The COVID-19 global pandemic has turned the business world upside-down, forcing companies to step away from their tried-and-true business models toward new and unfamiliar approaches. Prior to the health crisis, many women-owned and operated companies relied on a physical business location, in-person interactions, and overall traditional methods of conducting business — and it worked, so why would they rush to change it? Now, thanks to vast shelter-in-place orders, many business owners have had to implement remote working for their employees and new digital tools to keep business running as smoothly as possible.

Having a successful digital or online presence prior to the pandemic often included a company website and a social media handle or two. Now, however, in order to keep businesses afloat, while continuing to provide their products and services to a physically distant clientele, a complete digital overhaul may be what is necessary to keep a company’s virtual doors open. Tools like online shops, digital payment methods, video conference services, and remote accounting software that were once seen as luxuries for many small businesses, have now become necessities. This can be a lot to consider, particularly for businesses located in rural areas that may not have the same level of access to urban infrastructure as those located in larger urban centres.

Due to the uncertain economic times, along with the sudden and significant business model changes, many companies have been unable to continue operating, but for those fortunate enough to continue to serve their clients and customers, it may be the perfect time to implement that digital transformation they have been considering.

Out with the old, in with the digital

Even as online and digital tools have become more readily accessible over the past several years, many female-led businesses have continued to stick with the paper processes that they know well and work for them. But the old ways of conducting business have proven to show their cracks under the pressure of increased demand for all businesses, both big and small.

Not only are digital tools increasingly more efficient, they are also user-friendly (for the most part), and able to be accessed and saved in a secure manner thanks to the expansive digital protections available.

Online Payment

For brick-and-mortar companies that relied primarily on cash, debit card or in-store credit payment methods, making the jump to an online-based payment process can feel overwhelming. However, with customers shopping more from home, for things from groceries and essentials through to a full range of retail products, making the leap to online payment has become essential to small businesses’ continued success.

Prior to the pandemic, most people would shop in-person for groceries or sit down to eat at a restaurant. But since physical distancing measures have been implemented, think about how quickly people adapted to using apps like DoorDash, Skip The Dishes, Instacart and Click and Collect to receive the same modified service? Some people have adjusted so quickly, in fact, that they may continue to use these convenient online services once the health crisis is over.

Accounting Systems

Smaller businesses and entrepreneurs are often more inclined to utilize manual accounting systems, as they are typically the less expensive option. But business owners are quickly realizing that with the increased demand on their businesses they are unable to keep up with those systems, and are moving to digital platforms to help speed up their accounting procedures and record-keeping.

COVID-19 has made the paper-based systems of physical cheques and mailed paperwork more challenging, as employees then must access a bank to deposit the cheques while simultaneously maintaining their stay-in-place orders to remain safe. Moving to online-based accounting systems, with options like direct deposit or e-transfer, are not only instant and convenient, but also safer for all parties.

When in doubt, trial it out

Discounted and free digital tools

The cost of moving a business to an online-based platform may have deterred many small business owners in the past, but due to increased demand for online service options, many women-run businesses are making the jump now. They see the health crisis as a new way to reach clientele, and provide goods and services in a safe, convenient way, while also giving their company a digital boost to potentially reach much wider audience online.

Sometimes businesses may need to experiment a little bit with a few different digital providers before they discover the one that fits their needs best. The free trial period that many providers are offering is perfect for this, as companies can test out the capabilities and fit without contractual consequences. Thanks for this sudden demand for online services, many hosting companies are making their programs discounted or completely free for a trial period while businesses adapt to the new way of conducting business. This type of opportunity is also perfect for small businesses or entrepreneurs that may not have the same financial flexibility to invest in a product or service they aren’t familiar with yet.

No matter what size or type of company it is, there is a digital solution available to meet its needs. Whether it is communication and conference services, Human Resources, accounting software or something else, there are plenty of options available to make the digital transformation. Tsuts’weye can support our local women-led businesses to navigate all of these options, and help source and implement the right tools for each business.

For example, companies like Cisco Webex, which provides video conferencing services such as webinars and meetings, is offering a 90-day trial to businesses, whether they are already a customer or not. 1Password, which provides central, secure password storage digitally, is providing six months of access for free. These are just two examples of digital providers offering excellent trial periods for companies to test out their services.

Willing and able remote workforce

Prior to the global pandemic, some workers may have rejected the option to work from home, or other significant changes to existing company technology and policy. However, given the new work environment requirements, this is a perfect time to try new things and technologies, as the majority of the workforce has adapted to the changes and is likely open to more. Things aren’t ‘business as usual’ right now, so this will also potentially create more time to train and practice with the new systems and the rapidly evolving digital landscape. So now is the time to implement new systems, processes, and digital platforms — they may even have some suggestions of their own.

Rural realities

There is also a digital reality for rural business women, as their access to urban infrastructure such as high-speed internet may be more limited. While many of Tsuts’weye’s members and partners have felt the need to transition to a more digital-based business model, they may not be familiar with the technology companies and consultants available locally. These services are available in the Shuswap as well, and Tsuts’weye has programs available to help make this digital transformation seamless. Tsuts’weye’s members don’t have to do it all on their own, and we can work with each business to help navigate the best fit for each unique digital needs.

If you would like help beginning or continuing the switch to digital processes for your company, contact us and we’ll be happy to guide you through the process and connect you with skilled, professional workers.