The way you manage your business may have changed or shifted during the past year, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. The good news is that with more businesses reopening their doors over the last quarter of 2020, there’s still time to create a solid business plan for 2021.

Whether you’re self-employed or have employees, this checklist is designed to help you plan ahead and increase your company’s chances of success in the new year.


1. Establish or revisit business goals

COVID-19 may have shifted the products or services your company is offering or may have impacted how you work. You might have even had to close sections of your business and lay off employees. Revisiting your business plan and goals and making changes where needed can help align everyone on your team for a successful year.

This could mean preparing to launch a new product line, updating your website to reflect your company’s new message, or reshuffling employee responsibilities to help reach a 2021 goal. It might also require reviewing your margins, readjusting 2021 fiscal goals to account for the pandemic’s impact, and brainstorming new ways to remain relevant and competitive throughout the next year.

2. Get ahead for tax season

With the tax extensions throughout 2020, it may seem like you just paid your taxes yesterday. Before you know it, the April 15, 2021, tax deadline will be creeping up, so we recommend planning ahead with a tax preparation tax list.

Handling your taxes might not be fun, but by doing the upfront work — noting important filing dates, gathering the necessary tax forms, compiling your business income and expenses, and preparing employee tax return forms — you’ll find tax season much easier to manage in 2021.

3. Boost productivity

Making sure your team is as productive and efficient as possible is key to your company’s success. Keep tasks organized and your team engaged with helpful project management software. Many companies believe project management software is designed only for businesses that work on client projects, but it can be used to organize all of your in-house processes.

Project management platforms, such as, Trello, and Asana, can help you manage any tasks that require tracking. You can keep current on ordering supplies, receive updates on internal projects such as website enhancements, and assign important administrative tasks to anyone on your team.

Your HR department can also manage important tasks using project management software to ensure all required forms are turned in and completed.

It’s much easier to increase your company’s productivity when you know what needs to be accomplished and set dates for each project or task.

4. Organize and analyze your inventory

If you sell physical goods, it’s important to be sure your inventory is up to date. You should also be planning ahead to manage your inventory for key sales, peak times of year, and holiday seasons. Analyzing inventory trends can help you stock up on your best-selling items while guaranteeing you don’t overspend on slow-moving products.

Most inventory management systems will provide you with helpful reporting, analysis charts, or, at the very least, the ability to track purchases by month so you can identify these buying trends on your own to better prepare for 2021.

5. Make sure you stay digitally relevant

Staying on track with the digital revolution is important if you want to remain a relevant competitor in your industry. Making sure your company is ready to sell, or even work, digitally has become important over the past decade, but with 51% of small businesses implementing work-from-home strategies, shifting to a digital workforce and e-commerce space has become critical.

Related: Design your Website with CHI-Exclusive Hub

If you’ve already built an e-commerce platform for your products or services, make a plan to keep your website refreshed and eye-catching for customers. If you haven’t yet made the switch to digital, map out a plan of what this process will look like.

Decide if you need a new website or e-commerce site, workspace tools such as Zoom or Slack, and whether you’ll need to hire contract or temporary employees to help with this shift.

6. Consider new marketing techniques

Now that your company is digitally ready, it’s important to revisit your marketing strategy to expand your digital presence. Creating a detailed, adaptable digital marketing approach can help you reach new customers while continuing to serve your existing customer base.

If you’re new to digital marketing, you’ll want to start by researching where your audience spends time online — with Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube being some of the most heavily trafficked spaces.

Related: CHI-Exclusive EShop: Shop easy and Sell easy on our Exclusive Online Mall

Once you’re armed with the data you need, you can start building a robust marketing plan. Decide where you want to advertise and how much you’re willing to spend. You’ll also want to get hooked up to savvy analytics tools — think Google Analytics or Mixpanel — to track your campaigns, email marketing efforts, and website visits. It might also make sense to build out content on your website to attract additional audiences and further enhance your social media presence.

7. Create a continuous learning plan

Staying successful includes staying relevant and competitive. If you think of your company as an expert in your field, it’s important to maintain this status by committing to continuous learning. This will look different with every company but might include attending physical or virtual workshops, reading new books on your area of expertise, and creating or enrolling in timely training for your employees.

Another key part of continuous learning is to check in on what your competitors are doing and how they’re performing. You can glean a significant amount of knowledge based on competitor research, and doing so might help you come up with innovative solutions to key problems your industry’s customers face.

8. Think outside the box

The overall look for businesses in 2020 may have been bleak, but the ingenuity that arose during the past year has been inspiring to many business owners. Now, staying pertinent requires creative, outside-the-box thinking.

To prevent your company from falling back into a safe, well-plotted routine, schedule company-wide brainstorming sessions to discuss new ideas and potential marketplace shifts as a team. You can also welcome employee suggestions year-round to make sure everyone’s voices and ideas are considered.

9. Design a contingency plan

We’ve all learned over the course of 2020 that any business can be turned upside down overnight in the wake of an economic crisis. While the past year has been atypical, to say the least, it’s important to take the strategies you used to get through the pandemic and continue implementing them in 2021.

No company wants to trim staff or reduce expenses, but having a contingency plan in place can help you stay afloat and not panic if things become rocky over the next year. Consider where you can reduce expenses or concentrate on low-touch means of generating revenue so your company is equipped to rebound quickly and remain profitable.

Plan ahead to stay in the game

This past year, we’ve all witnessed a shocking number of businesses closing up shop, significantly reducing staff, or experiencing overwhelming losses. On the upside, 2020 has shown many business owners how to think creatively to stay relevant and offer services and products that people actually need for this new way of life.

As the economy recovers, it’s important to employ these business strategies to stay ahead and strive for success in 2021.

Most importantly, make sure to keep your processes flexible so that you can adjust quickly if needed to meet marketplace demands.


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