4 tips to manage top business concerns in 2021

4 tips to manage top business concerns in 2021

You’ve worked hard to make it through 2020. This list could help your business regain momentum in 2021.

No business was immune to the impact of 2020 – and for many, that impact will continue to affect everything from profits and performance to processes and planning for 2021. Our Business Challenges Survey found that across industries, the four top concerns were:

  • Health and safety of employees
  • Forecasting and scenario planning
  • Cost management and reduction
  • Decreased revenue

While every organization faced unique issues throughout the year, this list offers interesting insight into how businesses can learn from 2020 challenges to gain lost ground – and even grow – in 2021.  

Concern 1: Health and safety of employees

Concern 1: Health and safety of employees

Tip: Plan for your return to the office – and for the expansion of remote work

While the general COVID-19 vaccination rollout is still in flux, many projections indicate it will be available for most sometime in 2021. As vaccinations begin, you’ll need to plan what a return to in-person work looks like for your business. If you’ve been operating remotely, will you require employees to be vaccinated to return to in-person work? If so, what steps will you take to make sure employees comply? Until the vaccine is widely available, what does your business need to continue doing to keep employees safe?

While considering things like using masks, social distancing, and vaccinations (when available) is important, you’ll also want to consider how you’re supporting your employees’ health in other areas. What services are you offering to support employees’ mental health or to potentially help them manage a COVID-19 diagnosis? These issues will continue throughout much of 2021, and the best plan of action is to plan for all scenarios.

Even as many businesses consider a return to the office, remote work will continue to be a viable and, in some cases, necessary reality. Whether you had to make a sudden shift to remote work or you had already implemented some best practices prior to the pandemic, you’ll want to consider the impact of remote work on the future of your business. Our remote work series offers tips for maintaining a high-performance atmosphere remotely.

Concern 2: Forecasting and scenario planning

Concern 2: Forecasting and scenario planning

Tip: Get help understanding the short- and long-term impact on your business 

When the pandemic began to affect U.S. businesses in March 2020, it was difficult for any business or organization to understand the long-term impact – many scrambled to transition to remote work, implement new safety protocols, and manage the day-to-day disruptions. In spring 2020, our survey found 75% of businesses expected a moderate to severe decrease in profits. In the summer, that number dropped to 68%, and then to 55% by the fall. However, the spring survey also found about 41% of businesses expected the impact of the pandemic to lessen by Q3 or Q4 of 2020 – but that optimism dropped dramatically moving into the summer. 

In the public sector, forecasting looked a little different. While many private sector businesses spent the spring planning for the worst-case scenario, the public sector was faced with meeting specific community needs, from education to transit to healthcare.

“So much of public sector revenues are already allocated for the year, and most state constitutions do not allow them to operate at a deficit,” says Kevin Smith, managing partner of public sector services at Crowe. “Without federal help, many organizations are about to experience significant problems and reductions in services. Unfortunately, that decrease will come at a time when people need those services the most.”

Regardless of your industry, the ability to forecast is critical to 2021 planning. Whether you’re public or private sector, you might see value in getting an outside perspective on how to best plan for 2021 – and beyond. Our post-election tax policy coverage can help you understand the changes your business might see during a Biden presidency – and develop tax-planning strategies accordingly.

Concern 3: Cost management and reduction

Concern 3: Cost management and reduction

Tip: Be agile in your processes and perspective 

Agility was a key component to survival in 2020 and will continue to serve businesses well moving into 2021. With challenges in every area, many businesses found ways to manage and reduce costs in processes, like supply chain management, and in business operations as well.  

“The guardrails many businesses set in stone were blown apart during COVID-19 – which begs the question, what barriers do you still have to shatter?” says Ann Lathrop. “2020 unlocked a level of innovation that’s going to propel strong growth when we come out of this.”  

Digital transformation is one way many businesses are removing barriers and building that agility into their everyday practices – but for many, it continues to be a moving target. 

“While many businesses were on a digital transformation journey, rapid customer adoption of digital channels has significantly sped up that journey, bringing both benefits and challenges to be managed,” says Mike Percy, managing partner of financial services at Crowe.

Our digital transformation series provides four areas of focus for a meaningful, lasting transformation moving into 2021.

Concern 4: Decreased revenue

Concern 4: Decreased revenue

Tip: Focus on your core business areas   

While our survey showed significantly more optimism in the economy as the year progressed – and in fact, many businesses found their revenue was at or better than anticipated – that data reflects only a piece of the whole economy.

“We can’t forget that this survey went to employed, executive-level professionals,” says Lathrop. “The stark reality is that this crisis feels very different to different people.”

For businesses facing decreasing revenue, this year has forced a level of focus. Many didn’t have the luxury of supporting every area they had in the past and had to review areas that were not growing or contributing significantly to the bottom line. Cutting out underperforming products or services can help stem declining revenue, as well as offer businesses the ability to get back to the roots of their initial successes. 

Most organizations also pivoted to finding – and keeping – liquidity in every area of their business. Our liquidity series walks you through the key steps to creating a resilient business model as you move into the new year. 

The impacts of 2020 are still with us, but we’ve also gained knowledge that can help you in 2021 and in years to come. Use these tips as a starting point as you decide how to move forward.

If you’re looking for help managing challenges moving into 2021, Crowe can help.

With revenue projection and forecasting tools, industry-specific consulting, and cost-reduction strategies, our team can help you make the most of 2021.
Kevin W. Smith
Kevin W. Smith
Managing Partner, Public Sector
Mike Percy - social
Michael Percy
Partner, Financial Services Consulting