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Is your 2021 business strategy designed to compete?

By now, you’ve probably combed through more “2021 business resolutions” articles than you can count. This is not another one of those—we promise. But, the beginning of a new year is undeniably a good time to analyze the basics of your business.

In this first installation of a two-part series, a few of our top executives share smart questions to ask before mapping out strategy, company culture and finance initiatives for the coming months, plus their top piece of advice to help you compete in this “new normal.” Check back next week for expert insight on fresh marketing and operations tactics.

On big-picture thinking

Parker Davis, CEO at Nexa

How quickly can change happen, really?

Meaningful, enterprise-wide change can happen in a fraction of the time previously thought possible. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, only a small portion of our employees had the capability to work from home. It took only six weeks to set-up infrastructure, training and oversight to give 100 percent of our employees the ability to safely work from home.

Advice for small business owners

Given the current environment—which is really challenging, to say the least—we need to be bold in actions that make sure companies continue to flourish. It’s time to leave behind preconceived notions on what’s possible and expand creative thinking. This year is about perfecting initiatives like work-from-home operating environments. At our company, we’ve heard loud and clear from team members that they want to retain the ability to work remotely (at least in part) once the pandemic is over. To make this happen, businesses need to improve technology and processes around how they operate.

It’s always been about the power of your people

K.D. Gillespie, Director of Strategic Business Initiatives

Have you taken time to acknowledge your staff’s resilience?

COVID-19 showed itself to be an enormous stressor—for our clients, our employees and our companies. One theme comes to mind: Survival of the fittest. The unspoken strategy for 2020 was to prevail. In retrospect, I am awed by the resilience of the workforce. Time and again, people showed up for their clients and customers. Employees are among the many unsung heroes of 2020. Adaptability and perseverance evidence the criticality of these intangible qualities to the success of any business. The biggest lesson is the renewed realization that people are your competitive advantage. Last year provided an excellent refresher course.

Advice for small business owners

While the disruption of COVID-19 continues, there are two opportunities that come to mind. Internally, it’s about overcoming the connectivity challenges presented when working in a remote environment. No, I’m not talking about the internet connection. It’s our people connections that will be at the forefront of 2021 diversity and inclusion initiatives. The inability to interact socially has taken its toll on many team members—physically and emotionally. A top priority should be to ensure you’re creating opportunities for engagement, collaboration, teamwork and connection.

Externally, opportunities lie in ensuring organizations’ social footprints positively impact the communities they serve. At Nexa Receptionists, our 2021 commitment includes collaborating with major suppliers to ensure our orders are sourced from certified minority-owned businesses when available, for example, and partnering with minority-owned recruiting firms to ensure diversity in our candidate pools. Finally, we’re also making donations to local organizations whose outreach programs target minorities, at risk youth and the economically disadvantaged.

Flexing your budget to strike when opportunity knocks

David Finnie, CFO at Nexa

How many assumptions are you prepared to test?

Developing financial forecasts and plans with an emphasis on flexibility is more important than ever. In our current economic environment, it’s really not a question of how well you can predict the future in a fairly stable environment, but of how wildly off from reality your assumptions will turn out to be. For example, entering 2020, none of us started our budget assumptions with, “and then the U.S. economy shuts down due to a global pandemic!” Creating models that can be easily flexed to test a wide range of assumptions is important, as is leaving a lot of room for downside against banking covenants, cash restriction, etc.

Advice for small business owners

This isn’t the year to build a budget that runs close to your limits—leave lots of room for surprises. Being ready to swing hard at the right pitch—and waiting for that moment—takes preparation and discipline. With the degree of economic uncertainty we’re all seeing in early 2021, changes can come rapidly.

Whether it’s the right acquisition target suddenly presenting itself, or an overnight reopening of in-person conventions that enable relationship-based selling again, companies that have the financial reserves ready to spend at the right times will have a distinct advantage. Now, 2021 also isn’t the year to just hunker down (that was 2020!), but be ready to strike and look for opportunities to move faster or more strategically than your competitors.