The New Normal – Is It Temporary or Permanent? Blog Feature

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Curt Nelson

By: Curt Nelson on November 10th, 2021


The New Normal – Is It Temporary or Permanent?

Preparing for the Unpredictable: Lessons Learned from an Entrepreneur 

Businesses in every industry are facing the same question: have the impacts of the pandemic changed how we will do business permanently? Will it ever move back to the way it was – more or less? The answer is different for each business and industry and related strategic planning has been (or should have been) in high gear since March of 2020.

RELATED: Four Common Pitfalls in Strategic Planning 

Facing an Economic Downturn is Not New 

The impact of the pandemic is not unlike the impacts felt by particular industries or countries in the past, it is simply much larger and happening on a global scale. In 2001, I was President of Crystal Group Inc., a business that designed and manufactured rugged computer architecture for the communications/telecom industry, primarily. Ending the year 2000 at over $40 million in revenue with 78% growth, it was apparent that 2001 had a different feel. It was pretty clear that rising interest rates were starting to impact the kind of financing required by telecom to continue that trajectory. And by March of 2001 telecom buildouts slowed dramatically, catching many by surprise. An already softening stock market started a historic drop which was exacerbated later in the year by the 9/11 attack. Our business ended 2001, a year in which we predicted at least 20% additional growth, more than 50% down from 2000.  

Strategic and Timely Reaction to Pivot and Consider Diversification 

We reacted faster and better than many in our industry to accommodate the immediate reduction in demand. We also looked at alternative markets where we had developed some traction to understand the opportunities to diversify or even pivot in direction. This led to our expanded efforts with the Department of Defense (DOD). This market had similar hardened architectural needs, had been investing in our products for multiple years, and was far less impacted by the downturn. 

During the 2001 / 2002 market crash, the technological architecture used by telecom that required our products to deliver, evolved from hardware to software, further compounding our direction. With that transition, when telecom began building out after the crash, the need for our products went away as we were replaced by larger server architecture providers like IBM.  

RELATED: Identifying New Revenue Streams Outside of Print 

What’s at Stake if You Don’t Diversify or Make Changes 

The impact felt in 2001 turned out to be permanent in our primary market. If we had not diversified our efforts as quickly as we had, our business would likely have failed. Instead, with refocused marketing efforts and additional technology development, the business grew past our record year 2000 mark. We continued to scale in the years to come through ongoing investment and diversification within the business. In 2001, a stellar management team, that had to cut their teams by nearly 50%, earned ‘virtual advanced degrees in the school of hard knocks’ as the company was saved and put on a trajectory for growth. What started out looking like short-term impact turned permanent. At that point in time, much like this point in time, initial adjusting, coupled with strategic planning and execution, was needed to remain vital. Not only did these changes help us survive a difficult time, but it made the business excel in the coming years. Consequently, those that did not react, but instead simply waited for the old to come back, ended up faltering. 

Importance of Taking Strategic Action 

Every business is a living entity that must be constantly nurtured and properly guided. Every employee that makes a business successful relies heavily on business leadership to make strategic decisions that allow them to continue to learn and grow. This pandemic has offered up significant obstacles as opportunities, and every business leader owes it to their team to make sure their business is taking the strategic action necessary to allow for such growth. 


RELATED: Sign Up for a Free 90-Minute EOS® Consultation: 

Strategic planning can help you prepare for the unpredictable by forming a long-term vision for your business. The Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS®) is a complete set of simple concepts and practical tools that has helped thousands of entrepreneurs get what they want from their businesses. Sally Brause is the Director of Human Resources Consulting for GreatAmerica and leads the PathShare® HR Services division. Sally is an EOS® Implementer who can help you get started with strategic planning. By mastering this simple way of operating, leadership teams of growth-oriented companies systematically and permanently improve. Click the button below and sign up for a free 90-minute EOS® Consult.  

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Curt Nelson

With over thirty-five years of successful national and international business creation and leadership experience, Curtis Nelson has directed the development and successful launch of over 100 new businesses and more than 500 new products for the communications, IT, military, transportation, medical, health, food, and gardening industries worldwide. Nelson is a seasoned public speaker, entrepreneur, investor, consultant, and three-time veteran of Inc. Magazine's 500 Fastest-Growing Private Companies® list (#48, #67, #225). A 1974 graduate from the University of Iowa, Nelson holds a BBA in Marketing. He has been an active U of I alumnus, served seven years on the U of I Research Foundation BOD, is a director and officer on multiple private and public boards, and is also the author of The Recipe for Business Success®. Nelson currently serves as President & CEO of EDC, Inc., a nationally recognized business accelerator which he founded in 2003. He is the President & CEO of CRN LLC, a business consulting organization, and AccelerateIT, LLC; manager of Iowa Seed Fund, LLC and Iowa Seed Fund II, LLC both seed-stage investment funds. Nelson is also co-founder and current President of the Iowa Venture Capital Association.

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