Pivoting the key to pandemic survival for SMEs

Freehand drawing of business woman looking through hand held telescope to road ahead beyond a detour around an abyss blocking her route. Metaphor for the way forward, foresight, visionary, direction.

It has been revealed that even though almost half of our small businesses are experiencing a severe decline in business or shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sector is fighting back. More than half our small-business owners (56 per cent) are surviving by pivoting to a new business model, and a similar number (54 per cent) are planning to start a new enterprise or a side hustle to boost their income.

The study, conducted by creative platform 99designs in partnership with research firm Corus, surveyed more than 1200 business owners about their strategies for coping with the pandemic from a business perspective.

“Entrepreneurs’ problem-solving skills, creativity and resilience come into their own during times of adversity, and with crisis comes the opportunity for reinvention and new beginning,” 99designs CEO, Patrick Llewellyn, said. “It is significant that we’re even seeing the language around business starting to shift.”

Llwellyn added, “In recent weeks, words and working styles more common to early-stage startups are hitting the mainstream: Pivots, collaboration, experimentation and iteration have made their way into the boardrooms of major corporations and small businesses across the country – often for the first time. There’s no doubt that the pandemic will have a lasting impact on society, but when it comes to business, it also has the potential to be a catalyst for innovation.”

With many businesses managing to pivot their operations to adjust to the current conditions, businesses have adopted different strategies in so doing:

  • 66 per cent of businesses who had no website before the outbreak are in the process of creating one.
  • 27 per cent of businesses are looking to refresh their existing website.
  • 25 per cent of businesses have started to add eCommerce capabilities and a further 21 per cent plan to add it.
  • 39 per cent of businesses have either started or have planned to increase their social media output.
  • 41 per cent of businesses are exploring new ways to engage with their customers through new online content.

The findings also show the resilience and adaptability of small businesses given the current situation. For instance, 50 per cent of SMEs have managed to maintain their workforce over the past month, with 10 per cent even hiring, despite the employment conditions at the moment. Meanwhile, over a third (34 per cent) of business owners are doing online learning as means to upskill in their knowledge and capabilities.

Of those who are planning to start a new company or side hustle, 64 per cent said they are doing so to earn additional income, 41 per cent said it was because they “have more time” and 37 per cent said it was because they “always wanted to”.