Five tips to set your business up for success in 2021

The possibility of not seeing economic or business recovery until at least mid-2021 highlights the importance of planning for multiple scenarios.
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The challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic hardships can make 2020 a difficult year to look back on. Forty-six percent of small business owners surveyed in the Q4 Wells Fargo Small Business Index reported decreases in revenues, while the prospect of closing their business was most frequently ranked as the top concern.

Nonetheless, even the most challenging times can yield opportunities for the future. Hard truths were provided in 2020, but also valuable insights that small business owners can use at the outset of 2021 to move forward.

Get online

Nearly one third (29 percent) of businesses planned to start using a website in 2020. Luckily for those that followed through on that plan, 2020 showed that having a strong online presence, user experience and functionality can not only be a competitive advantage in the marketplace, but also critical to a business’s survival. Eighty-six percent of consumers rely on the internet to find a local business.

With a well-rounded digital strategy, including a website and social media, business owners can build awareness and leverage how people are searching for information online. Further, ensuring a positive user experience with these channels can help set up an environment for business growth.

Key questions:

•Is my website mobile friendly?

•Can customers place orders or make payments online?

•Are my hours and contact information up to date?

Take advantage of digital banking

Online and mobile banking can help business owners monitor and manage their accounts from anywhere and make analyzing cash flow easier. In fact, 73 percent of small businesses utilize these services, according to Barlow Research. What 2020 exhibited is the ability of this functionality to help in preparing for uncertain circumstances, such as not being able to visit a physical bank branch for an extended period. Utilizing tools like these can provide extra insurance against potential challenges that may arise.

Key Questions:

•Am I using all of the available features for my online banking service?

•Is my accounting software up to date and synced with my bank accounts?

•Have I downloaded any requisite applications so I can use tools like mobile deposit?

Check your tech

Almost one third (29 percent) of business owners said in November 2020 that the closure of their business was their top concern, while 57 percent said they did not anticipate recovery for businesses like theirs until at least the second half of 2021. With recent surges in COVID-19 cases, one key thing business owners can do to withstand these challenges and to help safeguard negative impacts to the business down the line is to ensure the right technology is fully utilized to serve operations, including sufficient internet bandwidth and wireless capabilities. That said, technology can also be used to become a global business. In these tough times when being a neighborhood store is no more profitable, you would need to ensure that you attract the maximum clients with the help of technological solutions. For that, you have to first need to ensure that your language does not become an obstacle to gaining attention. In order to prevent that, you would need subtitling and audio translation services.

Key Questions:

•Can I use accounting software to better analyze sales, costs, and opportunities in 2021?

•Is my accounting software synced to my bank accounts?

•Can I use social media or a client-relationship manager to get to know my customers better?

Join a professional organization

Through crises like COVID-19, networking may support small business owners and pave the way for a possible reset or even a complete reconstruction of a company in the upcoming year. Networking organizations may offer ideas and resources for expansion and assistance in hiring talent with the help of headhunters, locating vendors, or even producing sales, whether they are traditional chambers of commerce or networking clubs, or an online or social media-based community.

Key Questions:

•Could I join my local chamber of commerce?

•Are there trade groups or industry organizations that serve my area?

•Could I start an informal network of business owners?

Create a plan B and a plan C

The possibility of not seeing economic or business recovery until at least mid-2021 highlights the importance of planning for multiple scenarios. Having a backup plan for each area of your business, from sales to operations to marketing, will help mitigate the potential negative impacts of unforeseen circumstances. If, for instance, you lack the business funds to support the production process, having a backup plan for considering a business loan could be beneficial. Needless to say that you would need to gain an in-depth understanding of how business loans work.

Key Questions:

•What happens if there’s another shutdown in 2021?

•What happens if 2021 sales return to 2019 levels?

•What happens if costs increase?

One key thing to remember is the lesson that permeates all of the others listed here: flexibility is key. Planning is as important as ever, but the ability to shift those plans based on the realities of a situation could make the difference between continuing toward recovery or facing a business closing. As the New Year is upon us, it is important for business owners to reflect on the past year and plan for success in 2021.

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