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Many people believe that a new year marks a new beginning, so they swear to leave the past behind and resolve to do better in the future. Yet there is a flaw in this ritual. Problems don’t go away just because we delete a calendar and pin a new one. The many crises we faced in the past year will not end suddenly.
As business leaders, we still face challenges arising from the pandemic, supply chain constraints and labor shortages. Inflation and product shortages are still very real issues facing our society and impacting our economies, as are infectious diseases, labor shortages and growing customer demands.
So, instead of relying on a rigid set of goals to define or measure our success, I think we should:
- Set new intentions each day of the year based on the challenges, ideas, and opportunities we see at that time.
- Refine our goals to reflect the here and now – the difference we can make, or what we can do differently, to improve outcomes for our businesses, our customers and the world.
- Let go of this mindset that we are forced to “do more with less”.
Rotate your point of view
For years, conversations about improving business processes, technology investments, and even workforce planning have centered around this notion that we need to find a way to do more with less. How can we grow our workforce with technology because we’re not getting enough applicants to fill all the vacancies? How do we help current staff fill more orders in less time? How can we serve more customers with less inventory? Even in our personal lives, we have recently felt the need to ration what was on our shelves to make it last longer or go further. It is very similar to a recession.
Yet when we focus exclusively on frugality – doing more with less – we limit our abilities to grow as people and businesses.
Dig deeper and look for original ways to get better results. Focus your energy only on actions that add value and stop doing things that don’t. For example, I bet you didn’t know that there are 55 different ways to use baking soda. I know not. And think of all the ways you can use your smartphone to manage your personal life. You can buy everything you need, pay bills, create art, “try on” clothes, see the doctor, and even buy a house. And that only scratches the surface of what is possible.
That’s why I strongly recommend that you assess what’s currently in your business toolkit, especially from a technology perspective. You’ll never know how many different tools you have at your disposal to maximize your current labor and inventory – or how many problems can be solved with just one tool – until you look at things through a micro lens and macro.
Prepare for the unexpected by fixing known issues now
As a small business, you’ve come so far, survived so much, and shown your strength in the face of extreme adversity. But as Andy Grove once said, “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.”
Don’t assume that what worked before will work again. If you’ve made it through the storm of 2020 and 2021 without digitally transforming your business, I can see why you might be confident in your ability to weather what’s next. However, it will be difficult to successfully set these daily intentions if you are not connected to the information and the people who should inform them.
That’s why you need to find a way to technologically empower your employees, partners, and customers in the days ahead, even if you’ve so far resisted the digital revolution.
Technology can help you fill the labor gap and meet the needs of more customers without increasing the workforce. But the truth is, technology also helps you meet the personal needs of workers and customers in a very different way. It shows them that they are valued – and that is worth more than gold.
Workers feel privileged when they receive laptops with augmented reality apps or mobile printers that save them from having to walk across the building to complete a task. And customers are thrilled when you’re ready to meet them where they are and can give them what they need. All we want as human beings these days is direct access to goods, services or information that will make tasks, decisions and life easier.
I remember a co-worker once telling me about a neighbor who said his first day on the job was his best “first day” yet. He was an inexperienced teenager, but had an amazing first impression because he was given simple tech tools that allowed him to make an instant impact. He knew exactly when and how to restock shelves to keep customers happy and generate revenue, and his employer took notice. He was eager to see what he could do next once he was even more comfortable with his role and had the opportunity to contribute even more.
In other words, technology allows you to solve the labor shortage by proving to workers that you are a caring employer. Your employees will be more likely to stick around and even recruit their friends to join the team.
It also helps you solve customer churn. When people can see that you are doing your best to stock the items they need or provide services in a way that works for them, they will become more loyal and even generate new referrals, which will help stabilize sales and to stimulate growth.
Of course, the same technology that helps employees get their jobs done faster also collects data that helps you make better operational decisions. You can evaluate the performance of inventory and staffing models and adjust them if necessary to balance resources against demand.
Related: Why is the development of resilience essential in a company?
Unleash the power of your people
Remember that demands change from hour to hour and your team will need to learn new abilities to keep up. Technology can help tremendously here, but only if you understand that the tools your team needed last week may not be the tools they need next week. You may need to unlock new features or functionality within these tools to “increase” their productivity, efficiency, and craftsmanship as order volume or task complexity begins to increase.
This is why you should open a feedback loop. Ask your frontline and IT teams what’s working and what’s not working as part of your daily review and goal setting exercise. Find out the things they think would help them be more successful. Then see if those abilities are hidden in plain sight. There are so many apps and features on my smartphone that I’ve never used before, but that doesn’t mean I can’t benefit from them. The same goes for enterprise technologies, which are designed to evolve. You can gradually unlock features and extend applications for hardware and software platforms as you reach new business milestones or simply need to do more.
Just be sure to train your team and clients on how to maximize the tools you give them. Equipping them with technology won’t do you any good if they don’t use it to the fullest.
Related: 5 Essential Qualities to Look for in Your First Employees
Embrace technology as a catalyst for change rather than seeing it as a “big change”
As a startup or small business, you may be challenged to balance your budget right now. Times have been tough for many. But now is not the time to delay your digital transformation.
Technology empowers you to move beyond that feeling that you need to do more with less because it connects you to the people and information you need to be more creative and prescriptive in your problem solving and more. intentional in setting your goals. Technology allows you to make lemonade for one customer and lemon bars for another, even when you only have one lemon. Most importantly, it allows you to realize your intentions with your employees, your customers and yourself, even if the world and your business goals change every day.
Related: The #1 Question Every Business Leader Should Ask