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How to prepare your small business for an unpredictable future

With a new wave of lockdowns putting uncertainty back at the top of the agenda, the businesses that will continue to thrive are those that respond quickly and effectively to ongoing change.

The rapid nature of change in business conditions is best illustrated the Australian economy’s return to pre COVID-19 levels a few months ago. Business owners and consumers were starting to talk about post-pandemic life. But with more than half of the country now back in lockdown, some economists predict a double-dip recession.

The first official confirmation of economic trouble came at the end of July when the Bureau of Statistics released its June retail sales report. Victorian sales fell by 3.5 per cent, with NSW also down by 2 per cent.

NSW Treasury estimates that the reduction of economic activity due to lockdown restrictions cost up to $1.3 billion per week. If COVID-19 is still prevalent across the country in another two or three months, the double-dip recession becomes a strong possibility

It’s clear at this point that recovery will not be straightforward or linear. Small business owners must be resilient and flexible, switching quickly between crisis response and recovery mode as trading conditions continue to change. Focusing on a few key responses will make prepare your small business for future changes:

Make data a priority 

The importance of adopting digital tools has been one of the most important lessons of the pandemic. When your focus is firmly fixed on the short term because it’s difficult to plan too far ahead, you need faster access to accurate data on customer behaviour, employee sentiment and business performance. You need to know what’s happening now, not last month or last quarter.

Data gives you a clearer picture of what customers are currently buying, what they might want next, and how the pandemic impacts their purchasing decisions. You’ll better understand what they like about your products or services and where there are opportunities to deliver improvement.

It gives you an accurate view of business processes and insights that you can use to help drive greater efficiency. It shows how changes impact your financial performance so that you can quickly respond to challenges and opportunities as they emerge.

Get the right advice

Governments have introduced a raft of support measures designed to help small business owners navigate their way through the current crisis. This is one reason why it’s never been more important to make sure that you’re getting sound financial guidance. 

Our recent ‘advocating for advisors’ research shows that nearly 60 per cent of Small Business Leaders admitted they would have struggled to keep going without the support of their financial advisor during the pandemic. Stay in regular contact with your financial advisor or seek one out if you don’t currently have one. They will ensure you make the best use of the support packages available to you, provide sound general business advice, and act as a soundboard for your ideas.

Exploit opportunities

The impact of the pandemic has varied wildly depending on the industry your small business operates in. Staying afloat has been a challenge in hospitality, but many retailers with a strong digital presence have fared much better. 

Moving entirely online for sustained periods has seen some of these businesses leaning into global opportunities and delivering growth. These businesses use data to continuously refine processes and increase efficiency to make them competitive on the world stage. 

It’s important to have a good view of your cash flow and access to capital so that you can respond quickly and decisively to these opportunities as they arise.

Invest in the future

Investments made now will help your business through the current storm and make it ready to respond as the economy bounces back. This includes the digitisation of core business functions like finance, marketing, and human resources. 

Products such as Intuit’s QuickBooks Online accounting software allows you to work on your business whenever, wherever, and however it suits you. Having access to your financial information online provides faster access to accurate business performance data, so you can respond to challenges as they emerge and make the most of new opportunities.

It’s more challenging than ever to predict what will happen next year or even next month but making suitable investments now will increase your chances of success whatever the future brings.

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Lars Leber

Lars Leber

Lars Leber is the Vice President and Country Manager of Intuit QuickBooks Australia. Having worked with the financial management software provider since 2017 he served as Country Manager for Brazil and Mexico in previous appointments. Prior to joining Intuit, Lars was an entrepreneur, co-founding and successfully growing multiple businesses in Germany and Brazil.

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