Business owners are no strangers to challenges the past couple of years. From economic crashes, political turmoil, and COVID-19, businesses across the country have struggled to cope. With another year behind us, we’re ready to move forward with a better, smarter year ahead. These five lessons have made us better business owners and entrepreneurs.

Embrace innovation. The businesses that survived and thrived during the pandemic were the ones that took action early. Rather than rely on what worked in the past, adopt a mindset that is flexible and prepared for any circumstance. Adopting a flexible business model and tailoring your products and services to meet current needs will help your business stay relevant.

Remember to be personal in a virtual world. Zoom is great, but nothing can replace human connection. Whether your team is continuing to work remotely or is coming back to the office this year, finding ways to connect with your coworkers will make for stronger company culture.

Focus on relationships. Take the time to cultivate a strong client base so your business has a foundation to grow. Customers are more likely to support businesses that keep open lines of communication, care for their community, and take feedback seriously.

Plan for the unexpected. Looking back at the past two years seems surreal. As entrepreneurs, be prepared for anything. Recognize issues and develop quick solutions. It’s important to not remain fixed in one way of thinking or seeing a situation, and instead be able to efficiently adapt to different circumstances and scenarios.

Balance is key. Balance is fundamental to building a healthy organization and managing the challenges that come your way. Take the time as a team to reflect and set short and long-term goals.

Ready for a fresh start in 2022? There might never be a better time than now to go all-in on your business idea. The Town of Bluffton’s Business Incubator, The Don Ryan Center, can guide you through every stage of your business development process, from the initial planning stage to expanding your market. Contact them at 843-540-0405 or DonRyanInfo@townofbluffton.com.

Lisa Sulka is the mayor of the Town of Bluffton. lsulka@townofbluffton.com