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Avoiding an Asterisk in 2021

For most businesses, 2020 was not the year they had expected. Many companies went into the year with high expectations, a solid base of work in the books and a healthy new business pipeline. Those expectations were tempered in April when many organizations’ concerns went from hiring new talent to managing project delays and shifting to remote work. Excitement about new opportunities shifted to uncertainty about how to sell in a virtual digital environment.

While some companies have rebounded or perhaps never missed a beat, many will forever have an asterisk next to their 2020 results. A year where topline revenues, previously on a steady growth trajectory, were down or flat. A year where margin, typically healthy, was sacrificed to keep employees and benefits in place for the future. A year where many budget line items, from travel and conferences to technology and cleaning services will not look anything like the 2020 forecast.

As we celebrate the end of an uncharacteristic year, it’s time to look forward and think about how to rebound.  2020 saw over 22 million Americans lose their job and the economy shrink by over 10%, both numbers being the worst mark in over 70 years. However, as we start 2021, half of those lost jobs have been recouped and the economy is now only 4% smaller than at this time last year. Even with encouraging signs and vaccines on the horizon, there is no crystal ball to predict when we will get back to pre-pandemic life. Since no one is sure of the lingering economic impact, it is important to start planning now how to mitigate risk in 2021;

If you took an asterisk in 2020, you may be concerned about the long-term effect on the value of your business. Now you’re considering what steps to take to avoid another asterisk in 2021. We, at Thinc, have outlined four ideas you can use in 2021: 

1.    Update Your Strategic Plan

Now’s the time to move from survival mode to mapping out new scenarios for pursuing your growth and performance targets. You don’t have to put off an annual planning process due to concerns about gathering in person or because you’re waiting for more clarity. The lack of business travel, events, and meetings make this a great time for you and your leadership team to work on your business. Creating a new plan for the future will instill a greater sense of control and reinvigorate your team. 

2.    Lock In Expense-Management

Expense management is a great way to reduce financial impact present and future. Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if you have control over your expense management:

·     Have you done an audit of your technology subscriptions to determine what you really need?

·     Are you reconsidering your future space needs?

·     Are there services that you should outsource?

·     Do you have a clearly defined procurement and expense submission process?

Taking these things into consideration now will help you eliminate unnecessary spending in the future.

3.    Consider Opportunistic Acquisitions, Strategic Partnerships or Hires.

If organic growth during the pandemic has been difficult, look at other ways to stimulate opportunities. Perhaps there’s a business that you’ve partnered with on projects that may be interested in a more formal relationship. For example, many in the gig economy are more open to joining a company full-time and can bring business with them. You may also consider a tuck-in acquisition for additional revenue and quick return to growth. 

4.    Think Outside the Box

Be creative in coming up with new ideas on what strategies will position your company for success in the coming years. Does it make sense to outsource an aspect of your company in the short-term? More and more organizations are contracting third-party companies for marketing, accounting, and strategy; should that be on the table for you?

Whatever steps you take, the important thing is to do something.  Take action. Reimagine possibilities. Gain momentum. And instead of an asterisk, make 2021 a year followed by an exclamation point!