"Jan. 1 isn't going to be a different year," he said during a Tuesday presentation for SEMA360, titled "Turning Great Ideas Into Strategies to Produce Real Results."
"It's really 2020(1)," Brown said, pointing out that business disruptions will continue into the New Year.
With that in mind, he told viewers of his pre-recorded presentation to think about how they can be deliberate in running their business—winging it isn't the way—while doing so in uncertain times.
"How do you think about strategy and planning in a time of prolonged disruption?" he asked.
Brown offered a spin on the well known SWOT strategizing format—Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats—through a lens that accounts for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and other disruptions that have become familiar this year.
When it comes to looking at a business's strengths, Brown said it was imperative to go beyond your new normal and identify what the "new important is for you."
He offered suggestions of what could be important: winning back customers, finding new ways to serve them, new business models, or fully pivoting the business into a different direction. He told business owners to rank those suggestions to see what matters most to them. Brown also suggested that owners should try to look at their businesses from different perspectives, offering four very different photos of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis as an example of how you can find new details within familiar things.
The pandemic may have laid bare certain weaknesses in your business. Brown said that knowledge can come in handy when trying to identify other potential challenges to your business that may be out there.
He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic is a "Black Swan" event, something so big that it's ramifications couldn't be predicted, on the same level as the 9/11 terrorist attacks or the development of the internet. Such times can crater a business or help it flourish, Brown said, adding that it's important to identify what's worked during the pandemic and to plan out for what you'll do should such "Band-Aids" fail.
The pandemic has been managed in different ways across the country, Brown said, with some regions maintaining business as usual while in others people remain hunkered down. He said business owners need to think about their clients' mindsets and proceed from there.
"Don't just make assumptions about opportunities and where your customers' heads are," he said.Brown also suggested to look at your business through the lens of a different type of biz—his analogy was hospitals offering DIY surgery as if they were a Home Depot (DIY surgery is a real thing). What innovations are out there for you business if you think outside your box?
With all the current disruption, Brown approached threats from a new angle: ways people can be "cratered" by making plans and never following through. He offered a framework for prioritizing ideas.
- The highest priority ideas are both easy to implement and will revolutionize your business. Pursue those right away.
- Ideas to pursue in the near future are easy but will have a lower impact on your business.
- Long term ideas are difficult to implement but will have a huge impact on your business.
- Ideas you can skip are those that are difficult to implement and will have little effect on what you do.
As a bonus, Brown offered a more traditional SWOT planning framework, tailored to 2021:
- What are/were the smartest steps to address the biggest changes during the pandemic?
- What worrisome developments throughout the pandemic are hampering performance?
- On which occasions are we not currently delighting customers and prospects?
- What takeaways from 2020 should dramatically shape our activities for the rest of 2021?
Brown closed his presentation saying, "You don't want to throw out strategy when things are uncertain."