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6 tips on how businesses can weather unpredictable futures with limited resources

Businesses have weathered various storms through out the last year due to the instability and changing markets caused by COVID-19. With limited resources and budget constraints, companies have struggled to digitize their entire organization for remote work and keep business afloat during tough times.

Various industries, such as hospitality, personal services, and wholesale/distribution, took colossal hits to their revenue. As companies start to return to the office, preparing for unforeseen futures is key to survival and growth in the future. It's time to take a look at the hard lessons learned from this past year to be prepared for whatever lies ahead.

According to SMB Group's Study "SMB Technology Directions For A Changing World," many small businesses suffered during the first few months of 2020. Even so, many were able to make up for lost revenue during the second half of 2020, with 43% increasing their revenue. Though immediate changes caused by the pandemic negatively impacted businesses, they were able to adapt with the right strategy and the right technology. Around 65% of businesses said they made changes to their technology strategy in the wake of COVID-19 and 67% made changes to their business strategy.

Making these significant changes allowed for business owners to survive a an unpredictable market. With hopefully better times ahead, companies should continue to plan and prepare for the unpredictable. And while every business is unique, there are ways to encourage security and growth, no matter what the future holds.

6 Ways to Weather Unpredictable Business Futures

1. Consider Building a Flexible Workplace Plan

A myriad of work styles have emerged from the pandemic, and while some prefer remote work and others can't wait to return to the office, it's critical to implement flexibility across the board for both your employees and from a business perspective. SMB Group's study shows 11% of companies (with 1-4 employees), 39% of companies (with 50-99 employees), and 54% of companies (250-499) employees created a long term strategy for a more flexible workstyle.

While smaller businesses might not see the importance in creating a flexible workplace, the strategy lies in planning for future growth. As companies expand and acquire, the workplace must grow, too. Consider opening smaller offices to reap cost-savings benefits, while adding to in-person collaboration. This model will also accommodate employees who want to work remotely a couple of days a week.

2. Invest in Technology Adoption and Modernization

Businesses have had to digitize faster than ever, but selecting the right technology tools that can withstand future crises is key. When shopping around, take time to fully understand present and future business needs. Even though a piece of software may fit your needs, making sure it works well with other applications will be critical. Seek out integrated tools that are built to work well with third-party applications.

Additionally, start small to fully understand your migration journey and select technology that is easy to grow with. Technology tools will help improve employee productivity, allow your business to keep up with changing customer demand, improve external collaboration with clients, help you get ahead of the competition and more.

3. Using Cloud-based Technology Over On-Premises Solutions

As the workplace shifts from in-person to remote and now hybrid, using cloud-based technology solutions that are flexible to fit changing work styles will prevent future hiccups. Unlike on-premises software, cloud-based tools are reliable and have stronger security since updates are automatic, and users don't need to maintain the system.

4. Build a Digital Transformation Strategy

Digital transformation consists of strategizing digital technology in all aspects of business to improve processes, determine how to bring value to customers, and fundamentally shape your business to excel in the future. Take time to produce a well-constructed plan to reshape your business, including the design of your website, customer experience, workflows and processes.

5. Automate Where You Can

According to SMB Group's survey, automating customer service and internal IT are seen as the top two areas businesses need to automate in order to grow. Next comes sales, marketing, and accounting automation. Automating these aspects of your business will save you critical time and money, especially when markets change in the future.

Additionally, automation leads to fewer errors from manual entry and more happy customers, thanks to SLAs being reached faster. And with time regained, businesses can spend those accrued hours on accomplishing new projects, adding efficiency to other aspects of the business, and bettering their customer experience.

6. Take Security and Data Privacy Seriously

With businesses operating in flexible work environments there has been a huge uptick in security vulnerabilities. Make sure to have a security protocol put into place to keep company data secure and safe. Additionally, you'll want to closely examine the software your business uses and see if their data privacy practices align with your business values. Many software tools track and sell data to third parties, which could put your company and customer data at risk. And with so many security breaches in the last year, it's time for businesses take a more serious approach to cybersecurity.

Unfortunately no one has a crystal ball to see what the future holds. But by putting plans into place, you'll give your business the tools to stay afloat in uncertain times. If this past year has taught us anything, it's that adaption, having the right technology, and being flexible are lifelines when navigating murky waters.

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This article was written by Raju Vegesna from Small Business Trends and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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