5 CEOs on How to Thrive in 2021

We soon end the strangest year most of us have experienced, one in which uncertainty as individuals, families, organizations, communities, states and a nation reached its highest point since World War II. Some did well, some remain in limbo, some were severely affected. We all face continued uncertainty for at least the next six months, after which it is hoped Covid-19’s grip on our economy will finally cease.

So how do we enter Part 2 of the Covid-19 economy, the chapters covering its slow eradication, rebuilding what it damaged and ways to best capitalize on the opportunities now before us? Nobody has for-sure answers, but five CEOs share below some ideas that can help in the year ahead.


Hire, Promote and Work with People Who Listen Really Well

“We have to be talking about the kind of people and leadership that our companies need to be successful in transforming their businesses through innovation and the different ways they’re going to have to change their businesses to go forward. That’s the essence of capitalism and we better be very capitalistic in our thinking that we can do this; we can innovate; we can change. That’s how our nation became great. That’s how our companies will become great after Covid. To do this we need to really update our listening skills so we can hear from our employees who have ideas to share, and from our customers who would like us to maybe change this or that or get into something new. If we have leadership that really values listening rather than telling people things, we will have successful companies.”Reviva Corp. Chairman Dave Goodwin. Catch a brief interview with Dave by watching here on YouTube or listening via Spotify.


Address Customers’ Perceptions vs. What You Assume They Know

“One of our clients is a restaurant and the situation they had was typical of how a fast-food restaurant works; they serve people up front and all their people are working in the back. You walk through the sitting area and when you get to the counter you order your food. [With in-door dining banned due to Covid-19], people would walk right on by the place even though it had an ‘open’ sign. It decided to move  all of its employees and their activity closer to the window so people walking by could see there were people in there. Overnight, literally, the situation flipped. People realized they were open and available and started coming in to order food to go. It was all about perception.” – Chad Nesbit, CEO of Nesbit Agencies. Catch a brief interview with Chad by watching on YouTube or listening via Spotify or Apple Podcasts.


Focus Your Sales Efforts, Daily

“Make sure you’re chasing the right prospects. So often you set a strategy, you know who you want to go after…but the salespeople will chase anybody who can fog a mirror. We got to make sure that we’re going after the ones that are giving us the best chance to win.”— Gary Braun, co-owner and CEO of Pivotal Advisors. Catch a brief interview with Gary by watching on YouTube or listening via Spotify or Apple Podcast.


Starting a Business? Avoid Debt

“I started the company in 1991 and have been through three recessions, four now, and more than ever realize cash is king. Folks talk about knowing what your breakeven is. Okay well, if you have in essence no fixed costs from debt, you’re not paying for your trucks, your trailers, your equipment, your building—if you have no monthly payments of any kind [besides general operating expenses such as utilities], your break even is incredibly low. So when I started this business the idea was we would grow as quickly as we can internally generate the cash to grow. When we bought this building, we had three semi-trucks. Today we have ten. None of them were financed. None of our trailers that go with them were financed. None of the forklifts were financed. We buy as we have the cash to do so, and semi number 11 is coming in two weeks. That’s been one of our secret ingredients: no debt.”—Northern Ingredients founder and CEO Bob Schafer. Catch a brief on-site interview with Bob by watching on YouTube or listening via Spotify or Apple Podcasts.


Be More Patient, and Tolerant of Crankiness, Given the Times

“Covid-19 is bad enough. Then throw in all the other stuff, plus the always ongoing realities of being in business. It just keeps coming at us and the reality that we don’t have an end point in mind… people are stressed. [As leaders we first] have to be aware of this in ourselves, and we have to take this into consideration when dealing with our people and our clients.”— Jim Snoxell, CEO and chair of the business law and nonprofits department at the law firm Henningson & Snoxell. Catch a brief interview with Jim by watching on YouTube or listening either through Spotify or Apple Podcasts.


This article was first shared Dec. 11, 2020, with those receiving a weekly e-newsletter from Platinum Group.