No one could have anticipated the events that unfolded in 2020. The coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis challenged business owners (and pretty much everyone on the planet) in unthinkable ways. However, as the impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt across the world, there are still unforeseen challenges that lie ahead. Therefore, it is imperative for business owners to plan for the future to ensure success.
Even though the pandemic has brought in new obstacles, there are lessons that can be learned from 2020 and incorporated into a strategic business plan for 2021.
Consider this five-step strategy to start planning for the new year:
Step 1: Focus on your vision and long-term goals: In any strategic plan, the first step is to look at the vision and long-term goals of a company. Analyzing the future plans will help you identify how your business needs to pivot over time to hit specific goals, as compared to finding short-term solutions.
Every business leader must have a clear vision of where you’re heading and why — essentially, what your end destination is. When setting objectives, you should always be in pursuit of that ultimate goal. Even though 2020 has been a tough year and priorities may have changed over the last few months, you should still have your vision in place and you must still be working toward the same benchmarks.
Step 2: Set macro goals: The next step is to determine what you need to accomplish in 2021 to achieve your end goals. To that end, identify four to five objectives for your company. These goals could be anything from launching a new product or service to hiring, say, 15 staff members — essentially things that you would need to achieve in 2021 to help you achieve your long-term vision.
When setting goals, a good idea is to adopt SMART goals, where SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. For instance, a goal to “increase revenue by 20 percent in the next three months” is easier to measure than “increase sales.”
Step 3: Identify the KPIs for tracking success: Metrics are a great way to measure progress over time as well as identifying what is working and why. Therefore, when establishing macro goals, identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) that you can use to track the success of your goals.
Step 4: Prioritize those goals: Now that you have identified four to five big-ticket items and you also know how you can measure their success, come up with six to seven strategic initiatives that you can apply to achieve those goals. Then, prioritize the objectives, keeping in mind the resources at hand.
Step 5: Devise strategy to implement each goal: With goals and objectives in hand, you can start working toward your long-term vision. For that, identify the strategy for implementing the initiatives mentioned in the last step. One way to do so is to break each initiative down to a weekly schedule, which you can then reassess throughout the year to ensure you are on track.
Areas to Focus on in 2021
As the year 2020 — one of the most challenging ones in recent history — comes to a close, it is time to begin planning for 2021. Setting the right goals in advance can help you move toward your long-term vision and take your company to the next level of growth. Here are four areas to focus on in 2021 after an unusual 2020:
1. Growing profit with productivity: Profit is the top goal for most organizations. Therefore, it is crucial to determine how much you aim to earn in 2021, while keeping track of your costs, scheduling and progress.
In order to grow your profit for the year 2021, you must maximize your productivity. This means working diligently to control costs and stay on schedule. Tasks that are completed ahead of time generally earn higher profit margins. They also help you save money and give you the opportunity to take on more assignments.
That said, productivity can only be achieved if your employees are aware of how to effectively complete assigned projects. And to do so, you must ensure they receive proper equipment and training (including information on how to work remotely) to efficiently carry out their work.
2. Communication: Communication is at the core of any successful business. This is because miscommunication can cause wasted time as well as delays and other issues in completion of projects.
One good way to improve communication in your organization is to conduct meetings and check-ins before (to ensure all team members understand what they are expected to do), during (to assess the productivity of your employees as well as provide feedback and suggestions on how to proceed) and after a project (to discuss what went well and how things can be improved).
Communication with customers is also essential. Happy customers are the key to maintaining long-term relationships. Therefore, it is important to not only stay connected with your clients throughout the duration of projects, but to also follow up afterward to ensure there are no issues post-completion.
3. Transition: One thing that 2020 taught businesses is that they need to be prepared to pivot based on unforeseen circumstances while continuing to excel in core business areas. For instance, restaurants that could no longer have dine-in customers had to transition to takeout and delivery in order to stay in business. Therefore, irrespective of the nature of your business, it is crucial to develop the skills for quick transition. Here are some strategies that you can apply to quickly adapt to unpredictable scenarios:
- Look for new markets for potential diversification and expansion.
- Be ready to do business online.
- Connect with customers regularly to deepen relationships with them.
- Come up with unprecedented experiences for your clients.
- Revisit your marketing game plan.
4. Marketing: The ongoing pandemic has people spending more time online than ever before, which means building and enhancing your online presence is essential to stay up-to-date in 2021. Therefore, you should update or plan your marketing strategy to promote your business ahead of time, so that your customers are aware that you are always active, willing and ready to provide them with an exceptional service.
Although 2020 wasn't a banner year for many businesses, 2021 could be your best year ever. Here's to wishing all entrepreneurs and business leaders a Happy New Year!