While technology has seemed to evolve at breakneck speed over the past 15 to 20 years, adopting the use of it all has definitely lagged behind. It usually takes significant events to push the envelope and force the majority of people and businesses to change the status quo. This is nothing new; it is human nature.
After disruptions like 9/11 and the banking and real estate crisis in 2008, we saw some major swings toward using more technology. The latter saw significant increase in cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms, for example.
However, this “new normal” forces us to re-evaluate our day-to-day business.
Our own business has always taken pride in being ahead of the curve on technological adoption. We had moved from paper to online estimates, contracts and logistics several years ago. This allowed us to switch quickly to remote working for our office staff and estimators when the pandemic hit.
We evaluated our processes, moving meetings to online, providing quotes and estimates virtually and working remotely. It made us realize that our organization didn’t need to meet in person on a weekly basis in the office, forcing people to drive in traffic, putting wear and tear on vehicles and their stress levels, in all kinds of weather. We can do a face to face Google or Zoom Meeting and save time, energy and resources.
We also found a way to keep some of our business going while other painting companies perhaps could not. We found a virtual quoting toll and implemented it within a week thanks to our management, marketing and web teams. This gave us the opportunity to meet virtually with potential customers who were sitting at home for hours on end noticing all of the house projects that needed to be done. We recognized that no one wanted an estimator to come to the house during the pandemic, but they could answer some questions and upload a walk-through video of their potential project.
Maybe remote working isn’t as non-productive as we thought. Maybe allowing office staff to work remotely either part-time or full-time would work for your business, and maybe this would open up a new pool of potential employees. Have we overlooked an entire group of people who could work remotely as they are home to care for elder parents or young children? Obviously it depends on the job, but it has opened some eyes for sure.
Online training and education is another revelation. Do we need to send people to training classes or could that be done online? In some cases the answer is a solid yes to in-person training, but in other cases allowing time to take these training classes online saves time and travel expenses.
The same can be said for attending conferences. So many conferences have been either canceled for this year, or moved to online. How often have we only been able to send one or two people to a conference due to travel expenses like hotels, flights, meals and other transportation charges, when really, it would have been so much more beneficial to our business if we could have sent an entire sales or management team to the same conference. Online conferences could be the answer. Yes, you might miss out on some of the interaction with other attendees, but that could be done online with various Zoom networking events.
Businesses and organizations did all of this because we had to in order to survive and continue, but several weeks of working with these new tools and new processes allows for a behavioral change. These are changes that organizations now realize they could and should adopt for the long haul – well beyond the time of a global pandemic.
Sheldon Stewart is President of Stewart Painting Inc. in Hyannis and Hingham. Learn more at stewartpaint.com or 508-362-8023.