One of the most pervasive impacts of the pandemic across every industry has been the acceleration of change. Many changes were already on the way, but almost all of them are here whether we like it or not. The list is massive and continually growing: remote and distributed work, videoconferencing, telemedicine, e-sports, virtual restaurants, and touchless everything. One critical case in point, consultant Kearney estimates that the adoption of e-commerce has been accelerated by five years in just the past year.
And these changes are now increasingly and seamlessly integrated into our everyday lives. And here to stay. We're not all happy about the speed, scope, and scale of all the changes or the fact that they all seem to be happening simultaneously. But almost every entrepreneur I know is excited about how those shifts will likely open new product and market opportunities, grow customer adoption and headcounts, and create a greater willingness to experiment with and accept novel and innovative solutions to any number of systemic problems.
At the moment, though, the most important trick seems to be making sure that you can weather the interim storms and bumps in the road that are inevitable in transitions of this magnitude, so that your business is around to take full advantage of the good times as they slowly return.
There are at least three typical responses to rapid change like this, but only one makes sense if you're planning to stick around.
First, and worst, is to do nothing. Nothing new. Nothing different. Just trying to get back to business as usual in a world that's changed radically and forever. You know in your heart that ignorance as a strategy choice makes little sense, but it's the "painless" path of least persistence. At least for a little while. Soon enough, your competition will run right past you and your customers will find better, more accessible and more attractive new alternatives.
The reality is that any direct and immediate action is better than none--even if all the moves you're making might not be in the right direction. It's not wrong to be wrong. It's wrong to stay wrong. You're much better off trying to do something and failing than you will ever be trying to do nothing and succeeding. But be sure to be honest with yourself and recognize that make-work projects and keeping busy just for the sake of filling time aren't going to help you change the trajectory. It's like poking a balloon with your finger -- you might displace or move the problems, but you aren't effectively responding to, or resolving them.
What we know for sure is that if you're not pushing the ball forward -- at whatever pace and in whatever direction makes you comfortable -- you're slowly slipping backward. Like riding a bike, as long as you're in motion, you won't fall over. Try to stand still, and you're likely to flop.
The second equally fruitless approach is a page right out of the immediate past insanity of our most recent ex-president. Trying to build walls to hold off the future is a wanton and wasteful exercise in wishful thinking, even apart from the fact that walls clearly won't work. It's not even obvious that the people who are desperately attempting to stave off the alleged onslaughts understand whom they're trying to keep in and whom they hope to exclude. Trying to interpose fixed barriers, painful process and onerous restrictions, and other novel limitations is akin to placing picket fences in front of the oncoming floods--a fool's errand and doomed to fail.
Watching so many colleges try to desperately hang on to full tuition charges in the face of parents and students revolting against virtual and remote learning models is a good example of businesses trying to stop the sudden stampede without offering credible and viable alternative solutions. In times like these, agility, fluidity, and flexibility -- bending without breaking -- is critical to survival. Walls and dams -- however solid, sturdy, and fixed -- will be promptly and readily overrun or avoided just as they have been throughout history. On the other hand, carefully constructed and deployed moats are an entirely different matter. But even the best moats require constant attention, continual maintenance, and regular enhancement. Nothing gets better by itself.
The best solution of all, however, is to focus on building bridges rather than barriers. Reaching out to others and constructing win-win partnerships, mutually beneficial relationships, and shared platforms beyond the resources of any of the individual participants is going to be crucial to surviving in a post-pandemic world where we can expect increased market and industry consolidation overall with the big few industry leaders continuing to grow. You're gonna need a helping hand and some of life's most challenging decisions are always which bridges to build and which to cross or not.
The key to sustainable success going forward for new and growing businesses is to understand that it's going to be increasingly impossible to provide for and satisfy all of the needs of your present and future customers by yourself. All the bright ideas for easy businesses built by Lone Rangers have been tried and taken. And, even more important, it's critical to appreciate that it makes little or no sense to even try to do everything alone because you couldn't be all things to all people under the best of circumstances.
Finding and connecting to strong partners who can supplement your skills and talents, focusing on what you can do far better than anyone else, outsourcing the things you can seamlessly offload to others, and ultimately shedding all of the commoditized functions and services to which you bring nothing special are the ways to streamline and trim your particular offerings. That will allow you to differentiate from the pack and provide a compelling and unique set of incentives and values to the customers you really want to attract.
No one has the time, resources or even any reason to try to hold off the future. Shrinking and simplifying your strategy, focusing and carefully directing your attention and efforts, and building bridges to others who can help you leverage your strengths and strengthen your offerings are the most effective ways forward.