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How small businesses can plan for 2021

Pennsylvania’s small businesses have had a rollercoaster year. For the companies that have survived, or even thrived, today’s focus is on the future. While the immediate business impact of COVID-19 is unquestionable, the long-term implications are still unclear. However, smart leaders are in the midst of planning for 2021, evaluating the lessons learned over the past eight months and devising strategies to succeed.

Here is how small business leaders can plan for the new year.

Start now

As we near the end of Q4, businesses should already have a good start on 2021 planning. If not, it is crucial to start the process immediately. This year’s challenges, shifting priorities and circumstances, as well as managing the planning process while working remotely, can slow down the task. To help build a clear, comprehensive outlook, gather input from employees and customers, reflect on the lessons of 2020 and formalize plans for the new year. 

Reflect on the present and future

Owners should take a realistic approach when analyzing the state of business and making projections for the future. With modest economic growth expected for the coming year, companies can afford to be reasonably optimistic. No matter the year, business plans should have a degree of flexibility, allowing the company to evolve with changing circumstances or potential disruptions. 

When planning, include details of any creative solutions or policies implemented during the pandemic to address weaknesses or counter disruptions. Employee, client or customer feedback should be incorporated, too, where appropriate. For example, if policies or guidelines concerning remote work or workplace safety measures need updating, now is the time. It is critical to make these changes as soon as possible and implement new protocols that will be essential in 2021.

Focus on business resiliency

Resilience and adaptability have been the key to business success this year. With the inevitability of change, a resiliency plan should be a fundamental consideration as businesses approach 2021.  Simply put, resiliency planning is about taking steps to ensure a company’s long-term health by protecting its people and assets from threats. At a minimum, the pandemic has taught business owners the certainty of unpredictable events and how organizational agility and adaptability are critical in the face of these challenges. 

Beyond protecting the company’s financial health and validity, resiliency planning can help maintain or boost an organization’s reputation, mitigate risks related to safety or health concerns, encourage growth, and limit operational interruptions. As every business is unique, naturally, no two resiliency plans will be identical. However, all should include detailed solutions to counter expected risks or weaknesses, crisis mitigation, emergency response and business continuity tactics.

Design a people strategy

It has become abundantly clear this year that people are a company’s greatest asset. Regardless of pandemic-related disruption, challenges and long-term implications on the business world, owners should prioritize their staff. One core component of this is a corporate culture strategy. 2020 has been a challenge for employees who have learned to juggle work and life obligations, mental and physical well-being and remote work. All the while, staffers want to know they have the support of their employer now and in the future as they navigate continued pandemic-related obstacles. 

Where feasible, businesses should implement benefits and perks to help workers feel valued, including flexible schedules, wellness programs,  learning and development initiatives and expanded PTO. People are essential to the success of a company and, when prioritized, can become loyal advocates.

Planning for 2021 in the face of ongoing uncertainty may seem daunting. However, with the new year around the corner, now is the time for business leaders to think strategically about their future business needs, resiliency plans and priorities. By doing so, organizations can position themselves for success and bolster their defenses against any potential challenges in 2021. 

Mike Iapalucci is a district manager with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.  For more information about Insperity, call 800-465-3800 or visit

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