3 Powerful Lessons Small Businesses Can Learn from 2021

3 Business Lessons From 2021 and How To Use Them to Your Advantage in 2022

Successful business owners typically look to the future with a critical review of the past year. They look at possible missteps, identify what went right and acknowledge the external factors that even the best decision-making couldn’t have changed.

Check out 3 lessons from 2021 and see how these ideas may help your small business be more successful in 2022.

Lesson 1: Staffing Issues

With a national worker shortage that continues to affect the ability of companies to fill positions, many businesses left 2021 with at least one, if not several lessons about staffing.

Some business owners learned workarounds, such as adapting operations to run successfully with fewer employees. Others discovered new approaches to finding, hiring, and treating workers.

According to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife survey released in October, more than 40 percent (44 percent) of small businesses actively hiring in late September and early October said they found it harder to fill open positions.

Also, nearly half of small businesses surveyed said they struggled to find workers with the needed skills, compared to 34 percent in a June survey.

The shortage is in part attributed to workers who have grown more selective about their next employer and job.

“The net result is that, arguably for the first time in decades, workers up and down the income ladder have leverage,” writes Ben Casselman in The New York Times. “And they are using it to demand not just higher pay but also flexible hours, more generous benefits and better working conditions.”

In the Times article, business owner Karter Lewis said he changed his views about staffing when he opened his latest restaurant, Soul Slice in Oakland, Calif. He shared that he abandoned the industry-standard approach of kitchen workers earning low wages and waiters relying on tips.

Instead, he says, everyone at Soul Slice works full time, earns a salary rather than an hourly wage, and receives health insurance, retirement benefits, and paid vacation, according to the story by Casselman. The restaurateur said hiring is still a challenge; however, he isn’t having the staffing problems that other restaurants report, the article says.

Lesson 2: Business Resilience

Another key takeaway for business owners in 2021? Business resilience.

Business resilience refers to a holistic focus on ensuring that operations, technology, facilities, and people can survive crises and chaos by mitigating risks, writes Vasee Sivasegaran in a blog post for Citrix.

The importance of business resilience was evident during 2020 and proved to be a lesson that kept showing up in 2021.

Companies discovered their business resilience in ways particular to their needs and industry. Still, many did so by developing solid processes, agile decision making, investments in the right technology, and agile organizational structures, Sivasegaran said.

Business resilience will continue to be essential for entrepreneurs and small business owners in the new year and beyond.

“Despite unprecedented challenges, many SMBs around the world have shown remarkable resilience and capacity to reinvent themselves,” says a Harvard Business Review post about lessons on resilience.

“Now is the time to take inspiration from businesses that have thrived and to build resilience for the future,” write the post’s six authors, which included Tera Allas, director of research & economics at McKinsey & Co., Michael Birshan, a McKinsey senior partner in London.

Lesson 3: Adaptability and Flexibility

Research by The Harris Poll in 2021 found that most of the small and medium-sized businesses surveyed (79 percent) said the changes they made in the past year to business operations would continue to benefit them in the long term.

From going digital to engaging more with employees and customers, small and medium businesses have learned to shift their mindsets and operations to succeed, says Eric Bensley, vice president of SMB marketing solutions at Salesforce.

“Their hard work, creativity, and innovation is a wonder,” he writes in a post for Salesforce, referring to small and medium business owners.

Whether it is revising your hiring strategy or adapting to new technology, consider some or all of these lessons as you find additional ways to grow your business in this new year.

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