Three tips for business leaders to consider in 2020

By Calvin Carter

With 2020 fully underway, Calvin Carter, CEO and Founder of Bottle Rocket, discusses top tips for business leaders to consider in the new year.

Business leadership requires insight, reflection, opportunity and relentless action. Whether you are the CEO of a small start-up or the largest telecommunications company in North America, you must be open to new ideas and the possibility of change. It is time to step outside of operational distractions and think ahead. 

Here are three key tips that can help your business succeed in 2020 and beyond.

Ignore “how” and ask “why”?

When a unique or controversial idea is presented in a meeting, many C-suite professionals tend to focus on the “how.” We often hear people ask, “How are we going to convince our partners to do that?” or “How will we afford that or find the time?” While these factors may be important to figure out down the road, they often times stifle an idea, an opportunity or a recommended change that could result in value for your business or customers. The “why” is often forgotten within these important conversations, even though it’s absolutely crucial for strategic thinking. 

Rather than focusing on the how, think about and ask questions as to why this idea or opportunity is important and why it adds value and why is it better than what you’re doing now. Think about questions like “Why would this help our business?” or “Why would this idea add value?” or “Why would our customers want to do business with us like this?” As a leader, it’s imperative that you open your mind to potential ideas and opportunities that might seem initially complex or undoable. So many people in your organization will model you. If you aren’t open to new ways of thinking and acting, then how can you expect your team to innovate or add value through new opportunities. The result of being open to the “why” could be game changing and could take your business somewhere you never thought possible.

If you don’t have good answers to the why questions, then the how doesn’t matter anyways. And if you have good answers to the why questions, you and your team will be inspired enough to figure out the how.

Diversity can be your greatest competitive edge.

Diversity breeds a stronger and robust system, both internally and externally, and can be your greatest competitive edge. Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have higher financial returns than their industry peers. When you have a group of like-minded employees, who are all of the same ethnicity, gender, age, background, experience level and belief system, you ultimately have one homogenous voice – which is not ideal for looking around corners and finding new opportunities to drive business growth.


But a corporate commitment to focusing on diversity as a competitive edge must be embraced at the top, starting with the CEO, and merged deeply into your organization and day-to-day operations. If the CEO isn’t talking about it and taking their own action, people will wait it out and not commit and take action.

By bringing together people from different backgrounds and cultures, your company will not only benefit from a variety of perspectives and experiences, but will collectively make more informed decisions. A diverse group of people approach the same problem from different angles and perspectives. This results in fewer unknowns and blind spots. The more diverse, the fewer the blind spots and less chance of stepping on a rake in the yard. If we nurture diversity and create a culture where everyone has a voice, more imaginative solutions and pathways forward will emerge. 

Change your perspective on your competition.

Due to the rapid and constant rise of business innovation and new technologies, there has been an increase in various forms of competition in every industry. But even so, the only way to truly stay ahead of the game is to continuously deliver value to your customers and offer something unique and different that they can’t get elsewhere. This involves a deep focus on your business and less worry about what everyone else is doing. 

Many companies are obsessed with their competition and focus on keeping up with industry players. But consider this: the more you focus on your competition, the less control you have over your own business, because after a while you’re essentially just doing what they do. Ultimately, this external focus will stunt business growth and employee productivity. It is essential to instead focus your time and resources on innovating your offerings and differentiating yourself within a fragmented market. Focus on your own journey, not your competition.

The most successful companies in the world aren’t obsessed with their competition, they’re obsessed with their customer and doing what they feel is right to serve them best.

Of course, you must be aware of other companies and have knowledge of the sector you operate in, but remember, that’s their journey, not yours. Write your own journey, go your own way and always seek out new ways to do things.

For more information on business topics in Canada, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief Canada.

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