COVID-19 has decimated economies all over the world. As these economies recover from the pandemic, new opportunities will open up and companies will be desperately looking to capitalise in new markets and different ways of doing things. Small businesses have been at the epicentre of this disaster and as key drivers of employment and economic growth, they must grow back to survive and lead their communities out of recession.
It is universally accepted that innovation is critical to economic growth, and some small companies have been able to pivot and find innovative ways to survive during the pandemic. Going forward, companies need to pursue new ways of doing business, to increase sales, become more efficient, and develop new products and services.
The world is constantly changing, and evidence suggests that there will be increasing frequency of pandemics and natural disasters in the future. Maintaining the status quo is not going to be good strategy. In order to survive and grow companies must be capable of continuously innovating and will need not only the appropriate technical skills but also the ‘soft’ skills and capabilities to provide a culture of innovation.
What a successful program of sustainable innovation looks like will be unique to each organisation. However, global research and experience has demonstrated that sustained success is built around several core capabilities including engagement and communication, trust, teamwork, entrepreneurial passion, and the ability to continuously seek out and commercialise new knowledge. It is critical to ensure that the ‘right’ people are on the bus in the journey with you to a sustainable future, and that the ‘wrong’ people are off – this applies to all of a company’s stakeholders (employees, suppliers, service providers, customers and investors). In a small company, the owner-manager must address these factors and, where necessary, obtain advice on how best to develop sustained performance.
Notwithstanding that there is never enough time available, it is critical small businesses, both new ventures and old, spend as much time as possible on searching for new opportunities and better ways of doing things, and thinking about what is needed to achieve these. Engage others (internally and externally) in this quest for new business. In doing so you can share the load and, importantly, by obtaining multiple inputs reduce the risk of progressing an idea which will not benefit your business. It is important to have a mentor, advisor, partner or employee whom you trust to provide objective commentary on your business ideas and to assist in the development of future plans. Be systematic about selecting and progressing an idea, stay agile and don’t overly formalise your processes. Review all your resources, physical, financial and human, and ask yourself ‘are they right for what you need in future?’ If the answer is no, change them.
Written by SBAA Member Dr Tony Petley