This post is written by Bill Reagan, Executive Director of the SBDC and first appeared in the Alexandria Times on March 4, 2021.
Going into the pandemic was chaotic and unpredictable and we had to make consequential decisions on the fly.
The road ahead certainly has its share of unpredictability, but the rollout of vaccines holds promise for our return to normalcy – or as close as we can get to what our lives were like before COVID-19.
Now is a good time to take stock and begin planning for the decisions and approaches we’ll need to make in the coming months. Exiting the pandemic might be just as chaotic as going into it, but research and preparation will help business owners make sound choices.
Some of the critical considerations include changing consumer behavior, post-pandemic technology fundamentals, supply chain concerns, reevaluating financial circumstances and workforce matters. We must also closely monitor how the state and jurisdictions scale back their social distancing restrictions.
Consumers became conditioned over the past year to online ordering, curbside pickup and contactless transactions. The essential safety measures of 2020 set a new baseline for buyer expectations. Even when we no longer feel the need to wear masks, we are still likely to appreciate businesses who take extra steps for our well being. Consumer behavior will vary by industry, so it behooves business owners to research and monitor trends in their business sector. The savviest owners are those who regularly collaborate and share smart practices with one another.
Individuals and the nature of commerce have gone through a digital transformation. The pandemic prompted more consumers to shop and transact online, and businesses must bridge this digital divide to remain viable. Owners should evaluate their online presence and how they stack up against the competition. They might also need enhanced cyber infrastructure for more efficient and sophisticated operations.
The pandemic disrupted customary supply chains and, while some items like toilet paper have largely resolved, others remain unpredictable. Supply chain issues apply to both consumer and service sectors. Business owners need to consider post-pandemic operations and how to ensure resiliency of operations.
While some businesses are navigating the pandemic adequately, many have been financially devastated. In addition to dealing with loan forgiveness or repayment, it will be crucial for owners to examine their financial circumstances and cash flow. Decisions ahead include adequacy of capital, where to trim for more efficiency and where to invest.
Another consideration is the complexities of the workforce – rehiring workers, attracting new employees or reskilling talent. With new business demands, roles in business operations might have shifted, and it’s important for small business owners to follow sound practices to avoid pitfalls and to ensure the most productive work environment.
Alexandria Small Business Development Center is planning a free webinar series that will help business owners explore the fundamentals of a post pandemic economy and examine the critical issues described above. It will be presented virtually and designed for owners to select the sessions and breakout sessions applicable to their circumstances. Announcements of the series will be forthcoming in SBDC bulletins.
For more information, subscribe to the SBDC’s mailing list at https:// alexandriasbdc.org/