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Working from Home During COVID-19: Small Business Success Story


Throughout this series, I’ve provided some examples of work-from-home life from the perspective of a worker. Now I’d like to share what WFH has been like from the perspective of an employer.

I had an interview with small business owner Julie Azuma of Different Roads to Learning, a company that provides autism spectrum resources and teaching materials. Julie started her business in 1995, at a time when it was difficult to find the right products for children with autism spectrum disorder. I spoke with her about how she is adapting her business to work from home.

Technology and Small Business

Julie, whose small business has two full-time employees, was an early adopter of utilizing technology fully to help run her business. Her ordering, communications, and accounting were already automated through various technology solutions.

Technology has made it easier for smaller (and larger companies) to improve their business and business processes. From Internet advertising to using software to automate functions, from instituting Standard Operating Procedures to formatting e-mail communications, technology saves a company time and money.

Very early in her company’s existence, Julie proactively identified opportunities for system and business process improvements by assessing current and emerging technologies for their ability to meet her business needs and started adopting them.

She has used software to automate as many functions as possible so that her time and her employees’ time can be used for tasks that are more critical to business success.

Through the various small business solutions that are available, Julie has been able to improve and automate order taking, order processing, and linking to inventory and accounting. Internally, she has embraced various online meeting tools to keep in contact with her employees and her international network of collaborative partners and customers.

Administrative tools that allow her to access her files no matter where she is has made her transition during this crisis that much smoother.

Focus on the Future

Julie had already put these systems in place, but COVID-19 has made her focus on what her business will look like in the future when this crisis passes. She has taken steps to fine tune her budgeting process, and she advises other small businesses to do the same. This will allow them to cut all unnecessary expenses so that they do not have to take out loans that will only saddle them with more debt once they are through the crisis.

Julie also advises that companies stay in close communication with their clients, suppliers, and vendors. This gives the opportunity to stay in people’s minds so that relationships will stay strong through the crisis. It reminds customers that you are still here and working even if the situation prevents doing actual business. In Julie’s case, she creates products for schools, and with schools being closed she keeps them informed of pre-order opportunities and online access to materials.

We do understand that a lot of businesses will not survive this crisis. But for the ones that can survive, they must improve their chances by adapting quickly and being creative.

What Technology Can Do

With this crisis, we are finding many small businesses are unprepared and behind in using technology. Whether internally or externally, utilizing technological solutions can be helpful, especially to small companies in many areas. As in Julie’s company’s case, it has enabled her to:

  • Streamline functions and improve efficiency
  • Market and Advertise
  • Inform and Educate
  • Organize
  • Standardize processes
  • Sell products
  • Report on performance

Julie Azuma is an exceptionally good example of a small business owner who incorporates technology in running her company, making her a success story in the time of COVID-19.

With a background of ten years living in Japan and almost 20 years of experience working with remote teams worldwide, Yvonne Burton, president of Burton Consulting International, provides services including Technology Consulting, Business Communications courses, and Cross-Cultural Training to Japanese firms operating internationally and companies operating in the Japanese market. To learn more about Yvonne and her work, please visit burtonconsulting.biz.

Share this article with friends who may be struggling with establishing a consistent work-from-home routine, especially if they are Japanese or work for a Japanese company. We’d love to know what challenges you’ve been facing as you work from home. Please submit any questions you may have or any topics you would like Yvonne to address by sending an email to susan@japanculture-nyc.com. Yvonne will post here three times a week, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn from her.


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