find yourself in the no-go zone. Propel instead.
Being Audacious Rather Than Resilient
Being resilient or having resilience might be considered a useful character trait. It’s about having skills to bounce back. Almost as popular as making the pivot in 2020 is coaching and encouragement on becoming more resilient. You’re already resilient! You’ve proven that by being a business leader or owner. And at no time in your visioning for starting or running a company did you think, “My goal for me and my company is to be resilient.” Now is not the time to focus on energy that’s already lost – a requirement in being “resilient” if you’re going to “bounce back.”
In business, if you’re standing still you’re being left behind. Finance, by definition, is perseverance. Sometimes perseverance takes courage and hard work. That’s who you are. You’re a risk taker. You’re a vision-setter. It’s part of what makes a person dream up a business or innovate on ideas. This is a time to lean into those parts of you – the characteristics that make you and your business audacious.
Audacity is the willingness to take risks. Any capable business leader knows that taking risks is the only way to get better and stronger, to get from where you are to where you want to be.
If Not You, Then Them
We’ve seen so much innovation in 2020. Companies have shifted manufacturing from clothing to masks, or set up online ordering or delivery, or figured out how to take their business to a different model like outdoors or online.
In some ways 2020 has been an accelerator. Bad habits, deep inefficiencies, trending business or market dynamics – where maybe companies could live with those things for awhile or address them on their own schedule, this year laid them bare very quickly. But this year also accelerated innovation. For the audacious companies, focus was given to the problem, not the panic – what do we have that makes us unique, capable, and powerful to this moment? That might have meant investments in new processes like digital or online business – which would have happened anyway. Or create more productive remote workspaces – we were already headed in that direction.
Yet, if we “hunker down” – more bad advice we’ve seen a lot of in 2020 – we try to weather through something we think will pass while others around us learn to optimize in the moment and create opportunities that can last long after we’ve collectively gotten back on track. Being audacious means never getting off track in the first place, just choosing a different track than maybe was anticipated, familiar, or even comfortable.
Having a Strategic Mindset
The challenges we’re facing are real, and often difficult. A mindset or courageous approach alone isn’t going to miraculously overcome these challenges for you or your company, and being audacious should not imply being reckless. But having a strategic mindset is definitely a stronger approach than adopting a wait-and-see or let’s have hope mindset. 2020 has in some ways been just a hastening of normal business and economic cycles of recession, innovation, the unexpected, the opportunistic. Having a sustainable, stable, strategic mindset lets us stay focused on business outcomes and opportunities for progress.
One way to achieve this is by setting the right goals. The inclination for many companies is to start goal setting with a number – some revenue or income or profit projection. For those companies, 2020 was especially difficult because the set of assumptions around which those numbers were made were thrown out the window. But guess what – they’re usually thrown out the window! Even in a “normal”, predictable year, nothing goes how we assume it will.
With a strategic mindset, setting goals means having measurable targets that can accommodate change. Targets like: We want to create some percent of new marketshare in this particular region. Or: We want to expand into three new product categories. How you achieve these goals might change, but keeping your eyes on the targets – having the vision to achieve them – does not.
Make it Meaningful
Remember why you started your business. That taking risks is part of the game. That if you hunker down and wait it out, a more audacious competitor will innovate right by you. Now is the time to reconnect and recapture your vision, to ignite it with strategy, and be audacious enough to reach those goals.