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Surviving COVID-19 as a SME Business

So as it seems, this COVID-19 situation is not going to end soon, WHO had announced that even if the quarantine is to be lifted, it will not be done in a rapid manner same as it was applied and will actually be done in a very gradual slow steps. Some actually hypothesize that the promised peak will actually happen in waves, so it’s not really a single curve we need to flatten but actually a series of curves that will need to be contained with a series of quarantines that will again be lifted slowly. And even if there is a vaccine candidate, it’s expected to become in production and reach around the globe in the timescale of months rather than weeks. So as it appears, COVID-19 is destined to leave its mark on our global economy and to indefinitely change it.

As a SME business owner, this is not exactly the kind of news you would wish to hear, cause unlike the behemoth businesses out there, you might not have enough funds to sustain your cash flow cycle, let alone profits, during this (or these?) economic shutdown. You might actually be tempted to start applying drastic measures, that would damage your brand and erode any possible future market share for your company, to cut your losses and save what remains of your capital, but let me stop you there by telling you why you might regret this after.

You see, COVID-19 was not exactly bad news for everyone. For instance, retailers have seen their revenues soar as people panic engaged into hoarding food and supplies, and are still doing so in some places till date. Some startups found themselves turning into a unicorn in a day and night. People who had invested in Zoom for instance got a %370 ROI thanks to massive and sudden demand for video conferencing as businesses switched to remote work to sustain themselves. Even on the global market scale, dropping oil prices news have been received gracefully by energy thirsty economies, some countries actually had gaps of funding in their budgets that now are closed thanks to new oil prices that they pray it will linger.

COVID-19 is a business disruptor, a change, and like any change, it depends really on which side you find yourself of this change. Some businesses woke up to find themselves on the lucky side of this change, and while everybody was crying out loud “recission”, those lucky ones were crying their way to the bank, with little to no effort.

But does this mean it’s %100 up to your luck? No, I’ve witnessed some businesses cleverly pivoting by switching their business model with little effort to another model more suitable for the new circumstances. It’s true that this is a global scale crisis that we can’t control, nevertheless, there are still some factors that we can control and work on that depends solely on the nature of your business. One example of an office furniture company switching from B2B to B2C, so instead of selling meeting tables, large office cubicles, office lighting and office interiors in general to businesses, they started to sell small office furniture to consumers, that are more suitable for working from home as they delivered those to their premises. In essence they switched to an online business to retain their previous revenues, and they are already out of stock! Due to massive demand coming from people that were forced to switch to work from home.

A better example, was an already online business which dealt with restaurants offering them food delivery services to the restaurants’ customers, but instead of dealing solely with restaurants they had expanded their market to also deliver groceries as they dealt directly with customer grocery orders. A minor change to the business model that resulted in a significant increase in their revenues while other business are struggling to stay afloat.

The key message here is to adapt with the new circumstances forced upon us by COVID-19, which is namely doing business in a remote fashion and luckily for us, unlike the victims of the spanish flu pandemic, we are having this pandemic in the age of internet and cloud services where you can set up a website, an app and an online store front in mere hours then start taking online orders that would sustain your business in the days to come if not to give it an advantage against competition which hesitated to capture the opportunity.

Before COVID-19, so many business were doing fine while investing so little into being an online business, most perceived being digital as a competitive advantage which is nice to have. And some had followed the premise of digital transformation half heartedly, so they ended up buying into some sort of a digital lipstick rather than truly transform, which was badly exposed and wiped away by the new circumstances leaving behind some smudges of brand damage. Now being an online business is no longer a competitive advantage, it’s a threshold competency that current businesses need to meet in order to survive the change of circumstances of doing business.

Yes, COVID-19 had forced a lockdown upon us and by doing so had negatively impacted so many businesses, but it did not somehow fully eliminate human demand for food, supplies, medication, entertainment, education, etc. So as long there are human needs and wants that are to be met, there is still an economy that you can make profits in. Albeit a different type of economy, an online economy.

Every business have strategic competencies that can be utilized in a new business model while being digitally transformed to meet the new circumstances. As a SME business owner, you might want to assess your current business competencies, repurpose them into a new strategy and align your business model to it, you might be surprised that with very minor changes you can meet significantly more demand in this new economy.

In the old days more than a decade ago, before AWS, GCP and Azure, it required lots of investment to run your business online, so it was the kind of investment reserved only for the fortune 500 companies. Nowadays, cloud services apply economics of scale, making it very affordable for small to medium enterprises to seek this kind of opportunity and to be able to deploy the required services in rapid succession and start doing online business in no time, so there are zero valid excuses not to do so right now.

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