Analysts are speculating about the post COVID-19 business environment because so much is changing at a rapid pace. Will globalization remain a key strategy for U.S. businesses? Will companies bring manufacturing back to the U.S. in large numbers? How will supply chains change? Which products will the government require to be manufactured in the United States in the future, like antibiotics?
These are just a few of the questions being debated, but they need long-range answers. As SMEs and diverse businesses confront the COVID-19 crisis, maybe it is time to focus on the opportunities presented in the present.
It is difficult to think of the COVID-19 crisis as a time of opportunity and not just a terrible challenge to overcome. The crisis is forcing SMEs and diverse businesses to re-evaluate their business models in recognition of the fact that things are not likely to return to pre-COVID-19 normal for a long time (if ever). Smart business owners are working to develop a new business model that minimizes the impact of any future virus outbreak or similar crisis.
For example, a number of small businesses never setup a website for selling products and services, so were unprepared for a government “lockdown.” Many started frantically setting up a website only to learn it takes time to build an online ordering and payment system for a full array of products. As a result, many websites had to say, “check back later for more products.” That is a good way to lose sales.
While re-evaluating the business model, it is an excellent time to determine if new opportunities have appeared to meet changing consumer needs that fit within the company’s line of products and services, or if new revenue streams are possible. It could be in areas of eLearning, cleaning materials, food, technology, delivery services, work-at-home essentials, flexible staffing, and so on.
This is also a good time to evaluate domestic business needs as some global supply chains are disrupted. There are likely potential business customers looking for new supply sources and are willing to pay more compared to what they pay in emerging markets in order to keep their materials and good and services flowing. Some companies are already moving to in-region sourcing as potentially more secure for the near future. Global supply chains will continue to exist, but some will shift, i.e. from China to Vietnam or the Philippines. A prime area of opportunity for business consulting firms is providing guidance during the shifting process, like finding new suppliers and adapting to new cultural markets.
There are some small businesses that have demonstrated remarkable agility in adapting to the new normal. They reinvented themselves by retooling to meet current demand for products in short supply, including hand sanitizer, face masks and paper products. One gourmet take-out restaurant added essential food and other products, and the new revenue stream has saved the business according to the owner. Another small business with 3-D technology began printing valves for ventilator machines. Each type of business can potentially develop new revenues by thinking creatively. For example, a business that arranges supplier trade shows can partner with companies that arrange online webinars, charity fund raising events, speaker events, and online conferences to hold virtual trade shows.
Retooling a business can involve many different approaches. Some companies are relying on technology to attract and retain customers. A toy store in Connecticut added a FaceTime browsing option in which children can virtually walk around the store. Virtual store tours and shopping can work for many retail businesses. SMEs and diverse businesses can also partner with other compatible businesses to expand sales. A restaurant could pre-prepare food for sale in a local grocery store, or a home décor business might partner with a furniture store, giving advice to customers during a virtual tour of the store.
Michael Jordan once said, “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”
The possibilities are endless, even during a crisis.