The start of a new year is a good time for small business owners to reflect on all their successes and challenges, as well as to anticipate future opportunities. Over the past few years, business owners have had to make major changes in the way they operate, serve their customers, and cultivate relationships within their community – with their suppliers and partners. And the reality is that small business owners will continue to face an uphill battle as the challenges of COVID-19 continue.
A record proportion of small business owners say they continue to have difficulty hiring the workers they need to run their business. In fact, according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) monthly survey, 56% (93% of those who are hiring or trying to hire) of owners reported few or no qualified candidates for the positions they were trying to provide.
Headlines about the omicron variant will also likely make it even more difficult to hire in early 2022. Business owners will continue to suffer the consequences of supply chain constraints, declining profits and rising material prices.
Often the biggest challenges for small businesses are also the biggest opportunities. Below are some tips to help you prepare your small businesses for success in 2022.
If there was one glaring lesson business owners learned from COVID-19, it was to be flexible. With the impacts of COVID-19, businesses have had to revamp their online offerings and create an e-commerce digital presence. Most have had to change their relationships with supply chains and suppliers or reduce their hiring. When it comes to planning activities for the next six, 12 or even 18 months, one thing is certain: flexibility will be key. Between staffing demands, supply chain delays and rising costs, write your 2022 plans in pencil. It will be important to keep in touch with your investment banker, tax advisor, accountant and local chambers of commerce to stay up to date on trends and developments that could impact your business. Most importantly, be nimble and open-minded to pivot, using your experiences from the past 18 months as a guide.
Digital payment processing
Cash flow is the lifeblood of businesses, but manually handling, handling, and processing cash, checks, and money orders can be costly and time-consuming. According to a report by Wells Fargo in December 2020, one-fifth of consumers made their first contactless payment during the pandemic, and more than half of them will continue to use this payment method, according to the National Retail Federation. The retail association also found that around two-thirds of retailers are now accepting some type of contactless payment to meet consumer preferences since last year. To gain a competitive edge, small businesses should consider adopting technologies that can help accelerate their access to working capital, such as automated clearing house (ACH), accounts payable and receivable tools, and commercial cards. .
Labor saving technologies
Using technology to offset the ongoing difficulty in hiring workers is also something to consider. Many business owners are investing more in labor-saving technologies that help fulfill orders, automate production and distribution, and onboard and train new workers. A variety of labor-saving technologies have become increasingly affordable, and now is a great time to adapt.
Sharp marketing efforts
To better promote your goods and services, consider researching, investing in, and optimizing digital marketing tools, including:
• Targeted email marketingwhich allows you to send different information to unique groups of customers and measure the effectiveness of your messaging via open and click rates.
• Engaging social media campaignsthat focus on engaging consumers through sharing and measuring results.
• A robust strategy for online customer reviewsincluding regular requests for customer feedback via pop-up surveys on your website (or in marketing emails) and timely personal follow-ups on reviews, whether good or bad.
• A complete renovation of the websiteincluding updating policies and products, adding personality and branding, removing dated or broken pages, and adding photos of you and your friendly team.
Start the new year with a thorough review of your current approach to marketing and start evaluating how digital enhancements can fit into your strategy.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to planning for the year, applying these tips and what you’ve learned during these difficult times can help your small business succeed in 2022.
Bill Stump is a Small Business Leader for Wells Fargo Atlantic Region. A veteran of the business for nearly 25 years, Stump is based in New Jersey and has customers throughout the Greater Philadelphia area and Pennsylvania.