What Will Small Businesses Look Like in a Post-COVID world?
When the ball dropped on Times Square only nine months ago, the biggest question in the finance world was “will this economic boom last?” No one saw an end in sight.
Certainly no one predicted by the end of March a global pandemic would sweep across the planet, shuttering businesses, emptying cities and leaving workers, students and retirees locked in their homes, fearing for their safety. If it was a B movie, people would pass the popcorn and shake their heads in disbelief.
Impact on Business
Small businesses have been hit especially hard by COVID-19 lockdowns. The government’s PPP initiative left many of them out in the cold – too little funding that ran out too fast. Despite the stress and struggles, a survey by the Society of Human Resource Management revealed that most small business owners are optimistic. According to the survey, 52% of small businesses surveyed expect to recover to pre-COVID profitability in six months or less.
The pandemic has been a trial by fire for those small businesses. Additionally, 75% reported if another massive crisis were to occur, they feel more prepared to handle it.
So, despite the challenge, let’s take a look into our crystal ball and predict what the post-COVID future will look like for small businesses – whenever that time arrives.
Forward Looking – Extreme Flexibility
Small businesses have the advantage of being nimble, unlike large corporations with their cumbersome hierarchies. This will stand them in good stead post-COVID.
Remember the mask shortage that kicked off the pandemic? Small businesses leaped into the void within days, producing masks to meet the needs of everyone, from children to fashionistas.
A more short-term effort worked for craft distilleries, who had large supplies of alcohol on hand just as restaurants and bars were shutting down.
Prompted by a shortage of hand sanitizer, they churned that alcohol into barrels of sanitizer. This got them over the hump, lasting until the big boys (P&G, Lysol) geared up production, and they could return to making the booze severely needed by those sheltering in place.
Once a vaccine is in production and people feel safe in public again, masks will likely revert to Halloween trinkets and sanitizer sales may slump. But small businesses will continue to aggressively look for key niche markets.
It’s All in the Delivery
People who had studiously avoided internet shopping or home delivery for groceries found themselves dependent on both when sheltering at home. Some states even modernized outdated liquor laws to enable liquor stores, distilleries and craft brewers to deliver. But the key work is “deliver.”
Small businesses without a delivery service in place were at a severe disadvantage. Many mom-and-pop eateries could not afford the charges of DoorDash or GrubHub and ended up out of businesses. Customers stuck at home were eager to support small businesses and were tired of cooking, but, again, had those restaurants to deliver.
Going forward, some sort of delivery service will be essential for small businesses that supply hard or soft goods. Once customers get used to everything being delivered on-demand, it will be impossible to turn back the clock.
Staying on the Comfy Couch
Ironically, in May, 2019, IBM ordered all its remote workers (40% of its work force) back to the office. During COVID companies were forced into the new arrangement. Many saw the advantages of employees working remotely. Small businesses realized how much they could save. Letting go of expensive leases and internal computer networks. Employees appreciated the more family-friendly arrangement.
The situation has made its impact. According to the SHRM survey, 75% of small businesses are planning to change their policies in response to employees’ childcare needs. 43% of respondents say they are implementing or considering flexible hours/compressed schedules. 31% are offering full-time remote work.
Employees Need to Up Their Game
During the sheltering at home period, many workers were expected to use technology that was new to them. Small business owners report they have asked employees to learn new skills by either watching YouTube videos or taking online courses. The results have been so positive that the trend is sure to continue. For more on how to stay motivated and adapt during this difficult time, check out one of our in depth articles on the subject here.
Expert advise for small business in a Post-COVID World. Watch Now: