Resetting for success.

Positioning yourself to take the lead in 2021

A few years ago, team Drake was at a small barbecue with the family of a close friend of mine. For younger readers, this was back in the days when meeting in person was still a “thing”. And on that mild October evening, sometime between the beer and the burgers, my host pulled me to one side to pick my brains.

He’d spent the previous two decades in the hospitality industry, mostly running big, trendy nightclubs. But I was aware that in the prior year he’d also built up a nice little cottage industry of his own, selling framed, printed canvases online: portraits, images, abstract designs and whatnot.

“I can’t run clubs forever,” he said, “At some point I want to settle down. I’m thinking of jumping ship and making printing my business. What do you think?”

We talked through his reasons, his plans and his financials, and I gave him my view, which was this: Hang onto your job, keep building it, and decide at the end of February – if you can make the numbers work in February, you can make them work any month of the year.

January is a terrible time to make big decisions because Christmas and New Year skew everything, including your outlook. To my mind, February has always been the most pragmatic of months. It’s dark, it’s cold, there’s virtually nothing going on, and in retail (unless Valentine’s Day is your biggest market) if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.

Since I started my business, I’ve always used it as an opportunity to think and plan for the year ahead, pulling together what I’ve learned, creating new offerings, kicking off new projects, refreshing and renewing much of what I do.

This year though, it’s not just me, now is the time for all of us to reflect, refresh, and reset our minds and ambitions for the next twelve months, because if one thing is certain, it’s going to be unrecognisable from the last twelve, and very different to the twelve before that.

My Brain Trust – the group of business leaders I meet with every couple of weeks – have started that process already. They’re looking at the outlook and potential scenarios for 2021 in their different industries, and the one, big question they, and we, have to answer is: how do we position ourselves for success, in that landscape of shifting competition and emerging opportunity?

Marketing channels change from year to year, techniques from month to month, but the importance of positioning never wanes. To badly paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, in matters of marketing, swim with the current; in matters of brand, stand like a rock.

Because the market space you stake out, the value you offer, the fundamental message you convey, all need to answer the same, timeless questions: why this, why now, and why you, rather an anyone else. And it all starts with two things, an understanding of what makes your customers tick, and a genuine appreciation of the value you can provide in their businesses and their lives.

These are the rocks upon which you build a resilient business. This is the position from which to lay your plans to lead your competition through 2021.