Colin Loveday, Founder and CEO of Predict Mobile, shares his thoughts on what we can use from our last lockdown experience to make positive business developments this time round.
Here we go again. New Year, new lockdown – with all the now familiar worries, stresses and challenges both at home and work. But we’ve been here before and lockdown lessons learnt then can help us this time.
There are certainly grounds for optimism ahead. Covid has accelerated change, opening up the possibilities and advantages of different ways of working and bringing wider digital connectivity and resilience to businesses. And taking time now to focus on certain key business areas could help you and your business get the balance right for long-term sustainability.
Focus on Productivity
Look at what’s important for your business: those core activities that add value for you and customer. Ask yourself:
Drill down into what your business needs to increase productivity. For instance, what specific mobility phone capability, connectivity and flexibility does the business require? Are you paying for services you don’t use or using handsets that tick the box for IT or Finance but not for your salesforce?
Don’t rush to change things. Take the time to research core tools that could increase productivity and save you money. Platform as a Service (PaaS) tools, like Predict Mobile, can do the hard work for you, helping you interrogate service inclusions and only pay for what you need.
It’s easy to be distracted by future technologies that are being sold as solutions for current issues but actually are not yet in a position to be what you need or even designed for it. For instance, 5G is often seen as the be-all mobile solution, but it’s a red herring for many small businesses. 5G may seem enticing but in reality it’s part of traditional incremental network changes – 2G to 3G to 4G and so on. It’s designed to help machines to communicate with each other, facilitating machine learning and machine-to-machine applications, such as smart buildings and airport automation. These smart technologies will eventually come to affect all businesses, but for 5G and data-processing it’s likely to start with the Siemens of this world and their global clients before it trickles down to be of benefit to SMEs.
Relationships are Key
As always, in or out of lockdown, the customer is sovereign. They pay your bills, so you need to do everything you can to foster your customer relationships through lockdown and beyond.
Valued, regular communication is a key part of this, particular during lockdown, and the last year has seen the normalisation of video conferencing and calls, expanding our communication channel options and ability to good effect. But in a time of Zoom and Teams fatigue and endless emails, don’t forget the potential impact of an old-fashioned phone call to connect with customers one on one.
Looking after your employees is vital too. Their stresses will not be the same as yours. What is exciting opportunity for you as an entrepreneur may well be uncertainty and worry for them. Take time to understand their individual circumstances and concerns in lockdown and what flexible working practices or support would help them to be productive. Try to reassure them based on good practice and openness, but don’t unfairly unload your managerial or entrepreneurial worries on them – a problem shared is an employee scared.
And wider business relationships can help you as well. You don’t have to be a one-person wolfpack. Tap into formal or informal business networks for support and advice, such as the Scottish Chamber of Commerce network, and offer help to others to build mutually beneficial long-term business relationships.
Don’t be Preoccupied with Now
Let’s be optimistic: things will get better. The news is focused on the here and now and it’s concentrated on the bad but that’s not the full picture.
Don’t look at things in a short timeframe, but see this tough time in the context of a two to five-year cycle. While this immediate crisis can seem overwhelming, in the long-term climate change and environmental sustainability are still the biggest challenges facing us and we shouldn’t lose our focus.
It pays to be optimistic. The pandemic has kick-started a much-needed change in working practices. Sacred cows of what constitutes productive working have been led to the slaughter, with many businesses finally realising that working from home or flexibly does not mean bunking off.
As Stanford University research revealed back in 2015, working from home can actually increase productivity. Under strict scientific protocols, a randomised blind test on home working was carried out in China. From 2,000 employees, 1,000 were asked to work at home for nine months and their productivity actually increased by 13 percent over that time. They then had the choice whether to carry on working at home and 50% of them chose to do so – which resulted in them being even more productive. Choice is a key element here. In lockdown, many haven’t had the choice whether to work from home or not, and that lack of choice plus childcare and home working space issues have impacted productivity. However, companies now know the possibilities and potential of flexible working for the future.
Flexible working needs the right technology support, and digital access and connectivity have opened up working options – working any time, any place, anywhere is now possible. So don’t be limited by the crisis concerns of now, concentrate on finding the right productivity and business relationship tools to help you access the possibilities ahead.
Colin Loveday is founder and CEO of Predict Mobile, the only B2B mobile phone comparison and matching platform. With over 20 years’ experience working in the mobile industry and as a non-exec director at the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Colin looks to open up the industry, increasing transparency and creating greater empowerment for business customers.