Build, buy, partner

With a return to market normalcy in sight, business owners may be exhaling for the first time in nearly a year. But a host of challenges still lies ahead.

The shape of the economic recovery has yet to become apparent. However, there’s a sense that, whether we rebound sharply or recover gradually, we’ll all be leaving something behind in 2020. That something might be how your business traditionally approached the market.

Some businesses are struggling. Their tried-and-true models were beat up pretty badly this past year, damaged enough that they’re stumbling into 2021. But is that something those owners recognize?

Sometimes leaders continue to force something, keep something going, that’s no longer viable. Recovery, for those owners, likely isn’t about incremental steps that bring marginal gains. Instead, it could be about shifting to an entirely new business model.

Take Dealer Tire, for instance. When it was founded years ago, the business was made up of free-standing tire and brake service stores. But founders Dean and Scott Mueller recognized a need in the market. They saw car dealerships weren’t able to provide customers with same-day tire replacement, and were instead sending them, and their money, to independent shops. That left $10 billion in uncaptured sales.

Dealer Tire pivoted, against the headwinds of an economy shaken by the dot-com’s bursting bubble, and raised the venture capital it needed to reimagine the business as a wholesaler. The Muellers created a new management team, new technology infrastructure and a national warehouse infrastructure. It took time, but they devised a model to help dealers capture those sales, achieving exponential growth as a wholly reimagined business in the process.

Change, while difficult, will be necessary. So get prepared. Reach out to your network, peers within your industry and possibly new people at virtual conferences and other business events, to talk. Build a list of questions — specific questions about your business and theirs — to ask as you seek advice.

Listen for ideas about how to create new revenue and find new opportunities. Great ideas for synergies happen when engaging other people. Could you buy, build or partner your way to success in 2021? The answer is just a conversation away.

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