On many levels, Covid dramatically altered everyone's lives. However, both small and large enterprises were adversely affected, with everything from events, restaurants, and shops being shut down to sending everyone home to work remotely.

It should come as no surprise that the IT industry grew throughout this time, with innovations in telemedicine, telemedicine solutions, virtual events, and more. Many of these changes, whether good or terrible, are permanent.

1. Losses can be avoided or at least mitigated with cyber security protection. Warren Buffet is well-known for his two investment principles: Rule #1: Don’t lose the money. Rule #2: Never forget Rule #1.

Nobody likes to spend money on cyber security, but the truth is that if you don't, or if you invest in inadequate protections, you WILL lose money in your business. This loss could come from money being taken from your bank account, or it could come from the enormous costs associated with a breach, which most people vastly underestimate.

Without a doubt, during the lockdowns when millions of people were compelled to operate remotely using unsecured home WiFi, computers, and cell phones, cybercriminals went berserk. 16 million attacks connected to Covid-19 were detected in the Trend Micro Annual Cybersecurity Report in 2020 alone. According to a recent Business Wire research, 79% of downtime related to cyber security risks and an increase in cyberthreats were observed by worldwide enterprises. You need to have a plan in place to protect yourself from being robbed blind and killed since these threats are becoming more aggressive, regular, and devastating every day. Click here for a free cyber security risk assessment to see how vulnerable you are.

2. Using technology to be more productive even with fewer employees. The US unemployment rate has been steadily dropping since 2010, from about 10% to under 3% at the beginning of 2020. Covid shutdowns temporarily concealed this shortage by laying off thousands of workers, but now that life has returned to "normal" (whatever this new normal is), the labor shortage has crippled many businesses that are now attempting to reopen but are unable to do so because they are unable to find and retain good employees as well as because hiring is becoming more expensive as salary demands rise.

Since there are only two or three open checkout lanes at grocery stores, which encourages customers to use self-checkout, many businesses are being forced to implement automated systems and artificial intelligence to replace workers. Other examples include businesses using AI-driven chatbots, text messaging, and phone systems to handle initial customer requests, which reduces the need for paid employees.

Utilizing technology and automation to increase staff productivity is another area on which many firms are concentrating. Dialers, CRM, and marketing automation tools are being used by many sales departments to increase the productivity of one sales representative and increase sales by eliminating or cutting back on the manual labor chores and "paperwork" that take up hours of each sales representative's day.

The assurance of employee productivity is a final expanding area of concern. Since the government shutdowns forced so many people home to work, this has become a huge topic, and many people now ONLY want remote jobs. The issue is that many employees lack the self-discipline and office setting needed to work efficiently, which results in significantly lower productivity than if they were in an office.To counter this, some companies use productivity-monitoring tools like Teramind or ActivTrak to track how much time employees spend away from their computers or on social media and other websites that aren't linked to their jobs. By doing this, the employer is able to determine if any particular employee is actually "overworked" or merely working an eight-hour shift. Click here to schedule a quick call to discuss this software for your business.

3. Online ordering and fulfilment. Marcus Lemonis, the star of the popular TV show The Profit and the CEO of the billion-dollar companies Camping World and Good Sam, spoke at a conference for our sector and described how his company quickly switched its retail stores to online ordering, shipping, and drive-by pickup so that customers could continue to make purchases even after the stores were physically closed. An investment that increased the company's capacity to generate sales and encourage client spending and loyalty in addition to paying off immediately.

During the lockdowns, many restaurants introduced or improved online ordering, and some switched to being pickup-only businesses without any interior dining, which reduced the need for additional staff while still increasing revenues. Along with doing away with paper menus and making ordering and paying easier, they also started (and many still do) using QR codes. Some companies, like Middlebury Pizzeria, which sells tiny pizza kits you create and bake at home, have entered the preassembled cook-from-home box sector, creating a new revenue stream they didn't have before the pandemic.

How can your business include digital or online ordering and fulfillment is an excellent question to ask. Perhaps it's time to completely eliminate paper invoices and many of your collection issues by going paperless and accepting all payments via credit cards or other digital payment methods. For this reason, a lot of medical businesses now keep track of their patients' bank and credit card information. Of course, this creates a new opportunity for compliance and cyber security challenges, but the benefits might be enormous.

As always, you can schedule a quick 10-minute call to discuss your ideas for going digital for payments and order fulfilment.