Since the coronavirus outbreak struck in March, most small businesses have had to dramatically rethink their business models to accommodate stringent health and safety pressures and increased financial strain. Unfortunately for many, this reevaluation has meant laying off or furloughing employees to stay afloat financially, leaving the remaining businesses short staffed and over worked.
While independent businesses typically employ smaller teams to begin with, it’s now often the case that one person has to do the job of an entire team. Even worse, customers’ demands of businesses will only increase as we head into the holiday season. How can owners service customers in a way that still respects and protects the health of their companies?
In situations such as this, there’s something to be learned from business owners who already run a solo operation, and to much success. Consider Gail Johnson, owner and hair stylist at Rebel Salon in Southern California, who uses digital tools to support salon responsibilities in the absence of a traditional front desk and receptionist. With technology acting in place of a larger team of employees, Gail has more time to focus on client needs. Here’s how small business owners can follow suit and use technology to achieve enterprise success with limited—and maybe even solo—teams.
Digital Marketing Made Easy
With her days focused on delivering quality service to clients, Gail doesn’t have extra time for devising and deploying persuasive marketing campaigns. However, as business owners know, marketing is essential for attracting customers to their businesses in the first place.
To cut down on the creative legwork, owners can use a text and email marketing platform to set up and automate recurring campaigns that will continually engage prospects and loyalists alike, without owners having to give it a second thought. Some platforms even offer campaign templates for professionals to fill in with their business’ unique branding and information, reducing the effort even further.
Digital marketing can also communicate what precautions owners are taking in the fight against COVID-19. For example, Gail used the time her salon was shut down to take a sanitation certification course. She then shared her certification online to ensure clients knew she was taking every effort to protect visitors in her space. Putting this information out directly to clients builds a level of trust between them and the business, encouraging future visits.
Accounting Made Affordable
Similarly, small businesses don’t tend to have an in-house employee dedicated to exclusively managing finances. As a result, owners often find themselves moonlighting as part-time accountants. When done by hand, crunching numbers can be highly time-consuming, which might mean spending more time away from interacting with customers. Especially during the pandemic, when businesses may be receiving fewer customers due to safety advisories or financial constraints, any diverted time can feel like a loss.
To ensure the financial health of her salon doesn’t suffer while she focuses on servicing clients, Gail employs accounting software that shows how her business is performing in real time. With a click, she can view a dashboard detailing product inventory and sales, and can export this information to her accountant without having to compile receipts or organize any figures beforehand. Even if a third-party financial planner isn’t in the budget, owners can keep a keen eye on the health of their businesses and make strategic decisions that yield greater returns.
Scheduling Made Simple and Strategic
A physical appointment book can quickly become unruly, with appointments crossed out and rewritten until the page is a blur of ink. Should another shutdown occur, owners risk having to rewrite pages upon pages of appointment details—unless that information is stored digitally. Thanks to her online appointment books, Gail’s clients don’t worry about their information getting lost in a paper shuffle if rescheduling needs to occur. Likewise, by using an online scheduling platform, business owners can keep appointments clean and organized, and reschedule any of them with only a few clicks.
Not only can a digital appointment book keep client information organized, it can also help owners maximize their daily routines. As small business owners know, time is money. Gail also uses a digital appointment book to help her keep pace during full days of appointments, blocking out extra time for cleaning her studio between appointments to ensure that step is never missed. With a system to clearly outline where they need to be and when, business owners can work as efficiently as possible.
Under the pressures of COVID-19, it can be overwhelming for business owners working with tight teams or even just themselves to manage it all effectively. Fortunately, tech solutions exist to pick up the slack and help owners continue to drive success even when faced with unprecedented challenges.
Patrick Shanahan is CEO of DaySmart Software, a provider of business management software for appointment booking, staff management, payment processing, marketing, and customer communications for small businesses worldwide. Prior to his current role, he was a member of DaySmart’s board of directors, where he contributed his deep knowledge and experience in the payments industry. Patrick began his payments career at CardConnect in 2008 and became the Chief Operating Officer in 2011.