by Dr. Vaneeta Aggarwal
Since the ill-fated March of 2019, things haven’t been quite the same for businesses, especially small businesses, due to COVID-19. The pandemic resulted in the emergence of various new challenges that most companies were ill-equipped to deal with at best. Like their counterparts throughout the world, small businesses in the US have steadfastly supported their governments as the latter struggle to grip the situation. Many local and physical firms have had to keep their offices or shops closed and ensure that social distancing measures are observed. The more intelligent set of businesses in the suitable industries were quick to embrace the concept of remote working with open arms. Others were eventually left with no option but to follow suit.
Besides several entirely new challenges to overcome, COVID-19 also made existing business challenges harder, like supply chain to competition amongst others. But to survive and thrive is to fight it out through especially for businesses. Going by the following five types of typical problems posed by COVID-19 and how firms responded to them, it appears that companies are more than able to reflect on changing environments and adapt accordingly.
Another thing that must be mentioned in this context is that business owners and managers must quickly spot them early on and take appropriate action fast! It would help if you kept in mind that this is in no way a comprehensive list. There are plenty of potential other challenges that a business owner might face due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That being said, let’s get on with it, shall we?
Challenge #1- Managing Your Money
One typical and long-standing adversary of almost all businesses, especially for the relatively smaller ones, is managing money. Irrespective of your business’s stage, insufficient funds to clear bills and cover other costs for the near future are essential. Adequate cash flow is critical for a business’s survival and growth. In the post-COVID-19 scenario right now, when we are alternating between periods of wave and wane of the virus’s impact, companies are forced to open and close offices accordingly. So, businesses have two available options- cut costs or open new revenue streams. As a result, change in operation hours, layoffs, and furloughs are common. It is only apparent that such steps will immediately affect business operations as the company strives to achieve the same goals but with fewer resources at hand.
International governments, particularly those from the developed world, have introduced a slew of special economy stimulus programs. Some of these are intended to help businesses pay their employees and their operations.
Challenge #2- Dependance On Clients
In most cases, your client base determines many of your present and future business goals. Irrespective of your business industry, if you can adequately understand your client base, you can only expand your business. Never forget that having a single demographic as the target market might come with undesirable results sometimes. Of course, it is something that depends on the business industry and its operations. The typical question that a business in such a situation face is how they offer their products to other audiences without disrupting the existing harmony of your client base. Another potential issue includes an adequate supply of raw materials and other necessary components even if one supplier stops its operations. These are essential questions about a business and its day-to-day operations itself. But COVID-19 has ensured that such questions assume even greater importance for almost all companies.
Challenge #3- Digitize, Digitize and Digitize
Small businesses, too, were falling in line with the more significant business trend of digitization so that they could reach out to a larger audience. It might not work for everyone, but it is one of the best marketing strategies suitable for the 21st Century. Businesses require both time and financial resources to build their audience. Of course, there are numerous tools at the hand of the digital marketer to achieve the same, including social media, email marketing, and customer subscriptions. These tools help significantly decrease the time it takes for a business to build that solid customer base, which serves as the company’s very foundation. The primary steps taken by firms to augment their customer base are to open e-commerce or online stores and use social media for promotional and advertising purposes. Social media has mainly acquired a position of utmost importance, especially when businesses are launching online stores. For most business owners and managers out there, this is their first tryst with e-commerce. Well, it’s much hard work, building your business brand and developing a customer base.
Challenge #4- Proving Work-Life Balance To Employees With Remote Work
International countries led by the US adopted remote working options to counter the effects on businesses resulting from the lockdowns. Many people take remote work and work-from-home to be synonymous, and they are…to an extent. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, remote working was in vogue with a certain albeit small number of business organizations.
They allowed employees extra flexibility besides catering to the needs of a business during transformational periods. In contrast, work-from-home is an even newer practice, and the pandemic has ensured that both are here to stay. They promise the formerly undreamt possibility of managing work and family both at the same time, right from your home. At the same time, remote working is not for everyone. Many find it challenging to maintain a proper balance between family commitments, work obligations, and one’s own physical and mental health.
We need to elaborate further on the mental health part of the tricky balancing equation. The two separate worlds of work and life at home merge in remote working. Few people are accustomed to, and most are clueless about reducing the mental drain resulting from work-from-home arrangements and looking after their families simultaneously. Balancing the two is a significant challenge by itself and needs careful management and execution.
However, staying in touch and collaborating online is not a difficult task anymore. There are many tech tools out there like Slack, Skype, Zoom that let to achieve the same. However, keep in mind that an online-only life I very stressful by itself, and employees very much need their occasional breaks.
Challenge #5- Align Your Business With Governmental Recovery Plans
COVID-19 made it necessary for businesses to reorganize things and chart out wholly new strategies. The pandemic has resulted in a new social and economic state which experts refer to as the new normal. Every business must necessarily ensure that its actions align with the recommendations of their respective governments with the common goal of suppressing the virus or at least preventing outbreaks as best as the people and their governmental machinery collectively can. Many international governments, including the US, have put in place laws that protect businesses financially from the outbreak’s results. Government legalities yet remain a challenge to be surmounted for a large number of companies. Businesses not only need legal protection but financial aid as well. Governments of nearly all countries remain on high alert. They are trying out ways to keep infections and resultant deaths at a minimum while ensuring that the maximum possible number of people get vaccinated. Initially, authorities tried social distancing with the end of flattening the infection curve. However, experts have observed that COVID-19 tends to ebb and flow as if in waves. These waves occur over the course of several months. The second wave is past us, and scientists think that a third wave will be on its way in a matter of months. Reopening in-between such waves has been anything but easy for businesses. And abiding by the regulations has been even harder mainly because, on several occasions, the guidelines of the various health authorities conflict with each other.
To Sum Things Up
As you might have noticed from our examination of some of the more significant challenges faced by businesses, they often have considerable overlapping parts. Suppose you are aware of the challenges that you encounter early on, your chances of getting the right strategy to overcome them. In that case, your survival chances will increase by leaps and bounds too. Another critical part of staying afloat as a business during the pandemic is the proper evaluation of options. Employees, for their part, need to take care of their physical and mental health while working from home. Yes, the future is uncertain more than ever, it is something that is bound to make you feel anxious, but it is still something that we can overcome.