Opinion: New year signals move to offense

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As a business owner, it can be challenging to get excited about the new year when COVID-19 is surging, political tensions are boiling over, and economic uncertainties are clouding our view of the future. And who knows what’s going to happen with toilet paper?

Many businesses took a huge hit last year, and most by no fault of their own. Nevertheless, these are the cards we have been dealt, and we must play wisely to win. The main ingredients will be hard work and monumental personal sacrifice, which is just more of the same for the business owner. Secondly, it’s going to take a different mindset.

At the beginning of the shutdowns last year, like many other companies, we shifted to a defensive posture in order to protect the business and weather the storm, obviously not knowing where we were headed. We realized early on that even with predictions of a short run and quick recovery, that the damage done to the economy was impacting years not months. Coming out of war room meetings midsummer, we decided to point all our efforts back on offensive. Our mindset needed to focus on how to win, not simply how to avoid losing. For us, that meant examining the needs of our customers and creating innovation in our services to meet their needs. It also meant diversifying our client base to reach a new market to realize new revenue opportunities. It’s the difference between playing for the sake of obligation versus playing for the potential upside.

At the height of the shutdown, we communicated to our team that we were in this to win it, and we were not staying on defense the rest of the year. Our very survival, like any business, hinges on what we do today and how we respond to the challenges we face. It is not enough to rehash yesterday’s victories and polish our trophies from the past. We need to think like winners and adjust our game plan as needed. Playing to win is really about a mindset.

When you play to win, you play with energy and excitement. You are aggressive and proactive. When you play to not lose, you are timid and stiff. You are not calling the plays; you are reacting. You are trying to hold your ground, not actively seeking to advance. When you play to win, you aggressively work to put points on the board. You are strategic and thoughtful. You trust your instincts and make bold moves. When you are playing to not lose, you are overly cautious. You often hold back and try not to make mistakes. And sadly, many who try to play it safe end up losing in the end because they stopped doing what made them successful in the first place.

As mentioned before, the other piece is about hard work. There is no substitute for hard work and determination. There is a societal change going on right now that says you don’t have to work hard to get to where you want to go. Don’t fall into this trap. When the rules of the game are followed consistently, everyone has an equal opportunity for success. Though we have equal opportunity, we are not guaranteed an equal outcome. Success demands hard work, long hours and a fierce determination to win. This is true in sports, business and any organization that faces opposition.

At the end of the day, you need to think like a winner. In our businesses, we have recalibrated our systems and processes. We have restructured existing business plans and found new ways to become more efficient. We developed better ways to take care of our clients and expanded many of our service offerings. We have launched new entities. We haven’t gotten everything right and there is much more work to be done, but we are working hard, playing to win and leaving it all on the field.

Donnie Brawner is the CEO of Paragon 360. He can be reached at dbrawner@paragon360.com.