Through a year that challenged us and changed us as business owners and entrepreneurs, we learned many lessons that can help us move forward into 2021.
Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. It can be challenging and downright grueling. But at the same time, it can be gratifying and fulfilling. Besides being your own boss, some of the most impactful takeaways from the entrepreneurial journey are the lessons learned and the resiliency that comes with relentlessly pursuing a passion.
With that said, let 2020 be the year that offered perspective, ignited passions, taught us countless business tricks, and forced us to show the strength we never knew we had. While hindsight is, in fact, 2020, here are some tips for business in 2021 and what small business owners and entrepreneurs learned during a year that challenged us and changed us.
1. Agility is essential
While one of the most overused words in business in 2020 is “pivot,” its frequency demonstrates how important it is to change direction and adapt while keeping your business goals in sight. Layer on the ability to do this quickly, and what you have is agility. For entrepreneurs, it’s essential to be agile and open to new ideas.
As an example, consider the 2020 effect on the fitness industry. Independent fitness studios were on the rise with the growing boutique fitness craze that changed how people worked out and fueled athleisure fashion. With brick and mortar storefronts and in-person group classes and personal training sessions shut down due to the pandemic, businesses and individuals had to pivot.
Within days or even hours, instructors and business owners downloaded Zoom and navigated their way through the live streaming functions of every platform available. These fitness professionals doubled as instructors and their own IT department. They did their best to transform an in-person business into a virtual offering.
While many were not necessarily comfortable being on camera, it was necessary if they wanted to earn revenue and encourage others to continue supporting their business. They mastered the pivot.
2. Know and stay true to your values
There are plenty of times and situations when your values and morals will be tested. It may show up as a shiny new offer from a big company or the chance to partner with a powerful business. Opportunities and situations that will make you question what’s worth it and what isn’t are unlimited.
The way to work through these decisions and challenges is to know your values inside and out. One of the best tips for new entrepreneurs is to make sure your brand and messaging always reflect your foundation. They should be true to who you are and how you want your business to be perceived.
- What are the core values on which your business was founded?
- What are your non-negotiables?
- What situation would make you feel like you sold out?
Know these answers, and don’t waver.
3. Care for your people (and they will care for you)
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. But, it requires an attitude of gratitude and a view of the big picture. So here is the business tip: take care of your people.
This is a brief, summarized version of two approaches to navigating the pandemic’s fallout by two very different companies (without knowing all the ins and outs of each company mentioned). One method did not support the people behind the company — the other did.
The first example is the popular fitness boutique company, Solidcore. Solidcore is a Pilates-style workout with a dedicated following, founded in Washington, D.C., in 2013. With 72 studios, 137 full-time employees, 97 part-time employees, and 397 coaches, they announced a massive layoff of 98 percent of their workforce on March 19, 2020.
Solidcore’s founder and CEO, Anne Mahlum, shared that laid-off employees received a final paycheck in full, and their healthcare was paid for through the end of April and stated that “making this decision is our only chance to be standing at the end of this.” The brand shuttered its 72 studios doors and moved to online and virtual classes until they could open up again.
In a similar scenario, Gravity Payments CEO, Dan Price, faced a pandemic-related challenge. With the bulk of Gravity’s revenue generated from small business payment processing, which was on the decline, the company was losing $1.5 million a month during the height of the pandemic. Price needed to manage the downturn and financial insecurity. So while layoffs would reduce the overhead, he knew there had to be another way out.
Price consulted his team, and thanks to employees willing to forgo paychecks or accept a temporary salary reduction, Price did not have to lay off employees. Instead, he made some pay reductions and worked hard to recover the losses. Price was confident in the company’s future and paid back the wage reductions for employees who opted to help. You can read this article to learn more about Price’s approach.
Ultimately, taking care of those who support you is the best way to ensure your setback is a setup for an incredible comeback.
4. Learn and lead with your strengths
Everyone has moments and situations where their inherent strengths shine through, and they can lead with conviction. One way to leverage your strengths is to learn about them and how they can strengthen your leadership style.
During 2020, entrepreneurs were forced to give up or get creative. Those who got creative had to rely on their strengths to help them navigate what was coming next and see the big picture.
Sometimes, leaders were born to be at the front of their teams and face the challenges head-on. They pushed through the tough times and rallied their support system. Other leaders learned that they needed the strength of their support system to be at the forefront and lead. Either way, if you know your strengths, you will know how to use them to be a great leader.
5. Practice and show gratitude
There are very few things more inspiring than a grateful entrepreneur. While not every entrepreneur is dealt the same hand, they are competing in a similar game.
Some entrepreneurs will step on whatever or whoever is in their way as they climb to the top. Others take a different approach and often stop to say thank you and show appreciation. They express their gratitude for those who support, those who challenge, and those who help pave the way.
6. Communicate the best you can
No one likes to be the last to know. Nor do they want to find out about bad news from unlikely sources. One of the most important pieces of entrepreneur advice is to communicate effectively and frequently.
Communication is vital for any entrepreneur. This relates to internal communication with employees, partners, and stakeholders. The same prevails for external communication with customers and any other entities. If there is good news or bad news, communicating it to those with skin in the game, before they find out another way, demonstrates a sense of mutual respect and confidence.
7. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
Figuring out new ways of doing things, getting creative to solve problems — none of that usually feels great when you’re going through it. However, the rewards on the other side have no bounds.
As an entrepreneur, you grow when you’re uncomfortable. Your comfort zone is often your only limitation to reaching the next level. To grow and to succeed, you have to get uncomfortable and be okay with it.
8. We can only control our own actions
While the world continues to change, we cannot control other people’s actions or decisions. We cannot control a raging virus or individuals who choose or choose not to wear a mask. We cannot control the government’s decisions, and we cannot decide who enters or leaves our lives.
The one thing we can control, or maybe manage is the better way to think about it, is how we react to the people and situations we cannot control. Our actions and our word choices are up to us. We can accept certain things, or we can fight against them. We can follow requirements or rebel against them.
Either way, the choice is ours. While we must accept the consequences of our actions and decisions, we must always understand we are responsible for our actions, and how others adapt or react is up to them.
9. Everything is temporary
The ebbs and flows of life and business will always happen. As entrepreneurs, the peaks and valleys are what make us grow. When we hit a peak, we are at optimal performance. We get a taste of what it feels like to be on top, and we can see how we got there.
And the valleys also serve a purpose. They teach us how to get out of the trenches, not lose hope, see the challenge ahead of us, and prepare to tackle it.
Through it all, we must remember it’s all temporary. The highs, the lows, the disappointments, and the celebrations are all moments in time. Each moment is there for a reason. Being in the here and now, with the perspective that at some point the moment will pass, will teach you to appreciate the wins, learn from the losses, and believe the world will continue to spin.
10. Have faith in yourself
Others can support you and cheer you on. While it feels great, and it’s exciting to know that others want to see you succeed, your success depends ultimately on you and how much you believe in yourself and your mission. Your business and your success will live or die based on how wholeheartedly you believe in yourself and trust you are on the right path.
When you want to stop, remember why you started
There are so many reasons to consider veering off the entrepreneurial journey and hopping on the road with clear directions and obvious signs. However, there is a reason you started this journey. The why behind what you accomplished and where you are going is what will keep you moving ahead even when the road is bumpy and filled with the inevitable potholes.
One of the best and most reliable entrepreneurial tips that’s always applicable is to remember why you started. Use that intention to keep moving ahead.