Sagar Tarawade is an entrepreneur and CEO of SBT Research Inc.
Small businesses are an essential part of the world’s economy. In America, they employ almost half the workforce. But the pandemic has been harsh to small businesses as many lacked the resources to pivot in a crisis like this. Many small businesses had to shut down because they could not adjust their day-to-day operations to cope with the pandemic. Some small-business owners had to start a new venture or get back to their “regular jobs” to survive the economic downturn. However, many of those business leaders who could make it through the darkest days of the Covid-19 outbreak succeeded in adapting to the new normal in their everyday business functioning.
Change is the only constant phenomenon of this universe. Be it in business or life, changing the way we do things is a must in order to keep up with our fast-moving world. Small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are too rigid to adopt new mechanisms for day-to-day business activities may fail in their endeavors. In today’s time, I believe small businesses must have a flexible business model that can adapt swiftly to changes.
Several small businesses have embraced the new normal and exploited the changing market conditions to find new opportunities. As the CEO of a business analytics company, I predict some of these changes are likely to last post-pandemic as small ventures have witnessed the value they add to their business. Here are four changes that are likely to stay with small businesses in the coming years:
1. Hybrid Business Models
The hybrid business model is one of the early adoptions of the pandemic. It is a business model that includes product sales through a mix of traditional and non-traditional methods. The model uses hardware, software, cloud offerings and other services to run a business successfully. Increased competition and commoditization during the pandemic have made it necessary for many small ventures to adopt hybrid business models along with linear models. These models can be game changers as they promote collaboration, generate leads, open doors for new sources of revenue and decrease the risk of running a business.
Many successful enterprises had already implemented hybrid business models, but the pandemic forced more small businesses to acknowledge the power and relevance of this model in today’s time. These models can meet the demands of current customers efficiently, and I think these creative models are likely to last post-pandemic.
2. The Digital Shift
SMEs have taken their merchandise online and conducted transactions digitally. They promoted their businesses online, sold products on e-commerce websites, used AI-based applications for customer service, digitally tracked client data, accepted digital payments and carried out several business operations digitally.
During a crisis, I think technology is the strongest pillar that can help small businesses stay rooted in their foundations. A technologically well-equipped company can adapt to modern approaches most swiftly. The pandemic allowed small businesses to grow digitally and expand their reach beyond physical limitations. As with hybrid business models, it is not that e-commerce websites or artificial intelligence-based software did not exist before — but it was the pandemic that made many business leaders realize how helpful technology can be in running a business. In my view, the shift to digitally-driven businesses is sure to last.
3. Collaborations And Partnership Programs
Working together has helped SMEs to a great extent in surviving the pandemic. Many small-business owners collaborated with other businesses that could help create stability during the crisis. Partnering with other successful companies can add immense value to your business and support your venture in many ways.
When a small business associates itself with a larger organization, this can open the small business up to more opportunities that can help it grow exponentially. It can open the door for new resources, more leads, increased brand visibility and improved brand equity. The Covid-19 pandemic helped many small enterprises understand the importance of collaboration and partnership programs. Many companies agreed on mutual terms for working in a healthy and less competitive environment. Since collaboration helped resolve financial problems, increased cost savings and gave more creative wings to SMEs, it is likely to last post-Covid-19.
4. The Emergence Of New Business Opportunities
Every challenge brings new opportunities. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, entrepreneurs applied for 4.3 million new business identification numbers in 2020, which is 24% more than in 2019. The pandemic resulted in an increased unemployment rate, which forced some people to start their own ventures. It gave them the time to think about giving wings to their dreams. Many aspiring entrepreneurs have a passion and desire to start a business, but because of busy schedules and various responsibilities, many never take the risk. The pandemic left some people with no other options but to start their ventures. I think more people may embrace the path of entrepreneurship even after the pandemic is over.
The adaptations that are most likely to last post-pandemic act like a gateway for business leaders and entrepreneurs to generate leads, target a broader audience and increase their brand visibility. If your business hasn’t already adopted these changes, I recommend to get started right away. For starting with a hybrid business model, the first step is to browse through different models and proceed with the one that best fits your organization’s operations. Similarly, you can contact a digital marketing expert and a website developer to shift your business digitally. In order to implement the above successfully, it’s crucial for businesses to do their homework. Conduct thorough research and understand how each of these changes will affect your organization, and then proceed accordingly.
Although the pandemic created many challenges, it also taught many important lessons for entrepreneurs and small-business owners. The loss that SMEs had to incur is still uncalculated, but one thing that all businesses have learned from the pandemic was flexibility. SMEs adapted to several changes to comply with the new normal. Some of these adaptations were more beneficial for their growth and, hence, will likely last post-pandemic. In my view, these changes will make small businesses more resilient and strengthen their foundations.