In a world that changed overnight by COVID-19, around half (52 per cent) of small business owners are fearful for their long-term survival if trade doesn’t pick up quickly enough, according to American Express’ Small Business Recovery research.
Across the country, small businesses have been hard hit by the economic fallout of COVID-19, with many forced to shut down. This has created increased pressure for operators to consider new ways to stay afloat.
Even before the pandemic hit, research by American Express in 2019 found that 15 per cent of small business operators said that running a small business had a negative impact on their mental wellbeing. Although cultivating resilience has always been a priority for anyone willing to take on their own venture, having the tools to overcome unforeseen challenges is magnified under the challenges of operating this year.
Experts share practical tips with SmartCompany on how to help your business bounce back.
Why is building resilience important?
Jo Lukins, a consultant in business psychology and performance, encourages owners to focus on the wellness and resilience of the workers.
“When people are in challenging times, resilience will bolster us to manage those circumstances better,” Lukins says.
Sarel Gronum, a business management expert from the University of Queensland Business School, agrees saying, “Resilient entrepreneurs’ businesses perform better than those managed by non-resilient entrepreneurs.”
“Such resilience stems from hardiness, optimism and most importantly resourcefulness,” he says.
“Resilient entrepreneurs are able to remain positive by adapting their business models in the face of crisis and adversity,” he adds.
Tips from the experts
According to Gronum, the first practical step to building resilience is to change your mindset.
“Focus on how you can change your environment and do not fixate on the obstacles,” he says.
“Be open for surprises and treat adversity as useful inputs for innovation rather than hindrances to be avoided.”
He has the following five tips to share:
- Continually experiment with ideas by taking small bets. This also allows management to rapidly learn from trial and error.
- Don’t be afraid to fail. Rather than looking at failure as the opposite of success, think of it as the opposite of mediocrity.
- Build strong self-esteem and remain in control.
- Learn from mistakes. Use it to change your business to be more adaptable and resilient.
- Invest only what you can afford to lose when experimenting with different business model innovations.
Gronum personally builds mental resilience by maintaining his relationships with his friends, colleagues and family.
“I surround myself with a strong network of people who support and provide access to social capital, which is indispensable for maintaining resilience,” he says.
Business owners shouldn’t forget about their network of employees and the hardships they are facing. Rallying employees around a common goal not only helps the business recover, but keeps SME owners surrounded with a strong network that wants them to succeed, Gronum says.
How Big Girls Don’t Cry Anymore built resilience during COVID-19
Karen Edbrooke has been applying similar principles in how she runs her own lingerie business, Big Girls Don’t Cry Anymore.
This includes increasing their social media presence, promoting their capacity for virtual fittings, hosting live ‘Big Girls TV’ shows to bring their products into the homes of self-isolating customers, and offering vouchers to frontline workers.
“As a result, our online sales have increased by over 50% and we have recruited over 10 new staff members,” Edbrooke says.
The business has been supported in this high-growth phase with a reliable source of cashflow from American Express, which allowed Edbrooke to quickly scale up, purchase extra stock and expand the moment she needed to.
“We expanded during COVID-19, opening a new facility the size of four full-sized tennis courts with a coffee shop, larger showroom, expanded distribution centre and new BG TV studio,” Edbrooke says.
“We couldn’t have gone ahead with the launch if we didn’t have support from American Express,” she adds.
Being able to move quickly and pivot to meet changing conditions was crucial to her team’s success.
“My advice is to move quickly. Don’t focus on the negatives, just stay focused on the positives and act with confidence.”