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2024: Resetting the Post-Pandemic Business Compass

Everyone I have spoken to in the last quarter has been aching for 2023 to wrap it up. The kicker is most companies cannot see some of the mistakes they made post-pandemic.

As we stand on the brink of 2024, let’s not mince words: 2023 was a wake-up call we couldn’t afford to ignore. Now, it’s time to harness those lessons and pivot towards a year of unparalleled success.

False Expectations: Firstly, we all thought the hockey stick was going to keep going up. Travel was up, retail was up, entertainment was up, consumer goods were up, and for B2B we saw the consumer confidence reflected in our very human buying committees. And this was across sectors: a 20% rise in global travel and tourism in 2021 (UNWTO), a 10.8% increase in global retail sales in 2021 (eMarketer), and a significant boost in entertainment and consumer goods.

Reality Check: But in fact, the pandemic was a complete and total anomaly, not a sustainable growth model, so to expect the upswing to continue indefinitely is kind of a rookie mistake. But it’s one a LOT of us made.

We hired too many people, gave too many raises, paid too many salaries (you know, to win the talent war and avoid the great resignation.) U.S. job openings surged to 10.9 million in 2021 (BLS), but many sectors faced layoffs in 2023. Enter the tech industry, where giants like Meta and Twitter expanded rapidly but had to scale back significantly in late 2023.

Candidates switched jobs with abandon. assuming the uptick in salary would last forever and companies could not survive without them, such was the hubris and almost giddy relief that “we were out of the woods.”

Life is too short; people said and thought as they took out massive business loans, overstaffed projects, and well-meaning managers handed out bonuses like candy.

This only exacerbated the challenges faced by a workforce that adapted to remote work and flexible schedules, but sometimes lacked guidance. 58% of the workforce reported feeling ‘job-ready’ for remote work in a 2022 survey, yet many struggled with self-management.

We had folks holding director level and above positions, and they didn’t wanna be square… dad, dad, daddio. When things started to go south, our rebel-without-a-cause bosses stubbornly refused to change tactics; they wanted to be a cool boss, not like a regular boss, and give autonomy to a workforce barely out of school, who had never had the opportunity to learn the rules before being forced to ‘break them’ by working from home, making their own deadlines, planning out their own work schedules, and having their higher-ups assume they KNEW what to do because they can operate a TikTok.

2024 is a new year, a fresh slate, and a chance to get it right. If you want to save your company, and your job, here’s what you need to do.

Four Pillars to Realign Your Company in 2024

  1. Elevated Expectations: Start expecting more from your employees. No, they won’t all leave (some will.) Not everyone is after a higher paycheck. Some want work-life balance, and keeping on those who refuse to carry their weight is unfair to those who are working hard for the success of the collective and not just themselves. Stress the importance of expecting more from employees. Engaged employees are 17% more productive.
  2. Strategic Planning: Have a plan. You may just lose that next account, you might not come out of the winter slump, your top business builder could leave, and your competitor may well get their AI whatever the heck to market before you do. Suck it up, butter cup. That’s business. A plan, BTW does not include laying a bunch of people off, slashing your prices, changing service terms on loyal customers or sinking your last few bucks into a lackluster google ads “strategy” — there is no panacea for this, it must be a cohesive plan, one that requires buy-in, and plain old hard work. Companies that diversified their supply chains post-pandemic were 35% more likely to report revenue growth.
  3. Authentic Communication: Opt for genuine, solution-focused communication over sensationalism. 76% of consumers prefer brands that communicate honestly (Edelman Trust Barometer). I know this is ironic as I am yelling right now but lay off the faux outrage. It might get clicks, but it won’t bring clients. If you aren’t discussing solutions GTFO. Prospective clients are looking for someone to solve their issues, not someone who daily does the business equivalent of begging. and finally…
  4. Ethical Business Practices: Plagiarism and unethical practices will cause long-term reputational damage. 85% of consumers said they would boycott companies involved in unethical practices (Lab42). Don’t be shady. Don’t steal others’ work because you’re desperate. Don’t lazily truss up someone else’s hard-earned notoriety because you’re feeling ignored today. Don’t act as though someone else’s accomplishment is your own. You know who you are. It will eventually catch up to you. Maybe not in one year or five, but eventually. I’ve seen it more times than I can count.

Put your nose to the grindstone and do the work that lights you up. And if this world doesn’t light you up, get out and make room for those of us who are wildly, madly, inexplicably in love with it.