Pa.’s small businesses are stronger – and alive today – because of digital services | Opinion

August 25, 2020 6:30 am

By Emily Morgan

A few years ago, COVID-19 would have been a death sentence for Pennsylvania’s small businesses. With fewer digital communications tools, and a less developed e-commerce infrastructure than we have today, retail shops would be left shuttered and the service industry would be unable to transition their work to a remote setting.

Don’t get me wrong, businesses have by no means had it easy during the pandemic. It’s forced us to make some critical financial decisions. But the resilience of these businesses would have been unthinkable years ago, and it’s been enabled by investment in – and access to – affordable online business platforms.

However, some political leaders often fail to recognize the value that these platforms offer to small and medium sized businesses.

In a hearing with the leaders of major technology companies including Google, Amazon, and Facebook, members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee sought to assess the value these companies provide consumers, but ultimately asked questions far removed from the daily lives of Amazon shoppers or Google search users.

Our small business, Delegate Solutions, is woven out of access to affordable digital tools and collaborative online platforms. Since long before the pandemic began, we have embodied the economic promise of an increasingly online age.

While the work we do extends to clients far outside of the Keystone State, we’ve been able to build a home-grown enterprise, providing premium virtual assistance services with many of our employees located in Greater Philadelphia and beyond. And during the pandemic, we, ourselves, have become increasingly digitally-savvy.

Using Loom video, an accessible online video messaging software, we’ve put together short, digestible videos offering tips around remote work and delegation strategies. And with filmora 9, a free-to-download video editor, we’ve given our video content a professional finish. It’s through these platforms – simple, accessible services that any business could utilize – that we’ve made remote business services a possibility for our clients and employees.

And the opportunities for digital integration shouldn’t stop at remote-work firms; in fact, any of the tools we use could be put to work by major corporations or mom-and-pop businesses. Using services like Canva, companies can spruce up their social media presence.

With Facebook Live and YouTube, they can reach audiences for important announcements, expert chats, and outreach opportunities. Even adding a chatbot to our website has given Delegate Solutions an opportunity to reach clients remotely, in hours when we’d normally be inaccessible, showing just how much can still be accomplished even when we’re not behind our desks.

Additionally, digital programs allow businesses to build a flexible employment model that gives workers the freedom to structure their work in a way that fits their lifestyle needs.

Many of our employees have kids at home, and are trying to work, help with online school, and cook meals for the family – which can make being a working parent seem impossible.

So to ensure that everyone has some core hours each day where they can get work done and have some support in keeping their kids energized and occupied, we’ve built a digital “kids camp.” Through Google Sheets, friends and family can volunteer to share their talents and passions with the families of our employees, even putting workout classes and “digital scavenger hunts” on the schedule.

And while a digital business transition may not be quite as riveting as an online summer camp, it solves the same goal of building opportunities for growth when we can’t be together. As Congress prepares to chart a path toward our economic recovery, we have an opportunity to look forward rather than backwards.

Seeing digital tools as an accessible, fairly priced, universal good, Pennsylvania can reposition its economy to not only boost the bottom line of struggling small businesses, but also design an economic system in which crises like COVID-19 are perhaps a hindrance to business, but not a fatal blow.

Emily Morgan, is the founder and CEO of Delegate Solutions. She writes from Greater Philadelphia.

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