Was there a year as unpredictable, tumultuous and tricky to negotiate as 2020?
It was a year where survival was an achievement, businesses needed to be agile, and leaders faced unprecedented challenges.
So it's goodbye 2020, hello sunny uplands of 2021? Well maybe not. With the vaccine on the horizon there is definitely cause for long-term optimism but there are immediate and upcoming challenges businesses will face.
From the continuing unpredictability of COVID-19 to the impending post-pandemic economic crash, the uncertainty of Brexit to the challenge of climate change, it's going to be tough for the next 12 months and beyond.
But as ever the key to navigating choppy waters is to plan, prepare and work together.
Here are some steps you can take to make sure you and your business can take on the challenges ahead.
The truth is no-one knows how this year will unfold, but we are in a position to scenario plan. By developing a multi-plan approach you can be flexible and agile in your response to developments. Map out potential challenges, craft strategic responses and try to plan contingencies for the challenges you might face. These could be around health concerns, demand flow, returning to the office, project delays or staffing.
Get on top of the detail
With so much uncertainty it can be hard to stay on top of changing regulations and market conditions. Whether you operate in Europe or not, it's likely Brexit will affect you in some way through new laws on imports and exports, new requirements for EU employees, regulatory data changes or market fluctuations. You can get official government advice here. If you don’t have time to be across all the changes delegate to another member of the team to monitor and flag key points.
Think about what your clients need
Engaging with your customers will be key this year. Try to understand what they need and how they need it, what their challenges are and when they expect them to hit. This puts you in the best place to anticipate their needs and develop solutions that fit into their flow. If you have customers who are struggling financially consider structured payment plans or other options that address their expected cash flow and if they need to reposition their business think about how you can help. It might not always deliver immediate revenue but engaging will put you front of mind when things improve.
Consider introducing new services
Whether it’s down to regular income streams taking a hit, or global challenges opening up new opportunities, many businesses will need to adapt and change this year. Evaluate the services you offer and think if there are areas you have the skills and capacity to move into. It can help to keep an eye on other sectors and don’t be afraid to take inspiration from other businesses – if it’s worked for them it might work for you. Offering new services is also a really good way to keep current customers engaged and offers opportunities to approach those you’ve lost touch with.
Explore new ways of working
The pandemic is still with us – and will continue to be for a large part of 2021 – so most businesses will need to continue to work remotely at least in part. Even if you and your team have hit a rhythm with working from home, it's a real opportunity to explore how you want to operate as a business in the future. Try different workflow systems, explore video call set ups, and talk to your team to see if there is scope for more productive working patterns. And don't stop with your internal team. It's vital to have effective ways of working with your clients. Working remotely with clients is rarely a one-size fits all approach, take time to understand what will work best for them now and in the future.
Be strict with budgets
Do you know your budgets inside out? If it comes to the crunch and you need to cut back having a detailed understanding of your company’s finances will make decisions easier. Budgets inevitably change with priorities, but creating a clear spending plan for the upcoming year and mapping it out against your goals will keep you on track and make it easy to identify where savings can be made.
Look after your team
The push towards Christmas kept lots of people going through the last months of a tough year. Negotiating the new year can be tricky even in normal times, but this year could be even harder. Take the time to have regular check-ins with your team, organise virtual get togethers, and work on keeping your culture alive from afar. A happy and connected team is a productive one.
Leadership can be a lonely place – especially in the current climate. Having a network of people who understand your challenges can really help, so connect with peers in and outside your industry who you can bounce ideas off, talk over problems with, and compare strategies. And if you’re looking for ongoing support consider approaching someone to be a mentor.
If you want to connect with like-minded leaders find out more about the Gather community