It’s probably safe to say that most people will be glad to say “Goodbye … and good riddance!” to the year 2020. From the coronavirus pandemic that has killed thousands and disrupted everyday life for us all to widespread civil unrest and a tumultuous election, this past year has been one that most of us would just as soon forget.
For me personally, the year started off bad right out of the gate. On January 1, we woke up to a cold house and soon learned that we needed a new HVAC system. (Have you priced one of these lately?) Then I battled a lingering foot injury for months, only to tear my ACL wakeboarding over the summer.
So yea, I’m more than ready to flip the calendar and start over with a brand new year!
1. Stay focused on what you can control. This is something I always try to remember. Whenever a problem or challenge arises, the first thing I do is try to figure out what, if anything, I can do about it. If the answer is nothing, then I devote my energy and attention to something else that I can control.
We all learned pretty quickly that there was really nothing we could do about the pandemic. We could take precautions to help protect ourselves and our families, of course, but the pandemic isn’t going away until an effective vaccine is widely distributed.
So creative business owners instead shifted their attention to things that they could do to keep their businesses afloat. Many restaurants, for example, revamped their business models practically overnight, shifting to an emphasis on takeout and reconfiguring their kitchens and dining rooms. Other businesses quickly shifted to work-at-home and online sales and delivery models.
When business challenges arise in 2021 — and they will — keep your focus on the things you can control as you seek solutions. Don’t spin your wheels worrying about things you can’t.
2. Double down on providing outstanding service and high quality to customers. Service and quality never go out of style. I don’t care what business or industry you’re in: The best way to differentiate your business from your competitors is to provide great customer service and high quality products.
Think about the places where you shop or do business on a regular basis. Why do frequent these businesses? The answer boils down to either service or quality. The good news is that neither of these has to cost your business a lot of extra money.
I had to make a large cash deposit at the bank this week so I went into my nearest branch. The bank teller was, without a doubt, the friendliest, most helpful teller I’ve ever encountered in my life. How much extra did it cost the bank to train this guy in how to deliver outstanding customer service?
3. Look for ways to improve your business. Let’s be honest: When times are good and the cash is rolling in, it’s easy to get complacent with your business. Hey, I’m the king of complacency — ask my wife!
Sometimes it takes a business setback to force us to look underneath the hood for things about our business that aren’t working as well as they should and could be improved. For example, maybe there are extra steps in your product ordering process that could be eliminated to streamline things. Take a look at Amazon’s one-click ordering button to see how they made ordering online as easy as possible.
What changes or tweaks could you make to your business to improve the overall experience, boost customer satisfaction and retain and gain more clients?
4. Add more value to your product or service offerings. I’ll admit it: “Added value” is one of those business buzzwords that usually makes me roll my eyes. But I’m using it here because, well, it fits!
What does “added value” actually mean? To me, adding value means giving your customers more than they expect from you. Are there easy, inexpensive ways you can go above and beyond your customers’ expectations to make them happy and set your business apart?
For example, can you shave a few days off a delivery schedule to help a client meet a deadline? Offer a free upgrade that costs your business little or nothing? Or invest in some extra training that allows your employees to offer a higher degree of technical expertise?
5. Expect the unexpected. This is probably the most important lesson we can learn from what happened this year. This time last year, almost nobody foresaw what lay ahead of us in 2020. Instead, most of us were excited about the start of a new decade.
What unexpected surprises lay ahead of us in 2021? Nobody knows. So let’s plan for the best … and prepare for the worst. Build flexibility and adaptability into your 2021 business plans so you’re ready for whatever comes our way.