Lessons Learned in 2021 Can Help You Win in 2022

Mountains in the rear view mirror

Millennials and GenZers are purposeful consumers. They want value and convenience but they also demand that a business align with their values.

Whew! Who heard the word “Covid” in March 2020 and immediately thought, “Let’s turn my home into a business workstation.”

Today’s Great Resignation is the cultural ramification of 2020’s online work revolution that is reshaping where people live and who they work for. With home and work locations blending into one, 2021 was to consumer delivery services what McDonald’s popularization of drive-in window service became for 1970s American commuters.

Walmart and tens of thousands of small, local businesses re-engineered their retail stores into online ordering, last-mile fulfillment centers. Racing to compete, Amazon is aggressively building a national network of local warehouses to realize last-mile mass market penetration levels.

The past year also revealed the vulnerability of a global supply chain that talked about sustainability but was driven by least cost. Goods scarcity and price volatility now define the costs tied to under weighing human health as a supplier contract term.

Not lost to any American, our country’s divide on science was painfully exposed in 2021. Businesses are now caught in a crossfire between Americans adamantly supportive of vaccinations and a significant minority of citizens who reject vaccinations by denying science or a commitment to the common good.

The American science divide was also grimly exposed by massively destructive December tornados and historic Western U.S. wildfires. Such events were projected by science as a result of manmade global warming. But with the growing evidence that climate change is real and increasingly costly we leave 2021 and enter 2022 without a national consensus or commitment to cut greenhouse gases at a scale that will stop the rate of global warming.

The year’s most telling business legacy is the unanswered question of how to make money and win customers in an economy with soaring price inflation and a consumer base divided over values.

Winning in an Inflationary Economy

As an economist who received a graduate degree during America’s 1970s hyper price inflation I am relieved the Federal Reserve has recognized that today’s price increases are not transitory. They are real and will challenge your company’s 2022 profit margins. Cutting operating costs is an obvious path for managing inflation. During the inflationary 1970s it was called conservation and energy efficiency. Its execution was achieved by driving a Pinto (ugh!) and through a presidential exhortation to wear sweaters to stay warm and control utility bills.

Today, sustainable best practices and clean technologies offers every business solutions that make money and win customers. Candidly, your business is late to the game if you are just starting to use sustainable tools and technologies. Ten years ago, a senior Walmart manager told me how they were using sustainability to lower costs and that, “sustainability absolutely enables everyday low prices.”

As a green business coach, I won clients by promising I would find a cost savings for their business in one day. It was an easy promise to make. I would just walk around their operations and ask questions about their trash and fossil fuel consumption. Never once did I fail to find an emission or a waste stream in their buildings, operations or vehicle fleet that opened the door to reducing costs by recycling, re-selling, re-purposing or re-engineering.

You can do this for your business too. Begin by auditing your trash. Waste management companies increasingly provide really good waste analysis. Take that data and begin asking work associates and vendors for ideas on how to cut waste to cut costs. You will be amazed by the outpouring of good ideas that will deliver near term results.

After I proved to a client that I could find a cost savings, I then offered to find even more if they would set up green teams of work associates. My most rewarding experiences came from seeing empowered green team work associates taking initiatives that increased their sense of personal worth while increasing their professional worth to their company.

And there is a huge CFO role in this business model. The reason we call this “sustainability” instead of “conservation” is because by using cost savings to invest in finding more waste/emissions/cost savings, a virtuous cycle is created. That is Walmart’s sustainability model! That is the business model your CFO could fund.

Winning 2022 Sales by Being Cool with a Purpose

I describe millennials as being cool with a purpose. Here are their top four brands:

1. Apple

2. Nike

3. Amazon

4. Walmart

What do these four companies have in common? Each is cool in its own way. If you have an iPhone do I even need to make the case for Apple being cool? Nike’s ads are testimonials to the diversity and determination of the millennial and GenZ generations. Amazon is the market leader in enabling millennial and GenZ online delivery lifestyles. And it was Walmart who made everyday low prices cool.

But each of these companies are also aligning with millennials on values like solving global warming. Apple is operating its stores, offices and data centers on 100% renewable energy with a goal to make their supply chain and products 100% carbon neutral by 2030. Amazon has 232 renewable energy projects around the world. Their goal is to have their operations using 100% renewable energy by 2025. Nike’s North America facilities are powered 100% by renewable energy. With 36% of its global operations running on renewable energy, Walmart is the top retailer in terms of annual green power usage.

Millennials and GenZers are purposeful consumers. They want value and convenience but they also demand that a business align with their values. Think Apple, Nike, Amazon and Walmart if you want to win on being cool with a purpose.

Your Number One 2022 Sales Growth Question

Here is your 2022 most significant sales growth question: How will your business win the hearts of millennial and GenZ consumers seeking to buy from purposeful brands? And if you think you have this one figured out, please pause for a second and consider how your brand will appear to millennial and GenZ consumers when their Amazon purchases start being delivered in 2022 by Rivian’s all electric delivery vehicles?

Related content:

Learning to Pivot in Times of Crisis to Drive Business Success

Planning Is Core To Small Business Success

Sustainability Goals for Your Business


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