As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates, life, itself, doesn’t always stick to the plan. For businesses, planning for the unexpected is a complicated art, one that requires front-end recognition of obstacles and finding innovative ways to turn those hurdles into opportunities. In today’s “new normal” small, family-owned businesses are remaining resilient through online connectivity and embracing the crucial role of digital tools.
As COVID-19 continues to take a toll on our economy, new types of risk have emerged for our state’s businesses. However, with the pace of technological development, businesses shouldn’t lose hope. Today, we are standing at an inflection point. Entrepreneurs are taking notice of just how prepared they need to be for a total overhaul of the way business is done. Thankfully, companies confronting the COVID-19 pandemic have an incredible number of resources at their disposal. Among the most valuable are new, publicly available digital technologies. These tools are redefining what it means to be prepared.
Given advancements in the accessibility and affordability of these online platforms, small business owners can plan for the unexpected and unknown by taking advantage of these tools. At my own company, the Rey Insurance Agency, the COVID-19 crisis – and the sudden shift in what we consider normal – was entirely unexpected, but it was evident that we could not simply cease to be there for our customers. As New York’s physical storefronts closed, those connected with digital platforms transitioned online quickly; for others, it was easy to get started, building a quick website, emailing customers, and even running an online advertisement or two.
In fact, recent research from the Connected Commerce Council found that 31 percent of small businesses surveyed said that without digital tools, they would have to close all or part of their businesses.
In no time, our business had a system in place, using Zoom conference calls to connect with clients and leaning on OneDrive to share documents company-wide, allowing us all the opportunity to work in tandem on casework, even when we were no longer sharing an office. This crucial digital infrastructure came at no cost to us, allowing our company a flexibility that, years ago, was incomprehensible.
There’s no way our team could have remained in contact with marketing reps, stayed in touch at networking events, or participated in local chamber of commerce meetings during this pandemic without access to online platforms.
As experts in risk management, insurance agents tend to skew to the safe side. But for any business looking toward a long-term future, altering your business model and evolving with digital infrastructure is non-negotiable.
We’re lucky to have access to so many free and low-cost digital platforms and tools to stay in business, maintain our workforce, and serve our community. As we work toward fully reopening the economy, it’s imperative that elected leaders in Washington, as well as Governor Cuomo and the state legislature in Albany, understand the role technology is now playing and avoid policy mistakes that could slow our recovery.
Laura Rey Iannarelli is the owner of the Rey Insurance Agency in Sleepy Hollow.