A healthy and vibrant SME sector is vital to Australia’s economy, political system and culture. Yet, COVID-19 has shown that SME businesses are also among the most vulnerable – many have suffered enormous impacts during the pandemic. How then does one navigate out of this period and position itself for growth?
In the same way that you needed a plan to help your business survive when the pandemic first hit, it’s imperative that you have a plan to revive and thrive as the economy starts to recover.
Assess the landscape
One of the starting points is to assess what has changed as a result of the pandemic and adjust your thinking as to how to restart growth and strengthen the business for the long term. The issues that you may face will depend on your industry and may include:
- General fear and uncertainty as to what the future brings
- Reduced demand from your customers and clients
- Reduced liquidity as a consequence of reduced demand
- Less money for investment
- Changes in how customers engage with you – online vs in-person?
- Does working from home impact on your business and how it will succeed from both a staffing perspective and a customer perspective?
While there are a number of issues to consider, a recent OECD survey has shown that in countries where the lockdowns are starting to be lifted, SME sentiment is becoming more optimistic.
Develop your plan
So where do you start in planning for growth?
- Get an understanding of your business’s financial situation. Ensure that your accounting records are kept up to date. Make sure you have cash flow tracking and forecasting in place and manage your working capital.
- Review your operating model. Has it changed during recent months and how will that impact as the economy kicks off? If you’ve downsized staff do you need outsourced support as you start to grow? Is there a possibility to partner or develop strategic relationships in your industry to supplement what you are doing?
- Leverage and further develop the new initiatives that have been successful during the pandemic. While there may a natural tendency to revert back to your previous business approach, don’t give up on what has been successful during the recent months. Learn from your experiences and include them into your plans moving forward
- Review who your customers are and what they are buying from you. How do we target our high growth or high profit customers?
- Speed up your digital adoption. While spending money when capital is tight may seem daunting, it’s likely that digital will be a key component of your go to market strategy for growth, which shouldn’t be neglected. Automate what you can and focus on digital platforms that will help you to build stronger relationships and add value to your clients.
- Retain your best people. Everyone in your team will have dealt with issues they have never faced before both personally and professionally. Make sure that they feel supported as you come out of the pandemic and revisit the training and development for the future. They are the key to your ongoing success so make sure they are clear on their importance to the business’s future.
- If you’re reliant on specific suppliers and have had challenges during the pandemic in maintaining supply, take the time to diversify
- Do your research and make sure you’re taking advantage of the Federal and State Government support packages. JobKeeper is a key support platform from the Federal Government and each State Government has announced various support programs from Payroll tax to direct business support in Victoria.
- Expand your horizons. One of the interesting aspects of the online approach to business is that geographical borders have become less important. Are there new markets or expanded product offerings that you can target?
- Take your time. Be realistic about your strategy and your forecast recovery. It will take time.
Developing a plan may seem like a daunting task at the outset, but it will pay dividends for the future For more practical advice on positioning your business for success, download our practical COVID-19 Business Revival Guide.