With lockdown largely forcing the country into remote working, digital adoption has been accelerated exponentially. Of course, this isn’t without its challenges, as businesses struggle to ensure their staff have access to the right tools and technology, are communicating effectively, and continue to offer the same high level of service to clients.
But it’s forced a necessary change, and it’s one that has ultimately led to the democratisation of professional services. Technology is levelling the playing field, allowing the best individuals and companies to win the business they deserve on merit and that can only be a good thing. It gives small businesses and start-ups a fair shot, and it puts pressure on larger brands to up their game, ultimately providing the customer with a better service or product.
There are several ways businesses can take advantage of this movement.
Access to better skills
Particularly within startups there’s a need to wear more than one hat, taking on roles and responsibilities that go beyond your usual specialism, but there are a growing range of options allowing you to skill up in different areas. Online learning platforms like Skillshare can help you acquire skills to support your business, from graphic design, to writing, to photography, for those not yet in a position to be able to outsource this.
For those who are, the growing ability of technology which allows individuals to monetise their expertise means there are even more talented and skilled freelancers available to help your business grow, through sites like Fiverr, Upwork and PeoplePerHour.
Covid-fuelled redundancies and furloughs, as well as the time people have saved through not having to commute has led to more people than ever starting their own businesses, whose knowledge you can tap into to support your own.
It offers flexibility for those balancing tight finances and wary of planning too far ahead in the current climate. Rather than being forced to hire for a role you can’t guarantee will be needed in six months’ time, it makes sense to build relationships with freelancers, as well as consider paying for consultancy or training which can equip you for future projects without the overheads associated with in-house staff, such as holiday and sick pay, pensions and national insurance payments.
Access to better people
If you do decide to take the plunge, there’s never been a better time to find the right people, with tech providing an opportunity for the best individuals to shine – regardless of their physical location.
Whilst remote and flexible working have featured on workplace trends predictions list for the last few years, lockdown forced their acceleration and turned them from a nice idea, to becoming the norm. You have the opportunity to invest in people outside your commuter belt, selecting the perfect person for the position, not just the one who lives the closest.
Alongside this, the growth in popularity of professional profiles and networking sites means it’s easier to identify who these candidates are and get a feel for their expertise (even if they haven’t directly applied for the role).
There’s also been a shift in what constitutes a good candidate. It’s becoming less about who you know and more about what you know. The pandemic means we can’t all rub shoulders with the right people on the golf course, but we can use social media platforms and forums to showcase our skills and experience.
Similarly, it’s no longer about simply relying on a big name brand on your CV to secure an interview. Business owners looking to recruit the best team should look beyond impressive company names in their prospective candidates’ employment histories, and pay more attention to their responsibilities, experiences and performance there.
Whilst large companies and brands might have high standards, departments are often fairly siloed, with someone at a smaller company having developed a broader set of skills and knowledge out of necessity, and ultimately playing a larger role in that company’s overall success.
Using technology to build relationships
People do business with people, not companies. Particularly as a small business or startup, your acquisitions will largely be shaped by individual reputations and relationships, and technology can really level the playing field here; you don’t have to be invited to the right event to be in front of the right people.
Professional networking apps, forums and social media networks allow your business to compete with more established names. Having a presence on the right platforms is like having a seat at the right table, but it’s how you interact and engage with others here that will help you build long term connections.
Sharing useful content, taking time to engage with other people’s content and ultimately taking the time to listen to others first will likely lead to withstanding, mutual beneficial relationships.
Don’t be afraid to ask for introductions either, if there’s a friend of a friend you’d like to speak with. As long as you’re mindful of etiquette and don’t intend to bombard new connections with a sales pitch upon first meet, then don’t be shy to broaden your network, and always be considering how you can help others do the same.
Fuelling growth with technology
Advances in technology, as well as in the ways we use it, mean there’s a big opportunity for small businesses in the professional services industry to get ahead. Some key takeaways on using this shift to your advantage:
- Use online learning platforms to upskill and further your knowledge
- Build relationships with relevant freelancers, contractors and consultants
- Consider recruiting staff from outside your immediate area on a remote working basis
- Use professional networking apps, sites and forums to find the right talent, as well as to build relationships with peers and prospects
The way we work has changed forever, and technology is playing an increasingly crucial role in the future of professional services. It’s up to individuals and businesses to capitalise on that.
About the author
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Ashley Friedlein, the CEO & Founder of Guild, an app designed for businesses, professional groups, networks and communities who want the advantages of messaging – ease of use, immediacy, intimacy, engagement – but who also care about proper privacy, quality, legal compliance, and professional standards of support and service. As easy to use as WhatsApp, advertising-free and GDPR compliant.