“How I’m making 2021 mine for the taking”

2021 for the taking

A healthy dose of optimism and a positive mindset can go a long way. We spoke with three inspiring small business owners about their secret weapons for success in 2021.

At a glance

Here's a snapshot of the advice from our interviewees:

  • Adopt the qualities of an optimistic realist.
  • Look to others for support and work opportunities, through business networking or collaborative partnerships.
  • Listen to your customers and communicate with them on their preferred platforms.
  • Acknowledge and celebrate what was achieved in 2020, and make time for a break before launching into 2021.

After experiencing a year packed to the brim with unexpected twists and turns, you know you’re able to tackle what’s thrown your way and emerge stronger, wiser and prepared for what comes next.

So, what does come next? Research by McKinsey & Company shows that while spending is currently down, consumer spending intent is rebounding across all sectors.

Customers are indicating that they’re becoming more mindful about where they spend their cash, however they’re increasingly open to trying new brands. So now is a great time for small businesses to jump on these opportunities and lay the groundwork for business growth.

We spoke with three owners about their small business ideas for 2021 and how they’re future-proofing their business after a tumultuous year.

Making strategic connections and business relationships

“Being able to navigate 2020 and come out the other side has given me the confidence that we can do anything,” says Matthew Magain, owner and ‘Chief Doodler’ at Sketch Group, a business that brings stories to life and explains ideas through sketching and illustration.

“I’m definitely excited about 2021,” he adds. “Being forced to evaluate our offering to cater to a world where most people worked from home has increased opportunities [to offer services] like online training.”

Magain’s strategies for success in 2021 include making more partnerships with industry bodies (which he says lead to potential and direct work opportunities), figuring out how to extend the lifespan of the work he creates for clients (such as on postcards and in videos) and surrounding himself – virtually or in-real-life – with other small business owners.

“[Networking] enables me to share challenges and kick around ideas for solutions with other small business owners,” he says.

During the ‘great pause of 2020’, when many small business owners had to quickly change up their offering in order to keep the wheels turning, Magain used this downtime to figure out how to communicate the value of his business to current and prospective clients.

He wanted to create a succinct way to explain the value of his business model – unpacking complex situations through sketches. He came to the conclusion that corporate organisations could benefit greatly from his services, so he needed a way to clearly explain this. Unsurprisingly, the end result took the form of a sketch.

“My goal for 2021 is to apply this [message about the value of our service] to everything we do – sales, online marketing, recruitment and communication with existing customers,” says Magain.

“I also hope to get back onto the public speaking circuit and may turn the content into a book.”

Get yourself a business coach

Cathryn Mora, owner and Head Book Coach at Change Empire Books is making plans to diversify her offering in 2021 to attract more clients to her business.

“I help people write non-fiction books so they can grow their business and raise their profile,” she says.

Mora’s secret weapon for 2021 success is changing her offer completely. “I’m going to try something new and go big,” she says.

Instead of offering standard 1:1 coaching, Mora plans to split her offer into two – a lower priced course with online support for people who want to take a DIY approach to writing their book and a higher end/higher cost offer for people who want more of hands-on approach and to work more closely with Mora.

“Being able to navigate 2020 and come out the other side has given me the confidence that we can do anything.” – Matt Magain, Sketch Group

Mora’s secret weapon for success in 2021 is her plan to create strategic marketing partnerships.

“It’s a formal relationship based on collaborating with people who share the same audience but are not in direct competition, then looking at what you can do together to help each other meet your goals.”

For example, if you sell cookware you might partner with a chef or cafe to promote your complementary services to the same audience pool and leverage each other’s following.

Mora also suggests that her business peers seek out a mentor to set them up for success in 2021.

“My advice is that energy is everything,” says Mora. “I’ve had some ordinary times in my business and my coach at the time said that stress was coming through in my communication. When I remembered the love I have for what I do and the privilege I feel to know what I know, it changed my energy and every person I spoke with said ‘yes’ to working with me.”

A firm believer in the value of business coaching, Mora says simply: “I wouldn’t be where I am without coaching.”

She plans to future-proof her business through providing content for groups in which her ideal clients have membership.

“I’ll write content for publications that will help raise my profile in the US, for example,” she says. “And I’ll offer masterclasses for groups of entrepreneurs who I think are my ideal client.”

Mora will action these plans in 2021 but, first, she plans to take a three-week holiday – her first in years that will be entirely work free.

Listen to your customers

Another small business owner starting the year with a well-earned break is Diana Todd from Balance Tax Accountants, based in Perth.

“Normally, I go on holidays in April or May, but that didn’t happen this year,” says Todd. “As a service-based business, we want to show up for clients, so it’s important to rest and recharge from a physical, emotional and mental standpoint.”

Todd is going into 2021 fuelled by what her business achieved in 2020.

“Our customers reached out to us for unprecedented levels of support,” she says. “But my industry is very traditional so going on Instagram to talk about tax-based announcements before they’d become law would [usually] be a no-no.”

Yet, this is exactly what people needed. “It took a bit of bravery but, after a day’s work, I’d catch up on announcements and hop on Instagram Stories to give an accountant’s perspective.”

Her communication initiatives won her appreciative customers and the Institute of Public Accountants Award for Western Australia’s 2020 Practice of the Year. In 2021, Todd plans to continue to listen to and respond creatively to customer needs.

Her other weapon for success is to ensure she remains on top of her finances and she’s spreading the message for others to do the same.

“Being mindful of money is going to play into how successful [small] businesses can be in 2021,” she adds. Which is why she was happy to see an uptick in sign-ups to accounting software, for example, which helps her clients to manage their money with greater ease.

“It is so easy these days with web-based technology and apps on your phone,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be time consuming – if you’re set up right, there is no excuse not to be on top of your numbers.”

Don’t let a lack of discretionary funds hold your business back from growing and emerging stronger in 2021. If you need new technology or want to engage a professional business coach, for example, a Prospa Small Business Loan could help make it happen.

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