As we come to the end of a very challenging period and a year that most of us may not want to see again, we can now take a look forward with some optimism for our businesses in the landscape before us. And as you contemplate 2021, are you planning on going ‘back to normal’ or moving ‘forward to better’?
The future still seems so uncertain and the end of the pandemic still feels a long way off, but despite that, there are a lot businesses can do to prepare for success in this year.
Look Back at Lessons from 2020
For small businesses across the country and the world, 2020 has been one of the most challenging years in history. The last year has been a roller coaster for all countries. Our world has been turned upside down and things will likely never be quite the same. Although doing business during a pandemic has been challenging, some of the changes that took place may ultimately force businesses to be more adaptable and resilient, which is not a bad thing.
Think about what you did last year to maneuver through the hazards that came your way. What worked? What didn’t? What would you do differently? Use what you’ve learned in order to manage your business in a manner that meets both your needs and your clients’. Then, ask yourself what this year may hold and how you would handle whatever comes up.
With the new financial year on the horizon, there are potential new opportunities to take advantage of and ways to adapt to challenges you may face.
Talk to Your Best Clients
During a crisis like a pandemic, customers, employees, and suppliers are going to value a trusted relationship more than ever. Take steps in advance to build and maintain high levels of trust with each of your customers, employees, and suppliers. Find out what they want and need, and how they anticipate their lives – or businesses – will look in 2021, especially post-pandemic.
Learn how your product or service will fit into the flow. Do they want you to continue delivering your product line in some virtual way, or is it important for them to be able to come into your facility for a real sit-down to discuss what they need and view the options in person? Your solution may lie in providing the best of both worlds, offering virtual visits as well as the personal touch, or maybe the right option is something you haven’t explored yet.
You can’t know what each individual needs until you ask. It takes time to listen, but it creates scalable results. Embracing this approach in 2021 will lead you to deeper relationships, increased brand loyalty, a higher instance of referrals, and more return customers.
Maintain Your Marketing and Advertising
Executives often consider marketing a cost center. And when recessions hit, marketing budgets get slashed. Past recessions show this is counterproductive. Brands that continue or grow their marketing see better performance.
Sticking with — or even adding to — your marketing efforts during a downturn is the way to go. It’s vital to continue email campaigns and social media activity to stay connected with customers and the community.
In light of the current crisis, consumers want to hear how brands are helping out in daily life and how they are responding to the pandemic. Consumers would want brands to be a reassuring voice and social media is the ideal platform for telling your brand’s coronavirus story and comforting your audience.
Put Emphasis on Cash Flow
Lack of cash flow is one of the top reasons why businesses close. Under normal circumstances, only half of all businesses last five years or more. Due to the economic impact of the pandemic, the past year resulted in closures at a much higher rate. This 2021, cash flow management will be critical.
Look to cut expenses where it makes sense. If you are using less office space, consider ending your lease to save rent and utilities. Shut down mobile phone accounts you no longer need. You may benefit from joining a group purchasing organization to leverage price breaks on the office supplies you do still need.
Businesses should also cut down subscription services and instead get online-only access. Cancel memberships that aren’t actively growing sales and revenue to help maintain an overall healthy cash flow.
Adapt to New Working Arrangements
It’s no secret that the pandemic upended the entire world’s economy. Labour markets that were experiencing record low unemployment turned into a landscape of layoffs and forced leave.
While Covid-19 may have put a damper on rising wages, labour remains a company’s highest expense — and most valuable asset. This is not the time to neglect your people, so work to improve your work arrangements.
When coronavirus struck, many office workforces shifted to remote work overnight. This year, working remotely will increasingly be seen as the norm rather than the exception.
For many, it will have been well over a year since they stepped foot in an office. Being as productive from home, businesses will have to come up with credible reasons for a return to the office full-time. This makes moving systems to the Cloud more important than ever. Being able to access systems remotely is now expected given the way people are now working.
Have a Future-Focused Mindset
As always, when you’re crafting your business plan, you want to consider the future, not just the year you’re planning for. So, as you sketch out your game plan for 2021, don’t fall into tunnel vision. Keep in mind the effect your moves could have on your business for the next five or even 10 years.
When setting your vision, initiatives, and strategy for 2021, keeping your business open and finding creative ways to bring in revenue will be essential. As you make decisions based on your business’s current position and the pandemic-affected economy, take steps that will help your business get back on track, all the while making sure you pay attention to trends in both your regional economy and the global economy. Major changes in the world economy and consumer behaviour can be good indicators of what to expect.
Indeed, you can’t predict the future—but a little preparation can go a long way. Having a future-focused mindset and creating a well-thought-out business plan for 2021 is the first step to strengthening your business’s pandemic-resistance in the coming years. Keep in mind, however, that a plan is never set in stone. Be ready to pivot as needed and make adjustment as the year unfolds.
Change will continue to happen maybe at a slower rate or perhaps be even quicker. Your business needs to prepare for the unexpected. If we are to learn anything from 2020, it’s to almost expect the unexpected.
Can your business handle the unexpected if something you couldn’t possibly anticipate were to arise, as happened in 2020? If the answer is yes, chances are you’re ready to play in a post-pandemic world.
Dai is a Master of Business Administration graduate of the University of New England, Registered BAS Agent and member of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers. For 16 years he owned, operated and managed businesses in the tourism and hospitality industry – particularly Accommodation, Event Management, and Food & Beverage Management. In recent years, Dai has worked in the Not for Profit sector, Real Estate, Motorsports, and Motor Trades industry and business services, in Finance, Administration, and Practice Management roles, before becoming a Professional Bookkeeper in 2009.