The world has changed a lot in the past two years, and the curveballs just keep on coming. So what can SMEs do to help safeguard and strengthen their businesses through 2022 and beyond?
SmartCompany editor Eloise Keating spoke with futurist Anders Sörman-Nilsson, World’s Biggest Garage Sale founder Yasmin Grigaliunas, and Officeworks Executive GM Business Kirstie Hepburn to get their top tips and insights.
Review your supplier contracts
When it comes to risk management, Hepburn stresses the importance of re-evaluating your supplier contracts, especially if it’s been a while since you last did so.
“It’s a bit like your own personal life,” she says. “When did you check out your mortgage? When did you last check out your car payment? All of these things that are hygiene factors actually become more and more important.”
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Supplier contracts should be a hot topic for SMEs at the moment, with our current supply chain challenges and the potential impacts of inflation on your cash flow and organisation.
Hepburn encourages all SMEs to ask themselves:
- What supplier arrangements do you have in place?
- How long have they been in place?
- Are they current? And,
- Are you at risk of unanticipated hikes in supply chain costs that would make a negative impact to your overall business performance?
Stay innovative and keep upskilling
From more flexible working arrangements, updating their online service offerings and experimenting with new social platforms, some SMEs have been busy pivoting and upskilling these past two years.
These are the ones most likely to do well during and after the economic downturn, according to Sörman-Nilsson. He cites research which found companies that kept innovating throughout the GFC outperformed their peers by 10% during the downturn, and by 30% afterwards.
It might be that “you’ve gone back and learned digital marketing, or added a podcast to your suite of marketing tools”, he says. Whatever it is, “If you’ve been innovating throughout the economic slowdown, you’ll be more resilient as a result and you’ll certainly reap the rewards of that in the coming expansion.”
Accept that your employees don’t want to go back to the old ways
Speaking of flexible working arrangements, this trend has only accelerated since COVID-19 forced such a huge proportion of the workforce to start operating from home.
It’s all about “understanding that work is not a place, it’s a thing you do,” Grigaliunas says, and having an “outcomes not hours” philosophy.
But, as Hepburn points out, this raises some interesting questions for employers around what the future of work looks like. For example:
- How do you retain connectedness within your team when they are working remotely?
- How do you ensure they understand the values and objectives of the organisation? And,
- How do you make sure they are healthy and well, and safe and productive in their working environment, wherever that is?
“Every study, every report I read from whichever consultancy or news article [tells us that] somewhere north of 80% of employees don’t see themselves going back to work in the office 9am till 5pm, five days a week,” Hepburn says. “We’re going to be silly if we ignore that and enforce dogmatic principles around: ‘This is what we used to do, we’ll go back to it’.”
A silver lining to the past two years is that they’ve given business owners a unique opportunity to slow down, reflect and hit the reset button, Grigaliunas says. She likens it to being pulled up for doing the wrong thing as a child by her nan.
“I feel like COVID’s given us a smack, sent us to our room, and now we have to learn our lesson,” she says. “If we come out and return to the way things were, we will never really take advantage of this gift of velocity and momentum and progress that we can make as a united global group of people.”
Officeworks is Australia's leading retailer of office supplies, technology, furniture, education resources, art supplies and Print & Create. Officeworks offers more than 40,000 products on its website, catering to micro, small and medium business customers to help them start, run and grow their business. With everyday low prices on quality products and services, including tech-support by Geeks2U, you’ll find everything you need at Officeworks.