2020 has been a year of unintended consequences, and planning for next year might seem impossible right now. With so many non-linear elements in play, such as lockdowns and stock exchange volatility, no one knows what will happen.
Instead of having one singular plan, business owners need to be flexible and prepare for the unexpected. By the second quarter of 2021, everything might change, and you’ll need to scrap your plan and start again.
With the economy resetting, you’ll also have a unique chance to re-evaluate your business strategy and identify major improvements.
So how can you plan for 2021 when everything is uncertain? What is the future going to look like for your business? In this article, we’ll help you prepare for the unpredictable.
Do a SWOT Review
As a business owner, you can get a head start by carrying out a strategic review and identify your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (the “SWOT” technique).
Once you’ve analyzed what you’re doing well, you can pinpoint the areas where you’re struggling while looking towards growth opportunities in 2021.
Planning for your first-quarter plan is essential, especially if there’s a return to lockdown or economic and political unrest. If you have staff or contractors, make sure they’re involved in the process, too.
From the shop floor to the boardroom, everyone has to prepare for change in 2021 — so start planning now.
Since uncertainty is the only guarantee right now, many businesses are thinking about life after the pandemic. Indeed, if you don’t think about it, your competitors certainly will be. Likewise, so will new companies looking to exploit the disruption.
For example, given the exponential growth in remote working this year, there’s now a growing market for home-based office products. Desk chairs and printers have become key commodities for workers who previously didn’t need them. Lifestyle shifts of this kind are why you’re in business in the first place.
Develop an Early Warning System
With the economy resetting, it helps to have an early warning system in place. Contingency plans often involve analyzing social media for consumer trends, following news stories, or simply joining up the dots.
If a politician is speculating about avoiding another lockdown and saying,”we don’t want to go down that route again,” chances are in a few weeks, your local jurisdiction will do exactly that.
Read between the lines — a proactive business will reap the rewards over a reactive one every time.
Delight Your Customers
After the year we’ve had, you can pull your customers’ heartstrings by letting them know you appreciate their support.
You don’t need a big budget to make your customers feel valued — something as tiny as a “thank you” note can make all the difference.
If you develop an emotional bond with your customers, you’re more likely to gain their loyalty and choose you if they feel a connection.
Saying Thanks Goes a Long Way
Likewise, if people work for you, let them know how much you support them. When the people around you feel appreciated, they’ll return the favor and invest more in your business.
Gratitude is infectious.
Even in troubled times, the one thing we can control is our everyday actions. We can always be supportive of one another and hope that it catches on.
Protect Your Cash Flow
While you’re thanking your staff and customers, it pays to appreciate their role in your cash flow.
By comparing your net income and expenses with hypothetical estimates, you can identify which areas of your business are under or over-performing and make changes.
You can decide to create a cash buffer for security, upgrade your web architecture, or even borrow to invest at low-interest rates.
Managing your cash flow is crucial as you don’t know how the economy will respond if there’s a global downturn next year.
Prepare Your Team for Change
Millions of people have struggled with economic and social dislocation this year and are looking for leadership right now.
Everyone has a role to play in business, so if you expect changes in 2021, it helps to keep your staff informed.
Otherwise, you risk disorientating people. Your staff may prefer routine over creative destruction anyway, so preparing them is crucial. They’ll adapt much quicker to change if you’re open about how your business may operate next year.
Winners and Losers
Imagine what you would have done in 2019 if you knew the virus was coming? With this in mind, you’ll need to be malleable in your approach, especially if your first plan fails.
If you’re a service sector business that relies on face-to-face contact, will you change your business model? With consumers clicking but no longer collecting, is keeping your high street store worth it?
Your business will depend on the speed and execution of decisions such as these.
Prepare to Take a Great Leap Forward
With the economy going into freefall, it hasn’t been a great year. Let’s not mess around here. 2020 has been a disaster for business, especially in the travel, hospitality, and arts sectors. But that’s all the more reason to make changes now, so you’re ready when the economy picks up.
You’ll need to scrap “plan A” if non-linear elements, like a second lockdown, disrupt the economy. It’s hard to look beyond the first quarter in that respect — so expect the unexpected and adapt accordingly.
Remember, the virus will pass eventually, and confidence will rise again, but it’ll be a bumpy ride until then.
So meanwhile, it’s time to strap yourself in and plan for an unpredictable and extraordinary year ahead.
If you have a business plan for 2021, we can help you prepare with our #CreateFromHome program and support you through changing times.
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