Wuhan, eerily empty during the peak of the outbreak. Source: AFP.

Wuhan, eerily empty during the peak of the outbreak. Source: AFP.

Give up false optimism and reevaluate – advice for SMEs

The recent COVID-19 outbreak has significantly impacted businesses and industries globally.

China has been hard at work in mitigating the impacts and adapting to change, and it is doing a good job so far.

This article will explore the changes and opportunities that arose from the outbreak, and also what businesses can learn from China about surviving such an unexpected crisis.

If anything, the outbreak highlighted the importance of technology. The application of new technologies such as AI was accelerated, and most new opportunities that arose was a direct consequence of it.

Social communication, in particular, experienced a drastic paradigm shift. Remote collaboration tools such as Zoom and WeChat Work surged in popularity as more people worked remotely, diversifying the ways people communicate with one another.

The outbreak has uncovered the opportunities for growth in technology. Take supply chains as an example; the lockdown in China  severely crippled global supply chains, and businesses came to a grinding halt as companies scrambled to find alternative suppliers.

Smart cities that integrate supply chains into public management systems could be a solution to this. With more offline-driven businesses shifting online, B2B companies will also grow, especially those that offered software-as-a-service (SaaS), cloud computing, health tech, and logistics.

In light of all these, how can a business seek and seize these opportunities, and ride through these trying times?

Firstly, recognize that digitization is the future – the impact of the outbreak can attest to this. Now is as good a time as ever to re-evaluate and implement digital strategies, with more focus placed on capability building and new value creation.

Secondly, get rid of all false optimism. For some, it may seem as though the outbreak does not have a significant impact on business – with those still generating revenue. But given the uncertainty of times, this cannot be taken for granted. Customer may revise their spending habits, and deals that seemed certain may not close.

False assurance is fatal – and companies would be wise to revise marketing spend, and re-evaluate risk management accordingly.

Finally, SMEs need to step up and re-evaluate their business. How are they faring in terms of spend, or revenues? Are they actively exploring the market for opportunities, and developing competitive edges that would make them differentiators?

With new possibilities surfacing, now is a good time for SMEs to explore and bank in on these opportunities. There could be a great bounce-back across industries after the outbreak – and SMEs need to be ready to compete with other big players.

This outbreak has been devastating, and economies will definitely take more than a few quarters to recover from it. This will take a toll on businesses, but they need not come to complete stop.

With some wit and courage, business can still go on. After all, as Darwin surmised, those who survive are not the “strongest or the most intelligent, but the most adaptable to change.”