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2020 was the embodiment of change, self-care, and introspection. 2021 will be about maintaining and building on those values. As businesses slowly open up their doors and the world returns to a new normal, entrepreneurs must look deeply both within themselves and at the companies they run, and look for new ways to grow in the new year. Here are just a few ideas to help you get started on developing you and your company this year.

 

Personal Growth

 

Learn Something New

Learning doesn’t stop when you leave school, it’s a lifelong journey. No matter your level of education, you can always learn something that enriches your life, both professionally and personally. Whether it’s a skill tied to your business or a hobby you’ve long wanted to try, there are countless ways to expand your knowledge without having to take out a student loan. Check out our list of free online classes you can take.

 

Join a Business Organization

No entrepreneur is an island— regardless of the industry or expertise, entrepreneurs can always find value in joining trade networks or business organizations. You never know, you may just find your next employee, partner, supplier, or client through one of these associations. Fundera has developed a comprehensive list for 2021 here.

 

Network Online

Just because you can’t meet in person, doesn’t mean you can’t meet other professionals. Virtual networking has soared in popularity in recent months thanks to apps like Zoom, Clubhouse, and Discord. Even as people venture outside their homes this year, networking events won’t look the same. Online networking will continue to provide a safer, and in some cases more efficient, alternative.

 

Podcasts

There’s been a boom in podcast production in the past decade, propelled by major streaming services and names like Joe Rogan, Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Koenig, and many more. Podcasts are great ways to learn new information, gain different perspectives, or simply keep up with your interests. Check out our list of top ten podcasts to listen to this year.

 

Community Involvement

We don’t always see the ways our community benefits us, their contributions impact our business directly. That’s why we have to do our part and contribute back to our community, whether it’s through volunteer work, fundraising, mentorship, or some other activity that enhances the people in our local network. How can your business leverage its power and influence to help those around you?

 

Work-life Balance

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that there are bigger things than what we do for work. Family, friends, and personal well-being are all aspects of our life that we tend to ignore or sideline in favor of getting more work done. But in reality, these are pillars that only serve to strengthen and enrich our lives. Focusing on the balance between professional and personal responsibilities will also serve the employees within a business, as they build a greater sense of trust and appreciation for companies that look out for their best interests.

 

Leadership Improvement

You can always strive to be a better leader. In fact, it can be argued that striving to be better is an essential part of leadership itself. Companies will undergo many changes throughout this year, and the one constant to carry them forward is the action taken by resolute leaders. Read our post on leadership styles during change.

 

 

Improving Their Business

 

Delegate Tasks and Roles

As a leader within a company, it’s easy to get wrapped up in micromanaging people’s work, making sure things go according to plan. But the more this happens to you, the more it takes you away from the crucial parts of work. Delegation is key. Make sure you choose the right person for each task, give them the power and autonomy to finish it on their own, and focus your attention on more pressing tasks. Not only will you have more time, but your team members will feel more trusted and valued with the work.

 

Think Creatively

Creativity can help solve problems much faster and more efficiently than hard work or money ever could. And in a time where there is so much uncertainty, creativity can help keep a business alive. Just take a look at Moriarty’s Gem Art, a gem shop run by Steve Moriarty. At the start of the lockdown, Moriarty launched a livestreamed gem show to supplement his income. Now, more than 1000 people watch the two-hour show that airs every other Wednesday and has resulted in tens of thousands of dollars in revenue. Creativity kept Moriarty’s family business alive.

 

Improve Flexibility and Adaptability

More than ever, businesses need to be nimble and adjust to constantly changing environments. This may take shape in the form of remote working policies, new (or altered) product or service offerings, or adjusting other company standards to better fit the current climate. It may be a difficult decision to make at first, but it may open doors to greater opportunities down the road.

 

Focus on Company Culture

Salary, work opportunities, and company outlook might entice someone to join a company, but culture and benefits are what compel them to stay. Now that work-life balance is becoming a priority for workers around the world, companies are revisiting what makes their culture unique, and how it can translate into perks such as paid time off, health insurance options, and philanthropic or volunteer opportunities. This year may be the time to revisit what makes your company tick, and how you can better serve your employees through culture.

 

Improve Problem-solving

No matter how old the company is or what they do, there will always be fires to put out, project pipelines with bottlenecks, and uncertainty about the future. It wouldn’t hurt to talk to key leaders within a company and interview them about the problems they face, and take their suggestions for improving the company processes. You never know, you may be instrumental in bringing innovation and creativity to their problem-solving process.

 

 

Think About the Future

 

Improve Goal Setting

Goals are the north star of any business initiative. Sometimes it’s poor planning and goal setting that can hold a company back, instead of its people or process. To make better goals, consider applying the SMART principle, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. These are the elements that ensure a goal is simple enough to be completed but challenging enough to yield actionable results. Try applying it to both low-hanging fruit (daily tasks and check-ins) and to overarching strategies.

 

Research Policy Trends

Regulations around industrial practices change almost every day, and leaders would only benefit by researching how these updates affect their business. Back in 2018, the European Union passed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a law that oversees how companies handle data of EU citizens. Yet even with strict penalties in place, companies repeatedly failed to comply with GDPR, either out of ignorance or by not taking it seriously, resulting in fines worth over $126 million. Failure to research changing policies in your industry may lead to similar consequences.

 

Revisit Customer Data

On the topic of customer data, now might be an opportune time to evaluate your existing customer’s information. For one, simply looking at the data can spark new ideas for marketing or product development. But more importantly, the past year has demonstrated how easy it is for hackers to breach and access sensitive data, from credit card details to personally-identifying information. Make sure you avoid this catastrophe by revisiting your company’s privacy and protection guidelines.

 

Try New Platforms

New apps or software can streamline business processes that are too slow or need refreshing. For example, Zoom has completely changed the way companies do video calls, as it does not require a login and can support hundreds of people. Some restaurants are relying on food delivery apps like Grubhub or Uber Eats to maintain their revenue requirements. Consult your team on what tools may need updating for the post-Covid normal.

 

 

What Entrepreneurs Should Avoid

 

Failing to Update the Company’s Thinking

Don’t keep bad ideas around, no matter how great they may have been at the time. Every so often a company should not only revisit its processes but the thinking and logic behind those decisions. For example, a company opposed to having a strong digital presence (i.e. a website or social media) may want to reconsider its value in 2021, a time when people’s online engagement has never been higher.

 

Jumping into New Ventures Too Quickly

Risk avoidance is crucial to a business’s long term growth, and nothing is riskier than pushing the company into uncharted territory without research. This may include (but is not limited to) product launches, new markets, experimental technology, or just following the latest online trend. Be sure your company does its due diligence and consult experts/thought leaders before taking on something it has never done before.

 

Ignoring Cash Flow

Without adequate cash flow, a business simply cannot survive. It only takes a few sound strategies to improve a business’s situation. One way is to improve the terms of payment with suppliers and partners. Send out invoices early, and use electronic payments whenever possible. You may even consider applying a discount for customers or clients that pay their bills early. To learn about other strategies, visit Investopedia’s page here.

 

Lack of Accountability

Leadership begins with taking responsibility for everyone’s actions, good or bad. Once leaders stop placing blame on other people, that sense of accountability trickles down to every single level, and the team rises as a single unit. This notion of accountability and ownership is explored deeply in Jocko Willink and Leif Babin’s book, Extreme Ownership, a philosophy they applied to their military unit during the Iraq War.

 

Ignoring Feedback

Customers and partners will tell you upfront how to improve your business, you need only listen. From Twitter threads to online reviews, to even customer complaints, there’s no shortage of places to learn about how people feel about your products and services. Consider also running focus groups, surveys, polls, or interviews to better understand the particular pain points and aspirations of your buyers, and you can turn those insights into better, stronger offerings.

 

Growth and success is surely something that differs from person to person. But the entrepreneurs that find ways to improve themselves and their habits will notice their company take on a similar spirit of improvement and wellbeing. What will you do this year to better serve the company you run?