For small businesses and entrepreneurs, 2020 proved to be a moment to show strength and identify areas to focus attention. Many hope that 2021 will bring brighter days, but regardless of what's in store, we must ready ourselves for whatever challenges come our way. Consider these four approaches to reflect on this year and prepare for the next one.  

1. Practice what you preach.

Small-business owners faced a major test to their business values and purpose this year. Entrepreneurs found themselves adapting quickly to various demands and pressures, like shifting to e-commerce or navigating the constantly changing health guidelines.

Nevertheless, many stuck to their core mission, values, and purpose, be it providing above-and-beyond customer service or staying engaged in local philanthropic causes. For the UPS Store, this included staying open as an essential business to serve our communities and small-business owners, a core component of our business. 

As you review your business plans for 2021, recognize that your values signal your reason for existence to the rest of the world, no matter what it throws at you. Keep up your commitments to customers and the community at-large.

2. Commit to change.

Before developing a plan for next year, reflect on the past 12 months, what you did, how you did it, and the lessons learned. Here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Review your digital presence. How can your website and social media channels better express your brand? Can customers easily purchase products from your website?
  • Take a look at changes you implemented this year. Which ones should you continue for next year?
  • Get feedback from your customers, employees and suppliers. What ideas do they have to make your business better? 

3. Consider your impact.

It's a good time to measure your impact in 2020. Aside from the typical metrics like sales and revenue, think about all the other ways you can show your worth. 

This year proved the value that businesses bring to their communities. Consumers realized how important it is to support small businesses, and the value small businesses bring into their homes in return. Take stock of all the good you've done to help people during this difficult time. Celebrate the successes, no matter how small. 

One success I'm proud to celebrate is how the UPS Store is giving back to local communities. A number of our local franchise businesses have been raising money for causes throughout the year, and throughout the season of giving, nationally we place a special emphasis on the Toys for Tots Literacy Program. Through our partnership with this program, we provide direct access to books and educational resources for families across the country.

4. Map out your vision for the future.

Remember: This too shall pass. Entrepreneurs are some of the most resilient, most optimistic, and hardest working people. While you should continue to take things day by day, it's important to look ahead past this difficult year. Envision what you can do for your business, both in the short-term and the long-term. Determine your vision beyond 2020. Assess what you'll need to focus on to make it happen. Develop road maps that outline overarching initiatives, time-bounded efforts, and actions that support your goals.

Little by little, you can work toward your big business objectives and vision with an eye for the future.