While no singular blueprint exists for how to operate a small business, many small business owners would agree that connection with co-workers, vendors, and clients is crucial.
When COVID-19 forced many small businesses into remote work, Zoom and other web-conferencing applications made staying connected possible and, in some instances, provided an opportunity for small businesses to explore new ways of operating and growing. These may last beyond the pandemic, having improved the way small businesses operate in many positive ways.
Zoom Has Increased Productivity
Pre-pandemic, any in-person interactions in business, with clients or with co-workers, typically required a larger time commitment. For example, a networking breakfast meant commute time, parking, the usual wait time in a coffee shop or restaurant for seating, and then time to travel back to the office. With working at home being required for many companies, small businesses that engage in a lot of networking are finding it easier to touch base with their contacts more efficiently.
Ryan McEniff, CEO of Minute Women Home Care, an in-home care provider for seniors in Lexington, Mass., credits Zoom with increasing his productivity. "With Zoom, I can now conduct 15 different 30-minute meetings per week and still get all of my other work done because it allows me to save so much time on travel," he says. I also limit the Zoom session to 30 minutes and try to stack them one after another."
Before Zoom meetups, if someone forgot an in-person meeting, McEniff lost all of that time, but now he gives the contact five minutes before giving up. "If someone forgets about the meeting, I just pivot back to work with no sunk cost time," he says.
Another way in which Zoom has helped small businesses increase productivity is by helping cut out unnecessary meetings. Doing these meetings remotely has helped businesses realize which ones require less time and less frequency.
Alex Mastin, founder and CEO of Home Grounds, an online coffee-brewing resource, says there are other ways to share information than a daily, in-person all-hands meeting.
"With our business, we only have Zoom meetings if they're absolutely necessary and if it helps make exchanging information easier," he says. "Otherwise a combination of Slack and Trello can be used to share all information and updates with anyone relevant to the task. So, ultimately Zoom has helped our business operate more effectively."
The Pandemic Pushed Businesses to Evolve
While many businesses were already partially or fully remote before the pandemic, other businesses were not. Some, in fact, resisted the possibility of having fully remote employees, and others resisted using Zoom for business. But when left with no choice, many businesses were forced to adapt—and have thrived.
Marc Levesque, co-founder of Lesson With You, which provides live online music lessons, struggled to find the right platform for providing his services.
"Prior to the pandemic, we spent countless hours figuring out how to integrate a video chat into our website so that we could do our live online lessons," he says. "We wanted a solution where users could just click on a link to open the video chat, as opposed to logging into an account like Skype required at the time."
The pandemic meant students were accustomed to using video platforms for school, so Lesson With You also began teaching lessons through Zoom. Levesque is pleased with the platform. "It has certainly made offering live online lessons much easier, and it is now so well-known that I have not had to explain to a single new student how to use it," he says. "We just send them their teacher's link, and they're good to go."
Many luxury retailers rely on showrooms where their clientele can visit and privately shop. Adam Wu, co-founder of Best Watch Brands, did not expect to thrive in this remote environment, knowing many of his clients did not want to shop in person for fear of the coronavirus. But now his clients are shopping via one-on-one Zoom calls.
"On these calls, we are able to show them the watches they are interested in and answer any questions they may have," Wu says."This allows them to virtually browse our selection of timepieces without leaving the comfort and safety of their own homes."
Businesses Learned New Perspective Through Zoom
Many businesses have learned new and exciting ways to work during the pandemic, whether with one another or for their clients. When his entire company was forced to work from home, Jonathan Frey, CMO of Urban Bikes Direct—an online dealer of bikes, scooters, and skateboards—realized that his employees could help improve the company's marketing strategy and e-bike guide.
"Almost every team member owns a different e-bike, so we started having employees use Zoom to showcase the specific features of the bikes they have at home to our product writers," Frey says. "This type of in-depth, real-world view of our products wouldn't be possible in a traditional office setting, and it helps our team write informative, compelling guides about our most popular bikes and scooters."
Similarly, companies that never considered videoconferencing with customers before have learned that doing business this way during a pandemic is preferable to other forms of communication.
Mike Falahee, owner of Marygrove Awnings, was used to in-person communications with his customers and figured that he would just pivot to no-contact curbside quotes during the pandemic. But since many of his employees needed to work remotely, and many of his customers were already using video calls in their own businesses, Falahee realized he would need to do the same.
"Email creates communication problems due to lacking tone," he says. "Video calling also has an advantage over phone calls because you can pick up on body language, which is vital in any sort of business transaction. Zoom is nowhere near being a replacement for being in the same room as someone, but it is the best option we've got under the current circumstance."
Whether your business is well-versed in remote work or has jumped in quickly due to the pandemic, Zoom and other remote technologies can help you continue to be successful and find new and exciting ways to grow your business.