Build Your Business:

6 Ways to Create a Solid Business Plan for 2021

By James Andres, Contributing Writer

January 12, 2021

A good business plan serves as a critical roadmap to your destination of having a successful 2021. “Start focusing on getting the first quarter of 2021 right,” says business coach Marshall Atkinson, owner of Atkinson Consulting. “We need to head into this next year with clarity of purpose, strategic plans for the future, and the willingness to do what it takes to succeed.”

To start your year off right, you need a solid plan that you’ll refer to often. There’s an old adage that states, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” There’s a lot of truth to this statement, especially after a year where it’s been difficult for shops to keep running through the chaos, much less keep running as usual.

Here’s how to create a solid business plan for the year ahead
1. Realize you need a plan. The first step in any process is knowing you have to take a step forward. This past year has probably taught you that you need a plan for what could possibly happen. While there’s no way to know what all of 2021 will bring, it’s important to have multiple contingencies in place. For example, we still don’t know how COVID-19 will continue to affect the economy, and the way people live, work and shop. Thinking through various scenarios will not only help your anxiety levels because you know you have something at the ready, but it’ll spell out actionable steps toward meeting your goals for the year and beyond.

2. Set your 2021 goals. Next, you need to set your clear, SMART goals for your business in the coming year. This means that your goals should be:

Specific: Don’t be vague like, “I want to increase sales.” Instead, get more detailed, such as, “I want to increase sales by adding direct-to-garment (DTG) and heat-press services.” This is much more specific and beneficial to you and your team.

Measurable: Your goal should have a finite number that you can attach to it. For instance, “I want to increase sales by 20% by adding DTG and heat-press services.” That’s a measurable goal you can aim for. “What matters most in your shop?” Atkinson says. “There’s no sense measuring something if you aren’t going to do anything with the data. The key performance Indicators you select for your shop are actually about the ‘key’ things that you need to know.”

Achievable: This is a goal that you can reach. For example, you can purchase a DTG printer and train an operator to use it. You can market the new service to your current customers to start. The achievable part goes hand-in-hand with the next point of a SMART goal.

Realistic: Be sure you can realistically achieve your goal. It probably doesn’t make sense to say, “I want to increase sales by 1,000% by this time next year.” Setting unrealistic goals also can hurt your team’s morale when it becomes obvious that they won’t be able to achieve it.

Time-based: Finally, you want a goal marked by a specific time measurement. Ideally, your goal should have regular “checkpoints” to ensure you’re making progress along the way. This might mean, “I plan to increase sales by at least 5% each quarter.” With this goal, you’re building in time-sensitive checkpoints so that if you don’t reach a goal, you can work harder to make up the difference by the next one.
You’ll need to regularly review your SMART goals. Schedule time every quarter to determine if your plan is moving you toward your goals and if it’s addressing the current needs of your business and customers. Also, take a close look at any other complications or issues, which may have cropped up during that time, that you didn’t anticipate. That should help you plan how you’ll tackle those potential roadblocks in the future, it also will help you recognize any warning signs you can look out for next time.

3. Get clear on your market and niche. Your next step should be to figure out exactly who you should focus your marketing efforts on to score new business. When you know who you want to serve (and how), you can target your marketing sales efforts on them. Here are some questions to ask to clearly define this:

● What’s your Unique Selling Point (USP)?
● What are your core values?
● Who do you need to employ?
● Are you thinking of introducing new decorating services or products in the future?
● What markets are you going to sell into? Expand into?
● What ways do you have to sell should lockdowns happen again? (This is especially important since we have no way of knowing what will happen with COVID-19 in the coming year.)
● Are there companies you can partner with or subcontract to?
● What’s the personality of your business and what are you trying to portray? In other words, what do you hope people will think of when they see your shop name? Value for their money? Fast turnaround? Amazing artwork and spot-on decoration? High-end products? Eco-friendly? Fun? Friendly? Trustworthy?
● What sort of things do you want your customers or social media to be saying about your business?

4. Complete an analysis of your competitors. Look closely at your nearest competitors, so you can see what they’re doing well and what weaknesses they may have for you to capitalize on. This will ensure you’re on par or better than these other companies. You want to be able to offer similar (or better) experiences, while also giving your customers uniquely decorated products and marketing strategies. Here’s how to do your own competitive analysis.

5. Plan to be flexible. After 2020, there’s not a lot more we can say other than this: Anything can happen. Build a resiliency plan into your goals for 2021. This way, you protect your employees and assets in the event that something major happens. For example, after COVID-19 hit, many businesses realized that they needed online systems so employees could work from home. Many decorators saw that robust ecommerce platforms to make ordering easy were now a must, not a maybe.

The reality? There’s a lot we can’t control, but we can plan ahead to deal with those scenarios. Your plan should be flexible enough to allow you to make changes if something happens. To this end, review your business plan at least every quarter so you can adjust as needed.

6. Look out for your employees. You’re only as strong as your employees, and 2020 has shown how important it is to protect this valuable asset. You need a strategy in place that addresses how you’ll look after those who look after your business. Your employees want to work and you need them to keep your business running. That’s why it’s a good idea to put a plan in place that allows you to keep your people, their families and your customers healthy and safe. This also is a good time to look at compensation plans, benefits and time off, along with the small perks you use along the way to recognize and motivate great team members.

Now that you’ve got some ideas on how to make plans for the new year, it’s time to start achieving those goals, so you can look back on 2021 as a resounding success.

James Andres is the content manager for S&S Activewear. You can reach him at