Starting a new business is always risky. It is estimated one in three Australian small businesses fail in their first year of operation, yet inspired ideas, clever marketing and entrepreneurial dedication create successful businesses even in the most difficult of times.
Launching a business in a post-COVID-19 world offers challenges and opportunities, so how do you mitigate the risk and seize the opportunities?
“The pandemic has impacted every industry, individual and business world-wide. A good business plan or strategy is no longer enough to ensure survival, as factors like snap lockdowns have the ability to decimate commercial activity. What does this mean for new businesses?
“Ensuring your business can operate successfully online is key in today’s economy. Startups emerging during the pandemic need to be able to build, scale and grow digitally, regardless of the industry.
“All new businesses should develop strategic COVID-19 plans that involve workarounds for aspects like staff working from home, upcoming events and the transport or sales of physical products. Similarly, equipping your startup with the latest digital tools for operations and finance, will help you streamline your processes whilst giving you a greater overview of the business.
“However, before starting any new venture, founders should carefully consider the industry they’re entering in light of the pandemic, as behaviours may be shifting. Many areas of business and trade have suffered, or come to a halt, in the past year. So, it’s a good idea to examine the industries that are seeing growth and try to align your business accordingly.”
Mark Brown, general manager – marketing, Konica Minolta Australia
“Starting a business in the current environment requires an optimised business operations plan to prepare for unpredictable change and mitigate risks. It’s essential to account for possible erratic shifts in revenue streams and access to service remote customers. Starting a business in the pandemic-disrupted environment has elevated the attention needed for core business elements.
There are three key steps to consider for a business post-COVID-19:
1. Evaluate your go-to-market strategy: Examine all possible channels to markets and geographies to maximise potential and business value. This will differ from state to state.
2. Build a robust target market: Focus on strong target markets with resilience that can cope with the uncertainty of on and off lockdowns and those whose needs don’t fluctuate considerably.
3. Focus on a strong digital experience: It’s possible to build connections without being face to face. Having strong digital accessibility and experiences can be a point of difference.
Rolf Howard, Managing Partner, Owen Hodge Lawyers
“With NSW Chief Health Officer, Dr Chant, recently conceding we’re likely to be dealing with COVID-19 for years, in all likelihood the business environment will be forever changed going forward. Instead of reaching a “post COVID-19” environment, we will learn to live with the virus.
“Those starting businesses in the next couple years should expect ongoing compliance requirements, with the rules likely to change periodically in light of outbreaks. This may include enforcing social distancing and masks in workplaces, requiring employees to work from home at times, checking customer COVID-19 digital certificates, requiring customers to check-in, and possibly mandates around COVID-19 vaccinations.
“The U.S. has just announced that COVID-19 vaccinations will be mandated for health care workers, federal contractors, federal workers, and employees in private companies with more than 100 staff. Australia may well follow suit, with residential aged care already requiring workers to be vaccinated.
“For those starting a business in the next couple years, it’s best to factor in the impacts of COVID-19 in your planning, even if it may seem like the worst of the virus is behind us.”
Kerrie Murphy, General Manager, Communications, SBM Marketing Communications
“You need to think about both the message your audience wants to hear and the channels they’re most likely to hear it in, as well as how COVID-19 may have changed that.
“Once you figure out where your audience is and how they are behaving, you can think about the solutions you provide that will resonate most. Clear communication that speaks to what they need is key to building better connections.
“You can’t expect life for customers to revert to pre-pandemic. Some changes of the past two years may be temporary, some permanent. I don’t know that I’d be betting on self-service buffets as a dining option of the future!
“Other shifts are easier to predict. There are multiple surveys indicating a desire for a mix of office and working from home, for example. And a spike in regional house prices doesn’t scream “temporary arrangement”, so you need to adapt to how your customers are living now.”
Jason Toshack, Vice President and GM ANZ, Oracle NetSuite
“Entrepreneurs looking to start a business today could learn from those who have been there before. In a survey of close to 200 Australian entrepreneurs, the most important lesson they collectively learned from the past year was that a flexible business model is key. Many business owners quickly realised that they needed to adapt rapidly to changed market conditions to capitalise on new opportunities. As such, launching product lines and services, and changing sales strategies to target new customers, has been instrumental to success.
“An equally important lesson was managing cash flow. We saw a number of tactics to best manage this ranging from ways to reduce operating costs to finding new and alternative means to reach consumers, including selling products and services online.
“To ensure prosperity, entrepreneurs should consider deploying processes that will allow for maximum flexibility and set them up for success, irrespective of what the future holds.”
“An important consideration for launching a new business in a post-pandemic world is adaptability. We’ve already seen this in sectors like retail and hospitality, pivoting from in-person to click-and-collect and delivery models. Ask yourself: How flexible is my service/offering? How well can my business transition to meet the changing environment?
“What hasn’t changed, and will have even more emphasis going forward, is to be customer or end user centric. You must know your target market inside out, and anticipate their needs and wants so you can deliver them successfully.
“Lastly, don’t limit yourself to the local market. Thinking global from day one helps open the door to more opportunities, accelerate new revenue streams and generate a healthier cash flow buffer to protect your business in times of uncertainty.”
Shaun Witherden, Senior Channel Development Manager at Datto
“Almost two years into the pandemic there’s been an influx of savvy new virtual start-ups popping up across growing areas such as food delivery apps and subscription services. But when your workforce and client base are typically both remote there are a number of unique considerations.
“There are many ways that teams can work effectively—regardless of location. When starting a new business, be sure your employees are involved in the communications and collaboration process. If your process is built with the needs of the team in mind, you’re more likely to garner buy-in and have better outcomes.
“Technologies such as cloud can help aid collaboration from any location, while ensuring business resiliency. But a distributed cloud-based workforce can also bring security vulnerabilities. It is critical for businesses to work with technology partners that will help protect their data no matter where it is located. This means in the event of increasingly regular incidents such as ransomware, files can be immediately restored.”
Mark Rendell, CEO, BK’s Gymnastics franchise network
“I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that there will be an end to these lockdowns and that will present new business opportunities in the post-COVID world – but those opportunities can’t be created overnight.
“Thinking and acting now to put wheels in motion will let savvy business owners and entrepreneurs hit the ground running post-covid and we’re seeing a lot of new franchisees doing that as they eye opportunities that will present themselves when lockdowns end and people are keener than ever before to get out of the house, get their kids active and engage with others.
“Creating and fostering a community has also become paramount and I don’t see that changing after lockdowns – so whatever your business concept, factoring in mechanisms that will allow your customers to feel like they are part of something and belong to your community will be important.”
Chrystal Taylor, Head Geek™, SolarWinds
“The last thing a new business needs is IT problems. Your precious time should be spent growing the business, not bogged down in software issues.
“Spoiler: you can’t do everything yourself. First, consider building a small IT team experienced in your mission-critical software. Once your IT backbone is secured, you can begin hiring freelance specialists when problems outgrow your main team.
“Next, consider investing in a good monitoring solution. When properly set up, it’ll provide visibility across your operations. With network logs and data, emerging issues can be identified and dealt with before they escalate. New business owners may think monitoring software is costly and only for the bigger corporations, but many vendors have customized small business IT solutions to strike a balance between value and cost.
“Lastly, to keep a lid on growing IT complexity, take time to document the processes relying on technology. For instance, you could create onboarding training modules for all essential software and build FAQs on your website to answer technical questions from your employees or customers.”
Alan Manly, CEO, Universal Business School Sydney
“Post COVID business is a new dawn that will most likely follow the same path of previous post crisis’- be they stock exchange crashes, wars or a pandemic. All have been experienced before and all seem to follow a predictable path.
“When the crisis is over there will be a business boom. Old businesses that fought to survive the crisis re-emerge. Many will logically expect the market to consist of their former competitors vying for the customer using the same technology and services, but as we’ve seen this year the online service is now a serious market sector.
“Administration is now so efficient that delivery companies are offering a two-hour window for deliveries to the customer’s home and many vendors now have online sites that are user friendly and track the delivery of the service or product.
“Any new entrant will find it easier to implement new technologies, along with new attitudes to service. It’s a golden era for new entrants that can meet the new expectations of the ever more demanding consumer.”
Ben Pfisterer, CEO and co-founder at Zeller
“Australia saw a +15 per cent increase in new business registrations this financial year — despite trading restrictions, more entrepreneurs are starting new ventures.
“When starting a new business post pandemic, be bullish about your opportunity. Don’t assume that people aren’t spending — consumers saved an unprecedented level of cash during lockdowns, combined with a desire to spend when normal life resumes. A rise in consumer spending should give you confidence in a new business opportunity.
“Also, consider new business opportunities created by the pandemic. Remote working, increased takeaway dining, online entertainment — emerging industries created by the pandemic represent new business opportunities to capitalise on.
“Finally, consider what the digitalisation of payments means for your business. Customers and suppliers are unlikely to want to handle cash. Ensure your business can accept cashless payments with a next-gen EFTPOS device, and that you can pay suppliers quickly with a business transaction account or spending card.”
Ben Breen, Managing Director, Asia Pacific and Head of Global Construction PMI
“COVID hasn’t dampened the Aussie entrepreneurial spirit. Despite challenges facing small businesses, over the past year, more new businesses have been set up than closed down, with a 15.2 percent rise in the number of small employers. At its core, project management is about turning ideas into reality, meaning these skills are essential when starting a new business.
“Responsible for a great number of tasks across many sectors from marketing to finance, prioritisation, organisation and effective time management are critical skills, alongside adaptability. Arguably, communication is the most important skill when starting a new business. Fundamental to every facet of setting up and running a business, from writing business plans, presenting ideas to investors and partners, negotiating with suppliers and conversing with new and potential customers or clients. Being equipped with a range of project management skills will support the development of a strong foundation for any new business.”
Read more: Pandemic fuels start-up ingenuity