Have you ever watched a basketball player come out of nowhere, steal a pass from the other team and then take it down the court for a slam dunk? To us mere mortals, that kind of move looks like magic, but it really comes from the ability to anticipate what the opponent is going to do and where the ball is going to be. Applying that kind of forward thinking in business can make you a better manager and give you an edge on the competition.
I’ll be honest: Early in my career, I focused mainly on how I could bring in more dollars. Over time, I learned the skill of using vision to lead from the front, and it’s helped to build our business and the careers of my team members. Guess what? The dollars came anyway. Turns out that leading from the front is great for business and a terrific way to develop talent. Helping team members learn to anticipate both problems and opportunities helps them grow into better employees and better people. Here are a few examples.
Anticipate, Don’t Wait
The key to thinking ahead — or leading from the front, as I like to say — is visualizing various scenarios before they happen and getting ready for them. A great example is staffing in the hospitality industry. Summer travel is typically busy season. If you’re waiting to interview candidates until right before you need them, you’re waiting too long. Your competitors will have already hired the best ones, and you’ll be left with slim pickings. Keep track year to year of when demand is greatest and line up your candidates ahead of the need. Your competition is making its way downcourt, and they’ll have a straight shot at the basket if you don’t anticipate their moves and get there first.
Broaden Your Field of View
Just focusing on your day-to-day operations is a great way to stay right where you are — which is to say, it’s a great way to get blown past by the competition. To stay ahead, you need to develop a vision for attracting new business. Get involved in your local chamber of commerce and find out what’s going on in your area. Follow local sports and know when the big games are happening. Learn about local events that will bring in more traffic and be ready with tie-in specials and plenty of staff.
Look Out for Challenges as Well as Opportunities
Leading from the front also means being on the lookout for potential problems. Let’s go back to our basketball reference. Let’s say a star player has a key injury. A coach won’t wait until a few minutes before game time to figure out the lineup.
Similarly, in a restaurant facility, that dishwasher has been making an odd noise — do you want to address that now or have it fail during a big rush? It’s tempting to put off dealing with issues until they become urgent, but that can be costly. Paying attention to the details of your operation and anticipating problems will save you time and money.
It’s also important to be aware of changes in the economy and prepare for how they will affect your business. Inflation is lower than it was a few months ago, but prices for labor and supplies are still eating into profits. Some of those costs can be passed on to customers in terms of higher prices, but there comes a point where people will stop buying. At that point, you’ll have to freeze or lower prices to maintain your client base and then absorb the increased input costs. Everyone must determine for their own business and circumstances where that point is and how to handle it if it comes. If you’ve looked ahead and planned for such a situation, you’ll be able to manage it with less disruption to your business.
Be Willing to Adapt
The pandemic and the changes to the economy that have come in its wake have changed how everyone does business. People and companies that are willing to look ahead and adapt to the business models of the future will be successful, but folks who are always looking backward to try and regain what was in the past will struggle. Educate yourself about economic trends. Explore new options, such as on-call staffing, to meet peak labor demands. Keep your eyes open and look ahead! Profit will follow.