What Does the North Star of Post-Pandemic Business Growth Look Like?

Every business’s relationship to growth has shifted wildly in the last three years. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 6 percent of companies canceled their plans to grow in 2020, and 9.7 percent hit “pause” on growth. So, what happens now that we’ve entered a new phase? Should businesses be pushing for growth again?

To understand the answer, we have to look more closely at how companies have been thinking and feeling about growth.

Business growth meeting

First, the reason for hitting the pause button has been continued economic insecurity. The economic downturn forced businesses to focus on efficiency, cut costs and prioritize cash flow above all else. This mindset is still guiding business leaders today.

Additionally, in order to at least survive the pandemic, businesses had to adapt rapidly. They had to develop new ways to reach customers, translate their services to digital ones, rethink safety and redefine what their brands looked like and stood for. Businesses that have survived sometimes don’t resemble what they once were.

Despite what we’ve been through and how we’ve changed, growth is always inseparable from business. It defines us. Post-pandemic growth is a big priority for many businesses. They need to recover lost revenues, capture new opportunities and invest in the customer experience so that they can build loyalty and trust as the economy recovers. The question is: how?

Related: The World Is Changing and Your Brand Is Dying. Here’s How to Create and Champion an Evolving Brand

Employee training session

What practices should businesses keep from pandemic times?

There are still pandemic-era business practices that we should carry over into the new era. We have learned a lot in a short space of time, and much of the knowledge that we acquired will continue to be useful. The most resourceful leaders will be able to repurpose pandemic lessons for the future of their companies.

For instance, wise leaders will remember to invest in employee training and development. They will listen to their team members and encourage open communication and feedback because they know it helps them move in the right direction. They also know that digital tools can increase efficiency and collaboration in both good times and bad.

Still, some of the practices we relied on during the pandemic definitely need to be ended. The exclusive focus on cost-cutting measures, for instance, no longer makes sense. We have gotten into a habit of hunkering down and prioritizing core processes; now is the time to let the secondary and tertiary concerns back in.

We need to stop relegating customer service and satisfaction to the “nice-to-have” bucket and start recognizing how critical it is to success. Before, we generally didn’t have the money or the time to invest properly in tools, employee training or development. Now that we do, we need to invest in anything that will empower our teams to set goals and innovate with confidence.

Related: 5 Lessons the Pandemic Has Taught Entrepreneurs

Customer experience

How businesses can find their North Star after the pandemic

The pandemic era has taught us some valuable lessons and given us a new set of priorities. Consider customer experience as the North Star of post-pandemic business growth. Business leaders need to pay attention to the trends that are currently emerging because they demonstrate what consumers are thinking and how they’re feeling. Here are three ways to accomplish that:

1. Focus on health and wellness needs

The pandemic may be winding down and we may be entering a new era, but if the last three years have taught us anything, it’s that health matters. According to McKinsey & Company, the value of the global fitness market exceeds $1.5 trillion, and it’s expected to grow between 5 percent and 10 percent every year.

People are really trying to shape their lives around their well-being and placing greater emphasis on preventive health care, healthy eating and fitness. This has led to an increased demand for health and wellness products, supplements, fitness apps and services, self-care tools, therapeutics and any other health-related service.

2. Find local vendors

Growth isn’t necessarily about expanding globally. With the pandemic bringing global trade to a standstill, many people have turned to locally sourced products to support local businesses and reduce their environmental footprint.

Because the importance of sustainability has become more appreciated by the public — according to a report by Havas Group Worldwide, 73% of consumers believe that brands have a responsibility to act for the good of society and the Earth — customers are looking for sustainable products and services. This includes demand for eco-friendly packaging and sustainable materials. This trend will likely continue as we become more aware of the impact of our buying decisions.

Related: What Is Sustainability in Business?

3. Ask questions to and about customers

According to a report by Salesforce, 56 percent of customers expect that all of their offers be personalized to them. Because this number will only continue to grow, companies must focus on understanding customer needs, providing a seamless user experience and delivering valuable products and services.

In order to know what “valuable” means to customers, ask questions. What customer needs are not being met right now? What customer-centric strategies can be implemented to provide a better experience? How can data be used to make a better decision? By focusing on the customer experience, we can keep the North Star in our sights and let it set a clear path for post-pandemic growth.