“When things don’t go your way, remember that every challenge — every adversity — contains within it the seeds of opportunity and growth.”
— Roy T. Bennett
To say the past year was tumultuous for businesses and entrepreneurs around the world would be an understatement. But it was also an eye-opening experience, showing business owners that there are different ways of operating, many of which are better than what we had before.
As we shift towards a new normal, companies need to prepare themselves and their workforce for the changes in communication and operational best practices. This requires planning.
With vaccination rates continuing to climb and a return to “normal” within sight, new opportunities are emerging for companies and entrepreneurs alike. To capitalize on them, you’ll need to take on a little risk and apply some of the lessons learned over the past several months.
Entering the “new normal”
First things first, what does the “new normal” actually mean? This often-quipped (but not always understood) term refers to the transition point in society from what came before — usually after a period of dramatic change and uncertainty.
For our purposes, we’re referring to the pandemic. This watershed moment changed the way that we do things, specifically where and how we work along with the structure of our business models. With most of us tethered to our homes, remote work became the norm, pushing a rising trend into the mainstream. After an initial adjustment period, people grew comfortable working from home, preferring it to the office grind.
At the same time, business models underwent their own transformation. With the virus running rampant, governments the world over shuttered non-essential businesses, urgently forcing them to reconsider how they delivered their products and/or services to consumers. There was a renewed shift towards digitization. Digital storefronts had been gaining traction before but now became the sole means of access for consumers.
People are continuing to see the convenience of digital, and businesses are jumping on board.
The (near) future looks entrepreneurial
In light of this new reality, what are some seeds of opportunity?
For one, the desire to be an entrepreneur and build out a venture has never been higher. In fact, the number of new business applications is up 38 per cent compared to the year before the pandemic. With many people losing their regular jobs, they turned to starting a business, capitalizing on new niches and demands (i.e., the shift towards digitization).
The opportunity to work independently from home as well as the advances in technology were key catalysts for this too. It’s easier than ever to find customers and work with people, no matter the distance – look no further than the widespread adoption of video communication tools such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
Not all of these startups will succeed long term. However, it is encouraging to see this rise in entrepreneurship, instead of having people recede into a shell after such a difficult period of time.
Strategies for success in the post-pandemic world
Here are six strategies you should follow to ensure a smooth transition and see results in the post-Covid world, regardless if you’re a seasoned company or a newly minted entrepreneur.
1. Invest in new technologies
One of the lessons we can take away from the pandemic and apply to how we do business is investing in technology. During the dark days of the crisis, video collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and shifting towards virtual events were absolutely essential to keeping businesses afloat.
In the future, technology will continue to play a vital role, particularly when it comes to automation. Already on the rise before the pandemic, the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to flourish as businesses try to keep up with increased consumer demand.
The benefits are numerous. Automation helps make the more routine processes easier, so you can spend less time on that and focus on running your business. For example, you could square off administrative functions such as employee onboarding or have chatbots send information to your workforce with notifications and shift alerts.
2. Give your workforce flexibility
Even with the pandemic zooming into the rear-view mirror, the dynamics of the workplace have changed forever. After a year of working from home and managing their schedule around competing life priorities, many employees are unlikely to accept a return to less flexibility.
As a business owner, you have an obligation to prioritize the employee experience. If your remote workers want to remain remote, you will have to accommodate this request. After all, the last year has shown, given the right support, people can be productive just about anywhere.
An off-shoot of this is that we can find the best person for a job regardless of where they are located. Remote work sites like Upwork and Fiverr were already on the rise before the pandemic. Look for them to surge.
In some cases, this will demand a reinvention of your organizational structure to provide more virtual workspaces. Keep every consideration in mind during this process: Does your team have everything they need to maintain their productivity? Are they safe?
3. An agile approach to internal communications
Did you know that 61 per cent of the workforce switched to working remotely but only 27 per cent of those have the necessary technology from employers to support that transition? To accommodate where and how their workforce performs its job, companies will need to realign their communication.
In lieu of an office environment where you can get together and hash out ideas, a digital collaboration solution could be the perfect compromise. A virtual space such as Slack gives them the freedom to make decisions and collaborate, without totally isolating them and losing out on productivity.
Try to maintain an open-door policy too. Keep your senior leadership upfront and transparent with lower-level employees, sharing details and updates about the company on a regular basis. It may not always be obvious, but this sort of connectivity is greatly appreciated.
Gather feedback from your employees from time to time to see if your efforts are working.
4. Renewed focus on innovation & risk-taking
The pandemic brought an urgency to business decision-making and completing objectives, as business owners, leadership teams and employees learned to try new things to meet their deadlines (i.e., video collaboration, dedicating time to health & wellness).
This will more than likely continue in the post-pandemic period. We’ve learned that there’s room for more open and ongoing conversations about new ideas and processes as well as the value of having agile operational structures that can respond to crises.
5. Anticipatory over reactionary crisis management
Speaking of responses, in hindsight, most businesses were not ready to manage a crisis on the scale of Covid-19. Without a strategy, they were left scrambling and reacting to restrictions.
Clearly, everyone needs to be better prepared in the future.
One way to do this is to build up a team that can focus on crisis management, freeing up resources for your business elsewhere. The goal would be to identify, assess, monitor and mitigate the impact of risk. In this way, you could develop contingencies within contingencies to deal with worst-case scenarios such as disruptions in supply chains.
6. Keep the public in the loop
While you are making all these changes within your organization and adapting to the new normal, it is key that you let your customers and clients in on the steps you’re taking. Why? It let’s them know about your current operations, so they can take their own steps. You can also see it as an opportunity to attract new customers that forgo traditional approaches (i.e., automation, doubling down on social media).
What will the future after Covid-19 look like? We have clues but no one really knows for sure.
One things for sure, adapting to change takes time, regardless of the size of your business. Despite many early concerns, the economy will recover. As an entrepreneur, the best thing you can do right now as the pandemic subsides is to be prepared and experiment with new approaches. Doing so will pay dividends in the long run.
Need more? If you’re an entrepreneur with questions about remote work, managing your business through the new normal or any other topic for that matter, I want to hear from you. Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blog was first published on LinkedIn.