What businesses need to learn from the lockdown

The unprecedented lockdown implemented to limit the spread of infection rates from the COVID-19 virus has exposed severe problems for a large proportion of smaller businesses. They have found themselves technologically ill-prepared for the new remote working arrangements required for continued trading.

A new survey from Hitachi Capital Business Finance reveals that smaller businesses were appreciably more inclined than larger enterprises to view the possibility of long-term working from home arrangements as a significant challenge. Fifteen per cent of the larger enterprises polled described the challenges as major, as did 21 per cent of their smaller counterparts.

At the root of the problem, the study found, was lack of the requisite technology to make indefinite home working viable. When asked to gauge the effects of how technological insufficiency was impacting their day-to-day commerce, 30% of smaller businesses reported that they would be impeded. Of these, nearly half said that they might be forced into closing down temporarily until the virus has been brought under control.

Disturbingly, the study found that smaller enterprises, often referred to as “the backbone of the economy” because of their sheer number and contribution to annual GDP, were twice as likely as larger companies to be experiencing fears for their continued economic survival while the lockdown continues. Just 19% of the larger business expressed this anxiety as opposed to almost a third (31%) of smaller enterprises.

Commenting on the findings, Hitachi Capital Business Finance’s Managing Director, Gavin Wraith-Carter, emphasised that the greatest threat to business was uncertainty.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses had, with no warning, been plunged into a predicament that few of them could have imagined, he stated. Effectively, he continued, businesses were suddenly being made to “tread water” as events beyond their control erupted around them.

For this reason, Wraith-Carter said, businesses should become aware of government initiatives designed to shoulder some of the burden with them, including a range of grants and CBILS.

Business owners, he went on, now needed to concentrate on the eventual aftermath of these events so that they can get into a position in which they’re able to ensure their operations will return to normal as rapidly as feasible as soon as the green light is given and “capitalise on the opportunities at hand.”

Mr Wraith-Carter continued:

“Extreme situations will stretch businesses to limits, and expose areas that require attention. Smaller businesses, without the same resources and facilities as their larger counterparts, will have felt this bump the hardest. However, many of these issues can be fixed, and these improvements will offer significant competitive advantage over the years. Where small businesses have an advantage over their larger counterparts is the speed at which these changes can be implemented and incorporated into the core business practice.”

The key learning point emerging out of this albeit anxious time appears to be that, for future commercial survival and success, technology planning by businesses small and large (but especially the former) can no longer be seen as an optional extra. Getting the right tech hardware in place may prove the essential key to survival in the event of another wave of lockdown.

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