[Strathmore University Business School] SMEs Surviving and Thriving Beyond the Pandemic
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) across the world have faced and are still facing the toughest year yet. From lockdowns to curfews to social distancing rules to the sharp decline of customers, along with the endless months of uncertainty: the coronavirus pandemic has seen countless business plans torn up and rewritten from scratch.
The pandemic proved to be detrimental to the survival of SMEs across the globe with many closing down and others literally on their knees. We are not out of the woods yet; SMEs need to think about how ways to accelerate their businesses post-pandemic.
The only constant this about the times we are living in is the change. The SMEs that adapted to the changes forced on us by the pandemic fast enough were able to survive. More than just survival, SMEs must also focus on thriving and business sustainability beyond the pandemic.
For many SMEs, the business strategies they adopted to survive during the pandemic will come in handy in accelerating business beyond the pandemic. According to a 2020 Research Report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), SMEs were making various adjustments to survive and thrive during and beyond the pandemic. These include:
Research for new products/services or revenue streams. The pandemic altered consumer behavior which pushed many businesses to adapt to customers changing needs. As a business, you need to listen to your customers now more than ever. In times as uncertain as these, it is important to analyze all customer needs to ensure your product and service solutions remain relevant with your customers, continuing to add value to those relationships is essential for customer retention and new customer acquisition. Is there a need for diversification? Do I have the skills and resources to access other sectors? These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself even as you look for ways to keep your business afloat and survive and thrive through the pandemic.
Employee Retooling/Reskilling. With the business environment changing constantly, many businesses are encouraging their employees to learn new skills critical to business sustainability during and beyond the pandemic.
Continued Services Deliveries by adopting contactless deliveries. This aims to ensure that you can still cater to the needs of your customers effectively albeit in a different way, in the new normal.
Adopting Digital Technologies. SME’s business agility has been greatly tested in the face of the pandemic, those that were agile were able to survive. With the correct technology, many businesses have been able to transform operations overnight. One key aspect of digitalization is working in real-time and with real-time data. Digital technologies, which allow for faster decision-making, based on accurate real-time data could be the difference between survival and failure.
Putting in Place new safety measures, such as installing Plexiglas barriers between staff and customers. We are living in a new normal which demands a new way of doing things. The new safety measures are to ensure that customers and employees alike are safe within the business. They also ensure business continuity in the new normal, especially for businesses that cannot operate virtually 100 percent.
Short-term funding. With the world going through a pandemic, SMEs need to plan for possible delays in customer payments. You need to assess the possibilities of signing short-term financing with the different financial institutions and government support.
Teamwork. Your team is your most valuable resource. It is essential to use this resource effectively; their input can provide valuable insights into the business. After all, these people are your eyes and ears on the ground. Communication is critical. If your team is clear about which direction they collectively need to move, this will improve their buy-in and willingness to implement change.
SMEs account for two-thirds of global employment and half of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). A failure to protect them could put the entire global economy at risk, which is why most governments put measures to cushion SMEs from the effects of the pandemic.
In Africa, SMEs are among the leading drivers of growth, innovation, and employment. In Kenya, they represent more than 80 percent of businesses and employ up to 75 percent of the active working population. It is therefore crucial to the country’s economy that SMEs survive and thrive post-pandemic.
About the Enterprise Development Programme
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) operation cut across almost all sectors of the economy and sustain a majority of households in the country. Their activities form a breeding ground for businesses to thrive and provide one of the most prolific sources of employment.
The Enterprise Development Programme is an incisive 16 weeks course designed to help you develop your entrepreneurship competencies along with gain best practice insights. This course is hands-on and participant-centered. Through the use of locally developed business case studies, participants are engaged in discussions enabling them to develop problem-solving and good decision-making skills.
Learn about the Enterprise Development Programme
Article by Juliet Hinga