The year 2020 is just over & there are a lot of learnings throughout the year. If the business owner does not learn from those then 2021 will bring struggles for the business owner here as well. Based on my notes throughout last year and looking at the horizon of 2021, here below are some major struggles of business owners that they need to overcome in this new year 2021.
Till last year, entrepreneurs would be looking to take some time to plan, take time to make a decision and then implement whereas 2020 has pushed through the limits and made us realize the path of “new normal”
I listed 7 major struggles in 2021 over here. It’s like we need to make up a backlog for last year and make ourselves future proof as well. According to my knowledge, here below are key areas that will define failure, sustainability & success of businesses in 2021.
So, in 2021 business owners need to put up seat belts and get on roller coaster rides.
Uncertainty has been the biggest killer of growth for any business and in 2021 that will be applicable to all the businesses irrespective of the domains/country/technology they are in. It’s a major concern to take care of. Business owners must have to work on developing adaptive business plans and strategies covering flexibility to be ready for moving in one or other ways depending on the situations that arise from time to time. In such a situation of uncertainty, there are two choices,
- One is to be defensive and try to be on the course of sustainability throughout the year. For some, this would be a good option but at the same time, it’s too risky to be defensive.
- Advance yourself with growth strategies, be flexible, adapt to new normal develop new services, and go wider. This might expose the less-traveled path to unimaginable growth.
So, making your own way of growth through the clouds of uncertainty will be a major challenge business owners will have to face in 2021. Success with growth or failure with just sustaining or quitting will totally depend on how one responds to this uncertainty.
2 Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence Compatibility
“Data is a new oil”, is an old saying now. Everyone knows the importance of building their own data bank and using it for developing new solutions for old/existing problems. If you are a business owner and not taking the necessary steps thinking that the systems you need to collect, analyze, segregate & use data are tedious or costly work then you are moving towards the extinction of your business. This may sound like an extreme statement but you will realize the basis of it by observing things happening around you.
From automation in manufacturing to using Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence for developing the supply chain, marketing & sales advancements, these technologies proved immense usability in 2020. The trend will continue to rise in 2021 as well. Corporates like Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Google have been using this for almost a decade now and we witness how they have benefited from it. Small & Medium business owners will not have the capability to build their own data capturing, analyzing systems however good news is, there is & will be the rise of techno start-ups providing such ready customizable solutions. These mostly will be SAAS solutions and small & medium businesses should not hesitate to grab such solutions.
The one who adapts quickly to this scenario will have a winning chance in 2021. So here are key points what a business owner should take care of in this aspect –
- Be ready to look for opportunities to gather, analyze & represent data with respect to Business Process Automation
- Develop customized systems using AI & develop new workflows
- If not able to make it, be ready to buy solutions helping your business
- Look at it as an investment for business refurbishment and not an expense
3 Being Phygital - Balancing between Digital & Physical (Traditional) World
People hate being sold but love to be helped so direct selling tactics will face a lot of troubles more than ever in 2021. There will be a need to take a route of being valuable by helping them.
User experience will be a key area over here, there will be a demand to serve your prospects in both digital as well as physical environments.
Ok, there will be more digital than ever before but will differ from business to business and each individual business type will need to figure out the right balance themselves. This is called a being Phygital. Building this experience at excellent levels again the use of AI technologies will be of very much importance.
Your Phygital ecosystem should encompass areas to serve your customers for a lifetime and not just a transactional relationship. The major areas of excellent Phygital Customer/User experience could include –
- Attracting your potential customer (Marketing)
- Nurturing them with valuable freebee solutions (Warming up)
- Selling your products/services (Sales)
- Provide after-sales services (Deliver)
- Receive feedback (Observe)
- Improvise & build new solutions (Optimize)
All in all, being Phygital is required at most of the stages of business.
4 Shielding Yourself - Data Security & Privacy
2020 forced many businesses to market, sell, operate, deliver & serve digitally. For most of these areas, many of them were not ready and done with limited preparation, budgets, and time. This enabled new opportunities for cybercriminals within a short time frame. While we are aware that major corporations like Yahoo & Microsoft also faced cyber-attacks and those will continue to happen where ever these online criminals find the possibility to do so with any open gaps anywhere.
Shielding yourself from such attacks, protecting your data & maintaining privacy will be the biggest challenge for business owners in 2021 and possibly here onwards.
LearnBonds revealed that 68% of companies are going to increase their investment in cybersecurity as a response to the coronavirus crisis.
- Strong Passwords
- Setting up virtual private networks (VPN)
- Training employees
- Message encryption &
- Consulting Cyber Security Experts
are a few steps, to begin with securing data and maintaining privacy.
5 Being Solo (Collaborations & Associations)
Being solo & specialist in your niche is great with respect to having authenticity. It’s always rewarding when someone is a Specialist in one of his/her own topics & operates with small teams. It has unlimited potential but the scenario is changed and most of the clients look for one-stop solutions. When you build an awesome user experience for your customer, he/she will expect you to deliver other ancillary products/services as well, and frankly, you can’t or should not deny that in such a competitive world.
Continuing as a solopreneur in business is like building walls around you and that’s a bit risky in a fast-changing as well as the uncertain environment in 2021. With this, you will have a few blind spots too.
You need to know & figure out answers to –
- What’s going around in your technology/market?
- Assess what your customers would need next?
- How are your competitors fulfilling the needs of the market?
- How you can develop your uniqueness in all of this?
- How fast you move forward in an uncertain environment?
And this is a bit difficult to happen if you are alone. Creating your own alliances & collaborated teams will be a winning move through this.
6 The Work Culture
The new normal is easier said than adoptions. Whether we work in small or large teams, work from home has become a mandatory part of running organizations for almost a year now. Many were not ready for this and exposed the work culture gaps. Trust is the biggest concern in all of this, some examples of that are –
- Resulting in micro-managed operations
- Increased the conversations/Phone calls at unwanted times like private times like evenings & late nights or early mornings which meant to spend with family members.
- Marking attendance in office/institute for at least a couple of days of the week.
- Conducting meetings on weekly off days
Such instances reflect the work culture's ability to respond with missing elements to such situations. Leaders of organizations will have to understand these aspects and take corrective actions to improve work culture within the business environment. Many IT or such organizations were ready with such culture but it lacks in many others especially the education sector.
If this is not taken care of, it’s just a matter of time that good people will start leaving the place.
7 Investing in People
The importance of upskilling your employees is no new thing. Many organizations realize this and actively investing for a long time. Looking at the competitive world is going on; this will need to be drastically increased. The most important thing I would like to emphasize is investing in the physical & mental well-being of your team members. New normal is bringing a heavy toll on the physical & mental health of employees as well as their family members. Not considering this investment might result in decreased productivity and efficiency of an employee as well as poor quality deliverables. I won’t say it's only the business owner’s responsibility but it should go both ways. If the organization does not have a policy in place to help in such situations, employees need to be open to take help by themselves from other means.
Organizations with large organizations can have initiatives for their employees and some of them could be –
- Organizing talks from experts about the importance of physical & mental health
- Creating an online repository of such helpful material (articles/blogs/Audio/Videos/etc.) & making it accessible for employees
- Providing discount coupons of fitness center memberships
- Enabling Yoga & Meditation opportunities
- Hiring or Having a Contract with a Mental Health coach to help employees
- Having a system for employees (keeping privacy) to raise the flag if they need any help
I did put it as the last point on the challenges a business owner might face in 2021 but personally, I feel it’s the most important aspect of running a successful business this year.
- Reaction or response is the choice everyone has so do the business owners have in 2021. Choosing to respond to the situation of uncertainty by being open & flexible might take businesses on a growth path on the contrary being defensive could be too much risk as well. Fingers crossed to see what happens in 2021.
- Becoming ML & AI Compatible will help business owners not only stay in the market but if applied correctly, there is a high chance that you can move fast forward than the rest of your competitors.
- Adopting the Phygital environment effectively will be another key element to stay meaningful in 2021. There is no black & white line anymore when we discuss the digital & physical world of business.
- Data Security & Maintaining Privacy will be a non-negotiable aspect in 2021. The smallest leak on this part will have a probability of the highest risk to the businesses. This aspect will continue to be there not just this year but beyond as well.
- Being solo is good to go but is risky to survive and attain exponential growth. There also lies a risk of getting out of business all of a sudden due to carrying blind spots of your own business. Getting into associations and collaborations is a much comfortable ride from here onwards.
- Diversity & inclusion is the mandatory part of the new normal work culture. Availability of vaccine for COVID 19 does not mean it’s gone and it’s all ok now. The risk associated with it will still be there for at least a year from now and every element of the business is adapting to a new normal way so it’s advisable to be flexible with the work culture and adopt new changes to it.
- People are the core of any business and it moves around them. If this is not understood now, then I wonder when will it be? The investment in people should not be limited to upskilling in technology but enabling a better physical & mental environment.
Though this is a long article, hope you liked to read and get some aspect to be prepared for rocking 2021. Please leave your comment below with your views on any of the aspects of this article. Also, you are welcome to add any point which you think is necessary to be added as a forthcoming challenge for the business owner in 2021 but I missed to include it here. Thank you!