I have read at least two articles (here and here) in the past week claiming that once we get past this troublesome COVID period, the economy is going to come roaring back to life. In a convenient 100 year comparison, the idea is that the 2020s will be just like the Roaring 1920s. I believe the reference refers to the economy, and hopefully not to Prohibition (although there has been a huge growth in nonalcoholic mock-booze these days…).
In any case, the Roaring 20s articles led me down a path to better understand what this new future might look like. How and where will small business owners be able to capitalize on the expected growth and potential disruption that goes along with a huge shift in both spending and mindset that comes post-pandemic? And what changes that have taken place during the pandemic are here to stay?
When trying to make some predictions about the future, our first step is to look for the little signals of change that indicate the possibility of a larger scale shift in what’s going on in the world around us.
Signals of Change
For example, what does it mean that there are now a “bevy of small rocket competitors” focused on launching “fleets of small, versatile satellites”? Who is using these satellites? Who is launching them? And how might it alter the business environment? Are businesses capturing more or more detailed satellite photos? Looking for different methods of communication? What might this mean to your business?
Back on Earth, who is setting up and taking advantage of all those ghost kitchens? Will this change the path a new chef takes to start a restaurant? Will it change the way we eat? Or increase our focus on local ingredients? Maybe create partnerships between restaurants? How might this trend impact your business?
Or what about the recent Game Stop stock purchasing frenzy initiated on Reddit? What might that indicate about the future of the investment market, as these younger investors seek to find cheap and easy ways to invest in the stock market? When you consider the nearly non-existent interest rates on savings accounts on top of the growth in brokerage apps, is it possible that the Millennials and Gen Y/Zoomers will have a greater than expected impact on the stock market? Could that impact your investment savings as a business owner? Or your interest in getting swallowed up by a public company whose value is determined, somewhat artificially, by these new stock market purchasers?
And here’s another potential signal of change moving into 2021: the number of new business applications from January 2020 to January 2021 is up an average of 73 percent year over year according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Some states in the south (MS and GA in particular) had significant increases, according to this cool U.S. Census Bureau map.
What does that mean? Are there some new ideas out there as we navigate the change all around us? Or does it just mean that people are getting laid off, and so are starting up their own business out of necessity? As stated in an article about new business start-ups, “new innovation springs up because of the failure of particular industries or businesses.”
What new businesses are starting? Which businesses or industries are failing? Will any of this impact your business or your customers or vendors?
Interpreting the Signals
As a business owner, you are always wearing a lot of hats, you have a lot on your plate, your wheels are constantly spinning, and many other idiomatic expressions to say that you are super busy. It can be a challenge to step away from your day-to-day operations and reflect on what the future might hold. But I would argue that it is a worthwhile exercise if you want to stay in business over the long-term.
As you plan for the next couple years, consider the following questions:
What signals of change are you currently seeing in your own industry, or in your customers’ industries?
What changes has your business undertaken during the pandemic that you will likely stick with post-pandemic?
What do you think will go back to “normal” by late 2021? And what will become your “new normal”?
Where can you go to learn more about changes going on in order to plan for them – by either protecting your business or finding the opportunity to connect with new customers?
Some additional potential signals of change to consider:
- Should you be ready to accept bitcoin from your customers?
- Or to replace your manufacturing equipment with robots?
- Are you comfortable letting AI manage your email Inbox?
Here’s my recommendation: Take some time to hop off of that hamster wheel of day-to-day operations and put on your thinking cap.
This is the time to do a little thinking and planning for the rest of 2021 and into 2022. About half of small business owners don’t expect to return to “normal” for another six months, according to a recent survey. What can you change to avoid being lumped into that category, or worse, like the 2% who closed for good due to COVID in 2020?
Note: I know that many small business owners have neither the time nor the interest in following every new trend and unusual news story. Consider subscribing to Learn Start Grow or following us on Linked In so that I can keep you in the loop as I continue my path researching and planning for the future of small business.