COVID-19 was a massive uppercut in the face of 2020 that left countless businesses scrambling to reorganize, restrategize, and for many, even just survive. Over a year later, everyone is gaining their footing in a post-pandemic world, where everything is undoubtedly different. Small businesses must adapt to the evolved consumer mindsets and preferences, as well as develop sustainable practices that meet the needs of their employees.
To help you thrive in this new normal, read on for five nuggets of wisdom on what small businesses should learn from the pandemic.
What the Coronavirus Pandemic Taught Small Businesses About Success
1. Be Where Your Customers Are
Many physical establishments have reopened, and workplaces are re-welcoming staff members. But while many are itching to gain some semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy and face-to-face interactions, the pandemic has proven that, to some degree, online methods and remote operations can work.
This is affirmed by Microsoft’s 2021 report which found that 73% of employees who participated in the survey said they would like flexible remote work options after the pandemic. Furthermore, 66% of businesses stated that they were considering redesigning their physical spaces to accommodate hybrid work environments.
Small business owners, particularly those in retail and dining industries, can expect that a significant portion of consumers may continue to work from home or maintain online purchasing habits developed during the pandemic. Businesses that depend on physical spaces, such as restaurants, convenience stores, and fashion brands, can benefit from digital operations like delivery services, websites, and e-commerce sites. With the help of a POS system that consolidates and simultaneously updates your online and offline sales, you don’t have to worry about cross-checking inventory and financials so often.
2. Prepare for the Unexpected
Most businesses have contingency plans for natural disasters like earthquakes and fires, but no one could have expected the scale and effects of a long-term international health crisis. The pandemic permanently altered consumers’ decision-making and purchasing habits, and well as how businesses conduct operations.
Take the time to re-evaluate your team’s contingency and emergency response plans. Learn from your experiences at the start of the pandemic – what worked and what could have been done better – and revise your strategies accordingly. Did you struggle with liquidity in the first few weeks of lockdown? Consider adjusting your financial plans to maintain a higher monetary reserve in case of emergencies. Do some of your staff members have poor mobile or WiFi connections at home? See if there’s a way you can help improve this, especially if you intend to run a hybrid business model post-pandemic. Are most of your business files stored physically at the office? Check for ways to store and access them remotely via cloud-based solutions.
This might seem like a pointless exercise, but let’s face it – when nations began to lock down in March of 2020, no one was ready for the massive fallout that followed and inevitably changed the world. Nothing is impossible.
3. Communicate Now More Than Ever
When working with others in person, it’s easy to glean things from context – the company culture based on team interactions, the best time and way to approach someone based on their mood, the heaviness of the workload based on how often someone has to work overtime. But when companies were forced to work remotely, and people lost these nonverbal cues, many things got lost in the silence.
Take “open lines of communication” a step further by engaging in active communication. For business owners or HR representatives, be proactive in checking in and engaging with your team. Even if they don’t need anything in particular, letting them know they are valued and supported will reinforce their personal investment in the company.
4. Redefine Flexibility Inside and Out
From an internal business standpoint, there’s a misconception that when workers ask for “flexibility,” it only means flexible working hours or being able to work from home. But if you dig deeper, this desire for flexibility points toward a need to manage work more efficiently, with leeway or contingency plans to accommodate personal emergencies and commitments.
Store-based businesses require staff members to come in at certain timeslots and work a specific number of hours. But for output-based businesses, you might consider finding alternative ways to measure productivity instead of how long people are on the clock.
Also, keep in mind that not everyone works best on a 9-5 system. Some may be highly productive in the mornings, while others are efficient night owls. You don’t have to bow to everyone’s whims but consider implementing a system that enables people to work when they function best. This may benefit your business in the long run as employees are more likely to show up with their best foot forward.
From an external or business-to-consumer standpoint, the increased usage of digital and online platforms has reinforced consumers’ need for speed and convenience. Customers expect to have multiple avenues of contacting your business to ask questions or raise concerns. With the heightened awareness for safety and the rise of non-cash-based ways to pay, consumers also expect businesses to accommodate diverse payment methods.
5. Consider What’s Next, And What Could Be Better
Tools like video conferencing platforms, e-commerce, and food delivery apps have been around for a while, yet many businesses did not leverage them. But when the pandemic struck, many scrambled to learn these tools and pivot their operations to maximize them, hitting many road bumps and growing pains along the way.
Learn from this experience and keep your eyes peeled for emerging technologies that can benefit your business. It shouldn’t take another global crisis to embrace new (and better) ways to serve your customers and manage your team. One example is the cloud, which offers potential for speed and scale, and is projected to be a $1 trillion industry by 2030.
Whether you’re working from a physical space, managing a fully remote team, or balancing a hybrid business model, True POS is here to help your business thrive with an intelligently designed point-of-sale system. Get a free quote today!