Part I: Think like a startup! (and 4 other things to help save your business in 2021)​

by Todd Feldman
Founder & President,
The Rocket Factory
This is the first of a multi-part series being introduced to help mature businesses and industry sectors who may be struggling to find ways to reimagine their businesses.
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV
Normally, I would reserve this time of year to put out fun lists that go along with the year coming to a close. 
But as we all know, this year is different. 
I get it. You’re fatigued. 
With entire industries at a standstill and millions of people out of work, resources are scarce. Those still employed feel “checked out.”
The problems in front of you seem insurmountable.
You may even feel stuck.
The Rocket Factory has offered a lot of advice throughout the year.
We even threw our own “Jam” in June to kickstart new ways of thinking. 
But with some road in the rearview mirror, I realized I missed something important. In a crisis, we lean toward trying to fix what’s right in front of us. 
It’s a normal reaction. 
It’s been really hard to look deeper at the problems facing our individual businesses, and more broadly, many of our foundational industry sectors. 
The quote from Harvard Business Review that leads this post is spot on.
Can you think of a business or industry sector that this quote applies to? 
While there’s focus on the crisis in front of us, the reality is that the issues facing key sectors have been playing out over a great deal of time.
I’ve seen it firsthand – both on the inside as a full-time employee as well as a management consultant.
Time and time again, mature industry sectors are held back by established cultures and long-tenured people with little incentive to change – until it’s too late.
So what happens most of the time?
Individuals that are geared toward action leave established organizations and form new companies. With them comes a load of fresh talent (note: this is not about age) and disruptive frameworks for quickly blowing straight past well-worn business models. 
You know the categories: FinTech. TravelTech. AdTech. EdTech. RetailTech. What else?
It’s not just adding “-Tech” on the end or the introduction of actual technology to the mix, it’s the culture that allows people who dare to think differently and the leadership that empowers them to take chances in the name of finding a better way forward. 
It’s time to take control of your future. Flush 2020 – and with it (almost) everything you think you know about your business. 
If you’ve found it challenging to respond to the moment, we offer our 5 things to make the most of 2021:
1. Think like a startup. What would you do if someone came along with investment funding that helped create a runway for your business? Would you use it to “keep the lights on” or invest it in incremental revenue streams or new forms of business that could create more business durability in the future?
You probably said both. When you started your business you probably were piloting a number of ideas to see what would work.
The challenge is balancing the short-term needs of your business team with the long-term viability of your business.
If you think like a startup, there’s space to do both in a way that’s highly strategic and will reap long-lasting rewards.
2. Question everything. Why did you get into business in the first place? If you represent an industry sector such as Travel and Tourism, Restaurants, Live Events, or Higher Education, ask yourself “why is it you do that thing that you do?”
Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek talks of the “Golden Circle.”
At The Rocket Factory, we talk about “Misson.”
With your “Why” at the center and your “What” and “How” represented working out from the middle, it’s time to take deep inventory of your mission and revisit “What” you deliver and “How” you deliver your mission.
If you don’t, guess who will? Or already has? (Remember, FinTech, TravelTech, etc.)

[HOT TAKE: Warner Bros to Release all 2021 Movies Simultaneously to Theaters & HBO Max]

Simon Sinek Golden Circle

3. Assess yourself.
You bring a lot of energy to what you do. You’ve done a great job building a viable business model that has gotten you to 2020.
Then bam!
The pandemic hits.
Those ideas that you’ve been putting off (and wanting to explore and implement) suddenly feel hard to do given the current business climate.
Are there skills you lack that caused you to be in this difficult situation? Do you have the ability to reimagine your business for what’s next?
No worries if you don’t, perhaps someone on your team or within your industry does.
Which leads to what’s next.
4. Assess your team. When was the last time you evaluated the skills that you have on your team or within your industry? How would you quickly bring together your best and brightest? By extension, are there partnerships to augment the capabilities of you or your team? With resource constraints in many businesses and industry sectors, it’s time to do a hard look at finding new ways of leveraging talent toward re-invention.
5. Take the first step. For reasons stated above in this post, it has certainly been a difficult time. But “admiring the problem” is not going to cut it. And trying methods that feel comfortable are by no means going to lead to different outcomes.

Want 2021 to mark a new beginning? It’s time to take the first step toward a new way forward.
This is hard – but not impossible.
And if you are not sure where to start, get in touch and we’ll help you get rolling.
Next: Part II: Think like a startup! Applying a formal ecosystem framework to mature business sectors
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV