Don is the award-winning business coach and CEO of Accountability Now, now helping clients increase revenue on average 35% in 90 days.

There has been a lot of talk about how 2020 is one of the most challenging years in the last three decades. The global pandemic, a very unique U.S. election cycle and myriad other inimitable circumstances have impacted not only sales leaders, entrepreneurs and businesses all over the world, but also individuals, industries and even how families communicate on a regular basis (not to mention that it’s provided some of the greatest memes we’ve ever seen).

All joking aside, now that 2020 is finished, it is time to look forward and move into the new year.

It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from the musical Man of la Mancha where the old knight, Don Quixote, says, “Look always forward, for in last year’s nest there are no birds this year.”

And as we look forward, I think it’s important to remember the amazing lessons that 2020 and this global pandemic have taught us: the valuable things we can apply moving forward in 2021 to be better, faster and more effective as sales leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and owners.

Kevin Daum, Inc. 500 entrepreneur, wrote, “History is a powerful teacher … There is perhaps no better teacher than experience.”

I spend most of my days working with small business owners all over the world, and I’ve talked with executives, entrepreneurs and CEOs in almost every industry — from retail and banking to fintech, personal development and internet marketing. I’ve learned three simple lessons that are so valuable that we should take them with us into 2021.

Lesson No. 1: Get Virtual

Every business should have a virtual option, regardless of what it is. I’ve seen businesses that have been purely face to face and sold door to door for over 100 years, but with the onslaught of Covid-19, they were forced to look at their business model for the first time. A crisis of this magnitude does that: It forces you to look at what you’ve always assumed to be true through a new creative lens. During Covid-19, businesses that were once completely face to face discovered that they could virtualize portions of their business and they would not only improve their margins, but also streamline much of the service delivery process. In 2020, I’ve seen breweries create online subscription services to save their businesses, rug cleaning services create online virtual inspection processes to decrease their labor costs, and optical companies create virtual optician dispensaries. I’ve even seen massage studios with virtual check-ins where you can identify your pain points and simplify the entire process. Regardless of what your business is, your lesson from 2020 should be this: Don’t say that “virtual” can’t happen. Your customers not only want it, but also expect it. Virtualization is necessary for the future.

Lesson No. 2: Creative Motivation Pays Dividends

It is now painfully obvious that we need to find many different ways to keep our employees motivated. As of November 2020, the number of Americans outside the labor force remained just above 100 million, according to CNBC. This could continue to put pressure on companies to retain top talent because more individuals are looking. Therefore, every business should be looking at how to keep talent, manage and motivate talent to not only be the best that they can be, but also to stay with the company. Research shows that money is not the only reason people will stay with a company. Now, because of the pandemic, remote work is commonplace. Companies need to explore unique ways to incentivize top talent. Don’t be afraid to be creative. For example, I’ve seen companies use these incentive programs: paying for employees’ Netflix subscriptions, paying for their local gym memberships, providing DoorDash allowances to have food delivered to their houses, and more. All these perks are similar to the ones businesses once used in office environments, but now, with a little creativity, they can and should use them for remote employees. Explore ways to create a culture where your company cares about the virtual employee so they feel like they don’t want to leave.

Lesson No. 3: Sales Solves All Sins

When the pandemic started, it put downward pressure on businesses to produce revenue quickly. Many customers stopped buying and began contracting everywhere they could. Many companies started to cut costs in order to extend the runway and try to survive. However, some types of businesses thrived. When I look at the businesses that succeeded the most, I notice they were often the ones that actually increased their market share because they did things differently — they expanded. Learn to focus your efforts on what really makes the biggest difference for your business. It isn’t always about cutting costs. Sales will always win. I teach this all the time in my entrepreneur coaching practice to executives all over the world: There is no such thing as an expense problem. There is only a revenue problem. Sales has the potential to solve all sins. Here is my insider tip: Align your entire team to revenue targets, from accounting to IT, customer service and sales. Create incentive plans where everyone can become aligned with the goal of creating and contributing to revenue obtainment.

Moving forward is what 2021 is all about. It can be a great year for you, your team and your business if you learn from the past and build on the right lessons. Virtualization isn’t going away, motivation is only getting more and more important, and sales is one of the most important areas to focus on for growth (probably now more than ever). If you didn’t know these things before 2020, you should know them now. 2021, here we come.


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