2020 was a tough year for businesses of all sorts. Covid-19 decimated labor markets, stressed supply lines and, in some unlucky sectors, ground production to a halt. 2021 is a chance to forget last year’s trials and to start fresh.
Chances must be capitalized on to create change. You need to put your nose to the grindstone, both personally and as a business leader, if you want to make it a red-letter year.
If 2021 is going to be your company’s year, you have to make it so. Here’s how to do it:
1. Tailor Your Expressions of Appreciation
This past year has been just as tough on your team as it’s been on you. Take care of them, and they’ll take care of your customers.
Learn what makes each employee feel valued. If you don’t know, start with four of the five love languages: words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, quality time and — the one you should skip — physical touch. Not just for romantic love, these describe the ways in which different people prefer to show and receive appreciation in general.
Nearly eight in ten people leave jobs because they feel underappreciated. After a year of rolling with the punches, your team needs to know you genuinely value them.
Ask employees what makes them feel appreciated, and reflect it back to them. If a third of your team says “quality time,” your next move should be to set up a happy hour. Make a point of giving an authentic compliment each day to people who respond “words of affirmation.”
2. Seize New Trends
After all the pivots and business closures of 2020, 2021 will be a year of change. Keep your eyes peeled for new trends that are relevant to your line of work.
Take remote work. If your competitors all let their office leases lapse, maintaining those overhead costs puts you at a competitive disadvantage.
Another is contactless pickup and delivery. Although hiring drivers will add to your labor costs, your alternative is to give up customers who insist on hands-free retail experiences. Never give up market share if you can help it.
Beyond those big-picture trends, microtrends are there if you’re paying attention. If you’re a gym, cater to at-home exercisers by moving fitness classes online. If you’re a lawn care company, you might predict fewer landscaping clients due to the decline in brick-and-mortar shopping.
3. Build Resilience Into the Budget
The economy may be recovering, but uncertainty remains. Overspending will be risky until the pandemic is over.
First, look at your projected revenue. Use consumer spending shifts to forecast sales in uncertain times.
Next, reserve enough funds for necessary expenses, such as your payroll, office rent and maintenance payments on any loans you may have.
What remains is your discretionary budget. If you don’t have six months’ worth of expenses in an emergency fund, pump up your savings. If you do, think about which technologies you’ll need to offer products or services related to those new trends.
What else would protect your downside in 2021? Build one or two of those things into your budget. If you suspect sales will get harder to come by, then you might invest in your referral network.
4. Ask “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?”
While everyone has high hopes for 2021, nothing is guaranteed. New Covid-19 mutations are popping up. Social and political turmoil is everywhere. Natural disasters are increasing in frequency and intensity.
I’m not trying to scare you. What I am trying to do is to help you imagine worst-case scenarios that could affect your business.
Operating a business in Florida without flood insurance is walking on thin ice. So is wading unnecessarily into political issues, or chucking out the face masks in your supply closet because your city ended its mask mandate.
You’ll never regret being cautious. Even if none of those terrible things materialize, your team will operate more confidently with a plan in place. You’ll help everyone learn what risk management means for their role — something that will benefit them well beyond 2021.
Better times are on the horizon. They aren’t here yet, however, and they may never be unless you usher them in.