The COVID-19 pandemic has had a far-reaching impact on businesses around the world, as increasingly more countries go into lockdown, forcing many non-essential industries into an abrupt standstill. For impacted small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), one way to survive this challenging period is by taking quick and innovative action to future-proof operations.

Here are some suggested ways your business can innovate for increase resilience:

Offer value to your customers and clients – Even if it means changing up your offering temporarily. Spending hasn’t necessarily stopped; it’s just changed direction. As people are looking for ways to navigate life in lockdown, there has been a surge in online shopping globally, especially for things like grocery staples and health, wellness and safety are being prioritised.

Diversify your offering – Diversification has distinct advantages for any business and for those who haven’t already, now is a good time to consider it – for lockdown and any potential future disruptions. An interesting consideration is that interrupted global supply chains might mean more emphasis on locally produced goods.

Innovate and shift strategy – Innovating is one of the essential characteristics for any successful business. Show yourself to be flexible and apply creative thinking. An example of this is how local alcohol delivery brand, Bottles has reengineered their business and partnered with Pick n Pay to deliver essentials to customers during lockdown. As millions of people now work from home (WFR) and are stuck indoors all weekend, social networking applications are being used more than ever before, with many taking up indoor hobbies like baking – so don’t miss out on the opportunities this might offer.

Look to deliver your service virtually – Thankfully, we are living in the digital age, so take as much of your business online as you can. Whether it’s a fitness class, staff training, business consulting or hosting a conference, we now have the tools to take it online – like Skype, Google Hangouts or Zoom. Even if you aren’t able to recoup the same income as usual, it will keep your brand visible, which is crucial for setting up a post-lockdown comeback.

Become less location-dependent – Use this time to assess where you can replace functions that might rely on physical proximity and re-adjust your business model to be less location-dependent. If you only have brick-and-mortar stores, look to add an ecommerce element to your business, where practical. Diversifying can also help you become less dependent on physical locations for your business.

Embrace future ways of working – Consider embracing remote working long-term in your business, since this is the way the future of work is said to be headed anyway. Remote working has been seen to increase staff loyalty,   enhance worker productivity and lower operational costs. Due to no travel required, virtual meetings could also help you be more productive and cut down costs. As you adapt to the lockdown, it could be an opportunity to set up more permanent remote working infrastructures and shift processes for good.

Be a part of the solution – If your business is equipped to assist in any way with the national crisis, play your part in good faith. This could buy you favour with your customer base and show your business to be socially conscious – a value which can build brand loyalty in a highly competitive market.

About the Author: Vincent Kiyingi

Country Manager: Uganda