Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy
President & CEO, International Council for Small Business (ICSB)
The coronavirus pandemic has been brutally efficient in exposing societies’ preexisting conditions. By the end of 2020, 1 in 3 businesses will have failed due to the COVID-19 crisis. This extraordinary reality leaves two-thirds operating with one-third prospering due to individual industries and diversification. The other third remains in urgent need of recovery policy and engagement. These small businesses are on the verge of falling off a cliff. There have never been more obstacles in the way of entrepreneurial advancement.
Pragmatism is the guiding principle used to recover from the inflicted economic damage. As we race to study, understand, and counteract this virus, small businesses’ success rests on the societal foundations of healthcare and education.
The era of perceived stability has vanished. Many small businesses and entrepreneurs are not prepared to handle this virus’ magnitude of volatility. Adaptation is necessary to overcome the lack of capital and capacity to withstand prolonged periods of revenue loss. Finding ways to increase job education and skills training allows small businesses to make efficient, high-value decisions that maximize the resources needed for long-term flexibility.
Thankfully, organizations like AACSB International, according to CEO Caryn-Beck Dudley, are already innovating by implementing new accreditation standards and focusing on creating societal good through business education. This means educating entrepreneurial students and supporting small businesses.
Risk mitigation is becoming one of the most essential strategies for investors and business owners looking to positively situate themselves in our current reality. Human resource investment is crucial to overhauling conventional business norms in sustainability and environmental impact.
ICSB’s suggestions are straightforward: small businesses must work from a multi-angled approach to survive. We can start with the entrepreneurial angle of five: resilience, frugal innovation, digital presence, ecosystem focus, and humane leadership. If small businesses innovate to create an online, global platform with a local mission targeted at products and services, producing solutions for significant societal needs with few input resources, they can and will succeed.
Going through changes
Small business owners can persist in this climate through evaluation and procedural change. Our advice to entrepreneurs and small business owners is to divide your day into three parts. First, owners review operations, contracts, and agreements to be thoroughly knowledgeable about their enterprise’s current status. No business can move into the future while lacking a well-developed understanding of the present.
Second, small business owners must spend time with employees, exploring employee contentment, and ensuring their focus aligns with the company’s greater vision to endure. Across all sectors and enterprises, staff and employee well-being are paramount. We have experienced the consequences businesses face when they fail to prioritize human health during both model and exceptional times. Businesses must realize that assurance of wealth creation only occurs when coupled with the strong presence of safety and health. The humane focus of genuine value and deep care shown to employees and the community will continue to develop into an even more critical metric in determining small businesses progress.
This internal commitment will allow owners to fulfill part three: connecting with customers. Regardless of the method, owners and managers need to speak directly to their clients to gain better insight into useful innovations that will meet their current needs.
The choice is simple. Small businesses can innovate or fail.
This moment is not about delegation for owners. In evoking humanity and steadfast focus, you will prevail. Small businesses can protect and consolidate their existing capital and labor force by making pragmatic and strategic decisions to mitigate risk and short-term loss.
Understanding that small businesses lack the resiliency larger firms and corporations have is ancient and outdated. Small businesses are innately agile. Their capabilities for implementing innovative and creative solutions demonstrate that they, rather than large firms, are the best force to reimagine public-private relationships.
In the past, we have emphasized speed, efficiency, and growth at the expense of sustainability, resilience, and fairness. Small companies went unnoticed as they shaped the “invisible” core of our global economy. Now they elicit the visibility merited by playing the significant role of curating the world of tomorrow.
Small businesses and entrepreneurs — it is time for you to lead.