“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
—John F. Kennedy

Remember that old Friday night staple of visiting Blockbuster with the family, renting the latest action flick, grabbing snacks, and bumping into your neighbors? It was such a routine that we never considered that it could vanish. But seemingly overnight, Netflix displaced Blockbuster. Why? Because Blockbuster refused to change.

Blockbuster had excellent customer service, a wide selection, and enjoyed “household name status.” The world changed with the advent of content streaming, and Blockbuster was left behind. Right now, the world is changing: consumer behaviors, workplaces, almost every aspect of daily life is undergoing long-term change — businesses that don’t want to be left behind must embrace this.

RingCentral recently conducted a survey of over 1,000 small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and found that 59.7% have been operating for more than ten years; these are savvy business owners who know their customers and know what works. Unfortunately, what worked for SMBs a few short months ago doesn’t apply to today’s circumstances. These businesses will need to rely on their agility and acumen to adapt; I’m confident they will.

Broaden your footprint, deepen relationships

The shift to selling and providing services online gives SMBs a unique opportunity to expand their geographical footprint at minimal cost. Consider that many SMBs were launched to fill gaps in the local market. Staying small helped them create unique and intimate customer relationships, and with today’s technology, those relationships no longer need to be constrained by geography.

For a boutique retailer, this might mean offering one-to-one fashion consulting outside of regular business hours. An architecture firm might share in-progress designs via the cloud so that clients can give feedback. Going virtual will help SMBs strengthen existing customer relationships while opening doors to attract new clients.

Create new revenue streams

In May, RingCentral Sponsored the LiveWork Small Business School Challenge. Incasa, a home decor store in Astoria, Queens, participated in hopes of finding ways to survive when they closed their storefront due to the virus. While 90% of their pre-COVID revenue came from in-store sales, Incasa has always offered informal interior design consulting. Amid lockdown, they realized the untapped potential of this service. An analysis by MBA students found that by providing virtual consulting and selling some of their wares online in curated bundles, Incasa could match 89% of their pre-pandemic revenues even with their physical shop closed.

Connection, collaboration, and productivity

The vast majority of SMBs that operate outside the retail sector will also need to change. A June 2020 survey conducted by PWC found that 72% of office workers would prefer to work from home at least two days per week, and 57% of employers said they plan to make working hours more flexible. All indications are that this will continue — and it should. Happier employees make for happier customers.

Unified Communications-as-a-Service offerings make it easy for companies to provide integrated Message, Video, Phone (MVP) to their employees, making it easier for them to connect, collaborate, and stay productive. Selecting the right solution will keep your employees and customers happy!

Adaptation has long been a way of life for SMBs. Their inherent scrappiness makes them ready to pivot in the post-COVID reality. Scary as change may be, SMB leaders are adventurous by definition. In the midst of today’s shifting circumstances, we are fortunate that technology exists to keep people connected, collaborating, and productive while working remotely.