In 2020 and 2021, the goal of most businesses was simply to survive. During the pandemic, businesses and leadership could likely only focus on survival and emergency mode.

Now, you can start to look forward and potentially take yourself out of emergency mode and be more strategic and innovative in your business.

You want to move out of just looking at things from the perspective of treading water. It’s time to start thinking about how you can thrive and grow once again.

With that in mind, the following are some tips for your business in 2022.

Reconnect When You Can

Everything has been done virtually for the past two years, or at least whenever it’s an option. There are advantages to a virtual and remote world, but there are also benefits of reconnecting on a human level. For example, if you have the opportunity to go to any industry events or trade shows in the coming year, maybe you take advantage of those if you’re comfortable doing so.

Trade shows before the pandemic were a highly profitable marketing strategy, generating more than $12.8 billion in revenue a year.

Having that in-person connection with people is something that’s so critical to business growth, as is networking. It may not look exactly like before the pandemic but still, seek out these opportunities.

Networking with other business owners could prove to be a pivotal part of the strategy to thrive in 2022, so don’t overlook this either. Small business owners should take advantage of any chances to connect with other business owners. Even when meeting in person is not possible, try to connect over phone or video chat as and when possible.

When you network with other entrepreneurs and leaders,  you can get referrals, gain new insight into the market, learn from experiences, and form relationships that will be inspirational.

Understand the Modern Customer

Modern customers are discerning, they’re ready to challenge your marketing and ask questions, and they want to connect with brands that they see as being in line with their needs and their values.

To put it more succinctly, today’s customers are highly demanding. You have to meet them where they are if you want to succeed and thrive even in a challenging environment.

Customers want a seamless experience from the moment they connect with you. They want that experience to be convenient, easy, personalized, and relevant.

You’re going to have to harness the power of technology and data to make these things happen. You’re also going to have to automate some elements of customer service, more than likely with technology like chatbots because your customers are going to want an on-demand experience as well.

While expectations are increasingly high among consumers, you can also use great tools to meet those expectations in ways that previously you couldn’t have, particularly as a smaller business.

Focus on the Employee Experience

Just like consumers are demanding and discerning, so are employees. Many employees have left their employers over the past two years and may not be coming back. It’s a phenomenon being called the Great Resignation.

There are several factors likely feeding into this, including the fact that employees want flexibility, they want to be appreciated, and they want opportunities that are going to be valuable to them.

If you want to hang onto your talent, which will be a key strategic priority for all businesses this year, you’re going to have to focus on the employee experience just like you do that of your customers.

Offer flexibility in how your employees work whenever possible and provide a sense of autonomy. Give opportunities for learning and development, and don’t let your remote employees go unseen when it comes to chances for promotion.

There’s also a term that’s becoming relevant here: family-first workplace values. Many people throughout the pandemic have taken another look at what they value most in their lives. Business owners need to understand that people want their employer to appreciate and reflect their values in terms of work-life and family-work balance.

You can’t afford to lose your valuable team members right now.

As far as the employee experience, something else to think about is mental health. Mental health and emotional well-being in the workplace matter, not only in theory but also in terms of measurable factors like productivity and revenue. You want to consider employee mental health when creating and implementing policies, to improve engagement and productivity and reduce turnover.

Consider the Hybrid Workplace

We touched on some elements of flexibility for the employee experience. This may mean that you being to embrace a hybrid workplace, which seems to be preferred by employees but often employers as well. The hybrid workplace appears to be the way of the future, more so than strictly remote or only in-office.

You have agility and flexibility in a hybrid environment, but you can get the best of both remote and in-person work as needed. You have that framework that’s ready for virtual at any time. Still, you can come together in the office when required or when appropriate, so you can maintain your corporate culture and sense of collaboration.

Standardize Digital Marketing

The importance of digital marketing isn’t new, but it still remains a challenge and something that’s incredibly time-consuming for many small businesses. It’s a good time to standardize your digital marketing processes where you can.

You need to make your digital marketing cost- and time-efficient because, as the pandemic taught us, the world can move only very quickly. You want to make sure you’re consistently reaching your targeted audience.

Inventory Management Strategy

Finally, this year you should work on being strategic with inventory management.

Supply chain disruptions and shortages aren’t ending any time soon. You’re going to face delays, and you will need to plan and strategize accordingly. You need to think about how you can get what you need without raising your prices to the point that becomes unsustainable for your customers.

You can’t ignore the issue and hope it will end because that just doesn’t seem to be the reality.