Times of economic uncertainty have always been a fact of life for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs), but today’s uncertainties feel, well … not normal. Unprecedented even. SMBs are confronted with multiple challenges: a looming economic recession marked by inflation and supply chain bottlenecks, an ongoing and evolving global pandemic, new working models (remote and hybrid) that have transformed the nature of work, historical levels of employee turnover (i.e., the Great Resignation), an ongoing war in Ukraine, and more.
How can SMBs survive and thrive amid these massive macroeconomic uncertainties?
Answering that question was the focus of a discussion this week between Todd McCracken, President of the National Small Business Association, and Jamie Domenici, Chief Marketing Officer at GoTo, moderated by Elka Popova, VP of Connected Work Research at Frost & Sullivan.
Here are just some of the takeaways distilled from the full conversation.
1. SMBs should future-proof their business by building agility and digital connections
One of the hallmarks of small businesses is their ability to be agile and pivot when needed. McCracken recommends that small business owners “stay connected to what’s happening in the world and talk to each other about what they’re doing to accommodate change.”
These essential connections extend to customers and employees, too, especially at a time when there seems to be no “normal.” “You’ll need to support your employees and your customers in staying connected to you,” Domenici says. “Planning for business continuity today requires you to have reliable, flexible digital connections to your employees and customers alike.”
2. Technology should enable business continuity
Both McCracken and Domenici agreed that having the right technology tools in place is foundational for any SMB wanting to stay in business and stay connected, no matter where employees and customers happen to be. Domenici described four key aspects of identifying and implementing the “right” technology to address the “connective” needs of your SMB:
- “The technology must be flexible and enable flexibility for your employees and customers.”
- “The technology must be scalable, and it must grow alongside your business and integrate well with your existing tech stack.”
- “The technology must be reliable: it simply has to work when you need it to support your employees and customers.”
- “The technology must be secure, especially in a world where cybersecurity threats are growing in volume and sophistication.”
3. Your technology should be designed with security in mind
Cybersecurity is now an enormous concern for small businesses. “The challenges around security are real, and not enough small businesses are taking appropriate steps to address them,” McCracken said. He advised SMBs to “find a good technology partner to provide security and the right training for your people” so they’re working with security-first tools and processes.
Domenici strongly agreed, adding that “all our products at GoTo are built with security foremost in mind, and we use multiple best-in-class security features such as zero trust.”
4. SMBs must support employees and customers no matter where they are
We live in a world of distributed work teams and evolving work models (including remote and hybrid). On any given day, some people are in the office, and some are working from home. “The best practice for small businesses is to have ways to stay connected and to support their people and customers no matter where they sit,” said McCracken.
Domenici added that “the way a business stays connected with people, the experience it drives digitally [for customers and employees], can represent a differentiation in the market.” If your digital connection tools are bad, your employees won’t be productive, nor will customers choose to engage with you. A good digital experience, on the other hand, drives the long-term loyalty of employees and customers.
5. SMBs should consolidate their IT tools
An amazing 95% of all businesses are currently either consolidating (or considering consolidating) their digital tools. The trend toward tool consolidation is driven by an obvious problem: more IT tools create more IT complexity, and more complexity creates more cost, less efficiency, and an array of other problems.
“The challenge for small businesses,” said McCracken, “is to get their people to use the technology tools they already have, let alone new tools. Tools need to be easy to use and backed by accessible support for the people using them.” It simply leads to better outcomes, Domenici said. Whenever possible, SMBs should work with a single vendor and a single platform that can simplify IT tools."
For even more actionable insights about how SMBs can ensure business continuity and stay connected to employees and customers in uncertain times, watch the full, on-demand webinar, The IT Leader’s Guide to Navigating Through an Age of Uncertainty.