2020 has been a turbulent year, to put it lightly. But with glimmers of hope on the horizon, it feels like a great time to begin your 2021 planning for your business. Here’s how you can start next year’s business planning to make it the best it can be.
Though the troubles of 2020 won’t disappear just because the calendar rolls over, there are reasons to be optimistic about 2021. Many businesses have battled through government lockdowns, staff redundancies, loss in profits and more. And yet, despite all the challenges, franchisees across the world have found ways to adapt. The lessons we’ve learned from 2020 will teach us all to be better business owners or network leaders, even if they have truly been learned the hard way.
If you’re determined to make 2021 a better year for your business, now is the time to start planning. Though it’s not likely the world will return to any sense of ‘normal’ for a good few months, you can still begin preparing for the next chapter in your life as a franchisee. Here are our top tips for planning during uncertain times.
1. Reflect on the past year
Before making any plans, it’s important to sit down and analyse the year. Focus on the areas that have really held your business back and make a plan of action to address them. Of course, the biggest battle any franchisee will have faced this year is the pandemic and you may feel there’s nothing you can do to help your business until it’s over. However, this challenging situation may have shed light on weaknesses you can work on improving.
For example, you may have realised within weeks of lockdown that your business needs better cash flow to carry it through quieter periods. Even if you’re relying on government funding for the time being, you can improve your cash flow long-term through measures like business overdrafts, asset leasings and invoice financing.
You may have also realised it’s time to diversify your product or service range to appeal to a broader audience of potential customers. 2021’s goal could be to tweak your offering or introduce new options to get new customers onboard or upsell to existing clients.
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2. Give yourself credit
2020 has been exceptionally challenging even for multinational businesses with billionaire backers, let alone small independent businesses and humble franchisees. Make sure you give yourself credit for the things you’ve done well this year and think about how you can continue to play to your strengths next year.
If you’ve seen high numbers of customers enjoying takeaways from your restaurant franchise, consider making it a permanent service. And if you’ve received positive comments about hands-off service in your automotive franchise, capitalise on demand by adjusting the way you do things. This year has been incredibly stressful, so don’t beat yourself up for small mistakes and focus on what you’re proud of instead.
3. Keep your expectations realistic
With glimmers of good news on the horizon, it’s easy to get carried away and make ambitious plans. Challenging yourself to rack up record profits or expand your company five fold in 2021 will only lead to disappointment.
Even with a robust vaccination programme in place, restrictions around public activity are likely to stay in some form until the summer. What’s more, consumer spending power has taken a big hit due to high numbers of redundancies, meaning it could be a while before customers have any spare cash to spend on your products/services.
We’re not trying to add more doom and gloom to your day. But if you give yourself unrealistic targets and spend time and money chasing them when it’s clear customer appetite just isn’t there, you’re setting yourself up for a loss ‒ literally. It’s far better to set out with modest goals and concentrate on rebuilding a strong foundation so your business can reach for the stars in 2022.
4. Reassess your supply chain
Travel restrictions and government orders to halt non-essential operations have wreaked havoc on some businesses' supply chains. Research has found that 75% of companies were impacted in some way in March. As a result, you may have had to go with higher-priced suppliers or faced shortages of key supplies, causing disruption to your business.
To minimise the disruption further restrictions could cause, it’s a good idea to look at your supply chain again. Here are some things to consider:
- Can you source products from a local supplier to minimise disruption from international restrictions?
- Is there a more cost-effective supplier you can use to offset your losses?
- Can your franchisor help you access a supplier that’s used by the whole network to utilise economies of scale?
5. Be where the customers are
Digital transformation has been the key theme of 2020 in the business world. If you’re still reluctant to fully embrace the online way of doing things, you’re putting yourself at a serious disadvantage. According to McKinsey, just 30% of B2B buyers want to interact with people in person from now on, with 70% preferring the efficiency of digital options.
If you’re still resistant to digital solutions, you’ll need to find other ways to connect with customers. For example, a boutique in Frome made the news for its creative solution to business restrictions. The shop displayed its phone number and encouraged customers to window shop, calling to ‘click and collect’ their item if they saw something they liked.
6. Be flexible with your plan
If this year has taught us anything it’s that we never truly know what’s round the corner. The best way to plan for a pretty unpredictable future is to make a number of contingency plans.
Forbes contributor Mike Kappel explained that being adaptable is something every business owner should continue to embrace going forwards.
“2020 reminded me of one of the important business skills: adaptability. If you aren’t willing to try new things, you’ll have no way to keep up when times change … or when Covid-19 forces the times to change.”
As they say, it’s wise to hope for the best but expect the worst in tough times. Make sure you’ve got your reopening plan in place and have plenty of marketing material and fun events you can roll out to tempt the customers back in. The last thing you want is to get the green light to open when you’re weeks away from being ready.
And on the flip side, secure any funding and place any staff you can on furlough to ease the financial pressure while business is slow. You need to give your franchise’s finances a break while there’s plenty of support in place to help you.
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Planning for a brighter year
Hopefully, 2021 will turn out to be a much better year for everyone and you’ll be able to get your business back on track as soon as restrictions ease. If you’re struggling, we’ve got plenty of articles for franchisees and other handy guides that will help you through this tricky time. And if you can’t face the news channels, we’re producing regular updates to keep you in the loop about government guidelines and so much more.
Sophie Cole, Point Franchise ©