We’ve flipped the calendar over to 2020, kicking off not only a new year, but a new decade. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to take a step back and set a new slate of goals for your small business. As you look to grow in 2020 and beyond, don’t overlook your technology and its capabilities to help you hit your targets and uncover new opportunities for growth and productivity. Here are some of the top goals you might consider:
When is the last time you expanded your offerings or services? Now might be a good time to evaluate what type of growth is right and attainable for your business. Is it time to release a new product or service? Expand and open another branch or location? Whatever your strategy, don’t repeat any previous mistakes—put together a business plan that includes lessons learned from previous launches or openings. Most important, make sure any growth initiatives are set up for success from the get-go: look at what your growth plans will demand from a bandwidth perspective and see what adjustments you’ll need to make to your network based on these new demands. If your plans involve additional headcount or satellite locations, explore cloud-based collaboration tools to enable productivity, no matter where your employees are.
Improving customer experience (CX) has been a boardroom-level objective for big business for years, as it’s found to be the biggest factor considered by consumers in deciding where to spend their hard-earned money. It’s no different for small businesses. Your customers are beginning to expect the same kind of personalized experiences from you that they get from the big boxes. Data and connectivity are the fuel for customer experience activities, so think through how you can capture customer data, including through guest WiFi logins. Aside from the collection of data, you need to make sure that data is available and actionable. Tying together data across systems means that, for example, if a customer buys and then returns an item they are unsatisfied with, you can automatically suppress them from marketing activities around that product moving forward.
For shops and restaurants, much of the customer experience happens on-site, and there are now more ways to transform the experience for customers. Guest WiFi has moved from a nice-to-have amenity to an expected utility, and splash pages delivering special offers or discounts can be an incredible driver of CX. Tablets in the hands of employees serve in-the-moment connection and empower customer service that goes beyond the ordinary. The connectivity underpinning all of this, however, needs to be fast as well as reliable. 4G LTE backups ensure that CX doesn’t suffer, even when the power goes out.
As a small business owner, you probably don’t have a dedicated security team in place, ensuring the safety of company and customer data. Security, though, is too important to be completely relegated to a non-IT employee. Two-thirds of small businesses have experienced a data breach, and the consequences can be devastating. Don’t let a cyber attack undermine your plans for growth. Firewalls and anti-virus solutions are effective, but can’t completely protect you from hackers. Use the new year as the opportunity to educate your employees on smart cybersecurity behavior and implement security monitoring that will proactively protect all devices on your network and scan for threats.
Remote work and distributed workforces are moving from the enterprise world into small businesses, as more and more small businesses have parts of their staff in remote locations on a regular basis. This opens up new doors for growth and breaks down geographical barriers—you can recruit from anywhere in the world, allowing you to grow your business through the right talent. More flexible, dynamic working models also foster better work/life balance so people can work on the go and small business owners can monitor network and physical security from afar.
Not having your entire team in a central location poses inherent challenges and potential communication barriers, but technology is breaking down those walls at an astonishing clip. Video conferencing can connect remote employees seamlessly, but adds some bandwidth demands, so ensure your network is equipped. Collaboration tools and apps make it easier for employees to work together, and most of them are cloud-based, reducing strains on IT departments and making rollouts more efficient. Small business VoIP solutions provide flexible ways for employees to stay in touch with each other, as well as with customers, from anywhere. Finally, remote workers need access to tools and systems wherever they are, and you don’t always have control over the security of outside networks. In addition to the security measures discussed above, implementing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for a secure connection from anywhere can help.
Of course, you know your business best, and there are company-specific goals you’ll want to set. Use this list as a jumping-off point, though—position yourself now for a great year ahead.