Decisions made under pressure are seldom good ones. It’s always better if we have given thought to options beforehand and proactively prepare for the worst. This article discusses how building a pandemic-proof business strategy for 2021 can help you react or rebound quickly in times of uncertainty.
Every business owner would love a crystal ball in which they can see the future. It would be so helpful to be able to anticipate the otherwise unexpected. Then, the business could make smart decisions about staying the course, shuttering product lines, or expanding into new areas. No such luck.
This doesn’t mean a business owner can’t take steps to prepare for potential future challenges. Try these tips to build a year-long strategic direction for your business, especially while facing uncertainty during the pandemic. Strategies can include:
- Review what worked in 2020
- Focus on agility
- Review customer base
- Examine competitors
- Determine revenue goals
- Plan and prioritize
- Have backup plans in case things change
Review What Worked in 2020
This is the one year where you can say hindsight is 2020 and mean it literally. Every year the business will benefit from reflecting on what worked and areas of improvement. Especially with the many challenges from 2020, your business could learn a great deal about the flexibility of its processes and the resilience of its business model and its people.
Start your business planning by looking back at:
- Financial performance
- Personnel changes
- Employee feedback
- Customer reviews
Identify challenges, accomplishments, and see what lessons you can learn about your business and your customers. This is an opportunity to think about what you would change about your business strategy and what you could keep as a process to continue with success.
Focus On Agility
Looking back lets you think about what happened and what can be changed. Yet, in making your business plan, you can’t lock down every decision in advance. That’s not going to serve you well when something goes awry. A good business strategy has room for flexibility.
If the pandemic taught us anything other than to wash our hands more often, it’s to expect the unexpected. In your strategic planning, try to use broad brush strokes. Yes, there are things you can plan around. These can include holidays, business sales cycles, customer program renewal dates, software licensing, and compliance deadlines.
Nevertheless, it’s a good idea in a post-COVID business plan to prepare for contingencies. You can’t predict when federal, state, and local governments will change their protocols and what that might do to the pace of your business, operating practices, or reopening plans. Doing the research and strategic planning now to prepare for possible pivots can help your competitive advantage in a crisis.
Review Customer Base
Use your professional website and social media channels to provide valuable resources to your customers. Plan to continue to be a source of information and thought leadership. To be effective in your marketing and business communications for 2021, look closely at your customer profiles.
Entrepreneur recommends, “Focus your business strategy for 2021 on your customers and customer-facing actions.” This might mean:
- Providing financial assistance
- Offering different/more payment options
- Developing content resources to help customers
- Improving customer service practices
- Training customer-facing employees in empathy
Your pandemic-proof business strategy for 2021 will be more successful if you spend time evaluating the competition. You’ll want to research any emerging competitors, how your existing competitors changed direction, and whether anyone left the market.
You can identify strengths and weaknesses by looking at your competitors’ messaging, product and service offerings, pricing, and online presence via their business website—theirs and your own. This part of your planning process identifies opportunities, market shifts, and potential threats.
Determine Revenue Goals
A small business might set a revenue goal and then set a plan for reaching that objective. Otherwise, you might look at what you have to sell and how much you can earn with that. Then, you’d budget around that planned amount of income.
Your revenue goals help shape your budget. Having done the work to estimate what revenues could look like in post-pandemic 2021, you can make smarter decisions about business expenses. This may not be the year, for instance, for you to move into that new, bigger office you’ve been eyeing.
Plan and Prioritize
You didn’t go into business because you have difficulty thinking up ideas. If anything, you probably have more new concepts or processes to try out than you have time or budget.
Strategically plan out each project. This helps you determine what resources would be required. You can gauge whether your business has the people, time, space, materials, and budget to realize each of those great ideas.
Next, decide priorities. You probably can’t afford to do everything you want to do. Plus, it might not be the best approach, as it can spread your resources too thin. Instead, using the planning you’ve done, identify which ways to grow your business are most feasible now. If you’re going to take the risk and shoot for the moon, this planning stage can direct your decisions about expanding your team, buying new equipment, or finding new supply chain partners.
Have Backup Plans
No, we don’t specifically mean a data backup plan in case of a cybersecurity issue. Although, you should have one of those. This is the more general backup plan in case things change.
This is the Plan B your business will follow if a big client leaves, a key supplier folds, or half of your employees leave for other positions. You can’t predict what the change will be, and by planning for X, Y, and Z, you are basically guaranteeing that Q will happen instead (it’s Murphy’s Law). Still, having done proactive planning to ride out the unexpected when things are going smoothly can help you make smarter decisions when faced with that curveball.
Business planning that prepares you to be flexible and readies you for the worst can be invaluable. Following these strategies to develop a pandemic-proof business strategy for 2021 can help your small business stay afloat or find more success as the “new normal” continues to take shape.