How volatile is our epoch?
Across the entire world, businesses are closing daily, and it doesn’t matter whether it has been around for 20 years or opened up in 2018. No one is safe, including major companies that are filing for bankruptcy. The question that comes to anyone’s mind quite readily is: how do I keep my business afloat?
It is not an easy question, and the answer is a somewhat difficult one as well. The sad reality is that there are practically no guarantees that your business will survive in 2020 and come out swinging in 2021.
1. Any Re-Opening is a Good Re-Opening.
There is good news, though. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, small business owners are opening back up, with 86% of small businesses surveyed report they are either fully (52%) or partially (34%) open. These figures are much better than they were in May of this year.
Business owners are cautiously optimistic – they’re not ignoring the second coronavirus wave’s threat, but some believe they can prepare better the second time around. As of today, quite a few small and medium-sized businesses in the U.S and other parts of the world are open. They have to follow specific mandated guidelines to stay open, but this is a welcome change from what it was back in Spring for many owners.
Still, 2021 is only five months away from now, and there are some things you can do as a business to prepare yourself and your company for the year ahead.
2. Less is More with Automation
Although today’s learning management systems are as advanced as they have ever been, solutions may still be required for positions that cannot be trained remotely. If the company is stuck on lockdown, there might be nothing that you can do to prepare a new employee.
In this case, companies turn to automation to fill in these positions that are no longer possible to train in today’s climate. Although automation doesn’t fill a real person’s duties, it can still be a compelling solution for some specific tasks, from answering customers’ questions to automating deductions. Or, by using automated email marketing solutions, you’ll be saving both time and money when it comes to how your business handles its email marketing.
In today’s unique climate, more companies turning to automation means more companies providing automation solutions. With an increase in competition and demand, we are seeing an inevitable rise in the market’s quality and solutions providers.
Whether you need to automate your email marketing or outbound calling effort, your company can operate as if it is a much larger entity. Even at the same time, companies can be cutting employees by reducing the hours available to projects.
If you look at the stock market, it’s very apparent that online document management companies are doing well. A significant uptick in the second quarter of 2020 can be seen with all document management system companies. For example, Google Docs and its business-oriented platform G Suite have seen a marked increase of users in 2020. Companies that were mildly interested in switching to a cloud-based document management system have now fully converted to using cloud-based systems.
Many companies that would never have previously thought about using cloud-based document management systems are now adopting them for their daily workflows. Small businesses and startups embrace the references of their young founders’ preferences, who grew up using cloud-based services for personal use, allowing for a well-functioning paperless office.
For several months now, one of the top apps on the Windows and Apple app stores is the Microsoft Office 365 Suite. Any statistical reference tells you that people are interested in productivity. The ability to work in real-time across any device across the entire world is becoming expected at work.
We’ve seen newcomers into this market as well, especially with the focus on mobile apps. Although people are not heading to the office as much, that doesn’t mean they’re at home on laptops. Many users prefer to work on their mobile devices, and companies that develop apps or transition to productivity on mobile devices are experiencing increased demand
3. Check your Company’s Pulse
If your company has been operating for a few months in 2021, you can begin to evaluate how companies can use the majority of the company’s employees working remotely. Several large businesses in 2020 have been conducting studies on the productivity of their employees working remotely. Now we’re halfway through the year; the results are materializing.
It turns out that it’s a mixed bag. Remote work benefits some company types, but typically only in the short-term. Over the long-term, it becomes harder to train personnel, pitch ideas for new projects, get and sign contracts and perform tasks that require organic collaboration. At this point, it might make sense to use an assessment tool that can help you figure out what state your business is in and perhaps guide you in the right direction with how to proceed.
4. The Remote Work Industry is Becoming Mainstream
Although working remotely, especially with new employees, is proving to be a more significant challenge than initially expected, new opportunities are growing in the online working space. Learning management systems are becoming mainstream, especially ones which are based online in the cloud. Collaboration software is also as popular as it has ever been, allowing teams to stay on top of their tasks at all times.
Virtual reality is also coming into the mainstream, and the business cases of virtual reality are much more apparent than they were just six months ago. If your business has any foothold in the virtual reality or online learning market, it’s probably time to look into pivoting at least partially in that market direction.
Businesses use employee tracking systems when located over a large geographic area. With assets in different states or countries, it’s essential to have tools to know where those assets are. But now, with employees optionally located at home or the office, employee tracking systems are increasingly being used with small businesses and companies that only have single-digit offices. Their methods allow companies to track their employees’ productivity, quickly obtain the status of every person and every asset, and record data over time to identify trends.
5. Where and When are Your People and Assets?
If your company isn’t using an employee tracking system yet, now is the time to consider collecting at least some data about your employees’ productivity. By collecting data now, you can assess whether or not your changes are taking effect. Companies that collect data also don’t have to be large Enterprise businesses.
Many cloud-based data collection services exist for companies that need to operate at any scale. Your company can enjoy employee management systems’ benefits even if you have just one person managing resources. Small businesses can access the same tools as large Enterprises on pay-as-you-go plans.
6. Take Another Look At Professional Training
Training personnel has always been a challenge, especially with complex or critical components of your company. With the new mandates for remaining open, such as requirements for specific health precautions to be made during any company operations, training is even more critical.
You’re training personnel on new operations programs, and those programs affect your personnel’s health and safety. In today’s climate, you need to be even more vigilant to make sure that those training systems are fully effective.
In the past, learning management systems based on the computer could be augmented with one-on-one interaction. If you think about it, one on one exchange has been the primary methodology of training new employees going back thousands of years.
Such apprenticeship programs are still in use today to train new employees on a wide variety of tasks, especially job positions, which are difficult to describe on paper. Today, virtual training systems are becoming ready to replace one-on-one training. By putting the employees virtually in the environment in which route they would need to make decisions, training can happen remotely and safely.
New systems can record the interaction with the virtual environment and evaluate their performance just like a person over the shoulder. Users can interact with the VR system and identify hazards, walk virtually through a challenging environment, or be exposed to realistic tests and distractions.
A big part of professional training is giving feedback through regular performance reviews. Once you schedule the review, you might ask your employees to fill out an online self-evaluation form to reflect on their career goals, achievements, and challenges. Later, schedule a personal conversation (in person or via Zoom) to give and receive feedback. Every performance review should end with creating a shared list of action-items, both for an employee and a manager.
7. Multiply your presence
With working at home, users are turning more to 24/7 applications, including automation of communications. If you’ve ever received emails from international or overseas clients, you know what it’s like to always be awake at 3 in the morning with one of your customers. Because of the 24-hour cycle of marketing, companies need to find ways to achieve a balance, and that includes some degree of automation.
As a sales representative at your company, if you’ve ever been tasked with too many clients to email in one day, you may have looked into marketing automation for small businesses. For example, you can save time for essential tasks by sharing your company’s scheduling with your clients with a quick and easy interface, increasing the perception of availability.
Applications on how to improve your marketing workflows are getting more and more sophisticated as businesses turn to them as less of a preference and more of a requirement. Many companies are experiencing downtimes as they are retail, and in-person revenue streams dry up. They need to recover costs to pivot into online-based products and services successfully.
Unfortunately, this pivoting cost is not trivial. Companies need to reduce or eliminate positions to survive, yet they need to increase their marketing presence. In comes automation in marketing. Automation in marketing does not have to be a difficult task. Although automation app-development companies have tailored products for enterprise clients in the past, the market is changing. Developers are increasingly providing smaller, pay-as-you-go type subscriptions because of the influx of new customers at the small business scale.
These subscription-based systems allow small businesses and even individual proprietorships to access the tools which the enterprise has enjoyed for years.
Whether your company is a start-up or an established business is adapting to new trends for next year, your business can prepare for whatever comes next by diversifying into brave new markets. Remote work is not the silver bullet, and neither is automation, but without them, your company will be at a severe disadvantage coming into 2021.
If you’re looking for the first steps, try small subscription-based services, and expand from there. We all are trying to adapt to changing conditions. By incorporating new products and services into your business, you’re supporting a changing market and modern economy. Soon, work will look very different for everyone, but it also means that everyone will begin to enjoy the benefits of a more diverse, more robust world of small business.
This is a Guest Post by: Darya Jandossova Troncoso is a photographer, artist, and writer working on her first novel and managing a digital marketing blog – MarketSplash.