Unprecedented, is the one word that comes to mind over and over as I think about what we’ve endured in 2020.  The other word that comes to mind is pivot, because nearly every business has had to pivot whether they’ve consciously thought about it or not.


The “why we pivot” is going to be different for all of us because we’re all being impacted one way or another related to this perfect storm, and will likely continue to be quite some time.  How long you ask? Here’s a free webinar that includes an outlook model by  McKinsey and Company that details scenarios depending on how effectively we manage COVID-19 from economic stimulus to our health and prevention efforts.  So rather than looking at what’s happening from a macro level, lets get down to what you can do to help your business survive, and ultimately thrive moving forward.

2020, The Year of the Pivot
From an entrepreneurial standpoint, we all strive to create some form of market disruption, to break the status quo because it puts us at a distinct advantage vs. our competitors.  However, when there is a force majeure market disruption we have to pivot from designing the disruption to responding to it. 

One of our pivots has been creating an informational vodcast overnight, even before we knew what the word vodcast meant.  We, our clients, and the entire business community has been so drastically impacted we reflected how we could help.  We quickly turned to our deep network of entrepreneurs and thought leaders who have previously navigated difficult market conditions.  So we began creating a vodcast, called Ask an Expert, to share their thought leadership and actionable ideas.

We’ve interviewed over 50 people so far from founders, c-level execs, consultants, coaches and more on topics from finance, sales, marketing, social media, strategy, to you name it.  Pivoting emerged as the primary theme, but there are several other factors that you need to stay focused on through prior to, and during that pivot.  The following are some of the themes that have come up often.

Vision & Core Values
Howard Behar, former President of Starbucks, was once asked, “How do you develop a culture?” to which he replied, “You already have a culture, you may not be conscious of it, and you may not be driving it, but you have a culture.  The question is, what do you want your culture to be.”

Now is the time to be reflecting on what your organization’s culture is, and more importantly what you want it to be, because as Howard says, “Your culture may not be the one you want, but it’s the one that you deserve.”

Once you have your values defined, you need to write them down and talk about them regularly, which allows them to actually become your organization.  For Starbucks, a core value centered around “Servant Leadership” where they focused on people internally and externally.  That value of wanting to serve people vs. being served by people would become the bedrock of Starbucks rapid growth across the world.

So think about the culture you want, write it down and create an environment where these values are constantly reflected on until they become the business you want to have. 

Customer Experience
Big companies spend countless time and invest countless dollars crafting the perfect logo, tagline and brand they want projected into the marketplace.  The reality is that your brand is more a reflection of the experience customers have when interacting with your products or goods. 

I was impressed with a powerful, but simple concept John DiJulius shared when we talked about customer experience.  He is considered the preeminent expert by many of the biggest brands from Lexus, Marriott, Progressive Ins., and talked about his approach to opening his first business.  “Instead of just creating the best customer experience within our industry, I wanted to create the best CX that our customers would have with any experience they’d interact with ANY other business.”

When you approach your business this way you have an opportunity to create a positive disruptor that will help differentiate your business for years to come.  Taking this approach will have tangible benefits on your average order sale, will increase your repeat business and lifetime value, but just as important you will see a significant increase in FREE referral business.

Mental Wellness
One of the biggest impacts these past few months for businesses is figuring out how to work virtually in a remote environment.  Many of us are in different county or city regulated phases of returning to normal, but some businesses like Twitter have permanently embraced the concept of nomadic workers. They’ve seen little to no decline in productivity, and in some instances have actually seen increases.  While having many benefits it’s important that we evaluate the social dynamics of this new structure and the impact on mental wellness.

I’ve had two interesting conversations regarding mental wellness, the first of which was with Jessica Jones who is the GM and VP w/ Infogroup.  She’s shared that even the most introverted people still personal interaction and so they’ve focused on creating non-work focused engagements.  Some of this is through group virtual water-cooler sessions, setting up “coffee breaks” for colleagues to get to know one another better, and encouraging breaks for stretching and physical activity. If you don’t retain these personal interactions and engagements your team performance will begin to suffer.  

On the flip side, my second conversation centered around the importance of maintaining your own mental health, especially as leaders.  Christo Popov is the CEO of a think tank focused on helping businesses develop better energy and speed.  He’s also founded another company called Etha that’s focused on taking a holistic approach to our physical and mental health.  

In his own words he says, “I really believe that if you want to master a business you have to master yourself.  You need to be obsessed with improving yourself.”  His regiment to help achieve this starts first with these five steps:

  1. Exercise
  2. Read
  3. Meditate
  4. Be careful what you eat
  5. Get good sleep

Everything comes after that.  He compares it to the old saying “a rising tide raises all boats.  In his example your body and your mind are the tide and if you’re taking care of, and improving, yourself your job, your company, your relationships will all improve.

Organizational Diversity
There are a lot socially polarizing events happening right now, and historically corporations have opted to stay on the sidelines.  One of our guests, Samuel Monnie, explains how it’s not just acceptable, but it’s encouraged for organizations to pivot and begin talking about and addressing issues of equality.  Samuel, host of a podcast called Across the Pond, and has worked with several fortune 500 companies, explains how customers are now demanding this from the businesses where they spend their money.

Levi’s CEO, Chip Bergh, has been a great example of how organizationally they’re reacting in the moment.  They are also laying the framework to become more proactive to create better work environments, and better community engagement. 

The irony that most corporations miss right now is explained by Geoff Smart, founder of arguably the best leadership and hiring consultancy firm ghSMART.  He shares that there are already over 20,000 studies that clearly show how having organizational diversity increases important KPI’s from operational efficiencies, productivity, and revenue.  So while it is important to account for diversity at a societal level, it’s also economically beneficial to do so too.

If there is a specific business challenge that you’re facing, or if there is a specific thought leader that you would like to hear from let us know and we’ll do what we can to help!


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