Unplanned Obsolescence: Essentials of Growth for the New Year

January 26, 2021

Bob Priest-Heck

Bob Priest-Heck is CEO of Freeman, which he joined in 2011 with the acquisition of Wheelhouse Solutions. He has spent the past 25 years leading global technology brands and experiential marketing agencies, and was instrumental in the development and launch of Freeman’s creative and strategic agency services, as well as in creating Freeman Digital Ventures.

I like to imagine that years from now I will be socializing with colleagues and, like old soldiers, we will recount stories from the darkest days of our careers way back in 2020. It’s taken a toll on everyone, in more ways than we can begin to catalog. But I am ready to put that pain in the past. None of us — as individuals or as businesses — is standing where we thought we’d be back in January 2020. There’s no point in dwelling on it. All we can do is look around, see where we are now and move forward from this place. If we’re smart and resourceful, we’ll treat it as a launchpad to the future.

As we celebrate the New Year, I invite you to join me in making this resolution: it’s time to stop feeling sorry for ourselves. It’s time to curb the expletives. It’s time to act.

Our leadership team has put together action plans that are specific to our Freeman growth strategy; our people are already rallying to bring these plans to fruition. Whatever your business or your goals, I believe there are a few essentials that will serve any operation determined to survive and grow in 2021.

  • Don’t be distracted by what your competitors are doing. Focus on what you can do to help your customers, constituents and stakeholders.
  • Acknowledge that the pandemic has forced people to accept new norms. Think about how these changes, such as the use of digital tools and new habits relating to hygiene and social distancing, should be integrated into your future business model. Invest in that future.
  • The pace of change won’t slow; figure out how to use available data and analytics to continuously improve your operation and personalize the products and services you offer.
  • Plan to connect with people on their own terms; make it easy for them to find the content they need when they need it. Embrace new platforms that support an omnichannel approach.
  • Lean into your culture and values. Be transparent about what’s driving decisions.
  • Embrace diversity.
  • Remain vigilant for new opportunities. Measure results, reward success and share good news.
  • Stay curious to remain relevant.

That last one is more important than it might seem. Many of our most basic assumptions have become obsolete. For those of us who’ve amassed considerable experience in our respective fields, it’s as if our equity has been compromised. But the true value we bring to the enterprise is not simply knowing how it used to be done. Our equity lies in how we pursue new solutions, imagine what’s possible and build a better reality. That expertise is always relevant.


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