With the May 13 announcement of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that the wearing of masks and physical distancing are no longer required in most cases for people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, there has been much excitement among the public and businesses that were direly affected by the pandemic. The new guidelines allow fully vaccinated people to go without masks and mingle freely even indoors and even in crowded places. This can breathe new life into businesses that have had to close temporarily since early 2020.
The State of Small Businesses in the U.S.
Data from the World Economic Forum show that almost all or 99.9 percent of businesses in the United States are small businesses and they employ almost half or 47.3 percent of the country’s private labor force. The Forum stated that compared to the figures in January 2020, 34 percent of small businesses nationwide were still closed as of April 23 this year.
The Small Business Recovery Report by Kabbage shows the other side of the coin. The poll was conducted from February 4-5, 2021 among 550 small businesses in various sectors such as retail, food and beverage, manufacturing, financial services, professional services, marketing, media, technology, healthcare, education, automotive, construction, agriculture, and others. Among the businesses represented, 55 percent or 301 had less than 20 employees, 27 percent or 149 had 21 to 100 employees, and 18 percent or 100 had 101 to 500 employees.
Data from the study show that 57 percent of the 550 small businesses were fully open as of February. Among those that were open, one-third were either operating fully online or operating on a hybrid basis with both online and in-person businesses. Their sources of revenue shifted from 37 percent from online sales before the pandemic, to 57 percent from online sales in February 2021. This has influenced decision-makers to be more open to replacing old business systems with new technological innovations for more efficiency and profitability.
With the new CDC guidelines, companies that pivoted completely online can now expand to take full advantage of the in-person market once again. This is also a boon to businesses that were not suited to online platforms and stopped their operations.
Small Business Grants
There are several government grants that small enterprises can apply for to restart their business. For instance, since April 24, 2021, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant application resumed under the U.S. Small Business Administration. This aims to provide economic relief to movie theatres, museums, live performing arts organizations, live venue operators and promoters, theatrical producers, and talent representatives.
The Chamber of Commerce has a list of governments grant for small businesses, such as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, Small Business Technology Transfer program (STTR), US Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant, and State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) grants, among others. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also has a list of private grants for small businesses, including Ally Financial’s Daring to Disrupt award, Amber Grant Foundation, and others.
How Revived Small Businesses Can Benefit from Technology
Upon securing funding, small businesses that are reopening must plan to build operations around technology. This will ensure that they are at par with most of the competition and can grow from there. No business is too small to do this because the alternative can devastate the company even at its earliest stages. For instance, cybersecurity measures must be in place to protect the entire operations, including securing the funds when engaging with business banking services through the Internet. While reliable banks have tight security on their end, a small business is vulnerable if there are security gaps on its end.
Many small businesses also use the cloud services of Microsoft and Google, believing that they are then fully protected with backups. Hackers attacked Microsoft’s enterprise email software in March 2021, though, resulting in stolen data from over 30,000 organizations around the world. Google suffered about an hour of widespread outage in December 2020, affecting Google Docs, Gmail, and other Google services. To have full protection, a company needs a solid disaster recovery and business continuity program. This ensures that within minutes, business can proceed as usual with no loss of data.
Accounting is a major time consumer for business owners and manual accounting systems are prone to human error. An automated accounting system streamlines the process and can include payroll as well. A more comprehensive automated financial system can link up sales invoicing and issuance of receipts, too.
Software integration is an extremely useful means of connecting the various automated processes used by the company so that inputs appear wherever these are relevant, and everyone concerned is looking at the same data in real-time. This eliminates duplication of efforts and minimizes error. The link can trigger certain automated actions. For instance, a sale can trigger an invoice and a reduction in inventory, and payment can trigger a receipt. When the inventory dips to a specified level it can trigger a notification to reorder the item from its supplier.
There are many more technological innovations that small businesses can maximize, especially in client-facing engagements. Companies must remember that even if they reopen brick-and-mortar shops, consumers still expect them to be digitally updated. Their presence online and capabilities to serve clients both offline and online are now expected.