How does a business leader strategize in chaos? It's a question many of us are facing as we currently shelter-in-place and navigate a volatile world economy. As Mark Cuban noted, though, some of today's most influential startups began during the last recession. Moving forward, leaders need to both respect the moment and lean into the next business space.

In an interview last year, marketing veteran Seth Godin said one's next best move comes from asking one important question: 

Do more people trust you and pay attention to you today than six months ago, and what are you going to do between now and six months from now that is going to radically change the number of people and how deeply they pay attention and trust you?

This reflection exercise is key, and I think there are two big lessons from this short statement.

First, build trust, and then attention

As I've discussed before, trust is a rarer commodity than attention. In fact, trust leads to attention. You can get plenty of attention, but that doesn't mean people will go out of their way to work with your service or purchase your product. By building trust, though, you can create a dialogue with your potential customers and stay top of mind when your offer meets their needs.

Building trust comes down to three actions:

  • Showing up for the customer
  • Being consistent in your availability as well as your message
  • Focusing on serving rather than just the transaction itself

Do you have more trust now than before? Six months is good for seeing how your previous strategy worked.

Then look six months into the future

If it is summer, then what actions will you take now that will build trust, service, and attention come winter? The discussion automatically changes the scope of your decision-making process.

As of this writing, most of the world is sheltering-in-place. However, in six months, we will likely be in a different landscape: perhaps out of shelter-in-place, definitely more insightful about the pandemic, and adapting to a new economy.

In other words, our world right now is in transition. Making short-term decisions may not help you stay alive until year's end.

For instance, professional public speakers like myself could stop practicing our talks, master virtual speaking, and pivot all our speaking opportunities to remote. But what happens in a year from now, when those conferences that have been delayed are suddenly back on? By then, onstage speakers would be out of practice. In my case, I'm continuing an active conversation with all my delayed speaking commitments and practicing my talks onstage so I'm ready for where the world may be in the near future.

Things are changing rapidly. The sharpest move may not be pivoting your business to where customers are, but setting your strategy for where they are going to be.