COVID-19 has brought its fair share of challenges to organisations across the world. Many SMEs have registered significant blows to their bottom line – losing profits, customers and even employees. This has resulted in the Reserve Bank of Australia seeing the volume of lending to SMEs sharply increasing in the June quarter of this year. But while SMEs have been disproportionately affected by lockdowns, we are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Moving forward, we ought to take note of the lessons learnt to better prepare our businesses for future, equally unpredictable circumstances. Here’s three I’ve discovered.
1. Building a resilient business model
The saying ‘good is the enemy of best’ comes to mind. When business is going well we can become complacent. We ignore trends, relax expenditure and fail to grow. Business plans need to take shifting markets and trends into consideration, and pivot accordingly. When this is achieved, strategies stay fresh, relevant, and tailored to consumers.
To ensure longevity, we need to make smart choices that keep our businesses lean and agile. Some examples where we have seen clients adapt include moving products online, cultivating their social media brand, reducing supply chain costs and developing internal reporting to better analyse profitable products. In the face of the COVID pandemic changes such as these demonstrate the resilience of business in developing a continued pathway forward.
2. Creating more efficient processes
With applications like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, COVID-19 has redefined workplace communications, with remote meetings the new normal.
A case study on the efficiency of Zoom has discovered these platforms create “more opportunities for audience engagement and participation”. These solutions simplify internal communications in a cost-effective manner, demonstrating that digital interaction can be clear and concise and doesn’t have to be cumbersome.
This has created a general awareness of the need for continuous communication, causing us to develop a stronger connection with clients. Advice and feedback are, incidentally, provided more consistently than it may have been necessary before COVID.
3. Recognising the commitment of staff
Our staff’s ability to adapt has enabled our businesses to continue in the face of historic pandemic challenges. Before COVID, business owners saw how the diligence and commitment of staff can directly affect our bottom line. During COVID, this has become all the more clear.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in June, 27% of businesses reported having difficulty finding suitable staff to fill jobs, and nearly a quarter (23%) expect to increase staff numbers over the next three months.
Recognising the contributions of staff through this tumultuous period is extremely important. Employees have had to overcome home-schooling, stay-at-home orders and extreme isolation, all whilst supporting their colleagues. The value of staff is immeasurable and their wellbeing should be at the forefront of their boss’ minds – especially during times like these.
COVID may have changed the face of the working office forever, but it might turn out to be a positive experience, as businesses have already shown they can adapt. But we’re not out of the woods yet. If we pay closer attention to our balance sheets and adapt our team management and communication methods, we can ensure our businesses stand through periods of uncertainty. Businesses can come out of this pandemic stronger, more agile, and confident for the future.