By Tiffany Markus
Since March 2020, small- and medium-sized businesses in our region have been tested…and tested again, and again and again. Many were forced to close because of upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but many more have been able to survive due to a combination of innovation, strong community ties, talent, and resiliency. The pandemic proved that the entrepreneurial spirit is very much alive in San Diego—and that many of our entrepreneurs know how to leverage the best technology solutions to keep their businesses going when unexpected challenges arise.
The Top Tech Awards, which Cox Business sponsors each year, already recognized “the unsung heroes of information technology” pre-pandemic. This year’s awards, which will be hosted online on September 17, 2021, will spotlight how these tech leaders kept their businesses running throughout 2020, and in many cases, helped their companies pivot quickly amid an ever-shifting “normal.”
If you’re a small- or medium-sized business owner, first congratulations—the pandemic isn’t quite over, but you have made it through one of the most challenging years many of us have experienced in our lifetime. However, to reopen successfully, it’s important to have all the right tools and practices in place. Based on the strategies used by this year’s Top Tech Awards nominees, here are some best practices for reopening as pandemic restrictions ease.
Use new tools to take care of your employees. Always make your employees’ safety and well-being your top priority. Whether your business relies on in-person service, like restaurants or auto repair shops, or can operate with a largely remote workforce, use cloud solutions to support and keep them safe. Internet-based services for phone, communications and data storage can help you keep employees informed of all the latest coronavirus policies and guidelines. Make sure that workers who feel ill can and do stay home, limit customers inside, and stagger shifts so that your workplace isn’t overcrowded. Cloud solutions will keep your data safe and accessible from wherever you are and ensure your internet connection for video meetings is crystal clear.
Rethink how you engage customers and make them feel safe. Communicate with your customers on as many channels as possible, both online and offline, on any changes due to the pandemic such as new safety measures or different business hours. Invest in your digital channels and social media, since more customers than ever depend on businesses with easy, user-friendly communications and a strong web presence. Consider new technologies that promote safety, such as contactless payment, or that protect customer data in the face of increasing cyberattacks.
Be flexible and adaptable and embrace outside help. “Business as usual” has taken on an entirely new meaning in the past year and a half. Most small- to medium-sized businesses have had to update their business plan, and it’s important to continually revisit and pivot where necessary. Look for changes in your customers’ behavior and see if there are any opportunities for innovation or streamlining operations to better serve their needs. Consider a cost-efficient, 24/7 managed IT service partner that can cover gaps in your IT support and management staffing, and continuously monitor your systems for any issues or breaches.
Plan for future interruptions. As the U.S. Small Business Administration says, advance planning is one of the most important elements of business recovery. Write a business continuity plan that will help you respond to future disasters and disruptions. Identify and document critical business functions and processes, organize a business continuity team and evaluate recovery strategies, particularly for IT. A report by the International Data Corporation (IDC) found that 93% of business respondents have experienced tech-related business disruption in the past two years, and the vast majority of those incidents had financial consequences. Get help writing a business continuity plan at ready.gov.
It’s been a difficult time, but we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Managed IT services partners and cloud solutions providers like Cox Business can help your business withstand future shocks and continue operating for years to come.
Tiffany Markus has over 17 years of experience working with organizations to improve performance through technology. She is currently an executive for Cox Business, in San Diego.