Businesses have been through a lot in the last 18 months. As we near the end of 2021, a year that has put many to the test, it is useful to pause and reflect on lessons learned that might be applied in the new year.
There are numerous advantages to reflecting on what worked and what did not. What you can bring into the new year as a business and what you should alter. One thing that was undoubtedly learned in 2021 is that resilience and an ability to adapt to change are critical components of long-term corporate success.
The world has shifted dramatically. And with it, its people. This requires organisations to adjust their tactics in response to changing customer habits and needs.
We asked industry experts what the most important takeaway from 2021 is.
1. There is no right time – act anyway
David Seinker, Founder and CEO, The Business Exchange
A pandemic would count as the perfect excuse to not launch new products, expand into different territories or do anything other than “business as usual”. But in business there is no perfect time to do anything, if you look for it there will always be countless reasons to not do something, which is exactly why we went ahead and did the big, bold things anyway.
In 2021 The Business Exchange launched a unique investment opportunity in Mauritius, and opened a serviced office space in Cape Town. We’re delighted that both these moves have been very successful but more importantly, it’s highlighted for us that there is no “ideal time” to do something. The best approach is, to quote Nike, just do it.
This will be the lesson that we take into 2022, and beyond – there is no right time to do something. Suss out the opportunity, calculate and manage the risk, and then just go all in.
2. Complacency is the enemy of creativity
Reagen Kok, Hoorah CEO
Creativity is the currency that drives our business, which is why we cannot afford to become complacent about what it takes to remain creative at the highest level.
As a business we learned that caring for the mental wellbeing of our team, and prioritising the things our people need to perform at the top of their game, needs to be as much a part of our overall strategy as any other business function.
Call it the impact of the pandemic, the point is that we need to do better as businesses when it comes to looking after the overall wellbeing of our teams. We learned this in 2021 and in 2022 team wellness will enjoy the priority it deserves as a key part of our company culture.
3. Our most precious resource is time
Greg Gatherer, Account Manager, Liferay Africa
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that time is fleeting, and probably our most important resource. The one thing that we cannot replace, and we don’t have a lot of, is time. Concentrating on the broad picture is important, and being aware of what constitutes a distraction enables you to make the most use of this finite resource.
In this “always online, always available digitally connected world” we live in, often we are bombarded having to attend digital huddles, and respond to chats, emails, and other notifications. We often commit to spending time on other people’s crises rather than spending more time on focused big-ticket items that we are in control of.
As Brian Tracy said, one of the worst uses of time is to do something very well that doesn’t need to be done at all.
4. Adapt for the next 10-20 years of growth
Thembani Biyam, CEO, Orderin
Businesses need to adapt and be ready for the next 10-20 years of growth, which will come from millennials who are digital natives. The last year has shown us that if you aren’t digitising all aspects of your business, long term success can’t be guaranteed.
But going digital means nothing if you don’t recognise that talent is more valuable than anything else in your business. With so many people changing jobs, emigrating and working from home, leaders have a bigger challenge retaining the people who make their businesses work. Leaders should be bingeing all methodologies that make their people feel loved, valued and impactful.
Leaders have an especially important role to play here. They are the last line of defense for employees to feel safe and stable. It’s incredibly important, no matter what external factors are at play, that leaders stay calm, show their poise and find ways to affirm their people.
5. It’s important to think like the customer
Christiaan Steyn, Head, MiWay Blink
It goes without saying that the Covid-19 pandemic has been a period during which businesses have had to be particularly agile and adaptable. For many businesses, this time has been one for huge learnings about survival and adaptability.
At MiWay Blink, we were conscious of the need to be in tune with what customers are thinking and feeling, particularly during the tougher economic climate caused by the pandemic. We understand that customers want to see value, and we saw an opportunity to introduce a product offering suited towards our new way of living. Building our App in such a way that we can track vehicle trips means that we can monitor a client’s total mileage every month and “refund” a portion of their premium for the kilometers they didn’t drive.
Consumer expectation changed when lockdown started and this presented an interesting opportunity in the market that allowed us to add value to clients in a tangible way.
6. Great things happen during tough times
Aisha Pandor, CEO of SweepSouth
When things are comfortable there’s a lot to lose by stepping out of your comfort zone, but when your world is turned upside down, it often forces you into taking actions you may have considered as too risky. Great things happen during tough times – it can be the best time for your company, or a division within it, to change direction.
We’ve always tried to have a flexible approach that allows us to readily adapt to anything coming our way, but the last year and a half have really taught us to roll with the punches in order to thrive. When the pandemic started and we entered lockdown, our business could barely operate, so our core team regrouped to innovate our core offering and amplify how we could remain agile in responding to the uncertainties facing us. That focus paid off – since then we’ve added on a slew of new home services, and launched SweepSouth into Kenya and Nigeria.
More than anything, 2021 has brought home to me how, as a business owner, you need to develop resilience so that you have the will to stay in the game through thick and thin. And that you should foster grit within your team so that you can keep one another’s morale up if you encounter tough times. These two things will go a long way to helping advance a company through turbulence and beyond.”