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Coronavirus: useful resources + support

Collated resources and support to help you survive and thrive during this time. You’ll find support for employees, employers, freelancers and small businesses but also plenty of other topics to look after your wellbeing, lift your spirits and keep you smiling.

The people skills small businesses need by 2025

by Selsabil Amine

Selsabil Amine, our contributory writer, explores the people skills that small businesses will need over the next 5 years, and how Echo can help you skill up.

Selsabil Amine is a communications strategist passionate about helping businesses boost their voice, mission, and resilience. Starting as a communications intern on Echo’s ‘The Match’ project, Selsabil has published research-based materials on how businesses can bounce back from COVID-19, as well as free tech tools great for small businesses. You can find her on LinkedIn and Echo’s blog.


In my article on how SMEs can adapt to the new normal, I outlined 5 things small creative businesses can start doing to boost their business resilience in the ‘new normal’. But what is the new normal?

A report by the World Economic Forum refers to the ‘double disruption’ caused by the combined impact of the COVID-19 recession and Fourth Industrial Revolution (read: more automation).  This is the new normal, which demands new skills, capabilities, and outlooks.

In this article, I’ve outlined the top 4 people skills needed by 2025. Use the ‘what does this mean for you’ text to inform how you might want to plan your personal and business development to meet the skills needed in, and beyond, the next 5 years.

Leadership

We all know the infamous differences between a leader and a boss. Now, and for the foreseeable future, leaders, not bosses, are needed more than ever. A leader invests in the sense of self-worth, belonging, and safety of their employees.

Research shows that this makes employees more likely to go the extra mile, propose creative suggestions, and think openly about improvement. On the other hand, unengaging management can lower employee morale and drag down productivity. 

It’s clear that it’s not just employees that require good leadership, but the business itself. Effective leaders can enjoy increased productivity with a workforce that is aligned with the organisational mission. This opens up the opportunity to network with other business leaders, and collaborate on projects, events, and products. 

What does this mean for you?

💡Are you a leader? Or a boss? The differences are crucial for your business in the next 5 years.

 

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence, a key ingredient of leadership, is the ability to recognise and respond to your own and others’ feelings and emotions. Put simply, emotional intelligence is a healthy mix of mature people skills and self-awareness.

What does this mean for you?

💡Your relationships with your workforce, partnerships, and other stakeholders are valuable. Though many small business owners are familar with a highly individualistic work ethic, excelling in your business goals does depend on your stakeholder relationships.

💡Upgrade these relationships by examining your business communications through an emotional intelligence lens. What about your internal communications with your workforce? Do your stakeholder relationships serve your goals, and if they don’t, could the problem lie with you?

 

Resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a global stress response we have not seen for a generation. The effects of stress can make their way into all corners of our lives, careers, and plans. Stress tolerance, which requires organisational resilience and flexibility, is going to be a crucial resource.

What does this mean for you? 

💡How well do you deal with stress? What about your workforce? The report talks about many businesses choosing to create a sense of community, connection, and belonging within their workforce using digital tools. This is one way of responding to challenges posed by remote working and ever-changing public health threats.

💡Workforces and their leaders need to be emotionally intelligent in the way they face the pressure to get results, offering and recieving feedback or criticism, and personal and work-related difficulties. 

💡Naturally, good leadership and stress resilience boosts productivity and engagement. For your business, it may be time to develop a new way of working to prioritise the stress resilience and mental health of your team, not just results. 

 

Persuasion, social influence, and negotiation

As the divide between the digital and physical worlds blur with increased remote workign and e-commerce, the ability to stand out and be heard is a staple of achieving business goals.

This includes persuading others to view your mission or product in a new light. Crucially, however, it also includes the ability to reconcile differences between those in your workforce and network.

What does this mean for you?

💡Persuasion, social influence, and negotiation encompass all the skills mentioned above. In order to get your product, messages, services, and value out there, you need emotionally intelligent communications, a stress-resistant,  reconcilitory workforce, and an appetite for genuine leadership.

💡A business’s ability to thrive, not just survive, the next 5 years is going to depend on building real relationships that garner real social persuasion and influence.

 

Why not invest in your people skills now with these one-to-one opportunities in our Echo Marketplace.

Simple and free tech tools to increase website engagement

by Selsabil Amine

In our latest guest blog, Echo member Selsabil Amine shares her tips to help small businesses increase their impact and visibility online.

Selsabil Amine is a communications strategist passionate about helping businesses boost their voice, mission, and resilience. Starting as a communications intern on Echo’s ‘The Match’ project, Selsabil has published research-based materials on how businesses can bounce back from COVID-19, as well as the future of essential business skills in the ‘new normal’. You can find her on LinkedIn and Echo’s blog.


It’s not just your social media that should feel familiar to your customers, it’s your website too.

Your social media should make it easy for your audience to connect with your brand. It likely already does.

You’ve spent time and energy recording and sharing photos and videos of your work, products, and effort. So don’t let your website give you a bland brand when you’ve crafted a voice elsewhere.

Integrate your social media into your website

Humanise your brand, work, and company by integrating your social media into your website. This is great for improving how your customer experiences your brand, which not only encourages engagement but also opportunities to collaborate with others.

If you are managing multiple social media platforms, there are ways to tie your social media content together into your website.

For WordPress users, check out the free plan offered by Flow-Flow, a WordPress social sharing plugin that offers to run up to 4 social media streams onto your website.

For Wix users, check out the Social Media Stream app. You can integrate content from your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. Heavy Instagram user? The Instagram Feed app enables you to directly stream your Instagram content onto your website.

If you use Squarespace, read this guide on how to connect your social accounts.

 

Chat with your customers while they browse

Automated chat bots are increasingly visible on websites, and they are getting more intuitive and usable.

For WordPress users who use HubSpot, the HubSpot WordPress Plugin offers a live and automated chat function. 

If you do not use HubSpot, Drift is a free alternative WordPress plugin that allows you to talk to visitors while they are browsing your website. You can also integrate Drift with Slack, which is available as a mobile app, so you are notified when a customer is online.

For Wix users, The Tidio Chat Lite app lets you send customised automatic messages to visitors. While Tidio Live Chat is primarily a premium app, there is a free trial available and if automated messages are something you’ve been thinking about incorporating, it may be worth a go.

For Squarespace websites, ArtiBot offers a free chatbot setup plan, read the instructions here.

 

Improve your sales by improving your customer engagement

Integrating your social media into your website doesn’t just improve your brand authenticity, it can also impact your sales.

If you are already selling directly from your WordPress website, WooCommerce lets you create customisable storefronts. If you’re not already selling from your website, start today! Go a step further and integrate your free WooCommerce plugin with a compatible Facebook and Mailchimp plugin to maximise your product reach. You can also access WooCommerce as a mobile app.

Wix user? Use the free Wix Stores app to personalise your storefront and sell across Facebook and Instagram, for free. Explore features like sending customers automated emails if they have abandoned their shopping carts.

For Wix creators that use Etsy, Pinterest, or Yelp, you can install the free plan offered by the Social Media Icons app to provide easy access to those sites.

 

If you found this information useful, check out the Echo Marketplace for more up-skilling opportunities.

 

How creative SMEs can adapt to the new normal

by Selsabil Amine

At Echo, we have always believed in the importance of peer networks in supporting businesses to thrive. But one part of having a successful network is knowing where your own business is headed in the ‘new normal’, where we will continuously face uncertain lockdown measures.

As a small business owner, it’s tough to do and think of everything on your own, so in this blog post, Selsabil Amine puts forward a list of questions and suggestions that creative SMEs can think about to adapt to our new normal.


Continuing lockdown measures are amplifying the need for an engaging online presence. For creative businesses that have traditionally shared their best work ‘face to face’, an authentic and personalised digital transformation is needed for these uncertain times.

Use the 5 suggestions below to start, continue, or enhance your digital transformation.

1. Own your digital transformation

Look into the process of how you create content for your customers. A healthy digital transformation will make you feel at home online, so what did you do before and how can you offer that, something similar, or even better, online?

How can you offer a mixture of free and premium digital services?

Is your revenue model meeting your short and long term business needs?

 

2. Believe in your business continuity plan

If you realised that you didn’t have an effective business continuity or disaster recovery plan only when COVID struck, then this is the perfect opportunity for you to build one.

Check out a suggested 5 step plan on how your businesses can bounce back from COVID, then get everyone in your business on board with the plan.

It’s paramount that all staff members understand the content and action points of your continuity or disaster recovery plan.

 

3. Learn, adapt, overcome

An often overlooked part of adaptation to new economic climates is the learning and development of staff and decision makers.

What new things should you learn to adapt to your digital transformation?

What about your staff in content creation? Or your client-facing staff?

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by a perfectionist idea of what executive members and staff should learn, so stick to the most high-impact learning and development needs.

 

4. Build an authentic relationship with your customers

Your customers show you how your business is valuable and important to them and the economic landscape.

Keep your customers aware of any changes to how you will be operating and prioritise their engagement.

Think about how you can develop and maintain an online community.

If you already have an online community, ask your customers for feedback to help you with product planning and visualising your roadmap.

 

5. Face your (decision-making) demons

If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that quick and effective decision-making is going to be a crucial part of navigating the economic, political, and social changes that lay ahead.

What are your internal barriers to quick and effective decision-making?

It’s not about simply reducing the steps to decision-making. Look at where in your business you will need to make proactive and responsive decisions. Ask yourself if the way you make those decisions is helping or hindering your business goals and needs.

 


Echo is working with London Business Hub to host a Peer Networks programme for creative sector SMEs.

You’ll join a small curated group of business peers for action-focused workshops and 1:1 support designed to help you build business resilience, hone your leadership skills and ensure your business thrives through Covid-19 and beyond.

If you are a London-based creative SME, established for at least 1 year with a turnover of £100k+, this might be just what you’re looking for.

Find out more and apply here: https://economyofhours.com/peernetworks

Why your business needs a peer network

by Selsabil Amine

At Echo we have always believed in the importance of peer networks in supporting businesses to thrive. As a small business owner, it’s tough to do everything on your own, and the support, new perspectives and business opportunities that come from having a strong network can be invaluable.

In this blog post, Selsabil Amine explores the value of peer networks for businesses navigating challenge and change.


There are nearly 6 million small businesses in the UK, who make up 99% of the British business population. It’s worrying, then, to discover that SMEs across the country face the issue of not knowing where to look for trusted business related advice when they need it. A trusted professional peer network can help solve this issue, in 3 ways.

  1. Survive and thrive

Since 2020, the phrase “It’s a small world” has never been more relevant. Business tycoons, politicians, consumers, journalists, and investors alike are well aware that your world and the information you have access to is down to your network.

Developing and maintaining a trusted network that you can access virtually will allow you to engage with trusted business peers beyond the restrictions of the ‘new normal’ set by the coronavirus.

With the incentive to enhance online business presence, engaging with a virtual network offers the opportunity to collaborate with business partners flexibly. When once you may not have had the time to take a train ride to connect with someone new, you can click ‘Call’ instead.

  1. Two heads are better than one

When presented with a business challenge, the last thing you want is a maze of boisterous business gurus offering you advice for a fee. Annoyingly, that is the reality for many small businesses.

The Business Productivity Review published that many businesses found it difficult to not only compare support services but also trust the service to deliver the intended results. As businesses tend to seek support during times of pressure and change, the need for a trusted recommendation becomes crucial.

The Review showed that businesses who were able to navigate the maze of the business support market were more likely to use their existing professional network to find the best opportunities for them. They were able to access their contacts but also their contacts’ contacts to broaden their search.

  1. Act upon best practices

When facing a challenge, accessing advice on how to implement daily best practices can transform a business. Developing and maintaining a trusted professional network is a great way to learn and share best practices.

A peer network becomes increasingly important during a period of assessment of business costs and opportunities. This is because an assessment period defines how a business leader implements their response to the realisation that something in their business needs to change. Engaging with a trusted professional support network can help leaders identify the best ways to take their next steps and boost productivity.


Echo is working with London Business Hub to host a Peer Networks programme for creative sector SMEs.

You’ll join a small curated group of business peers for action-focused workshops and 1:1 support designed to help you build business resilience, hone your leadership skills and ensure your business thrives through Covid-19 and beyond.

If you are a London-based creative SME, established for at least 1 year with a turnover of £100k+, this might be just what you’re looking for.

Find out more and apply here: https://economyofhours.com/peernetworks