It is impossible to ignore the impact that the global pandemic has had on the small business community. From significant restrictions and widespread closures, to the need to find new operating approaches and income streams, the Australian commercial landscape has changed so significantly that the effects are sure to be felt for years to come.
However, now that new infection rates are seemingly under control across the country (fingers crossed they stay that way!), talk has turned to recovery. But what exactly does that look like? And how do we make the most of this opportunity to not only undo the damage done over the last year; but also build a stronger, more resilient small business sector?
The great diversity of small business
While many small businesses have faced similar challenges, thinking of ‘small businesses’ as a single group is neither fair nor accurate. This is particularly true when it comes to the response to COVID.
Where some industries were allowed to continue operating (albeit in a reduced capacity), others were forced to stop trading and stand down staff for extended periods. Some industries have also had to completely transform their business model, moving away from high touch processes or embracing online and self-service approaches, whereas others have come out the other side of the crisis with little more than the need for heightened hygiene standards. Even the recovery phase has been a wildly varied experience, with some businesses able to jump back in where they left off, while others are enduring a long, slow ramp up.
But it’s not just the field a small business is in that’s dictated and differentiated their experience – it’s also their location. Most small businesses are a product of their community, catering to local needs and relying on the local market for the lion’s share of their custom. As such, it’s the health (physical, financial, and social) of the local community that drives their success.
With all of this in mind, it’s clear that there cannot be a ‘one size fits all’ approach to the recovery from COVID. Stimulus needs to come in many forms, and target both individual businesses and their broader communities. There truly is no silver bullet and support is needed to increase consumer confidence, reduce overheads and red tape, and encourage investment in growth and innovation.
We need to work together
One of the great ironies of the coronavirus crisis is that, while keeping apart has been critical to getting it under control, coming together is the key to overcoming its effects.
Most obviously, this means individuals getting out and supporting local businesses. This is something we’ve seen significantly increase since last Summer’s horrific bushfires, with customers seeking out small businesses in the worst affected areas and showing their support with their wallets. There have also been a number of campaigns specifically designed to drive consumers to shop small and local.
It also means the different levels of government working with peak industry bodies to remove administrative roadblocks and put in place appropriate safety nets. To date, JobKeeper is the most high-profile example of such an initiative and it has done a great job of taking some of the stress off small business owners. However, to continue moving forward, focus will need to shift from short-term financial support to longer-term policy reform.
Even the world’s largest organisations have a role to play in reinvigorating the small business sector. The good news is, we’re already seeing some eagerly take on this responsibility, with Google helping small businesses grow their online presence and a number of big brands using their profile and influence to promote local operations and boutique producers.
Need help working out your way forward?
In such uncertain times, we can all use a little assistance working out our next step. At MT Corporate Advisory, we specialise in helping businesses soar to new heights, and offer a range of services that you might find useful. Whether you’re after expert advice on your business strategy, or just a little help getting your accounting in order, we’re here to help. Contact our experienced and professional team today to set up your free consultation.