Seeing the end of 2020 sounds appealing. It's been a year like no other with restrictions, stress and uncertainty. Next year, however, is looking more positive. Before you sign off for the year, set out a plan for 2021 to take full advantage of it. The new year brims with opportunity, innovation, and fresh direction - so focus on the areas that will help you win and build resilience in your business and your team. Here are five steps to help your business thrive in 2021.
Step 1: Use your data
Before starting the new year:
- Review what happened in the last one.
- Gather and review your data.
- Look deeper and see what it reveals.
It's an excellent opportunity to discuss which strategies and tactics worked, and which didn't. How did unforeseen changes uncover strengths and weaknesses in your business? Many companies were able to learn a great deal from the events of 2020. Aligning these learnings with data can bring clarity to your future strategy.
While examining weaknesses may not seem appeal to everyone, understanding them is a huge step forward to easing future impact. Are there manual or legacy activities that have slowed down or interrupted the business, and need to be swiftly changed? At the same time, are there strengths to celebrate? Did your team quickly adjust how they were servicing customers to meet changing COVID-19 requirements, resulting in better processes or customer experiences?
Getting detailed on data can reveal interesting customer behaviours, how well the business is servicing your ideal customers, and if there are opportunities to re-focus on low-touch, high-value customers to increase overall profitability.
Historical data gave JCurve Solutions (ASX: JCS) client OBE Organic, producers of the world's best organic beef, a detailed view of their customers’ buying cycles and allowed them to hone in on the right leads.
Don’t leave 2020 wondering, let the data paint the picture and highlight what's essential to focus on going forward.
Step 2: Gather your team together
Get the team together, especially customer-facing staff, ask questions and listen.
Listening (really listening and taking notes) is vital - they may share insights that are tough to hear. Still, open listening will uncover the gold nuggets to improve systems, products, ways of working and the customer experience. Plus, it can identify talent gaps within your team, scope to increase skillsets or cross-train, and keep your valued staff engaged. Also, consider any resources they might need to do their job more efficiently and effectively.
Is everyone on board with the company vision, mission and purpose statements? Do the culture and business activities still align with those statements? Or has there been a shift, needing some re-work? Vision, mission, and purpose are critical to the ongoing success of your company. Having them visible and relevant is a great reminder to everyone what your business stands for – and that they’re part of the journey. It provides a sense of direction for all and ensures their energy is invested in the right work.
Team KPIs should be reviewed regularly to make sure they are relevant; complementary across the business and driving teams closer to achieving company goals. Before you close out the year, and while you’re looking forward to a positive 2021, set aside time to review and recalibrate your team’s KPIs. Start 2021 with the whole team and the business set up to be successful.
The Orien Group, a medical supplies company, improved staff morale and customer relations by upgrading from static data on endless spreadsheets to ERP business management software. Besides having single-source data they could trust and having stock information readily available, it empowered their salespeople out on the road. Now, they can up-sell, cross-sell and see all customer interactions in real-time.
Step 3: Identify low-value operations
While looking at the data and hearing from the team, highlight the low-value operations that are holding the business back from performing at its full potential. It could show up as unnecessary manual data handling. Do you have specialist staff being bogged down with admin tasks that rack up non-billable hours, such as clunky credit card approval processes?
Could these activities be batched or automated? Does your business use multiple business systems or a single ERP system that leverages accurate, live data? If you’ve been thinking about upgrading to an ERP to reduce double-handling, manual errors, and paperwork overload, it’s the perfect time to learn more. Take a step back and do some calculations on the dollar value of your team’s time in keeping multiple systems and static spreadsheets up to date. How are they coping? Is it slowing things down or affecting motivation? Here’s your chance to turn it around.
Two Birds Brewing, Australia's first female-owned brewing company, started off using accounting software, but operations quickly became too diverse and complex for that system. The business grew rapidly into a state-of-the-art brewery, bottling line, and tasting room with operations spanning production, wholesale and direct consumer sales. They needed a system to support their fast growth and help make sense of all the business data coming in.
After much research, they opted for a NetSuite ERP system. Since implementing it, they tripled their staff numbers and increased their sales five-fold in five years. They constantly manage and check stock, enabling them to advise salespeople of quantities and products they need to focus on - wherever they’re located. This has significantly reduced product wastage and write-offs. Sales reporting is automated and sent to managers and sales reps on a weekly basis. The mobility of NetSuite is a superpower for sales reps and staff out on the road. Having access to live product and pricing information and stock availability, means they can better service their clients, process transactions and submit expense claims on the go.
Step 4: Create a short-term plan
The data, the lay of the land from your employees’ perspective, and low-value activities have been identified and collated. Now, it's time to create a short-term plan. Instead of the big five to 10-year plan, work on one to two years, with realistic actions and goals in that time frame that can be achieved while business as usual continues.
Before finalising the plan, share it with your teams to get their feedback, in case some tweaking is needed, or information was overlooked. This also creates a sense of ownership and investment across your teams and helps motivate them for the year ahead.
Step 5: Welcome feedback
Continue your supercharged business performance strategy with more listening. Make it safe for your team to provide updates and give feedback on progressing changes and goals. Are the systems and processes doing what was anticipated? If everything is working, great. If not, it’s time to be agile and tweak.
While adjustments can sometimes be uncomfortable for some staff, leading them through the changes - decluttering, upgrading and new processes is rewarding. Your supercharged efforts will be reflected in the data, and in staff and customer feedback. When the time comes, update the team with the organisation's progress, and celebrate the growth and wins!