Small Business Experts Tell Us How To Make a Successful Business Plan for 2021

A new year brings a fresh page to plan the future of your company. 

But with every business resolution you make, there comes the doubt of following through. You might wonder if New Year’s resolutions are futile. 

Moreover, it’s hard to plan for a year like the one following 2020. How do you prepare for the future during a period where it’s so unclear? 

We asked experts to tell us their best advice for planning goals and resolutions in 2021 so you can end the year stronger than you started it. 

Read on to learn our experts’ tips, which include: 

  • Balancing realistic and stretch goals 
  • Breaking goals into smaller steps and frequently checking in
  • Using scenario planning 
  • Choosing a theme for your year 

Balance Moderation and Think Big

After a hectic 2020, it makes sense to scale back your goals into more achievable tasks. There’s a time for ambitious targets, but sometimes it’s smart and beneficial just to make sure you can weather the storm. 

If you want to ensure your goals don’t fall by the wayside, use moderation when setting them, says Wesley Burger, marketing director for CloudTask.

“Failing often comes from inflated expectations. Especially in a time with large uncertainties, it’s important to be moderate.” 

That being said, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. 

CEO of My Mixify, David McHugh, says shoot for the stars, then scale back. McHugh starts with large, abstract goals and then applies pragmatic strategies to help him work toward achieving those goals one step at a time. 

“Many business owners stick towards completely realistic, actionable steps and goals, and this is certainly important. But with this strategy, it’s easy to lose sight of the overall direction you want to take your business in the long run.”

Find the balance for your company and its future.

Set Shorter-Term Goals and Checkpoints 

No matter the goals you set, break it down into smaller steps you can achieve quarterly, monthly, and weekly. That way, by July, you’ll have made six months of progress instead of realizing you haven’t made a dent. 

Another useful tactic is to insert checkpoints into your calendar to track your goals throughout the year. Plus, you can adjust your actions if you see the development you want, instead of just abandoning your resolutions. 

Stewart Dunlop, CEO of LinkBuilder.io, advises regular business health checkups.

“Making these checkups more frequent (let’s say once per week rather than once per month) can help small businesses to keep track and timely cope up with the challenges that occur. [Checkups can] resolve any potential risks and issues before they got critical, or before you discover your company in a dead-end position.” 

Try Scenario Planning 

Scenario planning asks you to forecast situations based on available data and how you’ll respond to them. Businesses frequently use scenario planning, and it borrows methodology from military intelligence. 

Nate Shivar, a consultant at ShivarWeb, suggests scenario planning over traditional goal setting. 

“For example, a local retailer shop might have an optimistic ‘spring customer surge’ scenario, a pessimistic ‘scary slog’ scenario, and a middle ‘seasonal up and down’ scenario. Each scenario would outline a revenue goal with actions that need to be taken.” 

Co-founder of Wicklewood, Rosie Axford, also sees many benefits with scenario planning, like the ability to provide more certainty for the future. The strategy can also help you find actions that would be useful to take no matter the situation. 

“These contingency plans may include scenarios such as supply chains being affected, a store location closing, shipping rates increasing, etc. Businesses should map out each of these scenarios, along with actionable tactics that can be implemented immediately to best prepare themselves.”

Choose a Guiding Theme for the Year and Your Business

Instead of a laundry list of resolutions, you might consider choosing a theme for the year instead. Setting a theme can help guide your direction for the year, prioritize tasks, and stay focused. 

Theme ideas could include: 

You can also derive your theme from your business’s mission statement or an aspect of your culture you want to emphasize. 

Alan Schoenberger from Endeavor Financial Planning uses Simon Sinek’s “start with why” philosophy to choose his company’s goals.

“Flesh out why you do what you do. Then the rest of your planning should be guided by your why. If a goal or idea does not conform to the why, then it should not be part of the plan.”

It’s an asset to connect to your business’s core values for your decision making and future, especially during uncertain times.

Even though you can’t prepare for the unknown, you can better prepare your company for the year ahead.

You can achieve success for your business by balancing realistic and ambitious goals. Break those goals into smaller, achievable steps, and create frequent checkpoints. Prepare for multiple scenarios and notice patterns that will help identify tasks to do no matter the situation. 

Also, consider choosing a theme or tying your goals to your company’s mission to ensure you’re moving in a direction connected to your values. 
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Machielle Thomas
Machielle Thomas | Content Manager
Machielle Thomas writes and curates web and email content for marketing professionals, small business owners, bloggers, and more.

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