What SMEs Can Do to Survive (and Even Thrive) in the Coronavirus Era

22

APRIL, 2020

These are unusual times…

Running any business has always been a risky endeavour. But, the pandemic that has brought the world economy to a grinding halt is a particularly difficult challenge for many Irish Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs). All the restrictions on daily life and business and all the long-term uncertainty, has taken a toll on the nation’s smallest employers and money-makers.

At this very moment numerous SMEs are struggling to maintain their financial stability as the cash-flow squeeze tightens. Many more have shut their doors never the re-open again.

But there is a proverbial silver lining to this cloud. The SMEs that survive this period will undoubtedly be in the better position than where they were before the world even knew what a Coronavirus was. These enterprises will take the opportunity to learn how to run better and more efficiently. They’ll be better prepared for future crises, more connected to their customers and create more focused and consistent messaging.

But, how can cash-squeezed SMEs get to this place?

Here are a three attitude shifts that must happen:

1. Mind the money. As cash flows become less predictable or even dry up altogether, a top priority for SMEs right now is to get some kind of financing or credit to tide them over till sales pick up again.

But, seeking financing alone is not enough to deal with severe cash-flow issues. SMEs also should be looking for ways to operate more efficiently and effectively. This can include transitioning resource-heavy, error-prone processes to more cost-effective automated ones and giving up on costly in-house legacy systems in favour of nimble, online platforms. It may also mean re-thinking work flows and role descriptions.

2. Focus on the opportunities, not the difficulties. This is about maintaining and building relationships, looking for the opportunities and creating value. It’s about having both long-term and short-term objectives, and meeting customers where they are right now.

One of the most important part of this is knowing how to pivot. For example, I recently heard about a spinning instructor who rented out her bikes and started holding classes on Zoom.
There may be many new ways for SMEs to operate– even under such difficult circumstances. Historically, massive disruption generally leads to new applications, inventions, products and services.

3. Continually re-evaluate operational activity. One big, positive change for many SMEs will be an increase in consistent and frequent monitoring and analysis of business operations. It’s amazing how many SMEs only look at “their numbers” on quarterly or even yearly basis. By being more in tune with how their business is performing and how the market is responding to their efforts, business owners and management are in a much better position to make effective and timely business decisions.

In short, for the SMEs that can work today to shift their operations, plans and goals to match the current realities on the ground, they will be in the best position to experience a bright tomorrow in the future.

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