It’s shocking to think how much has changed in the last year. Since the onset of COVID-19, some companies have been able to really thrive, effectively pivoting their business and adding new market segments. Some are truly struggling, wondering how they will make it and pushing back on our “new” and changing normal. And then there are those who are in-between. Asking a few strategic questions in the coming months will help you prepare your business for thriving in 2021.
In just a few months of 2020, we witnessed three years’ worth of change. From our daily living routines to how companies do business, it seems like everything has changed since the start of the year. But more than anything, we’ve seen huge changes from a technological perspective. That speed will continue.
We are in the 4th Industrial Revolution. System-wide innovations are rapidly bridging diverse fields of industry in ways we never could have imagined even thirty years ago. The widespread accessibility of technology, both in terms of speed and cost, is revolutionizing the way businesses operate.
As Steve Jobs points out in The Pixar Story (a great documentary available on Netflix), many companies that become great believe that to remain great they should keep doing the same thing. In fact, he explains, truly remarkable companies need to continue to push themselves, to challenge themselves to new heights. Remarkable companies find new technologies, new new markets, new ways of doing things, etc. While what Jobs says is certainly difficult to do, it is nevertheless what small- to mid-sized business owners need to focus on if they want to stay ahead.
With that in mind, here are a few key strategic questions to ask yourself to move your business forward.
What new markets can you move into?
While it might seem daunting to focus on expansion when the world seems to be contracting, the only way to stay ahead is to seize opportunities. New markets for your business might mean expansion into different geographic regions or expanding your product lines or services. Your company is the best at what it does. Are there new areas you can expand into? Are there additional opportunities for products and services that complement your existing offerings?
What new technologies can you create?
Regardless of your industry, you have specific expertise and insight into how to improve processes or products. What needs does your business meet for its customers? Are there gaps or pain points that remain? How might technology be able to solve those challenges?
What new technologies can you implement in your business to make it more efficient?
Every business has inefficiencies, and the rapid changes that COVID-19 brought on surely created some new challenges. While you’ve likely adjusted to the new normal of heightened safety measures and work from home, it’s important to assess how operations might be more efficient. What are your employees’ pain points? How might better software or programming solve those pain points? What tasks, processes or routines happen on a regular basis? Are there programs or tools to help you automate such repetitive tasks? What types of new skill sets do you need – at all levels of the business?
Should you make an acquisition or sell off something that you have?
Planning for 2021 means assessing where your business stands now and looking to the future of where it might go. All of which requires a clear sense of your fiscal responsibilities and opportunities. Are you dragging along any dead weight? Are there assets that might serve you better as capital for research and development or a more lucrative acquisition? What does a reasonable budget look like for next year? Are you running your business to your budget or how much money you have in the bank? (You should definitely be running it to the budget).
Remember That Help Is Available.
With all of the changes happening and the changes that will continue to happen, now more than ever it is critical to focus on planning for 2021.These are just a few of the strategic questions to ask yourself if you want to effectively plan ahead. That being said, we know planning is hard. It can be especially difficult to think outside the box and come up with new ideas, let alone to get your leadership team on the same page.
The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. There are plenty of others out there who are facing similar challenges and opportunities. Joining a peer advisory board is just one way to ensure you’re getting feedback, accountability and expert advice on how to grow your business. You might want to consider a professional facilitator or invest in a program that will ensure strategy meets productivity.