People from all walks of life, including business owners, have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s Let’s Talk attempts to address the most pressing issue: how business leaders have adapted to a post-pandemic world.
We will examine business attitudes and trends to determine the best-case scenario for success in the current environment.
One thing is certain: the difference between businesses that succeeded and those that failed was determined by creativity, innovation, and staying ahead of the competition. Our experts identified trends that businesses have used, such as digitization and changing consumer behaviours.
And so, we asked them to shed some light on the emerging trends that aspiring entrepreneurs can use to build a profitable business.
Adam Chicktong, APAC General Manager at Asana
“Now more than ever, evolved employee expectations are making it difficult for many businesses to attract and retain talent. Adding to this challenge, our Anatomy of Work Index 2022 revealed that 24 per cent of Australian workers experienced burnout 4 or more times in the last year. To remain competitive, entrepreneurs must rethink how their employees interact with work. This should include having a long-term plan for addressing and reducing both burnout and imposter syndrome.
“In addition, providing clarity around purpose will be crucial in keeping employees engaged and focused on the most impactful work. By creating a shared sense of accomplishment, entrepreneurs can build and maintain a highly engaged workforce, leading to greater overall returns and profitability.”
Melissa Ryan, Director of Incubation & Entrepreneurship at Macquarie University
“The pandemic highlighted the most fundamental and critical entrepreneurial characteristic – resilience – and their ability to get back up and keep going. Celebrating failure, like no other group, means they are getting closer to success.
“During the pandemic, we saw our startups quickly accept that this was the way it is and was going to be for a while. They adapted what they were doing, whether it was securing sales, undertaking customer discovery, developing prototypes or embracing remote working. These unique times provided startups with the opportunity to ride the waves of change, that enabled them to scale their businesses convert more customers and employ more staff.
“Disruptive times like the ones that we are currently in lay bare huge opportunities for the savvy innovator. The world has changed, but what are we doing differently and what do people need to help them achieve their goals and get their needs met. Many simple opportunities are waiting to be effectively commercialised.”
Michael Kodari, CEO at Kodari Securities
“The business world has historically been profit-driven, with sales and making money top of mind for many, if not most, leaders in organisations across the globe. After all, a high-profit margin is what makes a business viable, and it’s essential for increasing scale. But, as the COVID-19 pandemic and Great Resignation have brutally highlighted, businesses can’t buy their way out of uncertainty. That’s why the future of business lies not in profit, but in people.
“When it comes to a post-pandemic business, if you take care of your people, profit naturally follows. And the reason is simple; it’s the performance of the team that leads to the success of an organisation, big or small.
“A healthy culture is now just as vital as a healthy balance sheet. Culture is what gives a company its competitive edge. It adds value to what’s already in places, such as intellectual property, product offering, human resources, systems and processes. And even more, it helps an organisation better navigate an uncertain business climate.
“Study after study confirms that when it comes to business, putting people first pays off in spades. It’s a strategy that yields powerful returns across the business in areas spanning culture, wellness and profit. And it hinges on employee happiness.
“When staff are happy, they are more motivated and driven in the workplace. They’re also more innovative, energised and engaged, which together add up to mean increased productivity.
“Even more, if they’re client-facing, their happiness can translate into better customer service, inspiring customer loyalty. It’s a knock-on effect that extends all the way to the organisation’s bottom line.”
Rohan Persaud, Director of Channels and Alliances at Sisense
“COVID has turned businesses upside down and highlighted weaknesses in legacy systems used within organisations. Organisations are now in a position to consider either resuming business-as-usual practices or seeing the pandemic as a fresh opportunity to reinvent in order to thrive in the new economy.
“Those who have gone ‘back to basics’ and rethought a more innovative, data-driven approach are strategically driving revenue, enhancing customer experience and managing costs. In fact, more than ever before, data and analytics, combined with faster delivery, reliability and scalability are now critical to uncovering new revenue streams and enhancing commercial offerings.
“There are two pillars of generating revenue. First, organisations can infuse analytics seamlessly at key decision points and go beyond traditional dashboards. To achieve this, organisations need to articulate their insights outside the dashboard. While dashboards are handy to communicate data, they do not drive actionable insights as staff are unlikely to check the dashboards every morning.
“The real value is created when data-driven insights and critical data sources are available at key points of business decision-making.
“Organisations want their data to be relevant, in context and personalised. When the right data sets are available at the right place and at the right time, organisations will derive far more valuable insights to drive faster decision making at scale. By infusing analytics at those key decision points, organisations have an exciting opportunity to monetise and leverage these data-driven insights immediately.
“The second pillar of generating revenue is by embedding data into the solutions, applications and interactions leveraged by key stakeholders such as customers, partners and suppliers.
“A common sentiment is, “We want it better, faster, cheaper but you can only do two”. However, stakeholders want all three. So how do organisations get better margins from the data they have?
“By leveraging the power of data, it’s easier to understand business problems and goals such as generating revenue or addressing a customer issue, which therefore optimises stakeholder interactions, enhances customer experience or manages costs.”
Simon Le Grand, head of marketing at Lightspeed
“If the last two years have taught us anything, it is that humans are expecting greater choice when it comes to things like where they work and how they purchase a product or service.
“To launch a successful business in the post-pandemic world, budding entrepreneurs should account for this change in behaviour and look to build their business models around the concept of flexibility. Technology and cloud solutions will enable them to do this, giving entrepreneurs more time to focus on growing their business, hiring the right talent and building long-lasting, loyal relationships with their customers.”
Josephine Sabin, Head of Marketplace and Community at DesignCrowd & BrandCrowd
“With the post-covid business landscape more saturated than ever before, getting your branding right will be paramount to standing out from the crowd.
“Branding is more than just what a company looks like. It’s about provoking emotional and sometimes even physical reactions from your prospective customers. For example, companies such as BUPA or Telstra use blue in their logos to evoke feelings of trust, whereas fast-food restaurants, like McDonald’s, KFC and Red Rooster use red or yellow as these colours increase appetite.
“BrandCrowd has recently recorded a boom in minimalist designs, calming pastel tones and watercolours which demonstrate an emphasis on simplicity and relaxation following a challenging two years. Branding designs that incorporate natural elements such as floral or ocean designs are also increasingly popular as consumers’ values shift towards the outdoors and sustainability.
“Companies need to look below the surface to leverage changes in community mindset not only to stand out from competitors but also to show their customers they’re in touch with their evolving needs.”
Damir Ćuća, CEO at Basiq
“The pandemic was an accelerating force in financial services. It’s led to a focus on transparency, customer experiences and opportunities – all supported by data. It has also created an opportunity for entrepreneurs to launch new businesses that address the increasing demand for a new spin on traditional financial services.
“For entrepreneurs looking to tap into the significant opportunities in the industry, data is critical. In Australia, under the CDR (Consumer Data Right), businesses can access Open Banking data to gain a view of their end-users but this only includes data from Authorised Deposit-taking Institutions (ADIs). To gain a more complete view of end-users, additional data sources currently outside of the CDR should also be considered including Neo-banks, Superannuation, Buy Now Pay Later, and Card issuer’s data.
“In a post-pandemic market, businesses need all the insights they can gather to keep up with the shifting market demands. By embracing a data-led approach, entrepreneurs can remain agile and develop their products with the market instead of racing to catch up.”
David Price, CEO at BizPay
“The pandemic has fundamentally shifted industries and businesses worldwide. For those with an entrepreneurial spirit, this presents a unique opportunity to leverage emerging trends and launch a revolutionising post-pandemic business.
“As a first step, innovation and technology should be the bedrock of any new business venture. Businesses born with a tech foundation have flourished in the volatile post-pandemic market, enabling startups to embrace agility, shifting in response to market conditions and trialling new ideas quickly.
“In the financial services industry, we’ve seen rapid growth for businesses born during the pandemic. These businesses have mainly focused on three key areas – digital-first solutions, customer-focused experiences and data-led opportunities.
“Whether for consumers or businesses, companies that have disrupted the traditional expectations and approaches for the sector have thrived. Entrepreneurs should be looking for opportunities that address gaps or challenges in industries, rethinking how we’ve always done things by leveraging innovative technologies.”
Rob Thorne, Senior Vice President Asia Pacific & Japan at MuleSoft
“Entrepreneurs launching a new business immediately have an advantage over their incumbent competitors in that they’re not saddled with legacy technology debt. Today, startups can start fresh without needing to integrate data silos, which are created by legacy applications that aren’t integrated with the rest of the business, barring the valuable data contained from use.
“However, startups can still fall into the same traps as their competitors by neglecting to integrate the systems that comprise their IT stack. Startups are increasingly adopting the composable business model by using APIs to connect these systems when building a new company from scratch.
“By embracing the composable business model early, startups will set themselves up for success when the company grows as their APIs can be infinitely reused for any other purpose across the business. Customers will also benefit from the connected experiences enabled by APIs, which pave the way for seamless experiences that consumers increasingly expect.”
Dr Emma Rees, Founder & CEO at Femma
“Much like the SARS China outbreak in 2003, COVID related government-mandated check-ins, contact tracing and vaccine certificates have accelerated rapid digital transformation for the everyday Australian. The result of this boom in digital literacy helped to reduce the digital trust barrier, particularly in the baby boomer generation, creating an opportunity for significant growth for direct-to-consumer digital businesses.
“Femma coincidentally launched during this rapid transformation, and while it’s important to leverage this opportunity, it is more important than ever to connect your customers with your brand’s true purpose and mission. During the back end of the pandemic, engagement in online shopping and eCommerce quickly transcends novelty and even though it is the new normal, customers move to an even more discerning phase in spending their share of wallets online.
“Mission-based digital solutions that prioritise their customers’ experience and solve real problems stand to achieve success via meaningful differentiation in the key pillars of perceived quality, customer experience and pricing strategy.”
Sharon Crombie, CEO & Founder at MicroChilli
“The incentives for small business owners outlined in the latest federal budget highlight that technology is the way of the future, so entrepreneurs should definitely consider embracing a tech-based model.
“This includes using accounting and bookkeeping software to automate invoices, view financials in real-time, and avoid inaccuracies in the data. Rostering and payroll tools are a must for assigning employees shifts to ensure they reflect customer demand, and for streamlining the payment process. Online project management tools are an effective way to keep track of time (ensuring fees are charged in line with head hours), organise tasks within teams, and set personal to-do lists.
“The beauty of this approach is that as remote and hybrid working becomes the norm – a recent survey by The Daily Aus found that 70 per cent of people have adopted this model – technology makes working with clients and teams much more seamless.”
Brodie Haupt, CEO & Co-founder at WLTH
“A few important business trends have been thrust into the spotlight over the last two years of isolation and social distancing, thanks to the global pandemic.
“The first is on social media marketing. While it may not be brand new to many emerging or thriving businesses, its importance has definitely been highlighted. Brick and mortar marketing, albeit still crucial, pales in comparison to the reach and effectiveness of a great social media campaign.
“Consumers now also pay attention to sustainability and taking care of the environment. Businesses need to show they are doing their part, and really put action to their words. For us at WLTH, every home loan settled contributes to 50m² of beach and ocean cleanup with the help of our partners, Parley for the Oceans. We found that clients responded positively to these efforts and have given us a competitive advantage in the market.”
Jonathan Perumal, Country Manager ANZ at Safeguard Global
“Launching a business is hard work – and coming out of a global pandemic with an ongoing skills shortage in Australia means there are going to be additional challenges. However, companies and employees learned an important lesson: for many of us, remote workers can be just as productive and effective – if not more so. There’s inherent flexibility in remote work that allows us to better integrate our work and personal lives. As a result, people are seeking more flexible work experiences and companies are seeking access to the best talent that can help them thrive coming out of the pandemic. In order to access this talent, however, founders must build businesses that support flexible, people-centric experiences.
“While Australia ramps up programs to increase access to the skilled workforce we need, it’s critical that new companies think differently about recruitment and take advantage of the opportunity to hire the best talent, no matter where in the world they are and set themselves up for fast and sustainable growth. Budding entrepreneurs know that their most valuable asset is their people – and they should ensure they have the solutions needed to recruit, hire, and pay globally – efficiently and compliantly.”
Sam Phelan, Regional Director and Country Manager ANZ at Sumo Logic
“With cybersecurity threats continuing to climb, budding entrepreneurs must implement tools that provide protection from cloud vulnerability and industry threats. Observability is an emerging trend that describes the combination of application log data, metrics and tracing to tell you what is happening in your applications and infrastructure.
“Observability data holds up a mirror to our systems and helps us understand what is going on based on the outputs delivered. By looking at the full picture and consolidating all our data together, observability can help budding entrepreneurs improve the organisation as a whole.
“Leveraging data is imperative for budding entrepreneurs. Data is rich in value if customers act upon it with confidence and speed to drive differentiated customer experiences. Applying deep insights from reliable data will provide businesses with secure and dependable digital experiences – setting them up to succeed and scale quickly.”
Shannon Karaka, Head of Expansion ANZ at Deel
“The pandemic has revolutionised the way business is conducted. Trends like remote work give entrepreneurs the option to be location independent, which can provide so much more than simply flexible hours or a shorter commute for workers. Founders and business leaders can reduce or eliminate the majority of office and overhead costs, and divert that capital to hire more and better talent, invest in key customer touchpoints and market their businesses more effectively.
“This reimagined workforce also provides opportunities to access the top talent around the globe to efficiently fill the skills gap. Our recent State of Global Hiring Report found Australian companies were increasingly hiring talent in the Philippines, USA, Argentina, Brazil and India, particularly for tech talent.
“At Deel, we make onboarding and paying overseas talent simple. Companies that previously couldn’t expand because of the cost and complexity can now focus on building their business.
“Many Australian companies, such as Lyres, LinkTrree, Safety Culture and Zoomo have used Deel to scale up fast and enter international markets for the first time. They have been able to expand their businesses to overseas markets while staying operationally lean. This ensures they can quickly react to shifts in the market.”
Mark Collins, CEO at JUMP! Swim Schools
“Parents are keen to get their children back into activities post-pandemic, so kid-focused service businesses generally are going strong. In particular, there is a huge shortage of swim schools and we’re seeing remarkable and unprecedented responses from the markets where new swim centres are opening. In Armstrong Creek in Victoria, for example, a new swim school hasn’t even opened its doors, yet classes are already 95 per cent booked.
“Learning to swim was one of the activities that suffered through lockdowns – there is no ‘remote’ alternative for a swim lesson – so it’s no surprise that parents are very eager to get their kids enrolled. For those thinking of tapping into this trend or another kid-focused service, ensure you do your location research and suss out local competitors. Find a ‘blackspot’ area for the service you want to offer and it will give you a great head start.”
Rod Arenas, General Manager of Commercial at FIAL
“With Australian products in high demand across the globe, budding Aussie food and beverage businesses are ripe to make the most of this growing opportunity.
“Pandemic-induced travel restrictions and ongoing global disruptions turned traditional ways of connecting with international buyers upside down and small food and beverage businesses were forced to adapt and make connections with international buyers in new and innovative ways.
“By reevaluating how international buyers are engaged, Australian food and beverage businesses could unlock more than $200 billion value-added by 2030 and almost triple the current size of Australia’s food and agribusiness sector. In light of this, FIAL developed the Australian Food & Beverage Catalogue (AFBC) — a free, online directory connecting hundreds of market-ready Australian food and beverage businesses, with qualified domestic and international buyers from over 42 countries around the world.
“To grow Australia’s share in the global marketplace, it’s crucial that small businesses are supported by innovative technology such as the AFBC to meet their potential.”
Ben Pluznyk, Director & Country Manager ANZ at Freshworks
“As we enter 2022, the digital-first experiences of the last two years have redefined our future. Physical constraints took consumers to digital platforms, which in turn forced businesses to redefine customer experience (CX) and meet them there. With the world opening up and the option of in-store experiences back in play, customer “delight” is taking a new form.
“Consumers value speed more than ever and although they have embraced the ease and convenience of engaging online, crave the connection and empathy of personal interactions.
“For businesses, this reinforces the need for a seamless omnichannel strategy that speaks to the digital-first consumer, while ensuring human engagement. All while navigating a possibly permanent hybrid work environment. This also means that businesses want a simple consumer-like experience with business software; one that is easy to set up and is intuitive to onboard employees.
“Budding businesses will benefit from implementing a seamless omnichannel strategy, focusing on the digital-first consumer, but remaining cognisant of the increasing need for personal interactions. By keeping this in mind, entrepreneurs can also reduce the cost of operations, empower employees to deliver exception CX, and deepen customer loyalty.”
Rachael Greaves, Co-Founder and CEO, Castlepoint Systems
“To be a successful entrepreneur in a volatile environment, innovation is not enough. You have to disrupt. Worker and consumer expectations have dramatically changed over the last decade, with rapid acceleration throughout the pandemic as traditional (legacy) ways of interacting in the world have turned on their head.
“The labour shortage in key industries has put more control into the hands of individuals to adapt and personalise their conditions. Consumers have demanded, and received, increasingly larger numbers of goods and services available online and on-demand.
“The pandemic hurt many start-ups (and incumbents) who were providing goods and services using the legacy methodology. And it opened doors for an entrepreneur boom, of people and groups who saw the opportunity to embrace disruptive externalities and disrupt further. Seeing the opportunity to ride the wave of change, and crest it with new ideas that are better suited to the direction that the tide has turned, is the right way to be profitable and sustainable post-pandemic.”
Anthony McDonough, Co-Founder of The BIMM Group, and Unlabelled
“It’s important to understand the difference between a trend and a fad to ensure that the business you’re building isn’t here today and gone tomorrow. Consumer attitudes and values are what drive trends, and given the universal pandemic experience, a few long-term trends have emerged which relate directly to changes in consumers’ values and attitudes.
“The BIMM Group is an ethical, social and sustainable profit for purpose business, currently riding this new wave of consumer sentiment, as people look for businesses that they can trust to leave the planet in a better state than how they found it. For any budding entrepreneur, it’s important to remember that the businesses that will exist in the future are going to have to be better than those who helped build the past. To become futureproof, build a business that not only your children would be proud of, but your grandchildren as well.