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As the world changes, so does the role of the business owner. In both prosperous and uncertain times, it feels like business owners can never rest — or at least, they shouldn’t. They can take a few moments to enjoy their current success, but they’re also always aware that future success isn’t a foregone conclusion; you never know what is right around the corner.
In today’s economy, small-business owners, in particular, are on the offensive. Their job has changed dramatically even from as recently as a decade ago. Because of that, they need to be proactive about cementing the position that their organizations are currently in and paying attention to where they may be headed over the next few years. Doing so requires them to keep a few essential things in mind.
1. Align your brand’s values with those of its customers
Many of today’s most successful businesses are those that have been able to properly align what they offer with the actual needs of their target audiences. But businesses have to go beyond that to truly maximize customer engagement and growth. Often times, going the extra mile means cultivating values that keep people coming back for more. A study published in Harvard Business Review revealed that about 64% of consumers say shared values are the main reason they have a long-term relationship with a business.
Take sustainable food businesses, for example. They’ve been able to thrive over the last few years because they realized that during periods of uncertainty, consumers began to pay more attention than ever before not only to the products themselves, but also to the methods behind their production. Buyers started prioritizing brands that showcased that they were willing to do their part to protect the environment. Brands that supported the exact social causes that they were passionate about. Brands that cared less about “supply and demand” and more about a better future for all of us. And the marketplace responded in kind.
2. Be willing to pivot
Another important aspect of being a business owner in the modern era is the ability to pivot. If you’re not seeing results, you should start down a different path rather than force a product or service on a marketplace that has shown overwhelming indifference towards it.
This is something that we’ve seen time and again over the years. Initially founded as an organization that sold espresso makers and coffee beans, Starbucks experienced modest success upon opening its doors in the 1970s. But after the company pivoted to actually brewing coffee and establishing local coffee houses, it became one of the largest (and most successful) brands ever. Similarly, Airbnb began life as a business that rented air mattresses when nearby hotels were booked. Then it became one of the largest hospitality chains on Earth with an estimated value of $75 billion as of 2020.
Business owners can no longer sit idle, resting on their laurels. The moment you stop paying attention is when the marketplace changes underneath you. It’s of paramount importance that business owners keep one eye fixed on the horizon, paying attention to trends and patterns that don’t confirm where they are, but give insight into where they might be headed. Once they do that, they can maintain the highest level of success regardless of what the market throws at them.
3. Manage money effectively
As the last few years have illustrated, business owners must also be financially savvy. In the past, budgeting was all about making sure that necessary funds were available to capitalize on opportunities as they presented themselves, instead of being forced to watch them pass you by. Now, another goal has been added to the list: survival.
Organizations of all shapes and sizes need to create realistic, actionable budgets that help preserve the financial health of everything they’ve worked so hard to build up to that point. This is something that begins with leadership. Leaders must consider everything, from what it takes to produce products and services to marketing, employee compensation, benefits and more.
While it’s true that an accountant would likely be the one responsible for managing all of the funds coming into and out of a company, it’s the business owner that needs to keep a close eye on the situation. That way, if something unexpected yet disruptive should happen — as we’ve all learned is always a possibility — they can make smarter, faster decisions about how to recover and survive.
In the end, business owners have many responsibilities that will never change. They oversee the day-to-day operations of their organizations. They have their hands in staffing and management. They have a vision that they’re trying to execute in the most effective way possible. They have a target audience to serve — an audience that they’ve made a promise to that they need to fulfill.
But the role is also nothing if not flexible; it’s reflective of the times that we’re living in at the moment. During the last few years, consumer behaviors have changed wildly, and the organizations that want to thrive must change right alongside them. By understanding what is being asked of them in the present, even if some of those responsibilities are a bit more “hands-on” than they would have been a decade ago, business owners can set themselves up for long-term growth and success.