Smart business leaders realize that now is the time to seize the opportunity to develop a business plan for 2021 because Covid-19 has not only exposed the strengths and weaknesses of many companies, but it has also opened new avenues for conducting business.
In addition, 2021 represents a blank slate or fresh start for employers and employees, addressing a pent-up desire to position themselves for future success.
Below are steps organizations can take to develop a strong business plan for 2021.
Start the process early
Typically, companies start thinking about a business plan for the next year during the fourth quarter of the current year. Beginning the process early not only enables managers and employees to start thinking about the long term sooner, but it also helps to shift the focus from short-term survival to a more positive, strategic approach for the future.
It has never been more apparent how critical business plans are to an organization’s operations until recently, so the more time a company has to prepare, the better positioned it will be to outperform its competition.
Based on unprecedented times and an uncertain economy, it is difficult to predict the future, so organizations should embrace reality and develop a plan based on existing conditions. To help determine the current state of affairs, business leaders should conduct a thorough analysis of the company to help devise a long-term plan for 2021.
One well-known technique used by many organizations is a SWOT analysis, which is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats related to a business. The findings from a SWOT analysis can potentially identify areas that need additional funding in 2021 and others that might have to be changed or eliminated to maximize resources and success.
During this phase of the planning process it is important to include a diverse set of stakeholders to get a comprehensive view of the company.
Set conservative projections
Currently, many economic forecasts indicate a modest growth rate in 2021. That said, businesses should set optimistic projections; however, with many unknowns lurking, they should be prepared with a modest, more conservative, plan.
Erring on the side of caution when setting business objectives is wise, while also including stretch goals to motivate and encourage employees. For example, companies that identified new opportunities as a result of changing business operations should be able to capitalize and expand upon those areas, leading to increased productivity and profitability.
Every crisis provides leaders with a chance to examine how it was handled and what to incorporate in the future. Agile leadership has been the key to survival and recovery for many organizations during the pandemic.
Companies that could quickly pivot their operations experienced a lesser impact than others. Therefore, it is imperative for companies to factor adaptability into their 2021 plans. Flexible goals, processes and strategies can help stabilize a business if the economic crisis worsens before it improves.
Take care of your people
A core element of every business plan should be a people strategy. Now more than ever, employers should prioritize taking care of their people — from physical and mental health to quality of life and work-life balance.
In addition, maintaining a strong corporate culture is always paramount, but it is especially crucial with many employees working in a remote environment. There is a wide range of employee-related perks and options that can be incorporated into the 2021 plan, including an employee wellness program; access to an employee assistance program (EAP); paid volunteer hours; flexible scheduling; a generous number of PTO hours; lunch-and learn sessions; half-day Fridays and more.
When companies take care of their people, it leads to more loyal employees and discretionary efforts.
Plan for unusual scenarios
While most business plans include typical financially related “what if” scenarios, leaders should consider expanding it to include unusual ones. Based on the dramatic real-world events of late, scenario planning that addresses specific situations that may arise in the next 12 to 18 months might include: widespread resurgence of COVID-19; additional tools and equipment for remote workers; employees affected by school closures; decrease in product demand; the point at which a reduction in force is necessary; and numerous employees contracting the coronavirus. A long-term strategy that includes various scenarios will help businesses better navigate the hurdles if or when they occur.
The pandemic has afforded many companies with a great ability to rise to the occasion, examine their operations and learn many lessons along the way. Organizations that seize the opportunity now to get a head start on their 2021 business plan based on their experiences will be better positioned for success and have time to make any tweaks necessary in such a dynamic environment. As companies finish the remainder of the year and reset for 2021 with guarded optimism, employers and employees should feel a renewed sense of positivity.