Cheryl A. Moore, PsyD

CEO, Prestige Countertops & Services

The year 2020 was one that none of us will soon forget.  The experience of going through a contentious election and living in a pandemic challenged every one of us in our personal and professional lives. As business owners and managers, we will continue to face challenges in 2021 that will fall outside of our normal day-to-day routines.  These challenges create a necessity for all of us to think outside the box and look at our businesses in a way we may not have looked at them before.

Businesses that were able to survive the ever-changing rules of the pandemic were fortunate.  For some it required a lot of creativity to continue to provide a product or service that was being limited to new rules and procedures every day. As we push forward into 2021, this is the time to do a complete analysis of all aspects of your business to identify and address the challenges ahead.    As with any new administration, we would be remiss to not consider the possibilities of new regulations, extended shut-downs, increases in taxes, increases in interest rates, and increases in minimum wage rates, to name a few.  As we all try to figure out what our new “normal” will look like, I would like to present some areas of consideration as you plan for the New Year.

As we put 2020 behind us, we need to take a look at the basics in our business operations and identify the areas where we performed well and the areas where we need improvement. In doing this, I would like to suggest, and provide, a brief thought on the topics of current and prospective markets, projections, workforce, finances, and, technology. As you read through these, some may think it is just basic business acumen, and it is, but, unfortunately, many of us get so involved with the day-to-day chaos that we lose sight of operating to be more efficient, and doing what we need to do to improve quality, which in turn will impact profits.

In this industry we tend to focus on commercial or retail work, with some having a foot in both arenas.  So what do these two areas look like currently and moving forward?  Do you have a backlog built up for 2021?  In what areas do we have room for growth? Are we fiscally and properly prepared to achieve our sales goals? I would suggest utilizing your employees to make or set realistic goals moving forward and documenting how you plan to achieve these goals. Getting your employees involved in decisions like these gives them a sense of ownership and pride in your product and service. Create a team of workers to implement and monitor the outcomes of these plans.

Even in these challenging times we should be examining our workforce.  Do we have employees who are all in with our growth plans?  Are our employees motivated and efficient workers who pride themselves in the quality of their work and the product we are delivering to our customers? Are the employees paid a fair wage and do you provide bonuses for a job well done? Do the employees know where they stand in the future of the company?  A happy worker is a productive worker, and their happiness starts with you, in how you communicate with them, and show an interest in them and the knowledge they bring to you.

So, what about the historically low interest rates?  Given the uncertainty of the future, refinancing is a viable option for reducing monthly fixed costs.  Is now the time to look at a low interest loan to provide the capital needed to invest in the growth plan you have put together for the coming year? Develop a relationship with your banker and CPA, if you don’t already have one. These are two outlets that can provide a wealth of information to you and provide advice and guidance on moving forward

Network with others in your industry. Starting a business with nothing but hand tools and knowledge is not a bad idea, but when is the right time to start to invest in technologies that will make you more efficient?  Is there a particular sales level you need to be at to approach this decision? Do you need to be classified as a mid-sized to large company? Prepare cost projections and a return on investment analysis to ensure that you are financially prepared and can justify the leap to a digital templating machine or a CNC machine to increase production and improve quality. You will find this move is well worth it, when your company is ready.  Reach out to your fellow fabricators and ask them about their experiences.  Whatever choices you make, you want to strive to keep your business financially strong, so you can survive whatever 2021 has to offer.

In your strategic planning process for 2021, you may want to consider the Section 179 tax deduction. 

For those of you who are not familiar with this tax deduction, I would encourage you to talk with your accountant or tax advisor about this. In essence, Section 179 allows businesses to fully depreciate qualifying equipment purchases and qualifying business vehicles in the year of purchase.  

There is nothing complicated about this deduction and it has the potential to significantly reduce your taxable income. Utilizing this tax deduction may play a factor in your decision to invest in that new machine I discussed above. Assuming this taxable deduction is still relevant in the New Year, I would suggest researching it to prepare to take advantage of it this year.

None of us know what 2021 will bring, but we all have a responsibility to do our part.  We are going to face obstacles and we are going to see challenges, but with obstacles come opportunities.  Now is the time to do your homework, analyze every aspect of your business, ask questions, and make the hard decisions, so you too can be a survivor in 2021.

Cheryl is the CEO of Prestige Countertops & Services, Inc. and an Assistant Professor of Accounting at Mercyhurst University.  If you would like additional information, please email her at