With uncertainty being the only constant in 2020, there are numerous unresolved disruptions to our familiar patterns. We don’t know when schools and offices will fully reopen or even when we’ll be able to comfortably embrace friends and loved ones. With change around every corner, adaptability is the key for success. And as our world continues to navigate the impact of COVID-19, SMBs need to adapt to become as digital as possible to encourage company growth.

Here are three ways SMBs can adapt to a digital business model:

  1. Don’t wait – adapt now

We are living through a historic period of extraordinary change and in order to manage change effectively, we need to evolve and grow. Open-minded and flexible and workers will be the leaders of tomorrow as agile thinking is increasingly needed in the workplace to help businesses prosper. Adaptability is a driver of innovation as it allows ideas to grow and morph into something stronger and better.

Some businesses can roll with changes easier than others and the SMBs that can evolve will likely outlast those that cannot. Companies will have to take a close look at their digital maturity to determine the best technology solutions to maintain or grow their business. If they implement the same technology they had in years past or even before COVID, they risk potential customer loss and could also face decreases in employee productivity.

Businesses that overcome new challenges and face disruptions with confidence are better prepared to weather a storm and with this in mind, SMB owners must ask themselves if their business is set up to be adaptable. If it’s not, they need to find a way to make their business more open to change. Having patience and boldness to make agile decisions will help your business in the long term. So why wait? Whether your goal is to solidify existing business relationships or attract new customers, there’s no better time than today to grow your digital business model, face change head-on and adapt.

  1. Harness technology to meet customer needs

According to the most recent Optimism Index from the National Federation of Independent Businesses, overall optimism among U.S. business owners has increased, additionally, the percentage of owners who think now is a good time to expand has improved eight points to 13 percent, showcasing business owners’ interest in expanding their offerings and adapting to better meet the needs of their customers.

Even as physical store locations begin to reopen, companies must make sure their services are available online. It’s necessary for SMB owners to not only recognize the opportunity to leverage technology to expand their offering with an online presence but also be open to adjusting to a digital business model, including digital collaboration, digital customer experience and digital delivery of services. To truly adapt to these changes, SMBs must push themselves outside their comfort zones. Continuing the tried-and-true functions of your business can be comfortable and there’s nothing wrong with perfecting a skill or service, however, in order to maintain relevance, your business will be forced to evolve over time in order to stay afloat.

As you re-vamp your SMB business model, remember that technology and reimagined workforce strategies that incorporate leading technology can be your most powerful ally to equip employees with the right tools, information and workplace structure to help them perform. According to Lenovo’s “Technology and the Evolving World of Work” Report, workers around the world identified top challenges to the WFH experience, including finding it hard to concentrate while working remotely due to distractions at home. While distractions will always exist, tech issues can have the most far-reaching impact on SMB employee productivity, simply because technology is an intricate part of almost every job today.

Regardless of whether your team is fully back in the office, completely remote or have a hybrid structure, leveraging the right infrastructure and equipping staff with the right devices can enable SMB employees to work more effectively, thereby improving focus and efficiency at work. Integrating digital transformation technology like Artificial Intelligence or Big Data can ultimately create a technology-centric environment for employees that could automate tasks, allowing the employee to focus on big-ticket priorities. In addition, SMBs will need to reimagine workforce strategies to address short and long term changes. To accomplish this transformation for your SMB, begin by testing new strategies, utilizing various social platforms, making your business accessible via mobile devices, ensuring your business’ messaging and branding is consistent across platforms and updated to reflect the latest offerings, and ultimately, be willing to embrace something new.

  1. Hire an adaptable employee

What kind of employee will lead digital transformation for SMBs? In today’s world, many companies have focused on fewer employees who are generalists with versatile skills and competencies. In doing this, those malleable SMB employees can wear multiple hats, fit into a variety of roles and grow with the company as they meet the fluctuating needs of their customers. Therefore, an employee’s ability to adjust his or her approach in response to external changes is key.

An employee’s ability to adapt depends largely on their willingness to accept change and how comfortable they are with the uncomfortable. An employee that will thrive in change is one willing to try a new approach or experiment with solutions to find the best one.

Is adaptability the new competitive differentiator between job candidates? In 2020, it might just be. Small businesses are known for their scrappy, nimble-natured employees who tend to roll with the punches and embrace change; those same workers will be clutch for SMBs who want to maintain a lean yet mighty team. Some traits that support adaptability include integrity, self-discipline, curiosity, and an open mind so if you’re looking for an employee who can bridge old and new, can pivot with ease, these are the things to look for.

We all know 2020 is the year of new challenges but it is also the year of resilience and adjusting to change. By embracing change, harnessing technology and hiring adaptable employees, SMBs can bridge into a digital business model and find stability in uncertain times. So do yourself a favor and own the change, adapt to the “new normal,” and set your SMB up for long-term success.

Sanjeev Menon, Vice President, WW SMB Portfolio and Product Management at Lenovo.

SMBs stock photo by Panchenko Vladimir/Shutterstock