• Joe Hinson

The Dynamics That Will Shape 2021 and Beyond

The events of 2020 have tested business like never before. Some organizations did things that until then seemed impossible and in some cases, happened literally overnight. Inc. Magazine suggested that we saw 15 years of behavior change in 30 days. The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything and is not slowing down.

Heading into 2021, many different scenarios can take place depending on what sort of vaccine and treatment options become available. As we know, things change every day, and so much of the shape of 2021 is dependent on various moving parts. Businesses will continue to be tested, and those that respond with agility, resilience and an unwavering customer focus will thrive.

Small and midsize businesses will need to anticipate as much as possible the challenges ahead. From changing work models to technology developments and evolving consumer desires, the following is an overview of these critical areas of transformation as we begin 2021:

1. Work from home has gained popularity. Questions around whether working from home can be productive, efficient, and successful have been answered. While there are tremendous benefits to having your workforce engaged at home, it can be difficult to maintain a strong culture when everyone is completely remote. Innovation and creativity tend to happen more successfully when people come together in person. Onboarding and training can also be more effective when happening face-to-face. Many organizational leaders will adapt a hybrid model of working, meeting employees’ needs and desires to work from home while balancing the benefits of having people come together. Companies will continue to test the waters and try different scenarios as they strategize designing the right hybrid model for how to work now.

2. Physical office spaces will be reimagined. The work-from-home reality plus tele business have dramatically changed office workspace requirements. Today, organizations are aggressively reimagining and reconfiguring their workplace to create a sense of physical safety that workers now require. Organizational leaders are factoring in economics, employee needs and expectations, real estate, commute times, and costs to prepare their spaces and workers – for return.

3. Some reductions in business travel will remain. We should not expect to see a return to pre-pandemic levels of business travel. As businesspeople have learned to connect and communicate digitally, they have also realized that digital communications can be very effective. However, some form of in-person meetings will remain important. Business leaders are reconsidering how often they schedule face-to-face meetings and when they can effectively leverage technology for customer interactions.

4. The digital transformation will continue to accelerate. Technology has allowed many of our businesses to continue in ways that would not have been possible 15 years ago. In fact, the internet infrastructure of 2005 could not have handled the bandwidth demands of 2020. Our rapid adaption of technology will continue to energize digital transformation efforts. Organizations that had already moved further down the digital path were less disrupted and were more easily and quickly able to adapt. Early adapters to digital technology have experienced improved productivity and performance and are ensured to have the tools for whatever lies ahead.

5. Regaining consumer confidence. The feeling of uncertainty by consumers since March 2020 on a variety of issues has put a strain on businesses. Careers, health and wellbeing and changes in their daily lives have made consumers more cautious than ever to spend money, and their needs are ever evolving. Businesses must start by looking at their marketing mix and deciding which (if not all) elements need adjusting – product line, price, an on-line presence, and target market are examples. Creating a contingency plan and developing key partnerships will help identify gaps in an organization’s business.

In the wake of profound disruption, our future came into focus. Changes long in the making for some organizations were implemented overnight. The remarkable ability to adapt and pivot has helped both leaders and their businesses evolve and thus survive. Agility, creativity, and customer obsession showed the way forward. These principles will continue to guide us as we enter the next normal.

For small and midsize businesses, the opportunities in 2021 will be realized if leaders are prepared for continued change and challenges. We are on a long, protracted road to recovery, marked by a series of plateaus. It will take us some time to get back to where we were before the pandemic. But over the past few months, leaders have had the opportunity to learn to adapt, survive and even thrive in the face of unprecedented change.

2021 will mark a turning point. The business landscape has fundamentally shifted. Success will depend on an organization’s ability and willingness to harness disruption to drive meaningful change. Together, we will get through this. Please reach out to us for support.

Thank you for being a valued member of the West Chester ▪ Liberty Chamber Alliance. Together we grow your business. Please be safe.