How to Encourage Employees to Take Healthy Risks

The word “risk” elicits different feelings based on where you are as a company. When you’re starting up, everything is risky. As you grow and stabilize, the amount of risks you’re willing to take become fewer and farther between. I know about this firsthand–once my company figured out the special sauce to consistent, predictable growth, I wanted to prevent disruptions at all costs, and that meant minimizing risky decisions.

But disruptions are usually out of our control. Who would have predicted COVID-19 and what that would do to the economy? This isn’t a post about preparedness, though, it’s about acceptance that no business is ever free from disruption, and so taking risks isn’t as risky as it may seem.

In fact, taking risks might be what pulls your company through a hard time. A brick and mortar bookstore in Dallas had to shut its doors amid the pandemic. A few weeks later, they relaunched as a “travel agency” with just a website. Visitors could choose a destination they wanted to visit, and be taken to a book selection for that place. Pretty big risk to completely change your business model in a matter of weeks, especially when you’re out of cash, and it turned out to be a smart move. Not only were they back in business, sales increased 200%.

The real magic about taking calculated risks is that it can and should come from anywhere within the company. Every employee within your company is capable of learning how to take healthy risks. This can be as small as pitching a new SOP, or as big as proposing a new revenue stream.

And it should be encouraged. When we create an environment of little-to-no risk taking, It can have a chilling effect that stifles creativity and makes employees feel like they’re walking on eggshells.

When we encourage risk-taking, we open the door to constant improvements, innovation from within our own walls, and a culture that honors people for thinking as much as doing. Here are some ways to bring risk-taking into your company culture.

Set the tone

Most leaders of small business love to talk about failure… in theory. I’ve met very few leaders who actually allow it to happen in practice.

Employees know when they’re in an environment where what the boss says goes, and new ideas are not met with gratitude. This isn’t to say you need to implement every new idea. You should, however, show appreciation for the initiative, and provide the green light enough times that it encourages continued ideation.

This of course means opening your mind and your organization to failure.

Don’t punish failure

Think back to your early days. Your business was running on failure almost 100% of the time. That’s how you learned what worked and what didn’t. Helping your employees learn how to fail is a gift you can give them that will make them, and your business, more successful.

Some employees will have a very low tolerance for risk. Others will have a huge appetite for it. As the CEO, it’s an opportunity for you to mentor your team on how to take measured risks, and how to learn fast. This growth mindset can’t exist in a culture that punishes failure.

When your employees learn that yours is a safe environment to be creative and try new things, they’ll bring all kinds of new ideas. Most won’t work, and that’s great because it’ll get you faster to the ones that do.

Reward calculated risks

In every company there are budding entrepreneurs. They might not even know it yet. These team members can be extremely valuable in ensuring that your business stays relevant and competitive. If you can create a system of rewarding calculated risk taking, you can root out these MVPs.

For some people, giving them resources to pursue ideas that you feel are calculated can be enough to keep them very happy (and loyal).

You can have a literal “risk reward” at your weekly all-hands meetings. Recognizing someone for their innovation in front of their peers can be motivating. Be sure to reward small risks as much as the big ones, because for many people, even small risks can feel huge.

For most people, feeling heard is vitally important. At our weekly team meetings, we have time dedicated to “what’s weird.” Everyone is encouraged to point out things they believe could be done differently, or present entirely new ideas. By making this discussion a priority, our employees know their input matters.

Taking risks doesn’t have to mean being rash. You can take measured risks at any stage of business, and you should. New ideas can be the catalyst for growth, and they can safeguard you in times of unexpected disruption.

Patrick Sullivan Jr. is the CEO and co-founder of Jigsaw Health, a nutritional supplement company based in Scottsdale, AZ. Patrick is a frequent contributor to small business publications. He loves helping other small business owners tackle the hard things like culture, hiring, and marketing.

Taking Risks stock photo by Constantin Stanciu/Shutterstock

A Quick Look at the Impact of Technology on Businesses

We are living in an era of technology. Various technological advances have entered into the marketplace, be it Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cloud Computing, Augmented Reality (AR), Blockchain, Virtual Reality (VR), or the Internet of Things (IoT). These technologies are changing our lives by mitigating the existing challenges and bringing forth newer opportunities.

But, can we say the same about its impact on the business environment too?

Let’s find out in this article.

1. Enhanced Accessibility

Traditionally, all the business records were maintained either in files or on local computers. So, it was not possible for anyone to access those files outside the office premises.

But, with the advent of mobile applications and cloud computing, businesses are able to transmit some of their operations to third-party servers which can be accessed online. This has helped in performing all the tasks remotely and ensuring business growth even in the time of server downtime, cyber-attacks, crashes, and data loss.

2. Seamless Connectivity

The technology has also added the power of connectivity in the business ecosystem. It has aided coworkers to connect with each other anytime and anywhere in the form of text, audio files, video chats, and more using mobile apps. Also, by blending the power of the Internet of Things (IoT), it has empowered the businesses to keep every device connected to each other, which further helps with ease of maintenance.

3. Higher Productivity

Another way technologies are transforming the business world is by ensuring higher productivity.

Let me explain how.

Various technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) have automated a major fraction of the business processes. This has provided employees with ample time and effort to focus on more productive tasks. Something which has further encouraged entrepreneurs to explore more about the AI impact on businesses and plan around introducing the technology in their existing business model.

4. Fewer Errors 

Earlier, almost all the tasks were performed manually by the human workforce. Because of this, multiple errors were found in the data records which were further resulting in a huge business loss. But, thanks to the rise in the involvement of AI-enabled chatbots and Blockchain-powered Smart contracts, the risk of errors has been minimized.

5. Better Customer Relationship 

The different set of technologies have also bridged the gap between brands and the targeted audience. They have made it possible for brands to gather and analyze user sensitive information in an efficient and effortless way, and later use it for understanding their changing needs, wants, and complaints. This is eventually helping them with offering personalized services to the users and this way, fostering healthier customer relationships.

6. Effective Marketing 

When it comes to marketing, technologies are opening new doors of opportunities. For example, Augmented Reality (AR) is enabling organizations to introduce virtual objects into their real environment that offers extensive information and details of the offers and discounts to the user base. Likewise, AI-based chatbots are gathering and analyzing information from different databases to know exactly what a consumer needs and show the same services/products.

By the same token, push notifications and other features of mobile applications are letting businesses connect with the target audience at regular intervals and encourage them to purchase a particular product/service.

7. Robust Security 

The technological innovations have also made it easier for startups and established brands to ensure high-end security. Let me explain with an example.

Suppose, you are a healthcare organization with sensitive patients records that hackers might try to steal. AI-enabled chatbots and tools based on machine learning, in this case, keeps an eye on every users’ activities and alarms when found any change in their behaviour. Something that helps in finding out the unauthorized login or related activities and prevent any harm to the database.

Likewise, blockchain-based software comes loaded with the characteristics of immutability, which ensures that no data stored in the blocks could be altered or deleted anonymously and in an unauthorized manner.

8. Cost-Effectiveness 

This is yet another benefit that businesses are enjoying by embracing cutting-edge technologies in their processes.

The technologies are cutting down the third-party intermediaries, automating the processes, reducing the errors, ensuring security, and more. This, in the long run, is reducing the investment required to be considered for running a business without affecting the sales. Aka, making the process economical.

9. More Sales 

Lastly, the introduction of technologies in businesses is paving the way for more sales. The technologies, be it GPS, Push notifications, Beacon, or IoT, are helping brands attract a wider audience, show them the products they want in an irresistible way, and much more. This is again adding to the increasing sales.

As we have seen in the aforementioned pointers, the technology is developing, evolving, and remodelling at an exponential rate. It is entering different aspects of businesses and changing them like never before. This has made it nearly impossible for anyone to not get swayed by the wave of its progress. And if even now, you are confused about introducing the latest technologies into your business, you might lose the market.

So, clear the clouds of doubts and hire the right tech expert today itself to leverage the advantages of integrating state-of-the-art technologies into your business and outshine the competition.

Smith Johnes is a Content Marketer  who loves to decode the changing landscape of disruptive technologies. He likes to stay up to date with the latest tech trends. Being writing as his hobby, Smith has come out with many interesting topics and information that attracts readers to unravel his write-up. @smith_johnes

Technology stock photo by violetkaipa/Shutterstock

6 Survival Strategies for Small Businesses Suffering the Covid-19 Slump

Never have things been as unpredictable as now for small businesses across the world. Even as businesses begin reopening after the coronavirus shutdowns, it will be a while before things are entirely hunky-dory. A Facebook survey showed that 31% of small businesses have had to stop operating. Another 11% expect to face a similar plight in the next three months if the situation persists.

Now is the time to reimagine conventions and make a push for digital transformation. Small businesses need to take a good look at their expenses, reinvent sales and revenue channels and even explore newer business models.

1. Sell Online Even If you’ve Never Done It Before

The reality is that even long after the restrictions are lifted, customers will refrain from stepping outside, and online shopping will remain the preferred channel wherever it is possible. A Salesforce survey reveals that 36% of shoppers say they won’t return to brick-and-mortar stores until a vaccine is available.

Small businesses therefore must make the move to digital now if they haven’t yet. Depending on the kind of business, you could sell your products on established ecommerce channels like Amazon, or build your own online store.

Even if you’ve never done this before and cherish your personalized interaction with customers, you could use this crisis as an opportunity to expand your market and create new and sustainable revenue streams.

2. Leverage All Government Benefits

The US Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced a number of initiatives to help small business find their feet in this state of crisis. From loans and funds to debt relief, businesses can avail a number of helpful options. As of March 27, 2020, the CARES Act has been signed into law and promises $376 billion in relief to American small businesses. Under this act, some of the benefits you can avail are –

Paycheck Protection Program

The PPP allows small businesses to avail and be forgiven a loan up to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll costs. SBA will forgive the loan if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities.

EIDL Loan Advance

Economic Injury Disaster Loan or EDIL is currently only available to agricultural small businesses. Such businesses can avail a loan advance of $10,000 that need not be repaid.

SBA Express Bridge Loan

Small businesses that currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender can access up to $25,000 quickly, while they wait for PPP or EIDL loans to come through.

SBA Debt Relief

The SBA will pay off principal, interest and any associated fees of any current loans – 7(a), 504 or microloans. Additionally, any SBA Serviced Disaster Loans that are current as of March 1, 2020 will be automatically deferred through December 31, 2020.

You can check out the SBA website for further details on coronavirus relief options.

3. Explore New Business Models

Food delivery services quickly switched to delivering groceries and essential supplies as soon as the crisis hit. Fashion giants like Zara are now making PPEs like hospital gowns and masks. London based gin distillery 58 Gin paused their gin production to make hand sanitizer.  Engineering companies poured their resources into making ventilators. Such examples abound, and small businesses can take a lesson or two in pivoting their business model in a way that better fits the current times.

4. Perform a Thorough Analysis of Costs, Revenues and Deductibles

If ever there was a time to do some serious accounting, it’s now. Take a good look at your costs and expenses, and muster up the courage to make some tough decisions. Calculate the expenses against the cash flow and figure out all expenses that can be cut back or at least delayed. It is a good idea to start cutting back on flexible expenses early on so that you can divert cash flow into more vital areas.

5. Make Separate Plans for Long Term and Short Term

It will be a while before we can really estimate the total impact of coronavirus. For now, we can plan for the immediate future, one step at a time. Make plans for 3 months, 6 months and a year. You could probably cut back on hiring, marketing and travel expenses for the next 3 months. If the situation persists over a 6-month period, you may want to reduce variable expenses as well as renegotiate some fixed expenses such as rent, lease, equipment and salaries. Depending on your business, your marketing expenses may need to be scaled up or cut back. If the economic slump continues beyond the year, your business may require a complete strategy redesign.

6. Keep Calm and Stay Updated

Together, we shall get through this. Despite the fact that most small businesses are cash strapped and in acute distress, the weekly US Census Survey reveals some businesses have already started showing signs of recovery. 67% of respondents report having received the PPP money, up from 38% in previous batches of the survey. 62% reported decline is revenue which is bad, yes, but it’s less than 74% reported in the earlier weeks.

So while things still look bad, it is important to stay calm and keep on swimming.

Wrapping Up

One way the coronavirus crisis is unique is that it has affected individual across the world. From small businesses to large organizations and customers in general, everyone’s lives have changed. Which is why we are in this together. As long as we hang tight, adapt and persevere, we will come out stronger on the other side of this.

Hiral Atha is the CEO of Moveoapps, a premium mobile and web app development company. Aside from building top notch apps, she likes to write about startups, small businesses and women in tech. Connect with her on Twitter at @hiralatha (https://twitter.com/hiralatha )