How to maintain a workforce in difficult times

: December 3, 2020

The last year has tested many ways of operating for traditional small businesses.

We recently held the second Small Business School Challenge, featuring teams from some of the top MBA programs in the United States (Carnegie Mellon, Yale, UC Berkeley, and more) to answer this question.

The retail businesses who participated came to the table with the challenges they’re facing, especially during the economic difficulties caused by COVID-19. They were paired up with an MBA team to brainstorm solutions and come up with a plan to alleviate their biggest pain point.

Over 48 hours, the small businesses and MBA candidates worked side by side… virtually, of course.

The teams collaborated via video to find clarity and create a path to greater sustainability and success. Thanks to the studies of the MBA students, small business owners received cutting-edge, data-driven insights to help them make decisions going forward.

1 key suggestion from the MBA teams: to improve communications systems to maintain their workforce, remotely if needed

How to maintain a retail workforce through social distancing and shutdowns

The retail business case study

Dan & Whit’s, a country store with an online presence out of Vermont, have had a tough time with staffing during COVID-19.

The solution

Dan & Whit’s teamed up with MBA students from Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, who advised the following: 

We have identified a potential solution as training employees to work from home. In this way, when employees cannot come into the store due to COVID-related issues, they can contribute by:

  • Managing online orders
  • Answering phones via call forwarding 
  • Expanding social media presence
  • Calling numerous suppliers to reorder products given the frequent shortages

Given that Dan & Whit’s has a history of cross-training their employees across functions, this should be an understandable extension of their responsibilities.

The MBA takeaway for your business

Bake flexible work into the DNA of your business so employees can work from anywhere. One way to do this: invest in the right tools the first time.

A powerful unified communications platform makes any location work-ready. Whether you need a phone service, group messaging, video conferencing, or all three, there’s sure to be a plan to fit your team’s remote needs. With technology from our sponsor RingCentral, all of these features live in one clean and simple app that’s easy for anyone to navigate.

MBA advice for your retail business

The Small Business School Challenge brought together great minds from both worlds, both business owners and future entrepreneurs. Their combined knowledge and experiences produced a wealth of advice for any small business. 

If you’re interested in this meeting of the minds, add your contact details on our ‘I’m Interested’ form to recieve the announcement of the next challenge.

Until then, stay tuned for more takeaways and tips in this series from our MBA teams that can help your small business.