Business planning at the end of 2019 looked very different than it does at the end of 2020. If businesses knew what was to come, forecasting and budgeting would’ve been approached with a different set of eyes and strategy heading into 2020. Instead of planning ahead, every business was forced to make adjustments to their plans on the fly, and the reality is that we don’t really know how the changes made in 2020 will continue to impact the coming year.
Company leaders have to plan according to the lessons learned in 2020. As 2021 approaches, new strategies or existing strategies not met in the last year can be put in place. 2021 provides a blank slate for businesses, giving them the canvas for future success as long as they prepare with lessons learned in mind.
Plan for the Unknown
Most business plans already account for the unusual financial scenarios that might come, within reason. No one could’ve predicted a pandemic-marred 2020, but now it’s time to address the world that COVID created. Some of these new unknowns might be the extension and optimization of remote working, what to do for employees affected by possible school closures, or the chance of having a Coronavirus outbreak within your own workplace. The hope is that these strategies won’t be used, but if we’ve learned anything, it’s that there needs to be a plan for the “what-if” scenarios.
Focus on Resiliency and Adaptability
The only way businesses survived in 2020 was with resiliency and adaptability. Without the combo, any sort of stability would’ve been lost, so the pair is necessary for planning for 2021. Living through a pandemic has shown that unforeseen events are going to happen whether we plan for them or not. A resilient business plan built with adaptability in mind protects people and assets with the hope of alleviating any and all threats.
Respect Reality Staring You in the Face
Planning for the potential of what’s to come is imperative for any business. But so is working within the reality of what’s right in front of you. Leaders should look at the existing conditions and think of long-term planning for 2021 with where the starting point is currently. It’s also important to engage reality regardless of how you feel about the current state of business or what your financial statements are telling. Begin a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis and figure out where your business is struggling and how it can develop moving forward.
Keep Employees in Mind
People are the life and breath of a business, which is why every business plan should consider a strategy for developing and caring for employees. From incorporating policies to help people maintain a work-life balance to building up a strong company culture that supports employees, these initiatives give employees a reason to hang around. Even when times are tough. Keep a remote working environment in mind, too, as you are building employee benefits. Many companies include employee wellness programs, employee assistance programs, generous PTO, casual Fridays, or other benefits. Figure out what works for your business and give your employees a reason to want to work there.
It’s ok to think that 2021 will get better because it can, but be optimistic at a moderate pace. Keep your expectations in check with the financial reality and forecast conservatively. Your business won’t go from negative 20, or even 0, to 60 overnight. It will take time to get your business where you want it to be, so plan accordingly.