Despite the daily waves of negative news regarding COVID and its impact on small and medium-sized businesses, a recent poll of owners and CEOs revealed an overall optimistic outlook for 2022. We have always believed that smaller, privately-held companies tend to be more resilient and agile than larger organizations. The number of smaller companies that have survived, even thrived, since the country was shut down is evidence of a willingness to adapt to changing environments and pivot when necessary.
That’s not to say that 2022 will be all roses and good times. There are still serious challenges to meet, specifically the Omicron infection, Supply chain disruptions, and the Great Resignation trend, which is changing (again) the way people work. That said, a poll by JP Morgan found 71% of small business owners and 83% of mid-sized firms believe they will see increases in sales and profits that will exceed pre-Covid results. And despite labor shortages and ongoing supply chain issues, the national economy grew 5 to 6 percent, indicating a strong future for COVID savvy companies.
However, making those predictions come true will require continued adaptation to changing business challenges. It means thinking and acting outside of the old pre-COVID norms.
Thinking differently is almost an automatic response for leaders with a developed sense of situational awareness. Owners who understand how COVID affects nearly every aspect of their operation are better positioned to make out-of-the-box changes in strategy than those who rely on “pre-COVID SOP.”
- Customer and Worker Safety. Customers bring the money and workers make the company run. The business suffers when one or both is taken out of the equation because they are disabled or distracted by COVID. Companies were quick to make their operations as safe as possible. Restaurants and retailers shifted to takeout and curbside pickups, moved sales online, encouraged remote working, improved social distancing where possible, and improved ventilation. Contactless payment systems, company mandates on masking and vaccinations, and other initiatives are common among companies that understand that there is no business if there are no people.
- Rethinking Supply Chains. The days of “just-in-time” inventory are over until the supply chain resolves its issues. All the JIT software works, but staffing shortages, delayed raw materials, logistics backlogs, and a host of other problems make inventory a crapshoot. Just-in-time inventory aims to reduce warehouse space and financial resources sitting in unsold stock. Today, 65% of businesses practice “strategic stockpiling” to ensure” consistent delivery of core products. Others are using suppliers from different geographical areas to improve supply.
- Reshaping Employment. COVID’s arrival resulted in employers and employees rethinking what “work” should really look like. For essential workers, COVID’s impact on hospitality and retail meant physical changes in the workplace and higher wages and benefits. The entire routine of “work” was turned upside down for those who could work remotely. Some loved it and thrived on it. Some found working from home too distracting. Unenlightened bosses feel a loss of control. But as it turned out, remote working did not reduce productivity and decreased the need for office space. Recruiting and retention remain a challenge. The most common response has been to throw money at workers with raises, improved health plans, flexible schedules, and increased company matching funds for 401k plans.
While small business leaders are concerned about government responses to COVID (mandates, regulations, public spending) and rising business costs, they are planning for 2022 with an eye towards a successful year.
If you are a Southern California company about to update your business plan for 2022, call the experts at ASCEND Business Advisory to take advantage of their extensive experience working with businesses that have successfully negotiated the COVID challenge.
ASCEND Business Advisory is a division of the William Rogers Company.