“Every morning in Africa, an antelope wakes up. It knows that it must outrun the fastest lion, or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows that it must run faster than the slowest antelope, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or the antelope – when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” African Proverb
And so the sun sets on yet another year, and what a year it’s been. How will history remember 2014? One reader recently sent me an email describing this as the best year he has experienced in his business since arriving in this country nearly forty years ago. While another reader told me it was his worst year in the last decade because the recent recession left his company vulnerable and his industry looks completely different that it did before 2008. The enduring effects of the recession continue to be felt because if nothing else, in business very little, if anything at all, is how it used to be.
Whether you had a good year or a not-so-good year, the rising of the sun on 2015 marks a new beginning for those willing to greet the New Year with hope and enthusiasm and a heightened sense of expectation. Some are finding new ways to grow their businesses, some are struggling to maintain market share, while others are fighting for survival. The new light shines on a clean slate for all and reflects the promise of a better year for those who will recognize the opportunities disguised as challenges, and who will work their way to new heights.
No, it will not be easy, and yes, there is definitely much to do this coming year. But there’s also much to accomplish. And it doesn’t matter if you’re self employed, or you run a small business, or you manage a division in a major corporation, the important thing moving forward is that you start the year running.
Develop a sense of urgency: If 2014 has taught us anything it’s that, while opportunities abound, no one is going to give us any handouts. We have to continue to work for every inch. As the dust settles in this post-recession era we’re in, what is revealed to us is that the marketplace is different than it was just five years ago. Competition is fierce. Technology continues to shape the way we do business. It’s not business as usual anymore. Just about every industry across the board has undergone some type of shift requiring a heightened sense of awareness that we must create a sense of urgency. This is not a drill. Learn from the past, adapt to change, and prepare for what lies ahead.
Develop a plan: Step one in plan development is understanding how good you are at rethinking your business. Rethink what? In a word, everything. Never mind that rethinking everything should always be standard operating procedure, as the economy continues to rebound bringing with it new sources of opportunities, rethinking your business and developing a current business plan is critical to your survival — not to mention your success. Develop strategies to build on your strengths and opportunities while reducing your weaknesses and threats.
Know your competition: If you think you know you competition, think again. Chances are the desperate times that characterized the recent recession years turned your predictable competitors into unpredictable threats, and it’s possible that new generations of competitors are coming up to challenge your market share and relevance. That makes them particularly dangerous. Part of the danger in 2014 was losing sight of our competitors while we focused on the rebound. While we are certainly hopeful that 2015 will bring with it continued growth opportunities, we can also expect that our competition which are finding their feet again will also grow. Be prepared.
Diversify revenue sources: As you develop your plan and take a second look at your competitors, consider that sources of revenue may diminish in the first half of 2012. By diversifying revenue sources you help spread your base and offset the subsequent reduction in margins from an increasingly competitive market.
Spanish philosopher, George Santayana, wisely cautioned, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” For just as surely as the sun sets in the evening it will rise again in the morning bringing with it new challenges and new opportunities. The question is how will you greet the day now that the sun is rising on 2015?
You better be running.