7 Deepwater Business Challenges We’ll be Facing in 2022
According to 100+ entrepreneurs
If 2020–21 has been the year of agitation where businesses were forced to pivot and improvise around pandemic-inflicted tsunamis, 2021–22 is seeing a deeper transformation take place on the business seascape.
Replacing the survival mode strategy of the previous year, business owners are now applying the pandemic as a litmus test regarding the overall effectiveness of their companies. In particular, the most successful companies are busy developing strategies based on organizational gaps exposed by the previous year’s struggles.
To better understand these struggles and predict some of 2022’s key business developments, I questioned over 100 entrepreneurs and business experts on the types of challenges they’re preparing to face off in 2022 and their forthcoming business strategy.
The results may be briefly grouped as follows (scroll down for detailed interviews):
One pattern we notice by Q4 of 2021 is that while the “COVID hangover” is runner-up in the list of companies’ 2022 challenges, it’s emerging as the deeper measure of how effectively a company’s technological, financial, HR, and sales processes run. In other words, a business’s pandemic coping ability is directly linked to its efficacy in the above fields, all linked into one whole: survivability.
What challenges are businesses on the watch for or in 2022, what are their coping strategies, and what deepwater currents stirred up by the pandemic we’ll be seeing in the business waters of the upcoming year?
Let’s take a look at some of the stories behind the numbers to find out.
1. The sync between artificial and human intelligence
It’s safe to say that the ’20s evolve around Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Big Data, and Natural Language Processing (NLP). In 2022, experts point out that success lies in harmony, and businesses in the tech sector should join forces with smart people to probe into how they balance the human and AI aspects of their products.
Gulsaba Khan, BD Specialist managing APAC for QuillBot, an AI-based writing tool, explains what we can expect on the horizon:
“Digitization, which encompasses everything from online customer service to remote working to supply-chain reinvention to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to improve operations, has seen tremendous growth. Every business is now data-driven. We have to move fast just to keep up with the cutting edge to make our products the best on the market.”
For small to mid-sized companies, the AI race is no longer a matter of hype, but one of survivability and competitiveness as AI-driven companies repeatedly make the top of investors’ lists. For example, Gulsaba’s company is exploring NLP in their product, while other teams utilize AI to improve team productivity and customer service.
As the fields of AI, specifically NLP, advance, we have to move fast just to keep up with the cutting edge to make our products the best on the market,” says Gulsaba. “Recent advances in NLP have enabled us to deliver higher-value features because bigger and better models can be made and run cheaper and faster than ever before. We want to leverage this to the maximum extent possible to deliver the best value and most helpful products to our customers. We are always revamping and fine-tuning our products to make them better than ever — after all, we use these tools ourselves.”
2. Integrity in remote teams
As remote work and hybrid work environments remain preeminent for employees, remote hiring, onboarding, and team culture take the pedestal for companies. In 2022, growth awaits businesses invested not just in tools to work together but in values to stay together, says Dmitri Lepikhov, CEO of MightyCall — a SaaS company named one of America’s fastest-growing according to the Inc.5000 rating.
“As the pandemic continues, businesses are struggling to stay afloat on the social capital accumulated during live interaction,” says Lepikhov. “This is complicated by the fact that fast-growing companies like ours have had an influx of new people in 2021. As a result, employees hired during the pandemic had little live interaction with the rest of the team — many were even hired remotely. Since businesses can’t rely on past experience with onboarding these new team members and integrating them into company culture, the solution is to replace old strategies with new ones.”
Among the “new strategies” of 2022, Lepikhov is focusing not only on ‘how’ he grows the company but what kind of people he wants to grow with. In the coming years, it’s the integrity of the workforce that takes center stage in long-term company growth, he says.
“What our company is doing ahead of ’22 is adapting across all fronts,” says Lepikhov. “We are focusing on hiring people with similar values since we learned that company values are essential when hiring remotely. While to many businesses this seems like a time-consuming process, it’s actually a lot easier to align values and people at the outset than hoping to instill your company values at a later time and in a remote environment. Also, we’ve transitioned from a fully in-office to a hybrid work environment and in 2022 are continuing to provide employees with the freedom to work either at home or in our office. This way, as the CEO I’m certain that everyone works most efficiently in their preferred mode.”
3. Cybercrime pandemic
Cybersecurity attacks continue to make headlines daily and experts are continuously searching for trends to help better predict and prepare for the next attack. Toshihiro Koike, CEO of Cyber Security Cloud, Inc. (CSC), the world’s leading innovator in cyber threat intelligence and AI-driven web security, believes the danger of cyberattacks is going to take center stage in 2022.
“Organizations in the U.S….should prepare for an increase in cyberattacks,” Koike says. “[One way to address these concerns is] by implementing tools like WafCharm. That can prevent SQL injections and provide protection against the OWASP 10, the most critical security risks to web applications.”
Moreover, according to Amazon, the number of active Amazon Web Services — (AWS) users is greater than 1,000,000. Since AWS provides “servers, storage, networking, remote computing, email, mobile development, and security” for countless tech and digital businesses, Koike believes that businesses need to focus on securing their AWS networks now to prevent a whole new set of challenges, not only to major corporations but small and medium-sized businesses as well, in 2022.
4. Pressing competition
Online businesses have boomed over the past year and while new entrepreneurs have seen this as a garden of opportunity, the reverb we’re beginning to experience is the aftermath of pressing competition for established businesses. This is a shift entrepreneurs like Gerrid Smith of Joy Organics and Rahul Bhargava of Crest Management Consulting are busy preparing for in 2022.
“When your business succeeds, others see the opportunity and enter the
market,” says Smith. “Many small business owners are unprepared for severe competition and rapidly lose their path in response. [To overcome this in the coming year] focus on your strengths and keep communicating your unique value offer to prospects and customers.”
Bhargava adds that to ensure competitiveness, emerging onto new markets will be necessary for many established businesses in the following year.
“We expect an enormous shift in talent pools by 2022. How our competitors
will view increased access to a larger customer and talent base is becoming
a rising challenge of sourcing talent. We started investing in capabilities
to acquire customers not only in our home country but anywhere from the
world, breaking all geographical constraints.”
5. Anti-advertising sentiments
Against the era of booming anti-data collection policies such as Apple’s revolutionary privacy update rolled out in 2021, all digital businesses are facing a new struggle in 2022: survival in the environment of major anti-advertising sentiments. And while Apple and Facebook struggle for power, it’s small and medium-sized companies that are under imminent fire and must quickly pivot to keep their audience, says Brack Nelson of Incrementors Web Solutions.
“Apple’s new App Tracking Transparency effort, which was implemented in iOS 14.5, is causing a stir in the advertising sector,” Nelson says. “People don’t want advertising to follow their every step on the internet if they have the option. Overcoming this anti-advertising mentality will be an existential issue for certain firms.”
As a rule, tech and digital businesses, in particular, lean heavily on their product strengths, preferring to “show, not tell”. But in 2022 and ahead, all businesses will need to take a page out of the content marketer’s book and lean on communication and storytelling in their sales and marketing strategies. Moreover, companies will need to be a step ahead, foresee users’ privacy concerns and anticipate them in product developments.
As Nelson advises,
“[In the coming year] businesses … must be smarter and more user-friendly, rather than antagonistic to users. Social media may have a significant influence on your marketing efforts. Your audience has the impression that they are being treated with disrespect. Your task is to alter that story.”
6. Inventory challenges
Due to the conglomeration of online shopping, the pandemic, and the monopolization of giants like Amazon, in 2020–21 dropshipping and e-commerce businesses have been facing inventory shortages for most of the year. Bret Bonnet, Co-Founder and President of Quality Logo Products, a promotional products distributor located in Chicago, IL, sees no definite closure in 2022.
“In 2020, only 8% of all canceled orders were the result of stock issues. In 2021, it’s a whopping 43%. We expect that number to only grow as looking ahead to Q4. The Home Depots, Amazons, and Walmarts of the world are buying up most of the limited cargo space, leaving lower priority customers, such as companies in the promotional products space, fighting for leftovers.”
Bonnet echoes expert research in that consumers are willing to pay (up to 86% more according to research)for a more satisfying and smooth experience. In current conditions, it’s not the price tag that matters as much as the overall “speed and availability” of products coupled with receptive customer service.
“To combat these inventory woes, we’ve taken a few steps,” he says. “First, we’ve pre-purchased millions of dollars of inventory from key suppliers before the goods even arrive at their facilities. Second, we’ve started purchasing and decorating some of our most popular high-demand products ourselves. In some cases, the result is more expensive goods to the end user, but [many] customers are willing to pay more if it means we can meet their event dates or get them the goods sooner than the 25 to 30 days that have become typical for most products.”
7. Growing demands on diversity and inclusivity
2021 has been a year of pressing social demands and for a growing number of customers and users, loyalty is based on a company’s sustainability, diversity, and inclusivity efforts. For entrepreneurs, particularly in mid-sized companies, this means 2022 poses specific questions on how well your business answers to social developments, says Eden Cheng.
“It’s now up to business leaders and executives to make the necessary workforce changes to their organizations. In fact, diversity in the C-suite has become an even bigger problem, as the age of assuming that corporations should only be led by middle-aged white males is over. And as we step into 2022, many companies will be forced to answer to more than just the board of directors, but also to their consumers as well, as society has now rapidly approached zero-tolerance for casual racism and sexism.”
Even though Cheng’s business is digital, the focus on diversity is essential for his team in the coming year and he’s already leveraging AI tools to spring the strategy into action.
“One of the ways we are ensuring [divertisty] is the case is by utilizing AI-based recruitment software tools like Bowmo, which helps to ensure that our assessment of job candidates is performed fairly by objectively assessing candidates skills, competencies, and talents, all while ignoring demographic factors like age, gender, and race. We are able to ensure that we scan through our applicants’ lists and pinpoint the best candidates for the job, based purely on objective parameters, like their technical skills and years of experience. Besides that, we also make use of analytics tools to comb through our data, which helps provide insights on the recruitment patterns of our company, thereby revealing any potential pay gaps across our workforce, for example.”
As the experts above prove, the optimization and streamlining of a company’s processes as well as its product success in the market is a lot more than a matter of technical competence. By revitalizing and modernizing company processes across all levels — including technical, HR, marketing, sociological, and privacy-related — companies of all sizes can be certain that they’re swimming past the pandemic’s whirlwind and into the next era aboard a transformative, safe, and resilient vessel.