The brightest prospect of the coming year is that we’ve been afforded a moment and an opportunity to take the time to take stock and to determine what in our businesses and in our lives is both something we want to do and something that’s really worth doing. Without apologies or excuses, as we enter the post-pandemic period, we’re at a point where we can simply and swiftly shed portions of our past actions and behaviors without paying any real social or emotional price.
I think that many of us who were lucky enough to survive the past year physically, mentally, and financially without our businesses being totally destroyed definitely feel like we dodged a bullet, and now’s the time when we need to make changes and take steps to move away from our past. It’s not a matter of returning or restoring or even rebuilding the old; it’s a time to reinvent and reimagine the future of what our firms can be.
The trick for tomorrow will be to learn how to strip down and simplify our products and services to get more done with less. It couldn’t be more important to get back to basics and to focus on solid execution and on delivering on the promises you’ve made to yourself, your employees, and your customers. It’s a time to ask, not just how and when, but why as well.
If there’s not a compelling reason to offer, do or provide something, maybe there’s no need at all, apart from sheer inertia, to keep doing certain things because that’s the way things have “always” been done. The greatest single failing of most entrepreneurs is that they rarely know when to stop. Sometimes you just need to take a breath, take the win and stop selling.
For many established businesses, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to simplify, shrink, and get rid of old rules, processes, and commitments that make little or no sense today in the new global economy. For example, the pandemic taught us that speed and access, not space and travel, are clearly the drivers of the digital world. Somehow many of the excesses of the past which seemed so essential now feel unnecessary and wretchedly extreme.
As sad as it may be for some, these days, we no longer respect tradition or even history; it’s all about innovation and novelty, and in far too many companies traditions are simply costly encumbrances and nothing more than excuses to avoid change. Over the years, just like ships, businesses develop barnacles and accumulate things that they ask their people to routinely do even if no one remembers exactly why. In the age of DocuSign, hunting down and paying a notary public to sign off on certain legal documents is just one of many stupid remnants of times gone by which need to be put down and done away with.
For startups, the post-pandemic “pause to reflect, refresh, and redo” is an even more critical chance to course-correct and fix things before they solidify, and you get stuck with them as you rush to return to business as usual. Now’s the time to get out from under commitments you made that no longer make any sense, promises that were premised on powers you’ve learned you no longer possess (and maybe never had), and plans to grow and scale which require radical reappraisal.
Anyone can make a mistake, but if you continue down the wrong path, you run the risk of internalizing and institutionalizing the bad behaviors and making it exponentially much harder to ditch them down the line. Where you came from and where you were headed is still relevant, but being a prisoner of the past serves no one and makes no sense.
Don’t be afraid, wherever you’re at in your company, to ask why and occasionally to question and challenge even some of the “feel-good” things you see around you. And, of course, losing sight of reality and practicality aren’t limited to business choices and decisions. Overdoing just about anything is now an omnipresent part of our life and times and too much apparently is never enough for some people.