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Padgett franchisees share their thoughts on the post-pandemic world.

The COVID-19 pandemic turned our world upside down, and questions about what comes next are everywhere: What changes are here to stay? Is inflation on the way? Will the tight labor market start to ease up? 

We surveyed 50 PADGETT BUSINESS SERVICES® local franchise owners to better understand what their small business clients are telling them about life after COVID-19. As we all come out of the pandemic, here are several observations our local franchise owners shared with us about what they believe may come next: 

  • Nearly three-quarters of respondents said the pandemic accelerated the adoption of mobile technologies among clients who initially would be hesitant to do so.  
  • 64 percent said videoconferencing will be a permanent fixture in the office environment moving forward 
  • 44 percent indicated their restaurant and retail clients will continue to utilize mobile ordering 
  • 56 percent said they felt their clients would return to the office full-time, while another 32 percent plan to incorporate a hybrid model that meshes time in the office with remote work 
  • 46 percent said they expected clients to encourage their employees get vaccinated against COVID-19, though only 6 percent indicated clients would make it a requirement 

The pandemic ushered in a period of rapid change, and it’s been a dizzying environment for small businesses to navigate. Challenges and opportunities abound, and the lessons learned can chart a path forward. 

Hiring poses a challenge 

Feedback from our respondents made it clear that hiring is a significant challenge for small businesses across the country. Padgett clients aren’t immune to this tough labor market, citing robust federal unemployment benefits and recent economic stimulus efforts as deterrents in finding and retaining employees.  

“Hiring employees is, by far, the greatest challenge,” said one local franchise owner. “For many, accepting that it’s going to take higher wages to get people back will be a challenge.” 

Of course, boosting wages isn’t an easy decision to make when concerns over inflation and disruptions in the supply chain are putting additional financial pressures on small business owners. As such, many are reassigning and consolidating job duties among existing employees and adjusting the hours when they are open for service. 

Because of these challenges, respondents indicated that clients are having a difficult time forecasting their revenue for the remainder of the year, which impacts their plans to make long-term hires and needed investments. While federal support through initiatives like the Paycheck Protection Program and Employee Retention Credit helped businesses get through the uncertainty of the pandemic, there are concerns about being able to effectively manage these ongoing challenges in the next few months. 

Plotting the future of work 

While most survey participants believe things like videoconferencing and mobile ordering will be established pieces of the new normal, there’s a concern about how these technologies will alter the power of personal touch.  

With the pandemic pushing in-person meetings to platforms like Zoom and curbside pick-up and deliveries replacing in-store visits, Padgett clients are seeking ways to remain engaged with their customers. 

Local franchise owners also noted the financial implications of remote work. One said several clients had ended their office leases during the pandemic, and three of them now regularly travel while working. Such mobility has raised obvious concerns with tax liability, the necessity of a home office and associated tax planning issues. 

Adaptability is crucial for success 

The rapid shutdown of the economy at the beginning of the pandemic caused a tremendous amount of turmoil, but local franchise owners pointed to how quickly they and their clients pivoted to address these changes. 

“They have learned that they could make changes and survive,” one respondent said. “All I have spoken with have said they know they would never have survived without the COVID relief programs, but now they are looking forward. Everything is not back 100 percent yet, but they have learned resiliency and how to adapt to changes.” 

They also said the experiences of the past year will prepare them for any future challenges. 

A commitment to serving our clients 

When COVID-19 first hit, Padgett quickly adapted to find new ways to continue to take care of clients struggling with the uncertainty of the pandemic, including embracing videoconferencing and remote work technologies to stay engaged and supportive. We helped clients secure more than $94 million in pandemic relief funding, ensuring they could keep their doors open, their staffs employed and their customers served. If you’re a small business seeking a trusted partner to stand with you during tough times, don’t hesitate to reach out to our office today.