As we say goodbye to 2019, not only do we celebrate turning the calendar to a new year but a new decade. We are moving into this next decade in “roaring” fashion. The economy is within the ideal growth rate of 2%, unemployment is at its lowest since 1969, the Federal Reserve interest rate is 1.75%, and the stock market major indexes all grew more than 20% in 2019.
Yet there are cautionary warnings as well. Many economists are forecasting that the worldwide economy will slow in 2020 as the U.S.-China trade war looks to continue, with its impact affecting international commerce and ultimately consumer prices. There are also economic warnings signs, such as the drop in new car sales and a steady decline in U.S. manufacturing.
We also know that economies are cyclical, and that markets expand and contract. The average economic cycle is roughly five years. Today our current market expansion is in its tenth year. Thus, we are five years beyond a historical market correction. As we look to the next decade it’s difficult to predict the future, but we do know this: being prepared is critical.
Whether the future holds economic booms or busts, business leaders ought to implement these three things to have a roaring 20’s:
Review and Update Business Plans
An annual update of your business plan is critical to the success of your company, regardless of the economic conditions. Without a plan, most decisions come from the gut or from feelings and are not based upon executing a well thought out strategy. In fact, a strong business plan prepares an organization for growth but also for a downturn. What steps should be taken if sales and revenue decline? What expenses will be cut first? What projects will be delayed? What investments need to continue? This may be the time to increase credit lines and other credit facilities while the market and company are doing well. Savvy entrepreneurs go a step further, even so much as preparing for potential acquisitions should a competitor stumble or another opportunity present itself. It is difficult to predict when the market will shift, but it will happen, and those leaders who come out on top are often those who monitored key numbers to best prepare for the future.
This is an opportune time to plan for personal growth. A common statement is leaders are readers. The amount of content available for consumption is extraordinary. Today, content is available in so many different formats: blogs, videos, podcasts, ebooks, audio, print, television, radio, elearning, and more. Thus, leaders are not just readers anymore; leaders are knowledge consumers. With the never-ending amount of content available, it is important to also develop a plan for learning. A plan may include learning about business strategies, personal health, world history, personal finance, faith, culinary skills, new language, and so on. But where to begin? Consider taking a skills assessment and identifying personal weaknesses, personal interests, technical skills, business needs and then identify the areas to focus and create a learning plan. Make the time for personal development and your future-self will thank you.
Grow Your Network
The six degrees of separation is the idea that people are six or fewer social connections away from each other. Today’s social media platforms are making this idea even easier to establish. Yet while it may be easier than ever before to make connections, what practices are we implementing to intentionally create personal networks? A great place to start is by identifying both personal and professional relationships and then categorizing them. When categorizing them also rank them from core relationships to merely acquaintances. Next, identify the unique skills, abilities or knowledge they possess. Then review the network and look for gaps, pointing out areas where both parties might profit, personally and professionally. With the rapid pace of business today and the need for knowledge, it is imperative to have quick access to those who are subject matter experts or those who can quickly change your learning curve.
These three ideas will help leaders prepare for the future they want, creating their own personal and business roadmap for a roaring, successful 20’s.