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How to keep your business nimble and flexible during a pandemic

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”

When the pandemic started, many companies’ first thought was how do they reduce their overhead and sustain some sense of revenue. There was so much uncertainty and no playbook. What we should be thinking is how do we turn these unprecedented times into an opportunity to be nimble and flexible?

Being nimble has its advantages. You have the luxury of being creative and can easily find ways to work around obstacles generated by any crisis. How do you do it? Reduce nonessential costs and overhead to the business and increase client engagement.

Marketing. Reducing your marketing costs to only those that can be traced to generate revenue allows for a clear ROI. For example, replace in-person event activities with those that are more cost effective, such as webinars. The benefit to this is you can now have more client and prospect engagement through virtual interactions. These interactions can be tracked by attendance and follow up through your CRM for ROI purposes. The key is to provide meaningful information so that you can engage with more clients and prospects with increased efficiency.

Client service and engagement. Increasing client service and communication is so important during a crisis. For many, this experience has been an opportunity to deepen client relationships through sharing personal experiences and lessons learned. Using virtual video conferencing software such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams can increase face-to-face contact. It will reduce travel costs while creating efficiencies through better time management. Think about it, you are now able to meet clients virtually in other states, which you may have never been able to do without great expense and a loss of productivity elsewhere. You see, many management teams are the organization’s primary business development function, but they also have a great responsibility to manage their staff. Become an expert in what your clients need to know, make yourselves available for any questions, large or small. Share this information through webinars and through newsletters. Sharing information that is relevant can increase client and prospect engagement significantly.

Staff compensation. Having a model where staff are paid a salary and bonuses based on company objectives is a great way to be nimble and flexible. Bonusing your staff on achievable goals that directly align to client engagement or cost savings ensures that everyone is on track to drive the bottom line. In addition, you will have the opportunity to bring in additional dollars and gain efficiencies.

Outsourced administrative services. Another way to increase your nimbleness and flexibility is to utilize an outsourced, cloud-based model for administrative services. This is huge in regard to having the flexibility to control your overhead. The key is to find wonderful vendors who will diligently work with you to provide a flexible solution that can support your business in any phase.

IT. From an IT perspective, having an outsourced solution will allow you to see what was really used. For example, you may realize that you do not need 24/7 support for your PCs. All this requires is a change in your service contract. The majority of business software can be cloud-based, which allows you to evaluate what you need and adjust accordingly. In addition, working remotely can be easier than you ever would have thought.

Human Resources. There are many options out there to outsource payroll and HR. Many use an ASO, or administrative service organization, or an internal model. If you have a strong benefits partner, you may realize that an ASO is not needed. This could be a huge cost savings. Benefit providers can be a great resource of information to serve staff on HR-related matters. If you utilize a good outsourced payroll vendor with great technology, all paperwork can be done electronically. This allows for more flexibility when onboarding. There is no reason for benefits to be selected on paper; having a great vendor reduces the need for staff to be onsite doing administrative work.

Accounting & data analytics. Have you ever considered outsourcing all or pieces of your accounting? That is becoming such a natural progression through the pandemic. Many companies share the belief of let the “experts” do the work. Organizations can pay only for the services that they really need by leveraging cloud-based technology solutions and staff. In addition – you can choose a model that allows for you to either outsource all or a piece of the function, which truly provides for the best solution for most businesses. If the right technology is used, you will receive better data, timely reports and KPIs. Best of all, the data and reports required by your CPAs can be easily accessed remotely.

ERP Software. If you are not comfortable outsourcing accounting, a cloud-based enterprise resource plan, or ERP, is the way to go if you want to be nimble and flexible. You can buy only what you need and scale up or down easily. Many times, the provider will give you a free software evaluation so that you can rank yourself in financial and operational system strategy. A good cloud-based ERP is instrumental for business owners to understand where your costs and profitability lie so that you can invest or reduce your dollars quickly with extensive dashboarding and analytics features. For example, during the pandemic, you may have wanted the insight to quickly provide a forecast to your investors for comfort in your strategy.

All in all, it is our recommendation to be as flexible and nimble as you can be. Hopefully all of us can get through this together and be stronger than ever.

Kate Kenney is a partner and senior vice president at ProNexus LLC, based in Pittsford, New York.