Jennifer Katrulya is a nationally recognized CPA, business advisor, keynote speaker, writer, and “people connector.”
In the continued “unknown” of 2020, business leaders tell me they’re finding it difficult to assess their work-from-home strategies in the coming weeks — let alone their budget for 2021. Some locations are opening up, while others are clamping down as coronavirus cases continue to spread. Whatever the situation is in your area, the fatigue level you have now will likely continue for at least the next several months. It’s time to be prepared.
As a nationally-recognized CPA and business advisor, I’ve been urging my clients to take this opportunity to reflect on the year’s changes and project the possibilities for next year. You can likely make some educated predictions about what’s to come for your company — and how you need to adjust. Paying attention now can make the difference between a rocky year full of more surprises (plus a weakened business position) and the ability to enter the new year with an updated playbook that puts you and your team in a position of strength.
Evaluate these five areas in your budget for next year:
Without a doubt, we’ve all changed our work habits and environments to center around the virtual world this year. Countless articles have touted the benefits of the best video-based platforms and collaborative team-based tools to keep everyone connected. Even though that was a major transition for many companies, virtual meetings alone won’t be enough to keep teams connected and engaged going forward.
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I’ve seen that company leaders haven’t given enough thought to the next steps required for long-term remote work: cybersecurity, equipment and home-based tech services, document storage, document sharing security and procedures, internet speed and redundancy, and other important considerations. If you expect your team members to work remotely, then you need to invest in the services that ensure everyone’s setup is up-to-par and secure.
As we enter into the winter months, it’s important to consider company culture and how additional investments in team-focused tools can drive productivity and creativity. For a specific focus, I tell clients to evaluate their networking groups and professional organizations that have long been a favorite in the industry. Do they still fit what you need? Have they pivoted to offer virtual workshops and meetups? Even if they are well-liked, do they actually offer a return on your investment?
For instance, events and conferences that depend on in-person conversations may not provide as much benefit at this moment. A number of organizations that have been successful with face-to-face networking do not have the leadership or support to lead in a remote environment. Consider how much your budget allocates for these items and where to shift your people to the right places for networking next year.
I’ve seen several companies go “radio silent” this year due to overwhelm, and this is the perfect time to get ahead of that problem. Many companies with leading sales teams have such strict social media policies in place — over which employees can post and what to post — that it has tied the hands of the top rainmakers. Companies also have tight restrictions on hosting webinars, allowing their team members to attend virtual events and investing in sales training, which has left their sales teams struggling. It’s time to adapt to the market trends.
Beyond that, ask team members who request funds for marketing purposes to provide a more detailed business case for their plans. To gain the best return, you should know what the marketing plan is, how it’s being carried out, what the direct value is, and what assets are needed to execute on the plan. Make a schedule now to create and set up next year’s marketing efforts before team members lose the bandwidth to execute. This will ensure that plans stay on track and that adjustments can be made quickly as trends change in 2021.
4. Human Resources
The major shift to remote work has opened up opportunities for unique hires, such as cross-national and international teams, but it has posed new questions around HR requirements as well. My clients have been able to address these issues along the way this year, but that’s not as helpful as being prepared for these conundrums before they happen.
If you have team members in different states or countries, look in-depth at the payroll requirements, benefits and health care plans that need to be adjusted. Reevaluate HR practices for compliance and additional options that could benefit employees, such as mental health care, which is becoming more important in a distanced working world.
In some of the above areas, it’s likely worth your time to invest in outside help to learn more about what’s possible. An external, unbiased expert can provide insight into what other companies are doing this year to help their employees and reach new customers — and how that may change in 2021. A business advisor can provide a fresh perspective on what needs to shift in your numbers and how to execute the strategy to achieve results.
I’ve also seen companies invest more in “connectors” and relationship-building development this year, particularly social sellers who have experience sourcing business online. Although it can seem expensive to hire a consultant, the expertise will make up for the loss in revenue or time next year when stumbles inevitably occur.
Here’s the bottom line: This is an important time to consider a zero-based budget for next year. Analyze each line item as if you’re creating a new business plan from scratch and need to develop the numbers based on today’s estimates. Even if you “got through” this year successfully, you don’t want to follow the same approach and eke by again next year. With a focused budgeting exercise, you can confidently follow a planned roadmap for the year ahead — because if you don’t, you may find your competitors are better prepared.