We are not in business to just survive. We build organizations, earn promotions, and become leaders because we have goals, ambitions and a desire to leave a mark on the world. Surviving 2020 was, however, an accomplishment. We pivoted, adapted and evolved. We struggled with the extraordinary change in where and how we work. We were there for employees while we grappled with payroll, cash flow and receivables. For many small and medium size companies, it has not been enough. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimates that 1 in 7 SMEs are at risk of closing, reflecting the high degree of uncertainty business owners are feeling about the future.

The question I hear often from owners and managers is where do we find the certainty and stability on which to build our business this year? We will not find it in traditional business planning. In these extraordinary times, we need strategic rigour and executional agility. We need to build solutions alongside our strategies. We need clarity and focus in our thinking to find certainty. We need to be responsive and effective in our solutions to find stability. To help you get started on your way to a thriving business, department or team in 2021 consider these 4 action steps.

1. Stabilize your company first.

Financial pressures, health and well-being, changes in work behaviours; employees and customers are grappling with a multitude of issues. Prioritize and triage the critical issues that are holding your company, employees, and customers back. If you are unclear about employee and customer priority issues, ask them. For help with what to ask and understanding which issues are blocking company performance try the Stabilize stage of the Thrive program for free.

2. Pause and consider what is next.

Will you attempt to find your way back to the good old days or go forward in search of a better place for your organization? This is not a typical “blue-sky” session, this pivotal question requires you to actively pause, engage, challenge, and inspire. Start by looking back over 2020 with a healthy sense of skepticism. What worked well for the company and what did not work out? How did the company show up for employees and customers? Then, examine the present by challenging your current state of business. Challenge what you believe to be true, how you work, your customer relationships, your products and services. Do not tolerate accepted beliefs in this time of change, you need fresh insights for certainty and stability.

Now you are ready to envision what is next. You know where you need to be and why so carve your path with certainty and prepare your company, employees and customers for success in 2021. To help, there are 10 Vital Questions for a Thriving Future in the Pause stage of the Thrive program that will give you certainty and stability.

3. Assess how to make the most of what you have.

2020 was about making do. 2021 can be about making the most of your talent, resources and market opportunities. Traditional SWOT analysis will not get you there because companies and markets have become complex, interdependent systems. Instead, think of your company’s talent, culture and customers as a performance ecosystem. Understanding how to create the conditions that unlock their potential will improve performance and results. Assess your company’s performance ecosystem here in the Assess stage of the Thrive program and make the most of 2021.

4. Mobilize quickly and effectively.

The first three steps have prepared you for success; resilient people, clarity of direction and focus on what is best for your company. Now it is time to act.

Move quickly with 30, 60 and 90-Day Plans. This is not “boardroom planning”. Short timelines and shorter horizons give more visibility to success and a clear line of sight to what your company and customers need now. Next quarter does another set of Plans. Over two quarters you will build the certainty and stability needed to begin planning for an even better 2022.

Move effectively by remaining relevant to employees and customers. Measure, learn and iterate your employee and customer programs regularly. The effectiveness of your response to your employees’ and customers’ needs is your business imperative for 2021. The Mobilize stage of the Thrive program with its 30, 60 and 90 Day Plan templates will help you move quickly and effectively to success this year.

As the pandemic subsides one thing remains certain, there will be more change, more disruption and more uncertainty in 2021. We have adapted, evolved and have proven our companies resilient over the past year. Now, it is time to thrive.