It’s safe to say that the past year or was exceedingly difficult for almost everyone. As a business owner, you know all too well how frightening the pandemic was, and maybe still is, for your business. If you made it this far – congratulations! However, now that people are adapting to a new normal, and some places around the world are beginning to reopen with looser guidelines and fewer restrictions, you might wonder what’s in store for your business when lockdown restrictions are eased and how you might have to change business operations to accommodate remaining restrictions.
Yes, infection rates are going down and more people received the vaccine to protect them from Covid. There’s a lot of pent-up demand but also an amount of fear; fear of a fourth wave of the pandemic, fear of the devastating symptoms caused the virus, fear that variations of the virus might send us back into lockdown, fear for the lives of our friends and loved ones. As a business owner, the ever-changing landscape of business operations resulting from not only multiples cycles of restrictions then easing of restrictions, but different restrictions depending on your particular geography.
Changing business operations
If we learned nothing else from the pandemic’s business owners, we learned that flexibility and nimbleness are keys to success. During the pandemic, businesses transformed their business models to serve customers no longer willing or able to visit us and the real world. Other businesses found demand for their products evaporate overnight and were forced to transform operations allowing them to produce products in high demand. For instance, breweries who before the pandemic invited guests to enjoy a cold one and some music now found their venues empty and transformed themselves to produce in-demand products like hand sanitizers. This nimbleness must become part of our DNA as we move forward.
Most business owners we’re told many times about functional elements of running a business such as vision customer service culture product differentiation and supply chain management. Yet business schools fail to teach the importance of nimbleness, which, according to Entrepreneur, is more important than being right, as the following quote from its article demonstrates:
In business — especially the early stages — having a vision is great. However, being nimble and open to new ideas is the key to longevity.
I once heard an often-repeated speech by Adobe founder, Charles Geschke, in which he recounts the early days of Adobe. One of my biggest takeaways from his speech was the importance of pivoting to the ultimate success of his fledgling company. You see, his business plan called for the company to sell a combination of hardware and software to allow desktop publishing. He and his partner initially turned down offers from companies like Apple interested in only purchasing this software since these companies produce their own hardware. Luckily, based on advice from an experienced board member, he ultimately threw out the business plan and sold the software, paving the way for massive success.
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Consider continuing remote working
If remote working worked well for you and your team during the pandemic, why end it? You no doubt saved lots of money by not forcing employees to come into an office location, and if there’s nothing wrong with your current way of working then there’s no reason to change it! In fact, By 2025, an estimated 70% of the workforce will work remotely at least five days a month. Tech companies lead the way in this shift toward remote working as their work lends itself to effectiveness using a distributed workforce and high-cost-of-living cities surrounding its headquarters made it hard to recruit workers.
A remote workforce means you no longer pay for thousands of square feet of expensive commercial real estate or offer expensive benefits common in some companies, such as meals and relaxation areas, while still experiencing high productivity rates among employees. Employees also love working from home as it saves them hours per week of frustrating commutes.
Of course, remote work isn’t without its problems, such as remote file access from web browsers without a VPN, while certain tasks are much harder, if not impossible, from remote locations. But remote work doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Consider downsizing your corporate offices and staggering employees such that they are only required to work in the office a few days a week.
Even after lockdowns end and most restrictions are lifted, unvaccinated staff or those with serious medical conditions who fear one of the variants might feel a certain reluctance about returning to crowded offices. Having staff working from home means you won’t have to worry about close contact workers!
Open an online store
Your business may have adapted to a virtual environment during the beginning of the pandemic. If, for example, you run a store that requires people to physically come in and buy your products, you likely made it possible for people to shop with you online, even offering curbside pickup. If this worked well, consider keeping your online store open for an additional stream of revenue.
Upgrade your equipment
One thing all businesses have in common when restrictions ease is the fight to retain existing customers and win over new customers. You know who your competitors are by now, and you should have a plan to position your products as uniquely able to solve customer problems. Maximize staff productivity by upgrading equipment in the office (and for those working from home, too) to ensure you’re the first in line for your customers’ attention with seamless business operations.
Be sure to focus on every aspect from product quality, pricing, sales promotions, social media marketing, and even your search engine optimization. While all of this is perfectly possible with your current equipment, using the latest and greatest helps you produce better results with fewer resources. For instance, marketing automation tools help ensure you produce valuable content on a consistent basis across all of your platforms. Similarly, incorporating digital advertising, such as Google Ads, increases the reach of your marketing communication.
When restrictions disappear, we’ll celebrate this momentous occasion as consumers. As a business owner, reducing restrictions will pump new life into your struggling business if you adjust business operations to take advantage of the new normal. You must take advantage of this opportunity by taking additional steps such as retraining staff, introducing new products and services, and even rethinking your marketing strategy to ensure you’re the one in front of your target audience, rather than your competitors.