As a business owner myself, I’ve found the COVID-19 shutdown as an incredibly useful time to not only prepare for the new financial year, but for the next decade for our business. There is nothing like being inundated with client requests, new business, and typical administration matters whilst juggling family life to bring the need for change to a head.
In those long days working from the home office it became apparent, as I am sure it did for many business owners, that there had to be a better way. The constant printing, signing, and scanning of documents, multiple conferencing apps and team members working flexible hours highlighted some very obvious bottlenecks for us, that no doubt impacted on the experience of our customers. I’ve identified three key areas where I believe business owners should be focused as we move into 2021 and beyond.
It’s been said before, but COVID-19 has amplified the need for small businesses to embrace technology. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stated, the business world has seen ‘2 years of digital transformation in 2 months’. My six easiest ways to streamline your business are:
- Simplify task management and workflow – Replace your spreadsheet’s and to-do lists with Monday.com, which provides editable automations to fit all types of businesses.
- Reduce physical paper use – Most businesses can now accept digital signatures, its time to embrace Docusign to speed up contracts and invoicing, rather than relying on multiple signatories.
- Move to the cloud – Few are aware that Telstra is Australia’s leading enterprise consultant and is able to support businesses transition from physical servers to cloud storage using Microsoft’s Azure or Sharepoint platform.
- Reconsider travel – Do you really need to be hitting the road or skies every other week? Reach out to your customers and replace taxi rides with Zoom calls whenever you can.
- Communication schedules – Communicating with your customers has never been more important with people spending even longer online at home. Engage a social media scheduling app like Hootsuite, and plan your posts months in advance.
Or right-sizing for lack of a better word. Now is a great time to question everything. Do you have too many internal processes? Or not enough? Are you providing services you aren’t being remunerated for? You can apply this to every part of your business.
- Renegotiating – The shutdown is now being described as ‘The Great Reset’ through which retailers, restauranteurs and any consumer facing businesses have an opportunity to reset rental expectations in a new world. Are you getting value for money for your lease? Is it in line with similar businesses in your area? Is your landlord supporting your business? With many businesses in trouble your tenancy is likely to be more valuable than ever, so use this leverage to open negotiations sooner. With so many businesses under pressure, can you sublet some of your space to bring in additional income; all important options to consider.
- Staffing – As unfortunate as it is, recessions bring a unique focus on what is truly important to your clients, your business and ultimately your family. Has the work from home experiment exposed weaknesses in your business model? Has it become obvious that certain roles within your businesses are no longer required, or that some staff aren’t being fully utilised? Job Keeper will assist in the short-term but ultimately you need to do what is best for the growth of your business.
- Freelancing and consulting – The unfortunate impact of COVID-19 is that people of all levels of experience and skill have lost their jobs; unemployment hit 7.1% in May. This presents a unique opportunity for proactive businesses. First, with so many technology platforms on offer, engage an expert consultant that can customise them for your particular business. At times we shy away from the one-off consulting fees, but in many cases, they can create efficiencies in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. There is no better time than the present to consider outsourcing simple tasks to freelancers or consultants, be it data-entry, design, content creation or communication. It’s time to think about what roles can be outsourced, what inefficiencies can be removed and which teams members need more support.
One final suggestion to consider is: Is it time to plan an exit strategy?
Particularly relevant for older business owners, but with the world changing so quickly, will your business still be what it is in 10 years’ time. Do you have the skills, experience and most importantly the energy required to transition to the new world? If your business has is still performing well despite COVID-19 now could be as good a time as any to realise the many years of hard work and move to the next stage of your life. Having guided many family groups, including my own, through the transition from 70-hour weeks to an active self-funded retirement, I’ve seen firsthand how rewarding it can be. Whether that means pursuing other business interests, charitable causes or working on your golf game; there is no time like the present.