Preparing for the future in the age of uncertainty

By Emy Carlan, CEO & Co-Founder at plugnpaid.com

Who would have thought that the world will be struck by a pandemic with such a high impact on the global economy? The rippling effects have caused entire industries to crumble, while most businesses that survived had to adapt by rethinking their processes, switching to working from home and changing the way customers interact with their business. The year of 2020 is a test, and those who cannot adapt will most probably not survive in the long run.

Permanent Changes

While most people see the current situation as a “temporary crisis”, I believe the world will never be the same. The impact that the COVID-19 disease has on the business world has shook the foundation of so many industries, and it’s very probable that it won’t be the only pandemic during our lifetime. So, what are some of the permanent changes that businesses need to implement in their operations?

The obvious one is limiting the human interaction between employees, as well as customer interactions. Come to think about it, we should have taken measures earlier, as every year millions of employees get sick from interacting with other people at the workplace, generating loss of profits with every medical leave. We just have to get used to keeping a safe distance when interacting with others.

Companies are starting to move customer interactions to the online space: replacing paper files and forms with online documents, taking advantage of the many electronic signature technologies. Every single paper, from surveys to contracts and in voices can now be legally stored electronically, which also brings an ecological advantage. Software companies started this trend, and now everyone else is forced to follow.

Many small businesses and large corporations alike have fully switched to Working from Home, which brought an unexpected positive impact on their P&L. By closing down the office and removing the costs associated with it (rent, maintenance, cleaning etc), these companies are experiencing a huge decrease in costs, while employee productivity remained the same (or even increased, in some cases).

Lastly, smart business owners and executives will automate as many processes as possible (robots cannot get sick, right?). Big corporations are working together with RPA companies such as UiPath to have robots and scripts execute repetitive processes that otherwise human beings were delegated to execute, while other businesses integrate more and more SaaS solutions, with the same purpose. While some argue that many jobs will be lost, actually this paves the way for more creative jobs, freeing up employees from tedious jobs and enabling them to act as humans instead of robots.

The Online Era

Now that employees don’t have to work from the office anymore, they suddenly have more time at their disposal: no more commuting, no more long watercooler discussions or having to attend unproductive meetings. The work contract with the employer no longer seems like an exclusivity deal, and many have started to get a second job, since now it’s possible to manage both from home.

It might take a while, but the trend is likely to head towards less “jobs” and more “projects” or “freelancing gigs”. Hey, if someone is a great designer, why not spice things up and do design work for multiple companies in parallel? The designer gets a higher income and doesn’t get bored, while companies save money when there’s no design work to be done.

Moving to the online space has generated a huge growth for software companies that offer remote-work-related tools, such as online conferencing, project management, document management, eCommerce, smart billing, customer support, marketing and many more. As a result, we will start to see a rise in SaaS companies and everything “as a service”.

Tools for the Future

Businesses that missed the “online” train need solutions to start selling online in a timely manner, and on a tight budget. This is why I partnered with two professionals with master’s in business administration and a infrastructure expert to create Plug&Paid: a cloud platform that allows small businesses and entrepreneurs to kickstart their online sales, manage accounting invoices and automate customer interactions. If your business is not online yet, you need a trustworthy and easy to use platform to make the switch. Also, since many people are switching from being employees to offering their services as consultants, they have to get into the nuts & bolts of running a small business, which comes as a shock to many. It’s no surprise that many SaaS platforms related to sales, accounting and business management in general are experiencing an accelerated growth.

Because everything is moving online, business owners need to be aware of the increasing threat of their business and employees being attacked, as the cybercrime scene is growing at an unprecedented rate. The home network is full of smart devices which are very easy to hack, and the home computer of your employees is not as well protected as it was in the office network. Smart company leaders will use cybersecurity tools, such as secure home routers, encrypted VPN channels, secure DNS servers and many more protection tools. Just make sure you have an experienced Head of Security who can enforce strict security policies.

Last but not least, one of the most underrated and less understood technologies is the Blockchain. Setting aside the technical details, this technology will be a game-changer, as it offers transparency and tamperproof transactions, audit logs, as well as smart contracts. The Blockchain technology is the cornerstone of building a strong economy, based on math and certainty.

Let’s build a better future for doing business in a safe and effective way! We are now at a tipping point, and there is no way to get back. The only way to move is forward.

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