The announcement of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on May 13 was a huge breakthrough for the U.S. business community. With the wearing of masks and physical distancing no longer mandatory for fully vaccinated people, and with the lifting of restrictions for them to join crowds indoors and outdoors, many businesses can now open their doors once more to their clientele.
An Economic Reprieve
The pandemic’s effect was so devastating that many small businesses had to close and as of April 23 this year, 34 percent of them were still not operational according to the World Economic Forum. This has a major impact on the economy because 99.9 percent of U.S. businesses are in the category of small businesses and 47.3 percent or almost half of the private workforce are in their employ.
Small businesses have not been completely wiped out, though. According to the Small Business Recovery Report of Kabbage, 57 percent of the 550 small businesses it polled in February this year are fully operational. These businesses are in a wide range of industries such as media, marketing, technology, professional services, financial services, food and beverage, retail, manufacturing, education, healthcare, automotive, agriculture, and construction, among others.
Of these businesses, a third are operating fully or partially online. Their lifeline of revenue has changed to 57 percent from online sales in February compared to 37 percent in the pre-pandemic period. Because of this, their leaders have become more receptive to the adoption of new technology to replace or enhance their traditional business systems.
An Organizational Shift
As in any type of change, there is always a possibility of resistance in a company. Even if the business owner decides on adopting technological tools and processes, if other people in management and the rank-and-file do not accept this, there will be hindrances in implementation.
It is important to make people understand that technology will not replace them. This is usually one of the major fears among workers. Providing company-wide organizational change management training will help shift mindsets and provide a smooth transition to the necessary changes.
The company must also provide the needed technical training for its personnel. Whenever possible, instead of laying off people made redundant by technology, the company must retrain and equip them with new skills compatible with the new technology.
With the impending widespread reopening of small businesses, business owners must realize that the landscape has changed irretrievably. Even companies that operate in physical venues now need to have a strong online presence, as well, if they want to be in the consciousness of their target market. Consumers’ attention is now focused mostly online. Businesses, therefore, need to set up and maintain an interactive website. They also need digital marketing to keep their brand aloft amid the multitude of brands online.
Companies need not hire an entire information technology (IT) department and digital marketing department to do this work. It is more cost-effective to hire experts that provide this service. If the company has an existing traditional marketing department, this must work hand-in-hand with the hired digital marketing team so that campaigns on all fronts are in sync.
Cybersecurity must be at the top of the list if a company does not want its website and its business data hacked. Hackers can steal even business funds if the company is not fully secured. Data security and privacy regulators can also penalize a business with hefty fines if hackers compromise the data of its clientele.
Even with cybersecurity measures in place, companies need to have a foolproof disaster recovery and business continuity program. It is common for businesses to use Microsoft and Google cloud services, but these do not provide guaranteed backups. Microsoft urges its clients to use a separate backup program. In March 2021, Microsoft’s enterprise email software lost data from more than 30,000 organizations to hackers. Google had about an hour of outage in its services in December 2020. Incidents like this can result in costly downtimes for a company.
Businesses also need a variety of new technological tools to streamline and automate business processes. Replacing tedious manual paperwork with the appropriate software can save a lot of man-hours. For instance, finances and accounting are sensitive areas that require attention to detail and are vulnerable to human error. A comprehensive financial and accounting software system automates computations and minimizes error. It will cover payroll and the issuance of invoices and receipts, as well.
There are various types of software available for every aspect of the business, from internal human resources to procurement, sales, and delivery. By using a software integration system, a company can connect the different automated methods it is using to create a smooth flow of information and processing.
Adapt and Grow
Adapting to change and technological innovations is essential to the survival of small businesses. Their competitors are already using these new high-tech tools for efficiency and higher productivity. If they want to not only keep pace with but get ahead of the competition, small enterprises must invest in technology. This is the only way forward.