Part 1: ‘Back’ to Business or Starting Something New?

typewriter with a piece of paper that says ‘2021’

10 Ways to Refresh Your Approach for 2021

It has already become a cliché to say that 2021 ‘has to be better than last year’.

While Australia seems to have overcome the worst of the virus, we all know that 2021 will not be a smooth-sailing repeat of 2019.

Fatigue and burnout are rife, but so is the promise of a new beginning.

A refresh.

A restart.

So, what will you be doing differently in your work and your life to take advantage of this promise?

You have to start somewhere!

There are many things that can be done, but here are ten things you can start on right now to improve and refresh your outlook in 2021:

  1. Work on your purpose (‘why’).
  2. Identify the value you provide.
  3. Put your culture (‘how’) into practice.
  4. Flatten the org chart.
  5. Increase the speed of decision making.
  6. Identify if you are attractive to talent.
  7. Review your systems and put them to work.
  8. Fail and learn, fail and learn.
  9. Look at your diversity.
  10. Keep learning.

1. Work on your purpose.

Organisations with a strong purpose that is known and understood by everyone perform better than those that don’t. Simple. And a strong purpose needs to be something external-facing, not just generic ambitions such as to be the ‘most profitable’ or ‘the best in the business’.

Ask yourself: What is my positive impact on the community around me or on the world in general?

This question is not only for big business. All organisations can have a positive social impact and it doesn’t have to be solving massive problems. Contributing to local clubs, charities and councils are all simple ways that will send a signal to employees and customers that you are a purpose-driven organisation.

For example, a client of mine who is a printer didn’t have any purpose statements until 2020 when they were hired to do signs for retailers about social distancing. They leveraged this new wave of business to create a purpose statement: ‘We are part of the fight against COVID-19 and getting our community back to business.’

2. Identify the value you provide.

This is similar to understanding your purpose but at a more detailed level.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are your entire suite of products and services?
  • Which products/services provide the most value to your customer base?
  • Which are the most profitable for you?
  • Which require the most support in terms of people, process and systems?
  • What are you most passionate about that aligns with the values of the organisation?
  • What new products or services are in the pipeline that could generate value?

Once you understand your organisation in terms of purpose and value, a 2021 strategy will become easier to define and achieve.

3.  Put your culture into practice.

Culture can mean a variety of things, and 2020 may have put your culture (no matter how you define it) under stress. You may have had to let people go, withdraw education programs or reduce wages and benefits – all putting the employee contract under strain.

A new year dawns, so what can you do to refresh culture?

Consider practical aspects of your work culture such as team meetings. Can meetings be 15 minutes once a day rather than several hours once a week? Can they have a smaller number of attendees? How can they be more engaging or fun? How can everyone contribute rather than just the extroverts? Can you use project management tools such as Trello to aid with visibility of activities?

By conducting an audit of the practical elements of your business, you can identify what needs to be added, removed or changed to more authentically reflect the culture of your business.

4. Flatten your org chart.

Even small businesses organise themselves around hierarchies with layers of management. As organisations get bigger, the layers deepen to the point of being overly complex – go to any large financial institution and you will see countless people with ‘manager’ in their title…but who have no one to manage.

However, now is a great time to review the level of inherent hierarchy and bureaucracy in your organisation. Do you need a manager for each team or could teams be more self-managing? Does there really need to be a system of siloed teams such as HR, Finance, IT, Sales, Marketing, etc.?

Based on the value analysis in point two above, can you align your organisation to the value it creates? For example, if you have a customised product-offering that is high-risk but high-growth and another standard offering that is a cash cow but zero-growth, organise people to report into those two teams. Dedicate people where possible, but some support staff may work across both lines of the business.

5. Increase the speed of decision making.

If we have learned anything from 2020, we know that the speed of decision making had to be a lot swifter than before. Perhaps faster than anyone would like. Decisions about shutting offices, letting people go, working from home and now returning to the office were made with little consultation or agreement.

In 2021, can you learn from the past to make better and faster decisions? Do you have too many large meetings with people who don’t add value to the decision? Do you have endless review cycles where everyone must have their say? Is the organisation hamstrung because nobody wants the responsibility of making a mistake or because everything must go through one central point?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, then it is time to address the issue. Maybe you should delegate decisions to those on the ground who will have to run with it. You may lose some control, but you will have a nimbler organisation that can react to its business environment more effectively.


So, that’s the first five ways to refresh your business – watch your inbox in February for my next newsletter that will contain the second five ways to refresh.