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Small Business Survival During COVID-19

25th August 2020

As businesses continue to navigate the unknown during the COVID-19 pandemic, as a small business owner I thought I would break from safety and cover a few questions around businesses and the challenge to survive, and even grow.

Getting Perspective

Let’s start with latest small business facts from a 2019 Small Business Profile published by the government of British Columbia.

Small business in BC are businesses with less than 50 employees and there were 508,700 of them as of 2018.

A Look At The Numbers

Consider the following:

  • Businesses with 0 to 4 employees (“Micros”) represented 83% (428,400) of all small businesses
  • 61% of the “Micros” were “Self Employed without paid help.”
  • These Self Employed without help businesses had the highest growth rate (14.5%) of all small businesses between 2014 and 2018
  • After those “Self Employed” was small businesses with 10 to 19 employees at 13.8% growth rate.
  • These small businesses contributed significantly to employment (53% of total private sector employment), generated approximately 34% of BC’s provincial Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (higher than the 30% Canadian average)

In short, these businesses are the backbone of our economy in BC and across Canada.

COVID-19’s Impact On Our Backbone

So, if these Small Businesses are the backbone of our BC economy, how are they surviving during the covid-19 pandemic?

  • An article from Black Press Media Staff published on July 31,2020 was titled “21,000 small businesses in BC at risk of closure due to COVID-19: survey”.
  • The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) survey indicates those numbers don’t include businesses that have already closed due to COVID-19.”
  • That 21,000 is only 4.13 % of the 508,700 small businesses in BC
  • The article also provided a wide ranging estimate for business closures in B.C. due to COVID-19 will range from:
    • The low end of 6,395, to the
    • A medium range for this estimate is shows that over 21,116 are at risk.
    • A high-end estimate of 28,920 .
  • A StatsCan article in May indicated nearly 60% of businesses with 1 to 4 employees and nearly 56% of those with 5 to 19 employees reported a decline in revenue of 20% or more

Analyzing The Data

CFIB said that they had not analyzed the “breakdown between rural and urban small businesses”, and that business sectors have been a bigger factor in how well a business is currently doing.

“In sectors like hospitality, those regions will be harder hit, compared to sectors like agriculture and construction,” said Jones. “That’s been a bigger factor than geography.”

Without verified statistical data and analysis, we don’t however fully understand the impact of the pandemic on these businesses, employment, and the economy in general.

For every business that closes, there are customers, suppliers, and competitors among other stakeholders that need to adjust to these market changes.

It may take months, or years to really understand the fallout from the pandemic.  Consider the implications for the following:

  • Small businesses that were close to closing but survived by pivoting (i.e.-craft breweries that now make hand sanitizer)
  • Those small businesses that have still managed growth (although it’s an American article, it provides some context to company growth during the pandemic)
  • Small businesses that have temporarily closed but will reopen with the right economics and dynamics in place

Consulting Experience

For those companies that have managed to survive the challenges in the first half of the year, what can be expected leading into the second half of the year?

I thought it would be good to consult someone with experience.

John Boudreau is a business consultant with Align 4 Growth and has over 35 years of experience in sales, revenue, and business growth.

I had the opportunity to discuss with John where we are now with COVID-19 and what suggestions he has for small businesses.

Are there any comparable situations in the world of business that businesses can use when navigating the pandemic?

John replied, “What can you compare this to?  This is a highly unpredictable situation.  It’s not unreasonable to be focused on simply surviving, but also consider how to grow during the pandemic.”

What Do Businesses Need to Consider Moving Forward?

John indicated it’s important to consider a number of things, including the state of your business now, and potential growth opportunities as well.

There were some general considerations John identified in relation to moving forward:

  • “Cash is king” and you need to streamline your company to be efficient and able to pivot quickly towards better opportunities
  • It is important to be able to ramp up or down quickly and effectively
  • Be prepared for recovery from current impacts, while still focusing on business growth
  • Know your vision, strengths and weaknesses and consider and how the pandemic has impacted the business or industry

It’s also critical to look at where the business intends to go.

Whether it’s recovery, or planned growth, what’s the plan moving forward?

John indicated that while there are many challenges for small businesses,  there are also opportunities that may require your business to pivot and adapt to get where it needs to go.

In Short

We have seen a range of responses, and outcomes from the pandemic, both positive and negative.

Some businesses have been severely impacted and closed down, or are close to closing down, while many businesses have weathered the storm to date, and in some cases have grown.

To best prepare small business for the coming months, John has recommended businesses focus on the following:

  • Be acutely aware of your businesses needs, challenges, and general health
  • Streamline your business to maximum efficiency with automated systems (i.e. CRMs, marketing, financials, online presence)
  • Prepare your business to pivot to better opportunities should they present themselves

If your business is looking for support, you can reach John at john@align4growth.com or www.align4growth.com .


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