Brand-new uncertainty

Recently, business leaders have had something new to contend with: optimism. This past year has been a test of patience, perseverance, courage and cunning. Some made bold moves to leapfrog the competition, while others fought just to keep their bottom line from collapsing. And while business leaders are seeing the tunnel’s end, this new phase we’re entering comes with uncertainty of a different kind.

As I write this, COVID case numbers continue to fall and vaccination numbers to rise. That means we’ll all soon be able to safely meet face-to-face again. And it also means business leaders will have some decisions to make.

For example, what will your travel schedule look like in the coming months? Video conferencing proved essential when the virus kept most of us at home, but also proved a highly efficient and effective use of time. Will you fill up your calendar with flights? Or will Zoom meetings become the protocol?

More vaccinations also means the opportunity to work safely in-person together with your team. But rushing back to “normal” might not be the answer. Instead, it’s a chance to reimagine what work looks like at your organization.

Could you, for example, broaden your talent search for some positions because candidates don’t need to commute? Could you downsize your office space and save on overhead? Or is it clear that for collaboration to work in your organization, people need to be together? If prices for office space take a dip, maybe now is a good time to upgrade, relocate or expand.

But there’s not just opportunity for existing businesses. It can be said, without exaggeration, that the world is going to change fairly dramatically soon. Demand for travel, hospitality and other services is likely to come roaring back. What will people want, and where are there gaps in the market to meet that demand?

It’s not likely that we’ll return to the world as we knew it before COVID. Our future will be affected by the experiences of the past year — they’re going to color the world and inform our choices in it. There’s a lot of money waiting on the sidelines eager to back those who can look ahead and respond quickly to meet the new demands, whatever they might be. How will you compete in tomorrow’s reawakened economy?

Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc.