When the pandemic hit, many business owners were forced to close their doors. Companies built on bricks and mortar either shutdown for months on end or had to quickly make the shift online to reach their customers in new ways.
But that‘s not to say it was plain sailing for those already there: They also faced new challenges to deliver products and services in an environment none of us had ever experienced before.
According to author and small business champion, Carl Reader, “We went into the pandemic in a relatively good place compared to some businesses, and I would say we were 90% ready. We had inadvertently built most of the 'pandemic contingency planning' without realising.”
Yet, this didn’t make them exempt from running into a couple of issues. “The first was a very practical point” Carl explains. “Some team members simply didn't have the tools to remote work! The second was that we had built our setup with the thought that people would only work remotely on occasion, rather than the whole business working remotely full time.”
Similar pain points were felt by Barbara Labate, CEO of ReStore, but she highlights that digital was nonetheless invaluable to her company during COVID. “When you have a bigger volume of work every day, you need to incorporate more technology to help your staff and, in turn, your business. Particularly in eCommerce for grocery stores, the last year has been totally crazy. So, technology has been essential” she says.
Many business owners, who already engaged with digital on some level, are now using the pandemic as a steppingstone to embed learnings that will evolve their digital strategy so that it’s fit for the future.
Carl explains that he now views the transition to digital as “a continual task that we work on in our business” and is always looking for ways to drive greater efficiencies through technology. As an example, he says “We now have a system that notifies the team when a new client comes on board. This is a process that replaces a manual task, and although it is not a time intensive task, it is one of hundreds – if not thousands – of small jobs that can be eliminated through technology.”
Juan Merodio, CEO of the TEKDI Institute, has also started to include automated processes into his business that offers training and digital marketing courses. “One example of automation that we have implemented is the generation and delivery of course certificates to our students. When a student has completed one of our courses, our system automatically generates his/her diploma with the date, student name and course title. This is then sent to them by email, with an automatically generated link that allows the student to add the certificate to their personal profile on LinkedIn.”
While the pandemic may have acted as a catalyst for digital adoption, both Juan and Carl advocate continually reviewing workflows and strategies to look for ways to improve and grow your business in the future.
Though the power of digital technology clearly came to the fore for many during the past year, some of you may not be completely sold on digital just yet and that’s understandable.
One of the biggest hurdles to embracing digital is just knowing where to start. And let’s face it, after the year we’ve had, not only is this daunting but it may seem counterintuitive to plough money into something completely new if you’re unsure of the outcome.
It’s this gap in knowledge that is the main barrier for Juan, who comments that “many business owners, due to a lack of knowledge, are scared of not properly digitising their business. As a result of this fear, they simply don’t build an online presence”.
Hendrik Gottschalk, CEO of GetBaff agrees that business owners are often stopped in their tracks by “a mix of a lack of experience, a lack of courage to change, and an oversupply of options. Where and with what should I start? Who should I contact and what are the first steps? And the all-important question: Who is going to pay for all this?”
Juan adds that the not knowing part is “often exacerbated by a lack of financial resources, since a lack of knowledge or expertise can be solved by hiring qualified professionals. However, not every business is able to afford such external support.”
If you’re unsure of what digital has to offer and don’t want to splash the cash on third party experts, then get researching and investigate for yourself to build your knowledge.
As someone with heaps of experience, Rudy Bandiera, co-founder of NetPropaganda, says that she “often gets asked the questions of ‘how can I start my business? Would you help me out?’” and that she usually recommends starting with the basics by picking up a book. She adds, “there are thousands of books that can help you build your own personal branding, do advertising activities, and teach you how to do online advertising. You have to start learning for yourself”.
Barbara whole heartedly agrees and says “there are tonnes of videos on YouTube if you want to get basic knowledge on how to digitise your business, as well as courses, forums and webinars. It's not that difficult to get a general feeling of what is needed to build your business’s online presence.”
So, the message is clear: it’s time to push aside preconceived barriers and inspire yourself, with the help of research, to get started on your own digital journey.
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