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Report Gives Before and After View of How the Crisis Changed Small Business Priorities

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October 15, 2020 6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The push to move from paper to digital business processes has accelerated over the last several years due in part to customer expectations. Companies also began to better understand the urgent need to lower costs and improve customer experiences. Yet many companies have also hesitated, unsure about how to undertake

According to a just-released annual business trends report by Salesforce, the events of 2020 sped up that transformation. CEOs and leadership teams made drastic shifts in everything from office sanitation and design to remote customer interaction.

Related: Keep These 7 Strategies in Mind as You Reopen Your Business

Perspective and priorities

The report surveyed more than 2,300 small and medium business leaders from around the world at two different times — March and August of 2020. It provides a kind of “before and after” picture of the effects of the current health crisis on businesses and their priorities. 

Some of the key findings include:

  • A roughly 30 percent increase in the number of small and medium business owners who said it had become a challenge to “plan for the long term” future of their business (21 percent in March and 28 percent in August).

  • 21 percent more business owners said they found it a greater challenge to “personalize customer engagements” (38 percent in March and 46 percent in August).

  • An 11 percent increase in the number of leaders who said they’re now “engaging customers on their preferred channels” more than they had been.

  • 1 in 5 small or medium business owners said they began implementing at least one of the following tools in the past six months: software, email platforms, ecommerce tools or collaboration software.

These trends sped up among businesses that had already prioritized innovation, says Enrique Ortegon, SVP of small and medium businesses North America for Salesforce. “Personalizing customer engagement and continuing to stay connected with their customers in a world where there is not the same level of physical access to customers is a big priority for now,” he says. “So, the question for them is how do they develop and provide a connected experience with their customers in a digital world?”

Related: Why You Should Speed Up Your Digital Transformation During the Crisis

Small businesses adapt due to the health crisis

Whether it’s HR, office design, customer experience , marketing or ecommerce, small businesses are pushing forward with digital transformation and other changes. Here are some of the key ways they’re doing that.

1. Responding to public health mandates

Worker and customer safety rose to the forefront in the last several months. In early 2020 these issues were barely relevant compared to how important they are now. Sanitation and social distancing in particular have become top areas of concern.

“It’s very important to small businesses that they understand the local public health mandates so they know how to respond to them,” Ortegon says. “This includes coming up with options to deliver their services in a contactless way. Many businesses are struggling to determine how to design their physical spaces to make sure they’re maintaining social distancing.”

2. Personalized customer experiences

Now more than ever, providing for a positive, personalized customer experience is vital to every ’ bottom line. Part of what encourages loyalty is the close-knit feeling customers have with your brand, your products or even just the staff in your store. During the health crisis, many small businesses discovered they need to rely on that goodwill in order to keep revenue stable.

3. Workforce management

One place companies started their digital transformation is in their HR departments. This area plays a key role in addressing remote work environments, including policies and procedures, people management, payment coordination with accounting, and onboarding and training. 

Introducing new workforce management software can be the first step toward a digital transformation that emphasizes connectivity and across digital channels. 

Related: How to Onboard Employees in the Midst of a Crisis

4. Identifying your company’s unique needs

Although bringing in new software can certainly help, every organization has different requirements. Rather than buy and use anything and everything, identify what you need and the that fits your situation. 

Several months back it might have been easy to talk across the aisle or over the desk in your office, but now businesses need to invest in technologies that let them communicate online. Moreover, ecommerce and online ordering is something more and more small and medium businesses are now required to offer if they want to stay afloat. 

“This can be [anything] from how you order your coffee or your food before you pick it up, to how you order things, to how you choose your favorite provider,” Ortegon says. “It involves the whole ordering placement and fulfillment process. We’ve seen CRM usage increase 24 percent since last year because now businesses that are not operating in a physical place need to have a digital record of customers.”

Related: 7 Ways Technology Is Working to Address a World in Crisis

5. Focus on a centralized platform

Taking a centralized approach to your digital transformation offers an integration strategy to help build out more digital processes over time. According to the Salesforce report, small and medium businesses have begun using fewer apps. Seventy-two percent said they believe that one centralized application to manage their business functions is more helpful. 

For example, as remote work increased, companies looked for collaborative platforms that offer a suite of tools. Two well-known platforms are Google’s G Suite, which includes Gmail, Docs, Drive, Hangouts and Calendar, and Office 365 from Microsoft, with Word, Excel, Teams, Outlook and OneDrive. 

Both platforms show the potential for companies seeking to connect their team members and move work online. This centralized model can anchor the transformation to a digital workplace, including the ability to manage data and digitize critical business functions. From there, you can add tools that integrate with your central hub platform as you continue to evolve into a digital organization. 

True digital transformation

The world, the general business environment, and your customers’ expectations are changing even faster than before and in unexpected ways. For companies of all sizes across all industries, digital transformation isn’t a matter of if, but rather when — or more accurately, how soon. 

Despite the need for a rapid response to address legacy software and outdated processes, a complete digital transformation still requires a long-term operational commitment to change from leaders as well as the existing company culture. 

Related: 4 Key Steps to Motivate Employees to Finish Work Projects

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Money is love too: 5 lessons from immigrants to manage your wallet

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October 24, 2020 5 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

Adina Chelminsky’s grandfather left Poland when he was just 13 years old and unable to speak a single word of Spanish. However, when he arrived at the port of Minatitlán in Veracruz, he had no money, but he began to work tirelessly until he managed to open a tlapalería that, believe it or not, continues to operate in Corregidora in Mexico City.

“The most important thing I know about finances I learned from my immigrant grandparents who came to Mexico with nothing,” said Chelminsky in her participation in MoneyFest 2020 . “My grandfather was a true entrepreneur because he knew that entrepreneurship was 50% sweat and not just having a ‘millionaire’ idea”.

Adina Chelminsky is not only an accomplished economist and entrepreneur, she is also the author of the popular finance book Cabrona y Millonaria . However, despite his academic training, he points out that the best lessons he has had on money management always come from immigrants ”.

“People like my grandparents who came to Mexico in search of opportunities understand better than anyone how to handle money in a crisis, because they know how to face adversity and prosper in a world they understand,” said the expert.

Image: Money Fest 2020

5 love lessons told with money

Adina’s two paternal grandparents, both immigrants, taught her five basic universal financial principles. “They not only left me with an unpronounceable last name [he says laughing], but also strategies that can be applied always and by everyone.”

1. There is no asset more valuable than education: Whether for one or the children, education is one of the smartest investments that can be made because it is a portable instrument that does not lose returns over time.

“When I was born, my grandfather opened an account for me to pay for a master’s degree. No BA, a MASTER’S DEGREE . This so that there would be no doubt about what I could achieve ”.

2. “Whoever has a store to attend to it”: And in the same way, whoever has savings and investments, keep an eye on them.

“My other grandfather was the smartest person to make investments because he was always informed. It taught me never to go into a business that I didn’t understand or to sign a contract that I hadn’t read.

3. Don’t screw your kids and plan your retirement: “My grandparents came to Mexico and they knew they wanted to die in it. At that time there were no Afores or retirement plans, but month after month they saved for that moment, even if it was at the cost of a luxury ”.

Adina pointed out that her grandparents always knew that they did not want to be a burden for their children when the time came and on the contrary, they always made an effort to have a dignified old age.

4. Finances are ALWAYS a family affair and especially a couple: Sometimes talking about money with your partner can unleash a pitched battle, but it is about being a team.

“There wasn’t a time when my grandmothers didn’t have a say in financial discussions because they ran the house. In those times, my grandparents had the last word, but they always decided between all of us ”, Adina recalls and points out that especially in times of crisis, her grandparents were precisely a COUPLE , partners.

“Today there is a lot of financial infidelity, individual debts, hidden problems and half truths. It makes me think that my grandparents were ahead of their time ”.

5. There is nothing more patriotic than building well-being for others: Adina’s grandparents lived committed to Mexico and providing jobs was always one of their most active priorities.

“As an immigrant you want to help the country that made you its own. There is nothing more patriotic than building well-being for others ”.

It doesn’t matter where we come from, Adina noted, whether from immigrants, born savers, born profligates, or parents who simply did what they could with what they had. “Learning from the past and the financial history that shaped us is essential to build your future.

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Learn to read the news to earn money

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It seems that the economy is going crazy, but as an entrepreneur you must be aware of what is happening in the world. Journalist Isabella Cota tells us how to understand those numbers and trends that we see every day.

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October 24, 2020 4 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

“Where were you when you realized that the pandemic was going to change your life?”

For Isabella Cota , a journalist specializing in macroeconomic issues, that moment of cold drop came when she was attending a wedding at the end of February and a friend involved in the health industry told her that at some point in the year the stock markets were going to collapse, large amounts of infections would occur and that, if the government did not act soon, a health crisis like no other would occur.

Just a few days later, the National Healthy Distance Day would begin, which practically stopped the country’s non-essential economic activity.

Perhaps the force of the spread of COVID-19 took many by surprise, but Cota asserts that “many people who were used to reading the news saw the pandemic coming and were able to take protective measures even before the authorities.”

For the journalist, information is the best tool that people can access for free to make critical decisions for their health and finances.

“If you want to invest your money well, you have to understand money and for that, you have to read news about economy, finance and yes, science,” said the expert in her participation in the virtual MoneyFest festival.

However, in Mexico we have a stigma with numbers and it is the job of the media to explain to the reader how economic news affects their daily life.

“If the medium does not land that information, it is the MEDIA that is failing the public, not the other way around.”

Image: MoneyFest 2020

How to read the news to help you earn more money

Isabella Cota gives us a three-point checklist to consume financial news to make better decisions.

1. “Cure your fright” with curiosity: You have to ask yourself questions, but don’t panic. “If there is something that the pandemic has given us all, it is fear. Fear of getting infected, losing a job, saying goodbye to a loved one, etc. ”, says Cota. “We must approach the information without fear and not let ourselves be carried away by alarmist news.”

Given this, it is drastic to remember that the headlines do not report and you have to look for different sources.

2. Google is your friend: “The media are like great libraries of stories,” says Isabella. “Before making any financial decision, you have to ask Google what the media says about a brand or investment opportunity that they advertise, what information the bank can ask you by law, what are your rights before collectors, etc.”

3. You don’t have to believe everything: One of the most unfortunate effects of the pandemic has been the spread of false information that is sold as news and is not. “A study says that there are already 800 people in the world who die because of the fake news about the coronavirus.”

So how can we identify real news?

Isabella offers this “accordion” to quickly identify credible information:

  • When the notes or links come without a real or reputable source, do not open them .
  • If the information comes from a medium that you don’t recognize, don’t read it .
  • Finally, if what the article says does not seem true or reasonable, do not share it .

“The media fails, but they also offer fascinating stories. These stories are important and they teach us something. The information that is consumed with calm, curiosity and an open mind, is the best tool for our money ”, concludes Cota.

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The world has already changed: How to design a new professional and personal reality

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Silvia Singer, general director of the Interactive Museum of Economics, gives us the keys to transform ourselves into this new normal that, like it or not, is here to stay.

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October 24, 2020 4 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

“The world stopped and I feel so bad that I don’t want to talk to anyone. It’s a feeling that we’ve all had in the last few months, ”said Silvia Singer , in her talk at Money Fest , Mexico’s interactive personal finance festival. “However, if there is a crisis, I am sure there must be an opportunity.”

With this phrase, general director of the Interactive Museum of Economics (MIDE) , told us that this is the time to make a change to face the new normal.

“Every museum is due to its public, but what happens when people cannot go?” This was the challenge that MIDE faced in March when Sana Distancia measures began to stop the spread of COVID-19 .

“We had to acknowledge that there was a crisis that was going to last, we needed to make changes and restart,” Singer explained when presenting how MIDE had to transform its strategy to focus on the digital public. “Now the museum is beyond Tacuba 17 in Mexico City; now it is for anyone inside and outside of Mexico who understands Spanish ”.

The MIDE has already opened its doors, but this digital strategy allowed them to transform.

In this regard, Silvia gave us the strategy to replicate the success of the MIDE in our businesses.

Image: MoneyFest 2020

How can we design a new professional and personal reality?

Pablo Picasso used to say that when the muse of inspiration visits you, she has to find you working.

“Entrepreneurship is a creative and at the same time critical act. There are no magic formulas to transform and there are many paths. Which is the best? Yours ”, indicated the general director of MIDE.
To generate your own strategy, according to the expert, it is required:

Being able to observe the environment: “First of all, you have to see the opportunities that are outside, understand what is happening and identify what things or situations require a different solution that works better in this new normal.”

Understand that change is constant: “It sounds obvious, but you have to remain agile and have an open mind to innovate.”

How I reinvent myself

Silvia Singer pointed out that you have to learn to think with a certain structure in order to transform yourself. A simple model that you can follow in your person and your business is:

1. Think about something that you have dreamed and imagined, but with some alternatives on how to achieve it: “I need a clear objective, to know where I want to go and what alternatives I have.”
2. Write down these alternatives honestly in a notebook with the advantages and disadvantages of each one: “Find realistic dreams with goals within reach and agree to be flexible in the method to achieve them.”

3. Be informed to be able to choose an alternative and take the step: “In order to be successful, you must be yourself, but reflect on what you can improve.”
4. Commit to what you have chosen and move on: “We all have huge desires, but our resources are limited. So you have to make a decision and commit to it ”.

In the end, the MIDE director gave great advice for all entrepreneurs who are looking to transform themselves: “You don’t have to suffer the process, you have to enjoy it. I’m sure that in the end everything will be fine ”.

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