'Tis the season for predictions, and this year, especially, hope for a better year to come. As well all reflect on 2020 and look towards the future, pundits, experts, and leaders have begun to think about what might change for business when the days of COVID-19 are safely behind us.

This week, as the UK begins to roll out vaccines, there's a sigh of relief and the cautiously optimistic expectation that one day soon, things may begin to return to normal (whatever that might mean).

Last month, we had the chance to chat with business consultant radio show host and author Barry Moltz, who works to help small business leaders get unstuck. During our conversation, he shared his insights on what's next and what businesses can do now to prepare for the new reality that awaits us in a post-COVID world.

While the restrictions may lift and travel may return, Moltz predicts that for the most part, the post-COVID world won't look much different from the business environment we're all operating in now. Why? Because customer expectations have shifted with the advent of contactless service.

The small businesses that survived in 2020 were successful because they reimagined the way they do business. For example, tutoring companies turned to virtual sessions via video. In-office doctor appointments were replaced by telehealth. And dining in became less common than ordering delivery.

As customers and employees have adapted to doing more and more things from home, they've adapted and come to enjoy the freedom and flexibility that technology now allows. From a customer perspective, why go to the grocery store when someone can shop for you? And why drive to the doctor's office when you don't feel well if you can get care from the comfort of your home?

On the employee experience front, why spend two hours commuting each day if you can do your job just effectively from the kitchen table? All the naysayers of a distributed, remote work model have been proven wrong, and that means things may never return to our old definition of normal. This is why Moltz says now is the time to make the investments and changes needed to enable more virtual, contactless experiences.

"What are the assets your business has? What are the skills your employees bring? Think about ways to repurpose those tools and skills," says Moltz.

As you answer those questions, put together a 30-60-90 day strategy that outlines all the ways your team can replace high-touch interactions. And don't be afraid to dream big.

"We have to think outside the box about how we can change," says Moltz. "We've all got to get creative. I have a client who runs a spa, and instead of making in-person appointments, they're having therapists connect with customers over the phone to teach them self-massage techniques."

If you're wondering what your business can do to reach more customers and better engage with employees in 2021, you're not alone. And we invite you to join the conversation as we reimagine what's possible. Please tune in to the latest episode of An Open Conversation to learn more from Barry Moltz and hear how his clients are adapting and thriving. Then, drop us a note on social media and let us know what you think!