Listen to Victoria 5 Tips to Start Strong in 2024 Here:


Host Victoria Meyer takes on the challenge of strategizing for a potentially flat and challenging year in the chemical industry in 2024. Sharing five strategic ways for businesses to kick-start their year and position themselves for long-term success, Victoria emphasizes the importance of balancing short-term needs with long-term investments, leveraging global and regional strengths, harnessing sustainability, assessing wins and losses, and building partnerships. 

The episode offers valuable insights for businesses to help think critically about their future, make strategic investments, and take proactive steps to navigate the uncertainties of the market. 

 

Don’t miss this insightful episode with Victoria and learn more about the following:

  • Industry Outlook in 2024
  • 5 Ways to Start Strategically in a Flat/Challenging Market 
  • Key Questions to Ask Your Business and Business Partners

 

Killer Quote: “Being short and long, understanding what’s needed to be successful today and preparing for the future. It’s critical to make strategic investments, think short, play long, and ensure that you and your business are continuing to invest and evolve for the future.” – Victoria Meyer 

 

Additional Links:

Episode 146:  Petrochemicals in 2024: Capacity Overbuild and Codependent Markets with John Richardson of ICIS

 

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5 Ways to Start Strategically in a Flat / Challenging Market

Hi, this is Victoria Meyer. Welcome back to The Chemical Show. This is Episode 146, and we are at the beginning of 2024, which by all accounts is going to be a interesting, maybe flat, maybe challenging, maybe foggy year for the chemical industry.

So what we are talking about today and what I’m sharing with you today are some strategies to help you start strong in 2024. As I said, we’re here at the beginning of the year. Expectations from industry experts say that it’s gonna be a fairly flat year, maybe some upside at the end of the year. Of course, as you know and as I know, depending on where you sit in the chemical industry, your experience, your performance, your year is gonna be different.

If you’re interested in hearing a little bit more about market expectations, go ahead and listen to Episode 144 of The Chemical Show, which featured John Richardson. John brings a very unique global perspective, predominantly to petrochemical and polymers markets and with a heavy Asian and Chinese focus. So he’s bringing a lot of insight from that perspective.

And you definitely wanna tune in next week to Episode 147, which is where I’ve discussed the economic outlook for 2024 with Steve Lewandowski. So stay tuned. We’ve got a lot of great content for you.

Today, what I really wanna talk about, is what are some strategies that you and your business can take to ensure a strong start to the year, and frankly, to ensure a strong year in what might otherwise be considered a flat, murky uncertain year. Now, economic reports all over the place are a little bit mixed. Some people say, “Oh, we’re seeing an uptick.”

Others are like, “Oh, it’s a little foggy.” Others are seeing different things and I don’t know where you sit in your business and in fact, connect with me on LinkedIn and send me a message,  and let me know what you’re seeing in the market. But certainly we are set here at the beginning of the year for another challenging year. It doesn’t mean that we can’t grow. It doesn’t mean that you can’t set yourself up strategically to have a very strong year in 2024 and 2025 and 2026, and that’s what we’re gonna be talking about.

What I’m here to bring you today is five ways to start strategically in a flat or challenging market. Most people have already laid out their year. Maybe not fully, but most companies and most businesses have already set a start to their year. Citing your budget, laying out your goals, and now what? We’re here, we’re ready to kick it off with a strong start.

I am bringing you five ways to start strategically in a flat and challenging market, and I’m bringing you several perspectives and also some key questions that you can be asking yourself and your business

 

1. Respond to today and prepare for the future. 

So I like to call this think short and long. Understanding what’s needed to be successful here in 2024 at the beginning of the year as you go week by week, month by month, deal by deal, as the case may be. But what I think is also really important, it’s very easy for businesses sometimes to stop investing in themselves. So you’re thinking, oh crud, our financials aren’t where they need to be. Margins are lower than we desire. It is just a challenging year. So let’s stop all extraneous spend.

What is extraneous and what’s important to you? One of my key question and a question I have for you is really how long do you plan to be in business? And what do you need to do today to prepare your business for the future? I think about this in terms of systems, processes, people, investments, and other assets.

We’ve talked a lot on The Chemical Show about digitization and AI, a lot about supply chain, and one of the things I’ve heard is that people are dialing back. Some companies are dialing back and in fact it’s very natural. Our instinct is to cut costs. But I think what we really need to be doing is being strategic with your spending and being strategic with your spending often means investing in something where the return today is not obvious, but you know that the return tomorrow or next year is where the payoff is really gonna be.

An anecdote that I’ll share is, several years ago my mom, who is 86 currently and she is really pretty tech savvy. She listens to The Chemical Show regularly, so I know she’s gonna hear this story. She is great on technology, on her phone, and Google search and everything.

Like she’s doing some things that I know that some of her peers are not. But I remember having this conversation with her probably five or seven years ago when we were talking about getting her a new iPad, some new technology, and some other things, and she said, “I don’t wanna be messing with that new technology. I just don’t wanna have to learn that.” I remember saying to her “Okay, fine. How long do you plan to live?” Of which she was a little bit taken aback. She’s like, “What kind of question is that?” So I said, “If you plan to live another 20 years, you need to start learning some of these things because technology and communications and business is going to continue to evolve. If you’re planning to die tomorrow. Then you don’t need to learn any of this stuff.”

Needless to say, she is now a super user on all of her Apple products. She can order on Instacart or walmart.com and go pick up stuff. At 86, she is living a pretty evolved in her life. Staying current and being ready for tomorrow. My question for you, if you plan for your business to die and not be around next year or in five years, then don’t change. Don’t grow.

Don’t make strategic investments in people, in processes and systems in your assets. However, if you’re planning to play a long game, if you plan to not just survive, but to thrive in 2024 and to be continuing to thrive at the end of this decade, and at the end of the next decade then make those strategic investments, think about what is going to make the difference, what do you need to do? Shoot ahead to where business is going to be tomorrow and make that strategic investment. It may seem like an expense today. It may seem risky because some of these investments can seem risky, but understanding what that risk is, what the opportunity is, and ensuring that you and your business are continuing to invest and evolve for the future is critical. So think short, play long and make sure that you are preparing yourself for the future. That’s number one.

 

2. Be global and yet strengthen your regional.

There is no doubt that the world is in transformation. The chemical industry is in transformation, and we’ve talked a lot about this on The Chemical Show. But one of the key things you can do for yourself here in 2024 as you think about your business, is understand, what is the future of your business when you think about regional strengths and global strengths? So there’s a lot of transformation driven by politics and legislation. We’ve got conflicts around the world. There’s supply chain challenges. Heck, ESG has an influence. So when we think about sustainability and as we get more focused in on type three sustainability or type three emissions. Having products travel the globe may or may not be the best decision.

Being vulnerable to long supply chains may not be the best decision for you. So understand the global nature of your business, strengthen those relationships, and yet also look at your regional opportunities and strengthen those opportunities and those relationships. My question on this is what relationships do you need to build today? To create future business opportunities.

3. Harness your sustainability profile

My third point on this, and to get yourself strategically ready for the year to be successful in 2024 and moving into 2025 and 2026, harness your sustainability profile. We’ve been talking about sustainability a lot. It’s sometimes couched in the terms of ESG. If you read the news, ESG seems to be going away, at least in terms of using that acronym in a high profile way. The reality is, we know the chemical industry and our customers and consumers continue to be interested in sustainable products, in greener products, in circular products. Things that are better for the environment.

Again, back to my first point, which was being short and long, understanding what the short term opportunities are, but also playing a long game. And this is around understanding your sustainability profile. Know your baseline, share your story, understand what’s important to your customers. Marketing circularity and sustainability. This is maybe one of my biggest “ahas” that came out of The Chemical Summit. I’ve shared this with you before, but maybe you haven’t heard. So if this is new to you one of the things that came out, and Kelly Gilroy from Univar Solutions talked about this, is that the chemical industry, we are really good at selling to specification. We’re great. We understand the specs we can sell based on molecular weight and impurities and non impurities and what have you. We are awesome at selling to spec.

The reality is often when we’re selling to spec, we’re ignoring some other beneficial aspects of our products, because what I would tell you is people aren’t necessarily buying just the product. Your customers want more than product. They want the entirety of the package whether it be sustainability, whether it be a recycled product, whether it be a first tier version resin, whatever the case may be, they are looking for more from you than your specifications. Specifications are easily replicated and the rest of it is less.

On this point though, I’m really thinking about sustainability. How are you marketing and harnessing and selling your sustainability? My question for you on this is what elements of sustainability are important to your customers, your business partners, and your stakeholders? And then how can you meet those needs today and tomorrow?

By the way, it’s not enough to say, “Oh, we’re already pretty good. We’re doing these things.” You need to be strategically focused on sustainability from a marketing perspective, from a business perspective, and from a sales perspective.

 

4. Assess your big wins, understand your losses and decide what to keep

Let’s get really clear what we’ve already started to see in 2023, and I think it’s gonna happen a lot more in 2024, is some strategic pairing and pruning of businesses. So I’m a bit of a gardener. I’m not a very good gardener to be really honest, but I understand the concepts of it and I do okay.

And one of the things that’s really critical is you have to prune. You have to prune your trees and your bushes and maybe your plants in order for them to thrive. The same is absolutely true of your business today. This may be assets, it may be products, it may be suppliers or customers. So it’s not necessarily about a sale of a business unit, which is what we sometimes think about, but thinking about what you need to prune, what you need to keep, what you need to fertilize and focusing on that early to create that success. You sometimes have to say no to something, to an existing business, an existing project and existing customer supplier in order to be able to say yes and in order to thrive in the future.

So think about what that is and ask yourself, what do I need to stop doing in order to create the opportunity for the future that I need to start doing?

 

5. Build partnerships, new and existing

I think partnerships and collaboration is the key to success always. But it’s certainly the key to success as we go into these flat, uncertain and maybe a little bit foggy markets. Part of that is around not getting stuck in the old way. The old ways of working in old relationships and in old assumptions about your business. So, getting crystal clear internally and externally with your business partners about what is critical about growth for them in this year, about growth for you in this year. How do you work more together? Then frankly, where are the gaps and what gaps can you fill? What business can you be doing differently and start building those partnerships. Plant the seeds, new, old, and future in order to create that strategic value.

 

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading, and as always, I would love to hear your feedback, any questions or if you have any insights on today’s episode and some topics that we discussed. The easiest way to get ahold of me is to shoot me a DM on LinkedIn and I respond to those pretty quickly. And if your business is looking for a way to start strategically and quickly in 2024, let’s talk. Send me a DM on LinkedIn and we can set up a 30 minute complimentary consultation where we talk about some strategic elements for your business to help you thrive and grow in 2024. Thanks for reading today, and we’ll talk to you again soon.