You Can Still Plan Around Unpredictability
This is the time of year when businesses would usually be looking at their budget and planning for the coming year. But COVID-19 has made the future entirely unpredictable, which makes properly planning your budget difficult. But all is not lost — there are some basic budgeting tactics you can implement to face 2021 with confidence.
Create a Forecast
If you’re not entirely confident in your ability to forecast sales for 2021,you’re not alone. But you do still have options. If 2020 went great, perhaps try setting your sights up 10% from last year. If you want to play it safe, keep your forecast on par with 2020. If even that doesn’t feel reliable, then jump back to 2019 and use it as a base for creating your budget. You can ramp up 10% or 20% from there. Don’t just forecast this year blindly — use data from a point you can rely on and plan accordingly from there.
Know What to Include
Your budget needs to have flexible sales goals and realistic expense plans this year. Many businesses are having to change their marketing focus and invest differently, so you have to be willing to adapt your budget, too. As you set sales goals, be aware of your margins and get flexible with the way you’re achieving them if you want to improve them. Also take into account new expenses you may have in response to 2020, like staffing changes and Paycheck Protection Program loans. Take stock of what’s new and different for your business this year and include it in your budget plan.
Remember the Essentials
Even though last year was a wild ride, you can’t throw all your best practices out the window. Certain budget-forward thinking will always be essential, no matter where your business has landed. If sales are strong, drive profits while you can to build your reserves. Modify your products or services to align with customer behavior. Keep your accounts receivable clean. Don’t use credit cards to finance your business. Pay close attention to your balance sheet to keep a handle on debt. Cultivate an ongoing relationship with your banker.
If you find a reliable baseline, are willing to be flexible and realistic, and if you can re-calibrate your plans on the go, you can budget your way to a much better year.