It’s that time of the year when many business owners, including ourselves, are planning for the year ahead. But, how do you plan for a new year when there continues to be so much uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic, politics, and economic impacts?
We believe this uncertainty provides us with an opportunity to re-imagine a more equitable and just future. At the same time, we need to take into account the reality of our current situation and ensure our near-term plans are viable and financially sustainable. Below are some steps you can take to develop a strong plan in the face of uncertainty.
Keep Up with the News
With the continual changes in what types of businesses can be open, the health and safety precautions that need to be put in place, and ongoing financial relief measures, it’s important to stay up to date on the news. While it’s a lot to take in on any given day, knowing what’s going on will help you prepare for any near-term changes that may affect your business and take advantage of any funding that can support you and your business during these challenging times.
Assess Your Situation
This year, many businesses have seen shifts in demand for their products or services, in their ability to secure ingredients and materials, and in ways of working as a team. Gather the data on your business performance and look at what’s been happening in your business as a result of COVID. Identify any changes to your target customer, workforce, vendors, and partners. This will help you evaluate how to adapt your business model in the near-term.
Reconnect with Purpose
As you think about how your business may need to adapt in the near-term, it’s important to reconnect with purpose. Ask yourself if these changes are aligned with the business’ mission, vision, and values, as well as how the business fits with your personal needs. It’s hard enough to make changes, but even more difficult to make ones that you don’t stand behind.
Lean into Social Impact
Also, think about the ways in which you’ve wanted your business to be in service to your community. Prior to COVID, some of our thoughts around how to shift from an extractive to a regenerative economy didn’t seem feasible. But now, we’re seeing the value in essential work, resilience in locally grown and made, and the rise of mutual aid and cooperatives. Take this opportunity to revisit your plans to expand your business’ social impact.
Design Small Tests
Once you’ve identified changes that are aligned with purpose, consider designing small tests of them. You can preserve financial and other resources and gain more confidence in your changes by using the lean startup methodology to quickly develop small tests of new business initiatives and measure their results. Then, you can use your learnings to implement the changes on a larger scale.
Build Your Infrastructure
The applications for federal small business relief funds demonstrated the necessity of having solid infrastructure in the business. Business owners who could quickly access financial and human resources information were better positioned to receive the relief funds to stabilize and adapt their businesses. As you develop your plans, don’t forget to identify the infrastructure you need over the next year to improve your business resilience.
Cultivate Your Community
The relationships you have with family, friends, team members, advisors, customers, and partners are critical support for you and your business in overcoming the challenges of the current environment. As you develop your plans, map out the community that supports your business and think about how you can continue cultivating those relationships as we move into a new year.