Despite the continued emergence of Covid-19 variants, entrepreneurs in the United States have been unfazed. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that there were 430,411 applications for new business startups this January. This represents a 2.6 percent increase from December 2021. According to the White House, new business applications have increased by around 30 percent against pre-pandemic times, a record-breaking rate. Among current owners of small businesses surveyed, 71 percent expressed optimism for profitability in 2022. This is an increase from 63 percent who said so for 2021.
Many of the small businesses that have flourished during the pandemic are community-based. Proximity to customers is important when people have less mobility. Examples of successful local businesses are food-on-demand kitchens with online ordering and quick delivery. Small cafes and other commercial establishments have also begun to open in areas with low Omicron cases.
New and existing community-based small businesses are poised for success in 2022. There are still many challenges, though, and much to learn from the experiences of others.
Lessons From the Great Resignation
In 2021, an unprecedented 47.4 million employees resigned from their jobs, according to CNN Business. Its analysis shows that employees left to seek improvements in pay, benefits, schedules, and treatment.
Various surveys have shown that employees who quit prefer flexibility in where and when they work. They want to be valued and given opportunities for career growth through training programs. They are looking for a positive company culture that is nurturing, cognizant of employees’ welfare, and inspires loyalty.
Many small businesses now offer high salaries and attractive benefit packages to attract talent. They are also offering the option of working either remotely, partially remote and partially on-site, or working fully on-site but on a flexible schedule.
Companies must not forget to prepare a career development path for their employees. It is also to the company’s benefit to continuously train employees for advancement from within while hiring for replacements at the entry level. This ensures that as employees climb the ladder, they become even more steeped in the company’s mission and vision and will be more capable of carrying out tasks to meet the company’s goals. This is also a sure way of gaining employee loyalty.
Company culture is one of the main concerns of employees. Those who quit cited toxic managers, lack of managerial guidance, and the absence of good peer-to-peer relationships. Establishing and sustaining a healthy company culture becomes even more difficult when many, if not most, employees, managers, and executives are working remotely. If a company is having difficulty in this area, it is best to hire a professional work culture consultant and go from there.
The pandemic necessitated a shift not only to a digital workplace but also to a digital marketplace. Companies scrambled to set up or revamp their websites, hire search engine optimization (SEO) services, and refocus marketing to social media.
These efforts must continue in 2022, but they must also level up. Companies cannot afford to be left behind by competitors. It is important to always know what is trending in the marketplace and even predict accurately what the next trends will be in order to be at the forefront. Investing in more advanced uses of artificial intelligence (AI) enables a more precise analysis of data, including predictive analytics.
Local businesses must also explore how they can maximize the use of virtual reality and augmented reality in their campaigns. They can also check out how they can get a foot in the metaverse. Consumers are always attracted to new digital experiences.
Payment options must be continuously expanded depending on what a company’s target market is using. Consumers want payments to be digital, contactless, and quick. In addition to credit cards and PayPal, there are buy-now-pay-later services such as Affirm, Afterpay, Klarna, and Sezzle.
Increasing investment in cybersecurity is also a must. Threats are becoming more sophisticated; hence, defenses must be constantly shored up. Cybercriminals will always target small businesses that they believe do not put much attention on security. Losses from a breach can bring a company down. Prevention is always cheaper.
Green and Socially Responsible Business
Community-based businesses must recognize the needs of the community. Part of this is being aware of their impact on the environment and people. Businesses must ensure that they do not contribute to higher greenhouse gas emissions. This covers the products and services they offer and the supply chain they use. They must be responsible and discerning in their choice of business partners. Their sources must be sustainable and must be socially responsible in relating with people.
Many consumers are now committed to saving the environment to address climate change and calling out social inequalities. They put their money in companies that reflect the same values. Conversely, there have been many cases of consumers avoiding irresponsible businesses. In this regard, it pays to do good.