Lessons for 2021 planning

Change and more change are in store

By Bob Wright

A year ago, none of us could have envisioned what 2020 had in store. If we had, we’d have been called a fear-monger and extremist. While 2020 was a long, painful test, its legacy will be what it taught us about planning, crisis preparedness, and resiliency. (Think of those future B-school case studies!) Let’s apply these lessons as we begin 2021.

Lesson 1: Embrace the fact that plans get derailed.

Yes, life doesn’t always go as planned, so leave wiggle room in your budget to accommodate a fall-off in revenue from a temporary shutdown or decreased sales or fund-raising proceeds. Also, anticipate the impact of increased employee absences due to illness as Covid cases are expected to increase this winter.

While the 24/7 news cycle may be tiring, keep up with developments coming from Washington. A new administration could mean new health and safety guidelines, but also new stimulus programs. You will want to know if you qualify for any financial relief; then adjust your plan accordingly.

Lesson 2: Adapt. Change. Repeat.

Last year forced Darwinian theories on businesses, demonstrating that only those that can quickly adapt to changing circumstances will survive. In 2021, expect to continue to make ongoing changes to your operations.

Examine your service model. Assess how 2020 affected your product or service, as well as how customers/clients used it. You may need to tweak your model or offer something new to keep customers happy.

Next turn your attention to your cash flow and borrowing needs. A reduction in the former could result in an increase in the latter. Or vice versa.

Continue to assess your remote working policies and the impact the pandemic is having on your organization. Are you able to keep your staff engaged and your culture intact? Or does a mix of remote and in-office working make more sense? Just make sure office protocols promote a virus-free work environment.

Also, more staffers working remotely could mean that your space requirements have changed. A reduction in space can mean a reduction in rent. Your technology budget could be out of balance. It may be time to shift IT dollars from in-office workstations to more WFH capabilities.

Analyze your vendor and supplier relationships. It’s likely your needs have changed, therefore it may be time to change some of those relationships. Look around for a better deal. And it’s a good idea to broaden and diversify your supplier resources, a lesson pandemic-induced shortages taught us.

Lesson 3: Short-term vs. ongoing

Of all the changes already made, some will be temporary; however, some may become permanent. As 2021 unfolds, it will become apparent what changes will be short-term and which will become SOP. Whatever 2021 throws at us, we will need continue to change and adapt accordingly.