Episode 2: Predicting the Road Ahead

Ben Franklin famously said, “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” We think there’s another thing that should be added to his list: Change.

Episode 2: Predicting the Road Ahead

Following the pandemic and a year of tremendous upheaval for the world, many business owners found themselves in uncharted waters. Some rose to the challenge. Others capsized in seconds flat. In today’s episode, David speaks on the inevitability of change, and shares ways of preparing for, coping with, and capitalizing on that change in your business.

Show Notes

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Show Transcript


Okay, cool. That was not very good. Whatever it is. Okay. Cool.



Hi, everybody. Welcome to episode two of The Buck Stops Here podcast. Today we’re going to talk about predicting the road ahead. My name is David Maples. I am a brand strategist.



I have been consulting and advising with companies ranging from small mom and pops to Fortune 100 companies for the past 13 years. And one of the questions that comes up a lot in my conversations with these different people is how do we predict the future? And the answer is usually with great difficulty.



Ben Franklin famously said that the only thing sure in life is death and taxes. I’d like to amend that statement he made and say the only other thing that needed to be added to that for sure is change.



No matter where you are in your business or in life, you can predict that the road will lead in different ways than you expect. It’s a winding path. It’s not usually a straight linear course from point A to B. And it’s important for you to understand what that means in your business. We’ve always said that personal responsibility and accountability for things that you’re dealing with are incredibly important.



It’s really important that you acknowledge that in your business or in your life that you’re responsible for kind of measuring the road ahead. And if you know what’s upcoming on the road ahead, you can start to predict things. Now, here we are, March 10, 2021. We have entered basically the second year of a time of great upheaval and change for a lot of people. There’s a global pandemic currently still raging throughout the world.



It does look like things are improving. Vaccinations are going up. It does look like there’s an end at some point, but nobody really knows what that point is going to be. Will it be a definitive bright spot, a bright line, as you will, to say that things are all of a sudden going to change one day? You’re going to wake up one morning and everything will be great.



Sunshine, rainbows, flowers everywhere. People dancing in Meadows. The answer is no. Or is it going to be something that meanders on? It goes on for a long time? Nobody knows. The bright line thing would be nice, but none of us really know what that looks like. No one has a Crystal ball.



There’s no person you can consult right now who knows with any degree of great certainty over what the future looks like. And so it’s really easy as a business owner to kind of advocate responsibility and throw your hands up in the air and say, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I have no idea. How should I possibly be expected to know, and how can you hold me accountable for that?



Well, at The Buck Stops Here, we accept that you are responsible for it. You don’t really have a choice in this. This is the course that’s been laid in front of you, and for good or for ill, you’re going to have to walk that path. So what does that mean?



It means that you have to make the best decisions you can make based on imperfect information. It’s kind of funny. I was listening to an interview with the first female CEO of IBM the other day, and she was bringing up the fact that the one thing you have to get comfortable with as a business owner is change. You have to, at the end of the day, be okay with accepting that. You have to get comfortable with that.



And by the way, there’s no comfort in change. People hate change. It’s one of the things that happens to everybody and nobody likes it. But yet it happens. Nonetheless, you are responsible for the path you’re heading. With that being said, what does the road ahead look like?



Well, a lot of us like to say we have no idea what the road ahead looks like, but that’s not a true statement. That’s what we call BS. You have ideas, you have trend lines. There’s a lot of stuff you need to know, and trends let you start to predict behavior and make decisions based upon that. And it’s kind of funny.



The number of companies that have gone out of business historically, even with the trends we’re steering in the face is lesioned. There’s literally thousands and thousands of these. The famous story I like to hear about or when people talk about is when the internal combustion engine was being invented. Around the turn of the last century, people were still making buggy whips, right? In 1905, in New York City, the big complaint was about pollution.



And they were talking about horse manure. That literally there were tons and tons and tons of horse maneuver that had to be scraped out the streets. Ten years later, there’s no horse manure. Why? Because horses have, by and large, been outlawed in the city because of the internal combustion engine.



And people out there said, well, I’m in the buggy whip business that’ll never displace. Those things are noisy, they’re dangerous, they’re loud. No one likes them. They’re smelly. Anybody who says it’s smelly and has not been there and gotten a whiff of horse maneuver really doesn’t have a good idea of what they’re looking at.



But those people, there were a lot of people who went out of business. They didn’t look at the writing that was on the wall. And you, as a business owner, are required. It’s incumbent upon you to do that. And here’s the thing.



The signs are there.



If you’re driving 90 miles an hour down a windy, mountainous road in the middle of the night, you’re probably overdriving your headlights. That means that if you were to stop right now, slam the brakes on, you would actually stop past where you could actually see based on what your headlights are. And I feel like that’s how a lot of people have been working in the pandemic. We’ve been thinking about things, and we’ve been overdriving our headlights. Some people completely shut down and said, oh, I’m not going to do anything.



I’m going to wait and see what happens. And then they complain when their competitors eat their lunch because they were acting on the trends they were seeing. Here’s the thing; it’s very rare that you hit a curve up ahead that you weren’t warned about in advance. The buggy whip people who saw all of a sudden trucks and cars are ending up on the streets.



And you know that your sales are down 10% from the year before, and then five years later they’re down 10% year after year. Well, that, my friend, looks like a major trend line. It looks like something is changing. So here we are in the pandemic, just a little bit of a year to the day when it started affecting us in America. And in particular, we at Catapult, my digital marketing agency that I work with, and a founder of, we knew a while back we had to put an emergency preparedness, emergency action plan in place.



We live in Louisiana, and for those of you who aren’t familiar on the podcast, Louisiana has a few natural disasters we deal with. Mostly it’s Hurricanes and or flooding. We knew that at some point in time we were going to deal with a change level event, a change event that meant that our office would flood, that there would be a Hurricane. We’d have to be shut down.



We need to have a plan of action. Now, why did we build that? Because that was just smart and good business. You’re always told every business should have an emergency plan, but yet very few companies do. I don’t remember the exact numbers on it, but it’s not more than half.



And that’s kind of living in a life where you’re over driving your headlights, you have a responsibility to do certain things. It’s like knowing that your taxes are due March 15 and not having a plan to get them done. Your tax liability was probably predictable. But are you lying to yourself and saying, we didn’t know this was happening? Look, kind of preaching to the choir here. I’m sure a lot of you guys out there are already understanding this stuff and understand that that’s how business is.



That’s how it works. So what are the changes we know for certain? Well, there’s a few things in the marketplace that we know for certain. I’m going to talk about how this probably applies to you guys out there because there is opportunity. Every challenge, any trend that you see, represents a corollary or a related opportunity.



And the people who position themselves, as they like to say, fortune favors the prepared. The cliche is that if you failed a plan, you plan to fail. It’s very true. And right now in the pandemic, it’s no different. There are certain things that we know for a fact that we can look at and see what’s happened.



We know that in America, the saving rate has reached all time highs. A lot of people have been putting money away for a rainy day. We know that a large number of people are now working from home, working remotely. This is a trend that’s happened all over the planet. And what I can tell you for a fact in my years of doing this to be true is that once you introduce a new behavior and it becomes a habit, and depending on what methodology or belief you believe in, that if you do a habit, you practice something for 21 or 56 days or some number of days repeatedly, it becomes a habit and habits then dictate your character, dictate your actions.



For a lot of people, if you’ve been working from home, working remotely, working in your house, you’ve turned everything topsy turvy trying to adapt to this in the past year. You know for a fact that some percentage of people, regardless of how this thing ends up, will never go back in the office again. Some big companies have already said that they’re going to allow their entire workforce to work remotely. Some people have said 50%, some said 30%, and yet some people say they’re going to require the people to come back to the office. The question is not how does that affect your business?



It’s how does it impact your business right now? Because it will. There’s no well, this isn’t going to affect us at all. You are lying to yourself. That is not a true fact, because it’s going to change the way you recruit, the way you hire, what the expectations for people are.



If your staff has worked remotely for the past year, some of them are not going to want to come back and work for you. And in fact, if you make them come back into the office, some of them will probably leave because they decided that this new paradigm, this new way we’re working, works better for them than it used to. For whatever reason in their personal life. If there’s one silver lining to come out of this whole mess, it might be that people will have more freedom to move and be mobile. And you, as a business owner, need to respect the fact and you need to have a plan of action on how you’re going to deal with it. So, things you may not have thought about.



And I’ll give you some different examples in different industries. So those people just this is one thing. How is this going to impact your business? If you are in  commercial real estate, is it going to change the fill rates at your offices? We already know that landlords across the country are having trouble doing this.



This is a seismic shift. There’s going to be a lot of empty commercial real estate space. There will probably be a slide in valuations in the commercial real estate market, but there might be a boom in commercial real estate and a lot of places where people can work remotely. You need to acknowledge that fact and accept that it’s here. And you need to have a plan of action on how to deal with it.



And a plan doesn’t get put in at the last minute. It needs to be put in now. You need to start thinking about that today. If you haven’t already thought of it yet, you need to think about what you’re going to do with that moving forward. Because if you haven’t thought about that, it’s going to bite you in the butt.



So here’s the thing. Are you going to allow your people to work remotely? Are you going to make them all come back to the office? Are you going to hybridize it? Well, if there’s an advantage for you, if you can hybridize it, you might be able to staff up.



You might be able to do more things. Do you just pocket that money you’re saving on your lease or your rent? Do you find another use for your office space? Do you have too much office space? Do you need to downsize?



There’s a lot of things there you can address. Do you let your people work remotely? Do you let your people move to other states or other countries? Those things are all important because you might be set up to work in the state of Louisiana, as we are. And then your people say, well, I want to move to North Carolina.



I want to move to California. I want to move to Mexico. I want to move to the European Union. All of those things have different rules and regulations that you will have to comply with. And it probably behooves you to have a plan in place to say how we’re going to deal with that.



And that’s just off the top of my head. You need to think about what does that look like? How are you going to deal with that? What does that mean for your people? Well, let’s say they decided that maybe you’re working remotely now, maybe you said they were going work remotely, and they want to go take care of their nephew who’s special needs in North Carolina.



True story, I have a case in point dealing with that. A client we’re dealing with right now. That’s important, and if it’s a key employee, do you allow them to work remotely? Well, if you’re going to allow them to work remotely in Louisiana, do you allow them to go work remotely in North Carolina?



I think it’s important to look at those laws and regulations and have a plan ahead of time. And your people need predictability as well. You’ve got to realize this is not just for you as a business owner. It’s for your people as well. It’s how do you let them know? How do their lives become more predictable? Because you think you’ve been struggling, they’ve been struggling as well.



They now see there’s an exit plan to this. Maybe some of them want to come back in the office. If you decided to completely go virtually forever, you’re going to lose those people, too. So I think for a lot of business owners, a hybrid approach is probably a safer, more conservative approach right now and see how that works for you.



So, for example, you introduce somebody to a new behavior, a new method of living. I never, ever thought about buying something with one of these grocery cart delivery services ever. Same thing with the food delivery services. I didn’t want to order anything off one of those delivery services. They’re going to mark up my food 30 or 40%.



Nobody wants to pay $50 for $10 tacos. Now that doesn’t mean that they aren’t amazing. But the fact of the matter is nobody really wants to necessarily do that. And plus, they reach a cold sometimes, who knows? But in the pandemic, if you really wanted a little slice of heaven, you might decide to order something remotely from your favorite eatery.



And it’s been very important to keep those restaurants and things in business. So, in the future, here’s the question. You’re a restauranteur and you don’t want to do those things. Please understand that behaviors and habits have changed. I now post pandemic if it’s still allowed, I will probably never want to go into a grocery store ever again.



Because I don’t like wasting, as I see it, 2 hours of my life every Sunday afternoon to get together the things I need. For me, it makes more sense to pay an extra $50 or whatever it is to get those things delivered to me. A, I don’t have to worry about the opportunity purchases. I’m the world’s worst. If I go into a bookstore, I don’t come out with the one book I wanted to come with a bag full of them, right?



Now, by the way, I love bookstores. I will never quit going to them because I still love that experience. But grocery stores, I buy a whole bunch of junk if I’m hungry. Never shop while you’re hungry kind of thing, right? I buy a whole bunch of junk and I’m buying a lot of stuff that I don’t need.



My doctor says I don’t need it and I don’t need it for my waistline, that kind of thing. Right? So I don’t buy that stuff anymore. But here’s the thing. If you’re a grocery store and those opportunities purchases at checkout line will probably remain there.



But they represent some portion of your revenue. As a trend, you know that some of these people who buy remotely with a delivery service will forever do that. That will change your bottom line. It will change how you generate revenue. It will change all your opportunity purchases at checkout. Because guess who doesn’t buy the stuff at checkout? The hired shoppers for the people who are buying from home.



And that is a trend you can see and I can predict with 100% certainty. That’s as close to a crystal ball as I have. But you know these trends, you know what they are for your business. And you know, based on the pandemic, certain things have changed. You know that if you don’t have a technology plan in place to deal with people working remotely, you gotta have one now. Because at some point in the future, it’s a major competitive advantage for the people working for you. You’ve also got to think about hiring.



If people have more freedom to move and you’re not allowing them to move, there’s going to be a lot more job opportunities out there for people who may want your really great hired employees. I submit to you, based on the buck stopping with you, that you need to have a plan to deal with that, and you need to have that plan in place. So, kind of the takeaways for today that I want to leave people with today, pretty shortly are that you need to really sit down over the coming days and weeks and you need to get a list of things that the pandemic has changed in your industry. Just make a list. Brainstorm.



And by the way, brainstorming is not about you culling the ideas. It’s writing all the things down you say are going to change. And we’ve talked about this a little bit, but we’ll continue to talk about it in future episodes. How do you measure the risk? Remember, risk is tied to interest is tied to the chance that these things will affect your business.



Every business owner needs to be able to measure risk. So, the easy way to do it is on a scale of five, say these five things on a scale of one to five, how much, how certain are we either these behaviors or trends have changed, and then take that out and just say, okay, now what is the impact that this change will have to my business? The risk that it represents to my business, if this changes and I don’t have a plan of action, and then you just can literally multiply those two things by each other. If you believe something has a probability of being forever different.



For example, if you’re in commercial real estate, in an area where a lot of big businesses have already said that people will be able to work remotely forever, you need to predict that and just say, well, man, my market may slide 20 or 30% in valuations and in occupancy rates. How much will that affect your business on a scale of one to five? Multiply those two numbers by each other. And if five is the maximum on both, then when you look at those things, the ones that get anywhere kind of above the 15, five times three or whatever it is. Anything above that thing needs to be something that needs to be a priority for you. It’s very simple to do this, and this will put you way ahead of a lot of your competitors out there.



You can start to talk about it. By the way, with each one of these things, you could say, what’s an opportunity I can do that’s related to this? What is something I can get on? Because it’s time for you to start being responsible. Quit getting your lunch eaten by the competitor who did think about this stuff.



And then you’re like kicking yourself because you were sitting in a boardroom three weeks ago talking about like, what if this changes? And then guess what? One of your competitors who is pretty smart. And by the way, don’t hate your competitors. Admire them and learn from them.



If they’re pretty smart, look at them and stop getting jealous. Realize you could have done that, too. You have responsibility to act on that and do that, too. Just because they’ve done it, doesn’t mean you can’t copy them or follow the leader. You can totally do that and you can also do it better.



So get a list of things and how it will change. Number two, how you think that they will impact your business and kind of rate those on probability that this will happen long term. If it’s a one, that’s kind of an outside thing, it’s not something you think is very likely. And then how much would that happen? Now, at some point you may want to look at this.



You have a whole bunch of ones. You do need to. If your scores only end up being five to twelve, you may have nothing to worry about. But I would go ahead and suggest that the higher scores are the ones you address first. The third thing is figure out a plan on how you’re going to adapt to that.



How are you going to look at this potential change in the future? How are you going to adapt to it? And how are you going to measure it or handle it based on what’s going on in your business? That’s my recommendation on that for how you’re going to do it and go from there. It really comes down to you taking a hard look at this stuff, being completely honest with yourself.



Remember, it’s a no BS zone. Look at these numbers. They’re going to happen. And as we said earlier, death, taxes, change, those three things are immutable.



The only thing is measuring the magnitude of those things. The magnitude of that change is what’s important. And I will suggest- submit to all of you out there that the change that’s happened because of the pandemic is likely to be the greatest change you’re ever going to see in your lifetimes. So with that, I hope you find this tips helpful. Again, if you like what you see here, you can subscribe to the podcast.



Please don’t be a stranger. If you’d like to hear stuff covered in upcoming episodes, we’d like to talk about that. One of the upcoming episodes is going to be risk and you. How do you measure this and how do you really quantify those things on those-? We’re going to show you a metric that we use when we’re doing strategy consulting with clients and tell you what that is for you. Again, The Buck Stops Here Podcast. Thank you. Have a great day. Go out there and be awesome.


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