The TOP 4 Business Challenges For 2021


What do I believe the top 4 challenges for businesses as we start 2021?

I am going to start this with the caveat ‘it depends’

It depends on the kind of year you have just left behind, but, I would say we could rename 2020 as the year of ‘Un’.

  • Unprecedented
  • Unpredictable
  • Unstable
  • Unplanned
  • Uncertain
  • Unclear

Those 6 things either enabled you to have a ‘good un’ or a ‘bad un’ in 2020. As with all 6 of those ‘uns’ it had led to some organisations thriving and others struggling to survive.


I wanted to create a list of business problems that are relevant to you no matter the type of year you had in 2020.

So, what do I believe are the top 4 business challenges for 2021:


  1. The last 10 months has for some been about stability and survival and others about growth and demand. So, how do you plan and then execute a strategy for these continuing uncertain times?

One thing is for sure; Steve Jobs was right when he said you can only join the dots looking backwards.

None of us can or should forget the reason why we do what we do, but we can forget detailed plans for what we should be doing. Flexibility, agility and collaboration are key to navigating these times together. I would say ‘don’t grip the steering wheel too tight, just hold it loosely’.


  1. Customer Needs have changed so how do your current products and services meet these? You may have developed broader service offerings, will these still be needed?

I read recently that in the last 10 months we have moved forward 10 years technologically;

Some businesses have flipped to virtual delivery, and others have adapted the way they do things.

We now meet our doctor by video call, we have more contactless services and we have a had huge percentages of our workforce and school pupils working from home.

In some instances these changes have been forced by our environment, others though have been requested for some time, and as society continues to flex customer needs/demands will continue to change.

Never has there been a greater need to really understand your customers whole journey from their awareness through to their advocacy of you and not just the part that you deliver. The world is far more connected than it was, but are you connected to your customers?


  1. We have had to largely work remotely for 10 months, with people starting to itch again for connection and a vaccine being rolled out it is a matter of time before we enter renter the office and the world of hybrid working.

Can you remember back to the start of 2020 and being told you had to work from home. To some people this was already the case but to a huge number this was brand new and brought a whole host of challenges:

  • How do I lead my team when we are not together?
  • Will everyone be able to do everything and will we still meet our targets?

Those are just 2 of the challenges that faced leaders, Trust was challenged and still is a challenge, but as we slowly move back into the office different working patterns will be introduced where home-working will play a role in a lot of people’s weeks still. So rather than having everyone at home or everyone in the office you are likely to have a mix at different times of the week.

I would challenge you to consider the following 4 Cs:

ConnectHow and when can you connect as a team? And, What vision are you all connected to? Where are you going as a team/business?

ConverseWhat are the key things that need to be talked about daily, relevant to the team in question?

CollaborateHow can you and what will you collaborate on together each week/month?

CelebrateHow do you celebrate and reflect, and when will you?

These 4Cs I believe are the key principles to explore as a team no matter if you are all working together or not.


And the one I should have probably started with, we are staring a recession in the face. Each nations economical books need balancing so,

  1. How do you reduce your costs whilst still delighting your customers and people

This for me is THE challenge for 2021, we have lived in a world of forced change to help us survive or deal with unprecedented growth. This has led to tech advances but also corners being cut as survival modes are turned on. 

As demands change, costs will need to be cut as each government looks to recoup the relief that has been on offer, how will we survive but also balance the changing needs of our customers and our now more flexibly working people?

Ultimately, I believe we need to move to be ‘whole learning’ organisations. This is not an easy thing to do but I would start by seeing if you can honestly answer YES to these following 4 points:

  1. Do you believe that the culture of your organisation is summed up by what YOU do when nobody is looking?
  2. Does everybody else believe this true about themselves too?
  3. Are you all connected around a single purpose that is translated in a meaningful way through the organisation?
  4. Do you have the right cues to prompt the desirable behaviours in each process, meeting or opportunity?

There is no quick fix to unpick all the decisions or actions that have created your current environment, but to create a living/learning culture that adapts starts by changing peoples thinking and changing the questions you ask every day of yourself, your customers and your people!


So to summarise, the top 4 business problems see are:

  • How do you plan & execute in uncertain times?
  • How do you understand & adapt to changing customer needs with your existing products & services?
  • How do you effectively lead in onsite, home & hybrid working environments?
  • How do you reduce your costs and still delighting your people & customers?

Do you agree with these four? Or do you have another one that should be on the list?


If this resonates with you, then let’s continue the conversation


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