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In the future, we’ll all look back at 2020 as the year when a single virus – COVID-19 – had a massively adverse impact on the global economy and the survival of businesses. Although governments are working hard to implement vaccine programmes in order to safeguard citizens from the devastating effects of the virus, it’s become clear that the virus will be with us for the foreseeable future.

As COVID-19 materialised so suddenly, there was no time to prepare for what lay ahead, and businesses found themselves in unprecedented situations. In order to survive, they had to pivot and come up with creative ways to sustain their cash flow, continue business operations and pay their employees.

The small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that have survived up until now find themselves having to prepare for the third wave, which appears to be imminent. Luckily, businesses have slightly more time to be proactive and prepare for the wave by capitalising on lessons learnt from the first and second COVID-19 waves.

Herewith a few steps business owners can follow to ride out the next COVID-19 wave:

1. Get a work-from-home model in place by investing in digital infrastructure

During the initial lockdown, non-essential workers had to adapt to working remotely and businesses had to depend on virtual office resources like Microsoft Teams and Zoom to get the job done.

One of the lessons learnt from 2020 is that employees need to be empowered to do their work from home, if at all possible. This means having an internal communications plan, support structure and the right technology and digital infrastructure to accommodate a virtual workplace.

2. Minimise your fixed costs by letting go of unused physical space

Remote working is here to stay for many businesses – at least a while longer – as the national vaccination programme is being rolled out. In order to weather the storm, it is therefore important to tighten your budget and get rid of any excess fixed expenditure. For example, to minimise fixed costs, assess whether any large office or factory space is completely necessary for business operations, or if it is possible to downscale. If you own the property yourself, one option might be to rent out part of it to create an additional income stream for the business.

3. Adapt your current business plan to fit in with the ‘new normal’

Businesses have had to adapt to the new normal to ensure that they can survive in the current circumstances. For example, the way in which many customers shop is now vastly different, and delivery methods have also shifted to a certain degree.

To ensure you are appropriately meeting your clients’ needs, re-assess your business plan to establish whether client communication, the products on offer, the level of client service and the way service is delivered is all still relevant and effective.

Keep an eye on how other successful businesses are adapting and what you can learn from them. By keeping your business agile, you will only increase your chances of success.

4. Embrace the digital economy

The digital economy has grown in leaps and bounds since the onset of COVID-19 and customers are now much more comfortable with shopping online. Businesses that have thrived during the pandemic are those who were able to adapt and offer a digital solution for shopping, entertainment, and banking, to name a few.

If you don’t have the budget for an e-commerce site, make use of the tools you have available – such as email and social media – to keep clients informed of your offering and how you can meet their needs. Another consideration is mobile payment solutions, which can offer an affordable and additional way for clients to pay for products and services.

During these tough and uncertain economic times, it’s important to run a lean and effective business. By learning from other businesses and embracing change, your business will have a better chance of success in 2021.

About the Author: Ben Bierman

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Ben Bierman has been our Managing Director since 2015. He joined our company in 1990 and has risen through the ranks occupying various positions ranging from being a management accountant, Head of Information Technology and Chief Financial Officer. Ben is an avid reader, enjoys classical music and being in the outdoors including for hunting trips. He is our go-to-spokesperson for our SME Confidence Index, SME sector policy and trend matters, and business leadership articles.