Over the last couple of years, there has been massive upheaval in the country. Topping that list is the pandemic that has reshaped how many of us work, possibly forever. Then at pretty much the midpoint between then and now, we have a change in administration at the Whitehouse, which may well have as many repercussions in the long term for smaller businesses.
Nearly all businesses are small businesses
As you no doubt know (after all, it’s been quoted enough in recent times) that 99.9% of American businesses fall into the bracket of small businesses, and any change to even a small percentage of those has a massive impact on a lot of lives. Many of those 61 million businesses have employees that makeup nearly half of the American workforce; each of those businesses will have suppliers, use software, and any amount of consumables that are usually sourced from, you guessed it, another small business.
Given that network of inter-reliance, you would think that one of those businesses going under would cause almost the dictionary definition of the ‘domino effect. While in some areas that may be correct, the more widespread use of the internet means that it can be easier to prove yourself (and, by extension, others in your network) against this happening.
The Great Resignation
Following the events of the last two years, many people who have been working remotely have found that this way of working was far better for them and have chosen not to go back to the office. This has the obvious effect of causing a skills shortage, especially in some specialist or technical areas. To become more resilient to massive shifts like these, small businesses can make changes that dovetail with the needs of this in-demand workforce.
Offering Flexible Working Hours
Many businesses work 8-5 (or thereabouts) because that is what is expected, or at least that is what they have always done. In the modern age with customers and suppliers in different time zones across the world, the concept of ‘business hours’ has had to become more flexible. As a consequence, workers might have been expected to stay late or come in early to accommodate this.
So the concept of flexible working is not a new one in the US, and there is now the scope to expand this to offer more flexible working hours to those with children or those who want a smaller number of core hours and can work extra in busier times, in for what many businesses might call a win/win situation.
Companies thrive on good communication, but it is a sad fact that communication in many companies, both big and small, is notoriously poor. This has been exacerbated even further by any sort of remote working arrangement where face-to-face communication was often replaced with awkward Zoom chats or nothing at all.
By communicating better with their workforce, regardless of size, small business owners can let people know what their plans are in uncertain times. They can make sure the company position and its goals are clear, so employees know what is going on and rumors and gossip don’t gather any momentum.
Increasing your talent pool
One of the other offshoots of more flexible working arrangements is that if employees don’t need to come into the office, they are not limited to employing people who will make the daily commute into work. This means that they do not have to employ somebody who is in the same town, city, state or even the same county as their business.
Adding these people to the workforce can be problematic, mostly due to the lack of communication highlighted earlier, but with the aid of technology, the situation can be made far easier. By using an integrated solution involving onboarding, rostering, timesheets, and payroll, these new additions could be added to existing employees, and communication about who was available and when would not be done using long email chains.
Building your network online
Technology also plays a part in building stronger networks for small businesses. While many deals may have been done in previous years over a handshake at a brunch meeting or on the golf course, social media now plays a large part in building a business. By posting on social media, small businesses can attract customers and suppliers, and investors whose outlook aligns with theirs.
This will not just involve promotional posts but glimpses behind the scenes so the outside world can see what makes that business tick. This can mean that a small business can build links with not only what is closest geographically but what is best on a worldwide stage.
Using a website as a shop window
For many small businesses, the website is merely a digital version of a leaflet they might hand out at the shopping mall. It is likely to be of generic design, contains contact details and a few photos, but often little more than that. By using this website as a shop window for what they can do for customers, rather than just a way of getting in touch, small business owners can ‘pre-sell’ their services to visitors without having to speak to anybody.
As a number of the small businesses that have been created in recent years are based around web design, SEO, and online marketing, there is no shortage of alternatives for small business owners to raise their online profile if they choose to.
Many changes are happening due to the changes at the top, and regardless of which way the small business owner faces politically, they will know that things are going to be different for them. On the one hand, there is the potential for the ‘great resignation’ and the changes made by the new administration to cripple a small business. Alternatively, there is far greater potential for the small business owner’s life to be much better, with a happier, better trained, more informed, and more diverse workforce that can fit the needs of the business exactly.
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Brett is the Managing Editor of this website. A former business executive turned teacher, activist, and writer, Brett also operates an anonymous Twitter account with a very large following.