How Can SMEs Get Through the COVID-19 Pandemic?



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Resilience before a crisis matters. When the COVID-19 struck and impacted heavily the SMEs, only a few continued to have stable sales and without having to lay off employees. The International Trade Centre (ITC) reported this in their SME Competitiveness Outlook 2021. According to their report (download required), 68% of highly resilient companies maintained stable sales during the crisis. On the other hand, only 51% of companies with low resilience were able to maintain stable sales. Furthermore, “only 16% of resilient companies reported laying off employees compared with 76% of companies with a lower index of resilience.”

Resilience is also one of the three main themes in ITC’s recommendations in their 15-point action plan. Along with resilience, ITC’s “Action Plan: Supporting small businesses through the COVID-19 crisis and towards the future” includes inclusiveness and sustainability.

collaborative business meeting

Resilience, ITC says, is based on “a company’s business processes,” “internal and external connections,” and “ability to respond to changes.”

There is a need to enhance SME resilience to cope with any crisis, including pandemics and climate change. The SMEs’ experience of COVID-19 disruptions, however, were able to prime them to proactively enhance resilience to specific climate-induced shocks.

In a manner, the limitations introduced by the pandemic have also become a window of opportunity to boost SME resilience. Business processes, for example, were thought over and made robust. Some SMEs connected, joined together, collaborated, with other SMEs not only to be robust but to be stronger together. Some saw the necessity to be on social media and becoming open to third-party providers. These became their means of responding to changes and being responsive to the new market demands.

Somehow we are now in the post-crisis transition, the crisis being 2020 to 2021. Trend Hunter, in their 2022 Trend Report, calls the post-crisis the period of chaos which, they say, may last for three years. Jeremy Gutsche, Trend Hunter CEO, however, studies chaos and for him, “the roaring 20s are coming back.” For him, “this is a cyclical pattern of history”: “The Renaissance Period emerged from the Bubonic Plague. The Roaring 20s emerged from the Spanish Flu.” And now we are merging again from a new crisis. This is now the period when “market leaders change, the deck gets reshuffled, and we get to experience how chaos creates both risk and opportunity.” This is now the period when each individual SME can rechart its own future.


The ITC, in their 2021 SME Competitive Outlook, sees going green as a business opportunity. “The transition to sustainable practices is a challenge-and also an opportunity for SMEs to strengthen their competitiveness and resilience.” For Hachmi Chenik, Technical Director of ITEX, a Morocco-based textile and clothing producer, for example, “resource efficiency boosts profits.” Making their production more resource-efficient has increased their resilience and has helped them lower input costs.

There is a competition, however, when it comes to sustainability. Additionally, consumers are becoming more aware of sustainability and are critical regarding sustainability trade-offs. Andrea Leigh of Leigh Consulting, in her Forbes article, recommends making “your sustainability message as clear and as concise as possible.”

ITC’s recommendations not only see sustainability as a recovery strategy but for companies to develop resilience in the long run. “Changes made now will pay off later…as the global pandemic recedes from view,” the report says. They anticipate also the time “climate emergency reclaims its status as the most serious problem the world is facing.”


working from home while taking care of child

In all those moving forward toward sustainability and resilience through recognizing the need for connections, remember also to be inclusive. Include your employees in recharting your future, because, after all, you’re going to need them to sustain your business operations. With the pandemic, however, employees’ priorities have also changed. Concern for the safety and well-being of their family has taken center stage in the thoughts of employees. You may have to consider adopting family-first workplace values. For Alex Draper, in a recent Forbes expert panel article, “that means business owners need to create a people-first workplace.” Either that “or risk losing their best team members.”

Digital Wave

imaginative representation of digital wave

The ITC segmented their 15-point action plan into five recommendations each for three stakeholders: businesses, business support, and governments. The final recommendation for businesses is to “build business models that foster resilience, inclusiveness, and sustainability and ride the digital wave.” (Downloadable pdf here.)

Those companies who already have a digital arm ready even prior to the pandemic were the ones most likely unhampered by the pandemic. Those who were quick to open social media channels for E-commerce were able to bounce back quicker. Thanks also to some already existing E-commerce platforms, businesses were able to find digital spaces, even making them always-on.

Now, the digital world is expanding into a metaverse where anything we see in real life could be turned digital. If you’ve not considered riding the digital wave yet or leaping into the digital world, now is the time. In closed doors during this time between crisis and chaos, many businesses are using their downtime to improve their digital capabilities. Later on, as the forward-looking ITC action plan says, “digital facilities will no longer be optional.” Going full circle, “consumers, clients, business partners, and workers will come to expect them as a matter of course.”

Business support, being there for SMEs’ resilience

The key to get through the pandemic and into the future are resilience, sustainability, inclusiveness, and being well-versed in digital. However, the ITC also recognizes the problem that the majority of SMEs don’t have access to information for those ideas. Thus, the action plan also speaks to business support companies and organizations to be there for SMEs.

If you need help going digital, beefing up your online presence, or getting access to resilient strategies that are right for you, we, at StratAccess, are here for you.

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StratAccess Inc., established in 2012, commits itself to find its clients the BPO in the Philippines for successful business solutions. The company focuses on transforming the landscape of call center partnerships. This is important in order to meet the requirements of today’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). StratAccess consultants are attuned to helping clients take a hard look at their business objectives, organization infrastructure, and operational practices.

We at StratAccess strive to build long-term relationships that extend beyond the typical vendor-client transactions. Our primary focus is to successfully promote and serve each client’s products or services as though they are our own. Combined with the skill and knowledge of the Philippine outsourcing industry, our company has positioned itself as a leader in delivering its clients access to qualified quality and cost-effective BPO referrals.

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