Welcome to 2021. After an incredibly challenging year for many small businesses, you may be ready for a reset.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dallas Mavericks owner, Shark Tank judge, and famed investor and entrepreneur, Mark Cuban, as part of our Stories of Resilience series. Mark Cuban has been a champion for small and medium businesses (SMBs) during the pandemic. He has personally answered questions on LinkedIn and Twitter, shared small business tips, encouraged his network to shop small, and even virtually sat down with me not once — but twice — to share actionable insights for small businesses building resiliency as they deal with the impact of COVID-19.
Below are a few tips from my conversations with Mark Cuban that may help you focus and reset for 2021, despite pandemic effects. To hear all of his advice, watch the full interviews.
1. How should small business leaders guide team members through ambiguity?
Mark Cuban: As you lead your team, you should also want to know what they think. Ask them: what is your vision? Where is your head at? Your team has to paint the picture for America 2.0 after this (pandemic) is done, so it’s time to think about what it will look like for your customers or industry.
If we look back 10 years from now, there are going to be five, 10, 15, 20, or even 30 amazing companies that we create. That idea might be sitting on that Zoom screen of one of your team members — all you have to do is ask.
2. What sales strategy would you recommend during COVID-19?
Mark Cuban: Now is the time to connect more than sell. Every single person in your CRM system or sales platform is scared. Every single one of them wants to hear a reassuring voice. Call, email, or text them, particularly if you already have a relationship with them, and ask how they are doing. You don’t have to sell to them now and ask when they’re buying.
Being nice pays incredible dividends for everyone in the universe. If you’re the company that communicated and was nice to customers during this time, they are going to come back to you when the time is right.
3. How can small businesses account for volatility?
Mark Cuban: Having an online presence and reaching outside your typical trade area is important. You also need to communicate with employees. Sometimes you’ll get the best information from them on how to deal with volatility. And third, marketing your online presence is vital, so that when things are trending down, you’re able to keep in touch with your customers and still have a storefront.
As we come out of the pandemic, there are going to be some businesses that have more volatility than they experienced earlier because some aspects of their business may be reversing. You want to have a plan to market and promote yourself to compensate for that volatility.
4. What advice do you have for small businesses as they plan their office space for 2021?
Mark Cuban: We’re downsizing space, but we’re asking employees where they prefer to work from. Some employees would prefer to work in the office, but others may have a commute they’re trying to avoid. So there’s a balance there and you have to talk to your folks about that.
Secondly, you don’t want to leave behind the culture opportunities that happen in an office. You’re going to want to create events and innovate on how you can bring all your people together so they have a chance to develop bonds. Or if you’re a larger company, [you’ll] at least [want to get] your department together [to encourage team bonding]. You’ll have to determine if that’s weekly or biweekly or monthly. But you can’t lose sight of the fact that you have to create a bond among your employees.
5. What’s one lesson you’ve learned during COVID-19?
Mark Cuban: COVID is real. You’ve got to do your own homework. When something is this big of a threat where people can lose their lives, and you have employees that work for you, you don’t want any of them to be at risk of dying. You have to take this incredibly seriously. You can’t just cross your fingers and hope this doesn’t affect you. About 5% of the US has contracted COVID, and we don’t know how it affects them in the long term.
For the entrepreneurs out there and the CEOs, put yourself into the shoes of your employee. Of course, there is a balance — everyone wants hours, everyone wants to stay open, everyone’s businesses are at risk of potentially losing customers and losing businesses. But to me, too much caution is a better problem to have than not enough.
6. What are your 2021 predictions, and what opportunities do you see on the horizon?
Mark Cuban: The vaccine will be more prevalent. By the time we get to spring, enough people will be vaccinated that people will feel confident and not have that fear that we’ve had until this point. And the snapback is going to be enormous. People are going to go to sporting events, concerts, and parks. There are going to be so many different types of events that are going to be off-the-chart fun. By the time we get to next Christmas, we’ll be exhausted from having done so many things. The snapback will be amazing.
7. What inspires you? And what should others read for inspiration during this time?
Mark Cuban: There are going to be heroes born during this time. So when it comes to reading, I tend to focus on what’s coming next. I think artificial intelligence (AI) is going to have a stronger presence in the future, so the book I’m reading is Rebooting AI. I’m also taking Coursera classes on AI, and taking tutorials.
In terms of inspiration, I find inspiration by connecting to people and helping where I can. When you see someone who is down and all of a sudden their spirits get lifted, that’s as inspiring as it gets.
Looking for more in-depth advice from Mark Cuban? Check out the full interviews.
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For more business and leadership inspiration, check out our entire Leading Through Change series.