I know we’re all tired of hearing about the uncertain times we’re living in. The “new normal” still doesn’t feel normal—and, at this point, it’s not quite “new,” either. But we keep talking and writing about these unprecedented times because we need to do more than simply find a way through. All in all, we need to find ways to grow and thrive and work to make things better than they were before.
As 2021 fades and we move into 2022, we might find ourselves needing to put even more effort into adapting and overcoming. There is no longer that sense of urgency driving the rapid adoption of altered workflows, technologies, and customer interactions that permeated 2020. Regardless, we must continue to drive and embrace change. Many companies have successfully navigated this time and found better ways to reach customers and make products. I spoke with six leaders about their experience shepherding companies through the changes and upheavals of 2021 and their predictions for how companies can thrive in 2022 and beyond:
1. Falling forward: T. Scott Law, founder and CEO of Zotec Partners
The past year has certainly been strange, but the disruption can provide an opportunity to go back to the basics. T. Scott Law, founder and CEO of healthcare revenue-management company Zotec Partners, says: “2021 has been a year of anomaly after anomaly. In medical terms, an anomaly is a mystery to be understood and overcome. Medical professionals don’t back away from these instances—they dig in and accept the challenge to care for and cure their patients.”
Law describes how Zotec Partners took a similar approach when adapting to changing circumstances, in which the company took stock of what truly mattered. The company was able to return to some of the basics and foundations of the business, including the importance of building and maintaining trust with employees and clients alike. The problem-solving and solutions might have felt urgent, but the changes have been meaningful. “In the coming year, we’ll need to be diligent about not falling back on our old ways, but rather falling forward. In other words, continuing to open doors when opportunity knocks,” Law says.
2. Refocusing: Sara Gelsheimer, senior wealth manager at Plancorp
2020 might have been about survival. But 2021 was about refocusing for Sara Gelsheimer, senior wealth manager at Plancorp, a company that provides financial advice and planning. “For many people, the pandemic provided an opportunity to reassess their values and whether or not they were aligning their resources (like time and money) to those values—and our clients were no different,” Gelsheimer says. “We’ve helped clients refocus on what’s important to them and align their financial resources with those values.”
Gelsheimer suggests companies should commit to reevaluating what’s most important to the business, employees, and customers. Each year, set aside time to pause, take stock, and remember the values and practices at the company’s core. Then, consider whether the company is spending its resources in alignment with those values. “My hope for 2022 is that we all continue to focus on what’s important and not get lost in the hustle and bustle most of us experienced before 2020,” Gelsheimer says. “2020 and 2021 provided a great time to refocus, so we should continue that mindset into the future.”
3. Prioritizing employees: Nyasha Gutsa, CEO of billy
Alongside the disruption of the new normal came the reckoning of the “Great Resignation.” As people search for employment that aligns with their personal values, it will be critical for companies to prioritize the employee experience. Nyasha Gutsa, CEO of billy, an insurance and risk management platform built for construction and real estate, points out that happy employees result in “obsessed” customers.
Billy is one of the companies that grew through the uncertainty of 2021, and the company is focusing on how to help employees feel engaged and satisfied. “To compete for the best talent, we are doubling down on our commitment to the wellness of our employees,” Gutsa says. “We want our employees to feel that their job at billy is the best they have ever had.” At billy, emphasizing employee wellness means four-day workweeks, insurance plans, remote work options, and in-person team bonding events. Gutsa believes companies that focus on employee culture will end up ahead in 2022.
4. Preparing to pivot: Seth Casden, CEO of Hologenix
The past couple of years showed business leaders across the globe that they cannot prepare for everything, despite their best efforts. Seth Casden, CEO of apparel ingredient brand Hologenix, has learned the importance of having a mindset that embraces change. His advice to other business leaders is to prepare for pivots. “Certainly, a leader still needs to have a set course in mind to get to end goals—that must still be the case,” Casden says. “But when thinking about that set course to achieve those end goals, have alternatives ready and, deeper than that, have a flexible, open mindset surrounding the course you will take to achieve your goals.”
In order to prepare for alternate courses of action, it’s a good idea to gather plenty of information. As Casden explains: “We’ve invested more in market research and data to learn as much as possible about who we want to (and should) be, and we’re targeting partnership opportunities. That helps us be more efficient with our sales cycles and time, which we felt was crucial in this business environment.” Strategic shifts are much easier—and more likely to succeed—when you’re armed with plenty of data to inform those decisions.
5. Rising together: Jennifer Dixson Hoff, real estate ecosystem president at Colibri Group
For Jennifer Dixson Hoff, president of the real estate ecosystem at Colibri Group, the past year was focused on community. Colibri Group provides educational resources for real estate professionals to help them develop and grow in their careers, so Dixson Hoff recognizes the importance of helping others succeed and grow. “Colibri Group is dedicated to lifelong learning for ourselves as well as our customers, and we take that to heart in our own planning,” she says.
Dixson Hoff emphasizes one aspect of rising together in 2022: seeing more women in leadership roles. “Just as Condoleezza Rice wants to see women as position coaches in the NFL, I’d like to see more women in leadership positions in business,” Dixson Hoff says. “I advise other leaders to truly examine the makeup of women in leadership roles in their company. They should bravely assess hiring practices and corporate culture; this can help them understand what changes might need to be made to provide more opportunities for talented women to succeed at the highest levels of leadership.” Adding diverse perspectives to leadership teams will help companies creatively solve problems and move forward with confidence in 2022.
6. Building advantages through technology: Harshith Ramesh, co-CEO at Episource
2021 felt more optimistic to Harshith Ramesh, the co-CEO of Episource, a company that provides services and products to simplify the way Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial health plans manage their risk adjustment and quality programs. Although 2020 might have felt bleak and uncertain, Ramesh says 2021 was characterized by renewed hope. Part of the optimism comes from technological advancements. “Driven by rapid innovations in technology, businesses have become more integrated and globally connected than ever before,” Ramesh says. “In healthcare, we are seeing more data integration between payers, providers, and patients—but there is still a long way to go before we achieve true interoperability.”
Ramesh says the embrace of technological advancements will make all the difference for companies moving forward. “Technologies such as artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and machine learning have become invaluable to streamlining operational efficiencies,” he says. “To stay competitive, business leaders across every industry vertical should look into how they can leverage these and other technologies across their organizations.”
When it comes down to it, 2022 might continue to bring disruption and changes to modern business practices. At this point, sea changes might feel more normal than calm waters. There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to setting up for success in 2022, but I, for one, am looking forward to seeing how businesses continue to grow and innovate.