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Planning for 2021: making the most of your annual budget

This time last year, none of us could’ve imagined how 2020 would severely test both our home and working lives like nothing in generations.

We’ve dealt with a terrible death toll, the inability to see loved ones, and for many of us, a severe blow to our finances. Businesses throughout the UK have also struggled to keep their heads afloat, sometimes changing the way they work to survive.

Full recovery may be a long time in coming, so developing a strategy as 2021 approaches, especially in these heightened circumstances, should be a top priority for many businesses.

Even when money is tight, pragmatic decisions at the planning stage can help you to ensure the key areas of your business are accounted for. There are plenty of sites out there to help you, and we've highlighted a few aspects to consider...

Your business calendar

To plan for the year ahead, start by factoring in key dates to your calendar. From VAT return deadlines or submitting your company accounts1, it helps to flag important dates well before they arrive.

Similarly, note any significant dates for your own business – perhaps the end of a contract, or the run-up to a major pitch. You can then see how the busiest times for your business will fit into the year.

With your 2021 calendar mapped out, consider the year just gone. How did the pandemic impact your targets? Were they met or missed? Were any resources shifted or spent inefficiently? Identify those areas, and keep them in mind as you set goals for the year to come2.

Find a sounding board

Once you have mapped out your annual plan and goals for the year, it’s a good idea to run through them with key stakeholders in your business.

Particularly, check back in with your employees. As a key decision-maker in your business, challenging your own bias is crucial3. That’s why getting feedback as you create your business plans, to avoid the trap of making assumptions based on just your ideas, is vital.

 Moreover, opening up good channels of communication is a great way to keep your employees engaged with the business4. It’s a win-win.

Employee support – on a budget

Budgeting decisions will be different for every business, but if money is limited, especially with the future still uncertain, choosing what to prioritise in 2021 can be tough.

 It’s important, especially for SMEs, not to spend more than necessary – for instance, on a highly-stylised website.5 Some parts of your business are not as negotiable, though, and this includes the support system you have for your employees.

 Taking care of your staff and giving them the freedom to choose the benefits that work for them doesn’t always have to eat into your budget.

 Employee-paid benefits could be a good option if you need to limit your cash outlay for the year, while still engaging with and supporting your staff.

 You could still offer a broad range of benefits options to your staff by switching to an employee-paid model. At Benni, we help employers choose the benefits they want to offer their employees from a portfolio of employee-paid options, all packaged up in an easy-to-use digital benefits platform.

You can find out more about our voluntary benefits package, here

Keeping sight of what matters most

As you plan for the year, keep your employees in mind.

Their feedback will be invaluable as you set your business’ goals for 2021 – and on top of that, employees that feel engaged in the business are more likely to be motivated and productive at work6.

 Show your employees that you value their contribution to the success of the business by rewarding them with the choice of a specially selected range of employee-paid benefits.

 With a careful use of your time rather than a financial investment, you could make your budget stretch further to cover what really matters.

1 Informi, ‘How to plan my business year’

2, ‘How to create an actionable annual plan for your business’

3 Board of Innovation, ‘16 cognitive biases that kill innovative thinking’

4,6 CIPD, ‘Employee engagement and motivation’

5 Start Up Loans, ‘Setting up a small business – the complete guide’

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