If you are reading this and thinking about the future of your business and what needs to be done moving forward, you have weathered the storm. Despite taking the world on a rollercoaster, 2020 was a reality check to many business leaders and companies who learned valuable lessons across the board, especially the importance of being adaptive, agile, innovative, and digitally-enabled to survive and thrive.
Now, are you ready for 2021? Indeed, 2021 will bring its challenges and unexpected twists and turns; however, it also represents an excellent opportunity for many to become more competitive, regain traction, and establish a more robust market presence. More than ever, businesses need a purpose-driven strategic direction, with an innovative business model suitable for the post-pandemic business environment, and results-driven business and go-to-market plans with realistic goals to accomplish in the coming year. In that sense, here are 10 key things to do and consider to position your business for success in 2021 and beyond.
Review your performance in 2020 and extract the lessons learned
The key to solving any problem is understanding the problem in the first place. Review the business performance in the past year and ask yourself constructive questions, such as what worked? What didn't? How did you maneuver through the hazards? What would you do differently? These kinds of self-assessment questions will help you understand your performance and the state of your business to become capable of handling what the future may hold and whatever comes up your way.
Reach out to both your top customers as well as the ones that left you
Understand what they want and need, and how they anticipate their lives or businesses looking into 2021 and the post-pandemic era. Understand why they stayed loyal during this period or the reasons they left you. Gather feedback on what should be improved in your existing offerings and the different things that should be added, removed, and/or replaced. Understand how your customer experience performed and what is needed moving into the future. Do they want to receive your products in some virtual way, or is it essential for them to come into your locations and view the options in person? Does your solution lie in providing a hybrid model, offering virtual visits alongside opportunities for physical interaction?
Assess how you performed compared to competitors as well as the new market entrants
Everyone was impacted either negatively or positively during 2020. Assessing whether you under/overperformed compared to the competition is key to understanding what you need to sustain, change and/or improve. An important aspect is looking at how they are reaching customers today and what they are planning for tomorrow. Another area to look at is new market entrants, which could be disrupting your business model or targeting your customers. Make sure to understand your competitive advantages and what needs to be done to maintain and grow your market share and stay ahead.
Revisit your decision-making process and data capabilities
Don't just assume that your data is of good quality, accurate, and enough to make decisions. As much as data is important, how you use your data to make decisions and execute is crucial to deliver results. You must revisit your decision-making process and data capabilities and assess critical situations where you had to make decisions and what data you used to drive these decisions. You must ask where the data was sourced from, how it was maintained, and what other crucial data is missing for your business. Data now is being called the new oil, but it is far more valuable than that. You need to start treating your data as more than a passive asset class. To achieve that, however, you cannot start looking for answers. You must learn how to ask new questions about what your data model might be missing. You need to leverage the latest tools and best practices to collect, organize, process, and maintain your data, and ensure that the data that you are measuring reflects the real world, not just the data that is easiest to collect. Fostering a data-driven culture, aligning the decision-making process to a data mindset, developing data science capabilities, and using data analytics tools across different aspects of your company can play a significant factor in having a competitive edge and taking your business in a completely new direction in 2021.
Assess your digital readiness
The key here is to understand how streamlined the way you do business is? how are your customers served regularly? And how ready you are for 2021, among all the digital transformation initiatives being conducted by market players to automate and upscale how they do business using the latest technologies and digital capabilities? The assessment should include the different areas in your business, from strategy, innovation, customer experience, supply chain, and operations to HR, finance, IT, legal, and cybersecurity, among others. By looking at the different areas, you will understand the gaps in your business and prioritize the initiatives that will most likely impact your business performance going into 2021, especially with many companies shifting to the work-from-home model.
Assess how your different teams contributed to your survival
The Covid-19 chaos has opened the eyes of many companies to the non-optimal business models and misallocation of resources they had in place. Terms like redundant became a hot topic, which governments legally allowed with limitations to provide a quick way for companies to restructure and reduce costs in line with the substantial drop in their revenues to survive. Going into 2021, these experiences and lessons learned should be used to properly align your human capital initiatives to your strategy, business model, and plan in order to optimize your budget management, maximize your human capital contribution, speed up business recovery, and gain traction. Discuss what the future looks like with your employees and how they see their work environment developing; you'll get many great insights into what people want. Many businesses are focusing on providing flexibility to employees, which is something that will not only help them improve their work/life balance but could reduce your turnover too. Separately, it's vital to consider upskilling your employees, and doing so now will help ensure they're prepared to pitch in when needed should they need to in the future. You can upskill your team in different ways, but some areas required to focus on include digital skills and project management. Consider your employees' skill base versus your business requirements to make sure you develop skills in the right areas.
Revisit your sales & marketing tactics
In 2020, everyone realized the importance of an integrated multi-channel sales strategy and the importance of diversification to reduce risk and sustain the business. Going into 2021, you should leverage the lessons learned and focus on your customers and customer-facing actions. This includes tapping into new channels and taking initiatives such as providing more financial assistance options through structured payment plan services and other payment options that address limited cash flows and decreased customer confidence. You also need to consider allocating time to plan content creation and provide access to other valuable information resources to your existing and potential customers. Tactics like these might not deliver immediate revenue, but it can effectively engage prospects in the short run, so they are ready to buy when things improve.
Revise your contingency plans
With uncertainty anticipated to continue towards 2021, it's good to lay out potential contingencies that you may face in the coming year and draft strategic responses. These may include different scenarios like slower reopening, additional health concerns, uncertain openings, and closings decisions, remote environments, and full fledge reopening. Develop key tactics for each of these plans leveraging the experience from 2020. Many tactics may have been already validated as effective, and others are still being tested. Research the ones that worked for other businesses, even those you have not yet implemented, maybe because you based your strategy initially on returning to a recognizable environment.
Revise your business continuity plan
Rarely do we get a notice that disaster is about to strike; however, 2020 taught us many great lessons with the coronavirus pandemic that forced many businesses to close doors and others to dive into a remote working model. Having a clear business continuity plan during disruptions like floods, pandemics, and cyberattacks is a need. Many businesses have already a disaster recovery plan in place but lack business continuity. A business continuity plan will help restore your business to full functionality after a disaster.
Focus on what you can and need to do, and how you will execute
Following a year where market conditions, rules, and regulations have told you what your business can't do, you need to look now solely at what you can and need to do, within the available budgets. This is the mindset that businesses need to develop and use for their 2021 business strategy. This can-need-do strategy will start with a list of what is possible and what needs to be done following all the assessments you've done across the board, which will include things like (1) transitioning to doing business online, (2) researching new markets for potential expansion and diversification, (3) Engaging with customers personally to deepen the relationship, (4) creating a unique experience for customers, (5) changing your sales and marketing strategies, (6) adopting new technologies, (7) work-from-home model, among others. Once you define what you can and need to do, even if it requires an adjustment in the business environment, you can set realistic objectives and plan tactics for achieving them. The most important thing to consider is defining clear performance indicators to monitor your progress along the way and ensure you execute to deliver tangible results.
No matter the impact of 2020 on your business, it's always good to reflect on what happened and plan for the year ahead. It's been a challenging period for most people, but hopefully, 2021 will bring a fresh start that if well played could land big things for your business. As you review this list of things to consider before setting your objectives and strategies for 2021, you'll undoubtedly find plenty of actions you can take with certainty to counteract the concerns that seem so pervasive.
Are you ready to face the unexpected if uncertainty persisted in 2021? Are you prepared to compete and gain traction in 2021 in a business environment that has shrunk, where everyone is fighting for the same pie and getting ready to compete fiercely? If the answer is yes, then chances are that you're ready for the post-pandemic era.