It's 2021 and it feels to many of us like the dawn of a new day. But as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on—with most predicting business as unusual continuing until Q3 or Q4 2021—businesses are struggling to figure out how to set realistic targets in the meantime.
The Hirshberg Entrepreneurship Institute's weekly webinar series "Yes We Can: Perspectives and Strategies for Success in 2021" kicked off on Wednesday with the illustrious Bob Burke of Natural Products Consulting. Burke, alongside Gary Hirshberg and Elliot Begoun of TIG, advised how natural products brands can set ambitious yet realistic goals for 2021.
Before one can prognosticate, one has to have context, stated Burke. Undoubtedly, one of the biggest questions that will inform everything is: When will we get on top of the pandemic?
Obviously, key factors in answering this question revolve around vaccine distribution, widespread adoption of the vaccine, easy and accurate access to testing and effective therapies.
But one thing remains clear. "The old world has slipped behind us," Burke said. There's never been a better time to stop doing things the way you've always done them because you've always done it that way.
According to Burke, brands will be well-positioned to survive 2021 by doing these four things:
1. Be mindful of your team.
First and foremost, founders must be tuned into what might be going on beyond the faces they see on Zoom calls. So many people are dealing with things that most of us have no awareness of, whether it be with their parents, kids, etc. It's never too early in the lifecycle of the business to show empathy toward team members. Appreciate and understand what might be going on outside of work.
Keep team members engaged and make them feel included. Burke admits this won't be easy by any stretch, but it's imperative to have discussions beyond just how to get stuff out the door. This can be virtual celebrations, town halls, brainstorms or talks about innovation and interesting topics.
Also, cross-train your team members so if someone is out to care for themselves or a family member, someone can substitute for them.
2. Think all omnichannel all the time.
In this increasingly virtual time, brands must think holistically and have initiatives happening across the board. Burke stated that he continues to hear too many brands that are only focused on getting into Whole Foods Market and aren't focusing on online platforms. He said to go where your consumers are: online.
Next week's "Yes You Can" webinar will be a deep dive into the do's and don'ts of e-commerce.
3. Manage your cash.
When going through a period like this with a lot of uncertainty, it's crucial to have a tight handle on cash flow—liabilities, trade spend, and all the things that are going to impact that.
Now is not the time to be focused exclusively on the top line, Burke said. They don't want to see bad habits that were built in the fast-paced days of yesteryear. Investors aren't placing the big bets like they used to.
4. Ask for help.
There are many resources to help (including New Hope Network), and there's no reason for brands to go at it alone. Even early stage companies can be part of a community like Naturally Network. Brands should always utilize their networks of advisors—people like Hirshberg, Burke and Begoun—as well as attorneys, accountants, angels, investors and peers.
Burke says brokers can also be a fantastic resource for a brand. Every sales or marketing issue a brand is dealing with, their broker has seen 200 times before. They also can be helpful in referring service providers. Burke suggests asking them who they know that is happy with their branding agency (or whatever the problem is to solve) and go from there.
For a lot of people in CPG, the pandemic has been a gift, Burke said. "Not just from a surge in demand in so many categories, but in a larger sense, it has also forced us to look at our businesses with fresh eyes and accelerate how we adapt and show up in a changing world," he said. "The companies who adapt will come out of this situation stronger and much more in tune to where this world is going."
For the full recording of the webinar, head to the Hirshberg Entrepreneurship Institute YouTube channel.