Small business optimism is rising even with the challenges of COVID-19

Jürg Widmer Probst

Small business optimism is rising even with the challenges of COVID-19

Jürg Widmer Probst - small business optimism

Small businesses are going through an unprecedented situation as their usual challenges are exacerbated by COVID-19. And while we all continue to find our way through the economic impact of the virus, a new report shows that small business owners remain optimistic about the future.

Small business optimism stands firm against COVID-19

The report, from the Society for Human Resource Management, shows that around 75% of small business owners surveyed say that should they face a crisis in the future, they will be much better prepared to deal with it thanks to the pandemic.

Many businesses are busy refining their crisis management plans in light of lessons learned from COVID-19. In addition, just over half of the small businesses surveyed say they are confident they’ll get back to pre-virus profitability within the next six months.

This level of small business optimism among this key corporate sector is encouraging. For many small businesses, COVID-19 has prompted enormous innovation, forward-thinking and invention. Spurred on by the limitations imposed by Government lockdowns, small businesses are pivoting and adapting. From inventing brand-new products to finding ways to deliver services, there has been a huge swathe of positive innovation from small businesses.

Lockdown led to innovation and creativity

The global pandemic forced every country around the world to re-evaluate work. As lockdown eases, many small businesses are continuing to work with a distributed working model that melds remote working with office time. These hybrid solutions are saving costs and driving innovation.

Lockdown opened the door to creativity of ideas that may have been put on hold before the pandemic. Change at this level is always difficult, and business owners often don’t want to take risks. However, the enforced period of lockdown changed the whole system so profoundly overnight, that creative ideas began to flow.

According to the survey, around 43% of small business owners took the chance during lockdown to pivot their business model. UK-based brewery BrewDog were one of the first independent businesses to switch their production line from beer (their core product) to hand sanitiser. This kind of innovation and altruism has gone a long way to boost small businesses in the minds of the public as well.

Flexibility is key for future success

This kind of flexibility will be essential not only for small businesses, but for corporates of all sizes, as economic recovery continues. Three-quarters of small businesses say they are willing to change internal policies to accommodate childcare needs, in light of children not going to school.

Just under half say they are implementing flexible schedules or compressed hours, while just under a third are offering full time home working to their employees. Small businesses have the advantage over bigger companies as they can be more flexible. However, they also run on much smaller profit margins, which can present other challenges.

Some small businesses are scrapping dedicated offices entirely and implementing a combination of remote working and office work. Flexible serviced offices allow for ad hoc rentals of rooms for meeting in person when necessary. Not only has the pandemic boosted innovation and creativity but it has also led to a surge in opportunities for employees. Around a quarter of small businesses spent the lockdown period upskilling their staff.


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