Wow, 2020 was a year to forget! I hesitate to say it was interesting because it was not. It was more like a nightmare as we coped with a public health crisis, an economic crisis, a political crisis, and a civil rights crisis. Let’s put 2020 in a lead box and drop it in the deepest part of the ocean!
Unfortunately, the pandemic has forced a number of businesses to close. Some businesses have actually thrived and others have adapted and are working diligently to succeed. Mostly, it has altered how businesses operate and tested our resilience. Some people have learned that working remotely is a viable alternative, while others have found themselves struggling to survive in a world which places demands on the use of technology to survive.
So how do we prepare for 2021 after all of the trials of 2020?
There will be new opportunities and business models will need to reimagine themselves. As we move forward, there are several strategic areas to focus on: recovering revenue, rethinking the organization, and accelerating the adoption of digital solutions.
Get the facts:
The past year has taught us to refuse to accept the lies and to question what is truthful, what is misinformation and what is disinformation. Fake posts are a big problem and makes it difficult to get facts about how the virus will affect your business future. But as Yogi said: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.” Once you have the facts, you can make informed decisions.
There are no rules for businesses in 2021:
I am tired of hearing about the “new normal.” What is now normal is change, which is not unusual. We have dealing with a tsunami of change over the past 20 years and accelerated change is the new norm. We need to be prepared for the rapid and unexpected changes that will be affecting us. This means we have to prepare for uncertainty.
Every business owner should review and understand the government regulations in place and try to determine how they are expected to change in the future. Do your own homework and don’t rely on the opinions of loud voices. We need to rely on hard data from known experts to make informed decisions that affect our business and our family’s future.
Make plans to operate at reduced capacity:
People come together at the office or store not just to work, but to collaborate, build relationships and exchange new ideas for the business, but this is changing as we have learned that remote working is acceptable and production.
The need for office time will be reduced.
Social distancing is likely to become a fixture in the office and in our lives. Customers and clients will be less likely to want to visit. We may have to limit a client’s time in the premises and ask clients to book an appointment. This requirement will make us more dependent on technology to stay in contact with our customers and clients. These changes will require efficient use of remote work tech tools like Slack, Zoom, Teams, and others, and that will require some training.
Working Remotely is here to stay:
It is doubtful we will see an office-free environment because of the socialization and collaborative benefit that the work environment offers. However, businesses will be reassessing the right balance of remote work for their particular needs. They will be evaluating how often employees should work from home and which employees can work effectively while remote. Each business with work at home options will need to help employees develop a convenient and efficient home work space.
Owners and managers will have to make decisions on what work should be done remotely and how to remain productive. They will need to figure out how to communicate within the organization and create new ways to socialize while avoiding social isolation for remote workers.
What this means is that we will be finding new ways to work, operate at reduced capacity and learn how to support employees.
Observe what other businesses are doing:
Every sector has been affected slightly differently when it comes to the COVID crisis, but some trends are already emerging in terms of how people are coping with the situation. Some business sectors have remained fully functional during the lockdown period. Others are slowly opening up in gradual stages now. Airlines, bus, and train companies have managed to continue functioning by employing social distancing measures along with strict rules on PPE for both staff and customers. A similar approach has been employed in the retail sector. Though this kind of initiative can be difficult to implement in areas where social distancing is less practical, it is important to at least consider this as an option as it may be a choice between severely reduced business income, or none at all.
So, assess the landscape and adjust your business to fit the shifting paradigm of the market. Find out what your customers and clients need, and then consider introducing new services or products.
No matter what business or service you are in, find a way to take services online in some manner as our populace becomes more dependent on online services.
Extended opening hours and longer working days:
As the infection rate falls, businesses will gradually begin to open again. But to survive it may be a case of working longer hours and opening businesses for longer to generate as much income as possible. As successful business owners understand, we need to do what we can to survive.
This may mean finding a way to operate 24 hours a day by using technology.
Prepare for the unexpected:
Planning has become difficult. But this means that you have to be prepared by setting aside emergency funds, seeking out business grants and government backed loans, protect your employees, and make sure your customers are appreciated. There are no more rules to govern your business plan. Business owners will need to be flexible and adapt to the changes in the market.
Over my 45+ years of practice I have survived several recessions and seen many changes in our society and business practices. Working thru the noise, one thing is obvious. Business owners – entrepreneurs – are adaptable and willing to accept the risks of being in business. That has not changed.