Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.Nelson Mandela
Education, in its broadest sense, is continuously learning new things. This includes things about the world, economy, your business, and yourself.
It’s also one of the best traits we have as humans—learning from others.
Instead of making the same mistakes others already did millions of times, we learn from them and take a different path.
This also holds true for the post-pandemic world. If you want your business to thrive, not just survive, you have to learn from others and adapt.
Why Making Your Own Mistakes Is Stupid
We now live in a time where mistakes are celebrated. That making one is courageous.
That’s outright stupid.
This was, for the most part, popularized by the notion of fail fast, fail often.
I have nothing against making mistakes. I’ve made them over and over. But I don’t celebrate it. I don’t like it. In fact, I hate it.
The problem of having to make your own mistakes is it’s costly. It not only consumes your limited resources but also prevents you from creating additional value (opportunity cost).
Example: Starting Your Own Business
Let’s say you want to start your own eCommerce store. For most people, this will start with investing in designing the website and everything you need (like web hosting, themes, etc.). After spending a few thousands, they read that email is essential, so they get an email marketing software. After a while, they aren’t getting enough sales, they then spend on advertisements.
If you go all-in on “making your own mistakes,” you’ll invest heavily in building the business. You’ll buy inventory, or hire people, or spend an enormous amount of time “doing” or maybe even put up a corporation as one of your first few steps.
You’ll definitely make mistakes along the way. And that’s fine, right? Because you have to do it and make your own mistakes.
Again, that’s stupid. So much that I cringe whenever I see this type of behavior. So much that I actually wrote about it and labeled it as the number 1 mistake people make when starting a business.
For most people outside the Silicon Valley hype, we use our life savings to fund the business. We don’t have access to investors. If we make a mistake, we lose everything.
The fact is thousands of people already made the mistakes. Why must you follow in their footsteps? Why not just learn from them?
Counting on one of the best traits we have as humans, we can minimize our risks by learning from others’ mistakes. Take the time to learn different frameworks and tools, instead of starting off with “market research.”
If you want to start your own business, whatever industry or niche you pick, you’ll most likely find some incumbents, or at least, similar to what you are thinking of doing. Instead of simply looking at popular brands, look into the smaller ones. Spend more time researching on businesses that failed.
Find out which ones worked and, more importantly, understand why they worked.
Focus on the principles. Don’t get caught up with cool-sounding strategies and names.
Question All Your Assumptions
Next is to start questioning your own assumptions.
Just like when Sheldon did when he found out he was wrong about super-asymmetry, he started reevaluating every decision he’s ever made.
- What held true before is clearly different now
- this is true for big businesses where they neglected digital channels and relied on physical locations but have now switched over
- Disney case study
- Find research on what behavior will stick after pandemic
Don’t take anything for granted. If you want to succeed in your industry, you’ve got to stop making assumptions. Instead, ask yourself, “what’s different now?”
Answering this honestly will often result in new insights that can help you navigate through tough times.
Case Study: Disney
Disney doesn’t need any introduction. But if you look at their revenue breakdown, you’ll find that majority of their income comes from their parks. But when COVID hit, well, you know what happened.
They, then, switched their focus on Disney+, their streaming platform. At just over a year old, Disney+ is growing at a pace so fast that Netflix CEO said in an earnings conference call, “I’ve never seen such a good execution of the incumbent learning the new way and mastering it”
What Held True Yesterday May Not Hold True Tomorrow
No one predicted this pandemic. Well, except for Bill Gates.
But because of this change, Disney accepted and adopted. They didn’t just try to force open their parks. They found ways to make up for it. They reallocated their resources to what is working.
Now, you may be saying to yourself, Disney is a big company. They have a lot of resources while you have little.
While that may be true, it’s not a valid excuse. Because there are countless of other small businesses that have pivoted. There are thousands of new business that opened during the pandemic as well.
And if you haven’t done so, here are a few resources to help you get started:
- Buyer utility map—find hidden opportunities in you industry that competitors are taking for granted. You can also use this to look into other niches.
- Strategy canvas—identify which factors the key players in any industry are competing on and what buyers get from them
- Business model canvas—discover how businesses work, how they earn revenues, what makes up their expenses, and other resources and activities that are key to their entire operation
Sticking with status quo is okay. But know that everyday, people are always changing. We are all adopting new behaviors. If you don’t do something about it, you will get left behind.
And one thing that has been true for several years now is the need to be online. To have a digital presence. The pandemic has only made this more apparent.
Digital Is More Important Than Ever
When the world was in lockdown, only a few essential businesses were open.
If you aren’t part of this group, then you were only faced with two options:
- Do something
Most businesses did #1 throughout the beginning of the pandemic. But they soon realized that they need to do something about their situation. Otherwise, they’ll close shop forever.
Yet there are still those who keep complaining and haven’t done anything to adjust to what’s happening now.
We are finding two very different attitudes among companies adapting to the current acute disruption—those that are using this time to plan their place in the “next normal” and those that are treading water, waiting for the world to go back to what it was. We expect that the companies that emerge stronger from the crisis are those that innovate through it, using the current crisis as an opportunity to digitally transform their company.Deloitte
But you you’re not in this camp, here are a few tips to help you get started:
Create a Solid Online Foundation
Having a great foundation online starts with having a website. The reason is simple: if you are not found on Google, you do not exist. Take a look at the four website capabilities you need. Anything more is just fluff.
If you already have one, check out these articles:
- How to speed up your website
- How long does it take to grow your website traffic
- Different sources of traffic and tips to grow them
- Search engine optimization basics
Be Present in the Conversation Early
I alluded this earlier, but if potential buyers can’t find you on Google, how will they purchase from you?
This is the main intent behind search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing.
By being present early in the conversation, i.e. when people are researching, you can build goodwill. You can create awareness for your brand.
If you are not part of that process, and your competitors are, which one do you think people will buy from?
And if you want to dive in deeper, here are a few more resources to help you:
- 5 stages of awareness and how to use them to craft your content strategy
- Content creation basics
- Repurposing content—how you can be more efficient and effective
- Content pillar model
Over to You
The pandemic isn’t over. It may have disrupted everyone’s lives, but that doesn’t mean the world will stop for you.
You don’t need to make mistakes others already made. You can learn from others. All it takes is careful planning and research.
What worked before is no guarantee it will work today, much more tomorrow. Always question your assumptions.
Lastly, digital is the way to go. With everyone heading in that direction, it is a requirement. Success without an online presence is rare. Chances are, you’re not that lucky.
As a leader, you are left with a choice: which one will you choose?
Be comfortable where you are knowing you will get left behind or do something you haven’t tried before.