In 2020 the rule book has been torn up and we have all had to adapt and change in order to meet the unique challenges that have been thrown at us. As the year draws to a close, it’s time now to take stock, evaluate and start looking ahead to 2021.
While we hope 2021 will be different, there is still a lot we can take away from the last 12 months. Reflect on how your business has adapted, what changes you have had to make. What have you done well? What areas could be improved on? Where did you fail?
Do you plan on reverting back to pre-Covid working ways or will you be carrying forward some of the changes? Some level of home working has had to become the new normal for many of us. There are pros and cons to home working, both for the individual and for the company. A careful weigh up of these will be needed when deciding whether to continue with some level of home working or not.
Reflection should not just be limited to your company but also to the market you work in. How has that changed? Do you expect a post-Covid bounce back or a long term impact and how can that be managed? Should your focus next year be on driving for new business or retaining existing business?
Try to keep your analysis honest and accurate. While it’s fine to try and make predictions, try to avoid pre-conceptions because, as the last year has taught us, anything can happen.
Understand your market
Understanding your customers, their needs and the challenges that they face is important to any business. It should inform all areas of your business from stock and staff levels to marketing strategies. Even if you have a pretty clear idea of what your market looks like, after the last year it is good idea to re-evaluate how things may have changed.
Talking to your customers is a great way to keep a feel for the market and understand how businesses are doing. Who’s hurting and who’s thriving, where are people spending and where are they cutting back.
Make SMART goals
Whether it’s sales targets, consolidation or expansion plans, marketing strategies or any other plan, make sure your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound).
You may decide that you want to improve your customer service, but an improvement will have different definitions to different people. This also is difficult to attain as improvement is something we want to strive for continually. Instead be more specific and measurable e.g. to decrease complaints by 20% or to increase your customer ranking from four stars to five.
By making your goals measurable you increase your chances of achieving them, and give your team the boost of being able to see things ticked off.
When planning your goals, make sure all the relevant teams are involved. A customer service goal for example, may need input from other departments as well. If delivery times are an area generating complaints then logistics need to be part of any plans. If people aren’t hearing about your latest offers then marketing need to join the discussion.
Actions and Tactics
The actions you take now will shape the future of your business so it is important that they not only reflect the current climate but tie in with your plans for the future.
With COVID restrictions still in place and looking to be around for a while longer yet, it is important that the actions we take now and in early 2021 are realistic. If you usually rely on and budget for face to face events like trade shows and expos, have a good think about how likely any of these events are to take place and be well attended. It might be time to invest that money elsewhere such as by increasing your online marketing or building a new website.
The last year has had a financial impact on many business and sectors. In the year to come, planning your budget will be more important than ever. While many businesses will be looking to make savings, it is important to not cut corners. Using the plans and goals you make will help in deciding exactly where your resources need to go.
Track your results
While conducting reviews are great, they can only tell you what is and isn’t working after the event. By tracking your results you can see how things are going as they progress and make tweaks and changes much faster.
If 2020 has taught us anything it is how to be adaptable. As we move into 2021, there is hope of an end in sight, of a return to normality but there will still be a lot of challenges to overcome before we reach that point. And even when we do come out the other side, somethings will still be different: just because it was the normal way to do things before doesn’t mean it was the best way.
We would like to close by thanking our amazing customers for their support and patience during an unprecedented year. As you can imagine, when the first lockdown was announced we had to help facilitate a lot of people in the move to home working in a very short space of time. It is only thanks to the patience of our customers and the hard work of our team that we were able to achieve this.