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5 ways for SMEs to adapt business for post-COVID-19

As SME business owners, when you continue to adapt to the "new normal" way of life for post-COVID-19 lockdown, you're undoubtedly focusing on getting your business back on track and up to speed as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, it's worth bearing in mind that reopening is not merely a return to normal. There will probably be an extended period of uncertainty.1 And this period will be marked by fundamental changes in economic activity, ways of business operation, changing cultural norms, societal values, and behaviours.1 To reopen and overcome this period of uncertainty, your business will need to reinvent and adapt.1

Here are some ways you can reinvent your business to take on the new world.

1. Rethink the workspace

The advent of social distancing and the rise in working from home means the old construct of a workplace may no longer be relevant in the future. You should relook into your physical space and reframe needs.

  • Create a safe environment that is also a comfortable and stress-managed one.
  • Limit physical contact and enable more flexible use of space like potentially introducing shift hours operations.
  • Segment key workers who must be physically present on the frontlines from those who can work remotely.1
A male small business owner is working from home; image used for HSBC Malaysia Fusion ‘5 ways for SMEs to adapt business for post-COVID-19’ article.

2. Embrace digital work culture

A survey from Accenture indicates that half of workers who never worked from home now plan to do so more frequently in the future.1 Redesign work so that it can be completed more effectively from home.1 Train your leaders to manage hybrid virtual and physical teams, and extend technology support.1

To encourage businesses to support work-from-home arrangements, the government is offering tax deductions from employers who implement flexible work arrangements (FWAs) or undertake enhancements of existing FWAs under the Flexible Work Arrangement Incentives. It's a part of the PENJANA Short-Term Economic Recovery Plan announced on 5 June 2020.2 You can check here for more details.

3. Rebuild in phases

You may have a long list of things you need or want to do to steer your business towards recovery, but doing everything at once may not be realistic.3 Instead, plan for a phased return that responds to unforeseen events and setbacks.1 Take this opportunity to redesign processes and to establish an agile operating model that provides flexibility to rapidly pivot to a remote workforce in response to dynamic market conditions.1

Focus on areas that generate the most cash and the fastest profits to fuel the next stage of your return.1 But be careful not to allow your restart to get ahead of your ability to maintain secure systems and safe physical environment.1 Track your progress closely to see what's working and what's not, so you don't waste time on activities that aren't delivering solid results.3

Keep social distance for covid 19; image used for HSBC Malaysia Fusion ‘5 ways for SMEs to adapt business for post-COVID-19’ article.

4. Get future ready

If you haven't been investing in technology and embracing it as part of your business operations, now is the perfect time to do it. There are many things you could do.

  • For example, use cloud to your advantage.1 Establish technology scalability with could-based solutions and embark on new ways within the cloud environment to drive innovation in the use of data and applications.
  • Shift to a human-machine workforce by making transactional processes more digital, and focus on value-led, pro-active operations driven by data and analytics.1 
  • Invest in artificial intelligence and other tools to manage customer interaction and to analyse customer behaviours.1

Most importantly, the government can help you with your technical and digital adoption. Through the PENJANA Short-Term Economic Recovery Plan, eligible SMEs can apply for grants and loans totalling RM700 million to digitalise operations and trade channels through three different programmes.2 You can check here for more details.

5. Be prepared for the next crisis

You may think the COVID-19 pandemic is an once-in-a-lifetime event, but you never know what's around the corner that could disrupt your business. Use what you have learnt during the current pandemic to prepare for the next crisis. It can help you insulate your business from future shocks.3 For example, you may want to build up liquid cash savings as a priority for your business because COVID-19 laid bare your weak cash flow position.3 You could focus on paying down debt and cutting non-essential spending to keep your budget tight.3 Or you may want to find ways to make your operations and staffing more efficient to cut operating costs.3

Prepare for a worst-case scenario and have a plan B can help improve your business' odds of surviving and hopefully thriving again during challenging times.3

No matter what you choose to adapt your business to flourish again, know that, we're here to support you with banking and financial solutions. You can speak to your Relationship Manager or call our contact centre at +603-8321 8888 for any enquires related to HSBC Fusion.

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To learn more about government's tax deductions about flexible work arrangements (FWAs), please check:

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Accenture, COVID-19: 5 priorities to help reopen and reinvent your business, 6 May 2020. Malaysia Ministry of Finance, Building the economy together: Short-term economic recovery plan June - December 2020, 5 June 2020., 6 ways to rebuild your small business after COVID-19, 30 April 2020.

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