Changes Small Business Can Make Now to Strengthen for the Future
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
Small businesses have been through a lot this year. Starts, stops, and on-the-fly pivots have been the hallmarks of 2020, as businesses have adjusted to remote work or figured out new ways to get their products and services to their customers, all while ensuring employee and customer health and safety.
As they consider the future of their business, small business owners have a lot on their mind. By harnessing their inherent entrepreneurship and ambition, and with a little help from technology, however, small businesses can go beyond just bouncing back — they can bounce forward into the holiday season and the new year.
The following suggested adjustments will not only set you up for success in the near term, they can also help establish better, sustainable practices to carry you forward.
Keep Employees Engaged
Prior to COVID-19, small business owners may have had weekly meetings to provide updates to their employees. With the shift to online business, that interaction is often no longer happening face-to-face – but it still needs to happen in real time. Cloud-based communication, messaging, and collaboration tools allow business owners to keep employees abreast of any changes and maintain open lines of communication to keep productivity on track. . Whether everyone is working from home or starting to make their way back to offices, stores, or restaurants, regular communication can provide ongoing clarity.
Based on varying local, state, and national COVID caseloads, shutdown regulations and recommendations are expected to change somewhat frequently. The US Chamber of Commerce has provided several resources for small businesses to navigate the many and ever-evolving regulations that businesses of all kinds should follow. It is also important to do what makes sense for your employees and customers. This may mean that everyone remains at home, or more of a hybrid model, where some stay at home while others are on site.
As small businesses evolve in-store experiences, they may determine that they need more from their internet and WiFi to support a more digital business model. Having a splash page for customers logging onto the network with information about new hours and procedures is an effective way to get valuable information to customers. Having control and visibility into WiFi usage and settings from your mobile device also makes it simple to manage WiFi networks for both employees and customers. As things evolve, you can adjust bandwidth limits and turn networks on and off at scheduled times, based on usage.
Take Advantage of Technology
Regardless of the product or service, many small businesses have had to embrace a more digital business model to safely stay connected to customers. Many brick and mortar businesses have adopted online platforms and services in ways they may have never imagined. And although restrictions continue to evolve across the country, there will likely be an ongoing need to supplement in-person business with digital service.
In order to help determine the optimal technology and settings for your business, it’s important to find a partner who can be a trusted advisor. The following are some key things to look for in a technology partner:
- Easy Account Access – Make sure you have quick access to your account, and retrieve or reset your password as needed.
- Remote Management – Make sure you can remain in touch and on the job by customizing product features, adjusting your services, or troubleshooting your service remotely.
- Constant Connection - Stay in touch with customers and employees with important voice features like call forwarding, voicemail, and one-touch conference calls.
Establish Two-Way Communication with Customers
Making customers feel comfortable is a top priority. According to a Consumer Health & Safety Index, 62% of shoppers would stop shopping at a retailer that is not taking health and safety seriously. Small business owners need to be adaptable and flexible to the changing needs of their customers.
Fortunately, social media continues to be a powerful tool for maintaining engagement and strengthening your connection with customers. Paired with digital platforms that allow video streaming and conferencing, there are many ways to keep the lines of communication open with your customers.
Use this as an opportunity to inform customers about the latest changes being made to your business so they know what to expect and how best to engage with you. This is also a great way to get customer feedback. Ask them if they are comfortable with in-person transactions or if they would prefer curbside pickups or video/phone chats. Small businesses need this feedback to better understand if the adjustments they are making are working for customers.
Small businesses all over the country are reinventing themselves in ways that will keep them up and running and providing the products and services their customers have grown to love.