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3 Tech & Automation Strategies Businesses Must Have To Thrive

Covid changed everyone’s lives in dramatic ways on many levels – but small and big businesses alike were radically impacted, from events, restaurants and retail being shut down to sending everyone home to work remote.

It’s no surprise that the tech sector thrived during this time, from remote work solutions to online ordering, telemedicine, virtual events and more. Good or bad, a LOT of these changes are here to stay.

1. Cyber security protection to avoid or at least mitigate losses.

Warren Buffet is famous for his two rules of investing and making money: Rule #1: Don’t lose the money. Rule #2: Never forget Rule #1. While nobody likes to spend money on cyber security, the simple fact of the matter is that if you don’t, or if you underinvest in adequate protections, you WILL lose money in your business, either from it being taken from your bank account or from the vast number of costs associated with a breach that most people grossly underestimate. Without a doubt, cybercriminals went gangbusters during the lockdowns when millions of people were forced to work remote using unsecure home WiFi, laptops and cell phones. The Trend Micro Annual Cybersecurity Report saw a whopping 16 million threats related to Covid-19 in 2020 alone. Business Wire recently reported that 81% of global organizations experienced an increase in cyberthreats and 79% experienced downtime due to a cyber security risk. These threats are continually getting more aggressive, frequent and damaging, so you must have a plan in place to ensure you’re not robbed blind and taken out.

2. Using tech to get more efficient with fewer employees.

Since 2010, the US unemployment rate has been on a steady decline, from nearly 10% to under 3% right at the start of 2020. Covid shutdowns temporarily covered up this shortage with thousands being laid off, but now that life is back to “normal” (whatever this new normal is), the labor shortage has crippled many businesses that are now trying to reopen but can’t operate at full capacity, not only due to an inability to find and keep good people, but also because of the cost of hiring with salary demands increasing. This is forcing many organizations to implement automated systems, as well as artificial intelligence to replace workers, like grocery store checkout lines being limited to only two or three open, driving customers to use self-checkout, or companies switching to AI-driven chatbots, text messages and phone systems to handle the initial customer requests, lowering the need for paid employees. Another area many businesses are focusing on is to get more productivity from every employee using tech and automation. Many sales departments are using dialers, CRM and marketing automation systems to get a single rep to be far more productive, generating more sales by removing or reducing manual labor tasks and “paperwork” that fills hours of any sales rep’s day. And finally, another growing area of focus is to ensure the productivity of employees. This has become a hot topic since the shutdowns sent so many people home to work, and many people now ONLY want remote work. Problem is, many employees lack the personal discipline and productive environment to work distraction-free, making them far less productive than if they came into an office. To combat this, some businesses are utilizing productivity-monitoring software like ActivTrak or Teramind to know just how much time employees are away from their computer or surfing social media and other non-work-related sites. Doing this allows the employer to know if any employee is truly “overworked” or barely putting in an eight-hour day.

3. Online ordering and fulfillment.

At an event in our industry, Marcus Lemonis, the star of the hit TV show The Profit and CEO of the billion-dollar brands Camping World and Good Sam, shared how Camping World frantically transitioned his retail stores to online ordering, shipping and drive-by pickup to enable his customers to keep buying when the stores were physically shut down. An investment that not only paid off in the short term but also expanded the company’s ability to generate sales and fuel customer spend and loyalty. Many restaurants started or enhanced online ordering during the lockdowns, some becoming pickup-only establishments with no indoor seating, decreasing the need for more employees while continuing to generate sales. They also started (and many have kept) ordering using a QR code, eliminating paper menus and facilitating ordering and payment. Some have gotten into the business of preassembled cook-from-home boxes, like Middlebury Pizzeria, which sells mini pizza kits you make and bake at home, opening a new revenue stream they didn’t have pre-pandemic. A good question to ask is how can you add some type of digital or online ordering and fulfilment to your organization? Maybe it’s time to go paperless and collect all payments with credit cards or other digital pay systems, eliminating paper invoices and many of your collection problems once and for all. Many medical companies are now storing clients’ credit cards and bank information for this reason. Of course, this opens up another door for cyber security problems and compliance issues, but the payoff can be huge.

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