The best advice I ever received, “It’s not about the business you’ve built, it’s about the business you’re building. What are you going to build next?”
The pandemic threw a monkey wrench into our businesses, and for many it has changed their value propositions all together — and not for the better.
I went through a similar wrenching experience when I joined my family’s recruiting business in 2004.
Our company was emerging from the “tech wreck” of the early 2000s. It appeared that we had weathered the economic downturn and everything was set to boom again, but it didn’t happen. Sales continued to languish.
I didn’t know it at the time, but our customers’ expectations had shifted during the recession. This was driven by two forces.
First, technology changed the game. Platforms like LinkedIn and Google were changing the way companies and job seekers connected with each other. This had massive rippled effects that transformed the industry.
Second, our competitors changed their business models. This was the dawn of “wholesale recruiting” — low fee, low touch, high volume IT staffing — and we missed it. The model did not play well to our company’s strengths, so we ignored it.
As we emerged from the recession our sales continued to decline. We thought we should grow. All the data indicated we should grow. Our competitors seemed to be growing. But we were not.
Things got so bad that at one point I implemented “pit time.” My sales team and I would schedule six hours a week for cold calling. We smiled and dialed, and it was a grind. I hate cold calling!
At the end of that first year, I had a heart-to-heart with both of my parents. I said, “If this is what it’s like to be in a family business, then I need to do something else. This is terrible!”
This is when I got one of the most important lessons of my career. I learned what it meant to be an entrepreneur and a leader.
My dad challenged me and said, “It’s not about the business we’ve built, it’s about the business we’re building. What are we going to build next?”
The statement rocked me to my core.
As business owners, leaders, and entrepreneurs, we can get caught up in our prior successes. We get stuck on what our brands “should be” or what they represent. But businesses are fluid and constantly changing.
A successful brand is always building for the next horizon.
For many of us, the pandemic has created a similar situation that I went through. And maybe what you need to hear today is my dad’s advice, “It’s not about the business you’ve built, it’s about the business you’re building. What are you going to build next?”
As I wrote a couple weeks ago, I am incredibly optimistic for 2021. We may be starting out in a dark place, but there’s so much hope to be had. The vaccines are being distributed. (My dad and grandmother have received their first doses in Canada, and my wife’s parents have received theirs in the United States.)
We will be past the pandemic in the second half of 2021, but market shifts might haunt your business. Take this opportunity to look at what really matters and what you’d like your brand to become.
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