5 Business Planning Strategies Inspired by Winter Solstice

Updated: Nov 30

Turns out a centuries-old tradition can offer businesses some great tips for year-end planning.

Every December, cultures around the world celebrate the moment when half of planet Earth is tilted its farthest away from the sun. It’s the official start of winter, and this year it falls on December 21.


And because it’s the moment when days become longer and nights shorter, winter solstice is a time of hope — and, the inspiration for a tradition called the Winter Solstice Practice. Author and health coach Elizabeth Rider says this time of year is “considered an auspicious time to go inwards and reflect … [and an] incredible opportunity to let go of thoughts, habits, and beliefs that no longer serve you and [to] leave them in the darkness.”


As we draw close to the New Year, here are five ideas to add to your year-end business review — and to help position your team for 2021:


1. Review and reflect


If you had known this time last year what you know 10 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, what would you have done differently? What would you have done exactly the same?


One thing we’ve all learned is just how quickly the world around us can change — but another lesson is how technology and human resilience can help us adapt. Remote working, online shopping, video conferencing, curbside pickup — they are all here to stay.


As the New Year starts, let go of any lingering expectations that the world will go back to how it was before COVID. Take the business skills and insights you’ve gained in 2020 and use them to prepare for 2021, whatever it brings.


2. Explore new approaches to administration


No question — the past year has been a scramble just to keep up. Every business, industry and sector has experienced sudden shifts in its day-to-day administration, such as employees working from home, mandated closures, disrupted supply chains, and countless other disruptions. And although changes may continue to come, you might still be following a necessary patchwork of pre-pandemic administrative procedures, quick-fixes, and just-in-time processes.


This is a great time to talk with your team about how much you’ve accomplished and to research, modify or develop new administrative processes that better fit today’s work reality.


3. Talk one-on-one


A 2020 study by the Harvard Business Review in association with Qualtrics and SAP found that “nearly 40% of global employees said that no one at their company had asked them if they were doing OK — and those respondents were 38% more likely than others to say that their mental health had declined since the outbreak.”


It’s more important than ever to build what the Harvard Business Review calls “a culture of connection through check-ins.” Sustained anxiety and uncertainty can lead to burnout, and with team members working from home it can be difficult to see if someone is struggling. And, although vaccines are promising a light at the end of the tunnel, we are nevertheless in a second wave — and a quick Google search of “mental health during the second wave” brings up some 41,600,000 news stories.


Make it a New Year’s resolution to truly listen to your employees or members, and to ensure they have the resources they need not just to do their jobs, but to support their physical, mental and emotional health. And assess what training you have received to help your employees deal with mental health issues — it might be time to learn some new management strategies.


4. Consult customers and check out competitors


In her blog, Elizabeth Rider suggests starting the Winter Solstice Practice by taking two pieces of blank paper. On one, write everything that went well last year. On the other, identify what you want to leave behind by listing what did not go well last year.


That might sound familiar if you and your team conduct an annual SWOT analysis. Listing your business strengths and weaknesses — and identifying business opportunities and threats — can help clarify business goals for the coming months and create strategies for anticipated challenges.


An insight from entrepreneur and ForbesBooks author Adam Witty may also enhance your SWOT planning. He suggests talking to your best customers — and looking at what your competitors are doing.


In a blog post for Global Trade magazine, Witty says directly asking customers what they want and need can help business leaders offer solutions for problems they anticipate in 2021.


He writes: “Learn how your product or service will fit into the flow. Do [customers] want you to continue delivering your product line in some virtual way, or is it important for them to be able to come into your facility for a real sit-down to discuss what they need and view the options in person? Does your solution lie in providing the best of both worlds, offering virtual visits alongside opportunities for physical interaction? Or is the right option something you haven’t yet explored?”


As for looking at what your competitors are doing, Witty writes: “Review how they are reaching customers and clients today — and whether you can glean any insights about what they may do tomorrow.”


5. Take time for yourself


With COVID bringing unprecedented business challenges and changes, it’s never been harder to find time to recharge. But with stress and anxiety at peak levels, it’s never been more important.


In China, winter solstice is marked with the Dongzhi Festival, where traditional celebrations include building hope and strength by enjoying nourishing meals.


A recent blog from the PNC Financial Services Group notes that “small business owners have been on the front lines [of the COVID-19 pandemic], facing disrupted routines and often assuming extra caregiving duties in addition to the full-time+ responsibilities of running a business.”


And, it says, “whether you find yourself recharged from meditation, exercise, reading, napping, or connecting with loved ones, don’t sacrifice these breaks. Schedule them in and make those moments sacred.”


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