The COVID-19 pandemic has affected businesses of all sizes and from all sectors. Many have fared well while others have been impacted negatively, experiencing falls in demand and losses of revenue. But one of the biggest impacts was on strategic growth plans – faced with a new, uncertain environment, many were focused on navigating the storm rather than looking to the future.
How can businesses pave the way for organic growth in a post-pandemic environment?
Now normal practice has begun to resume, businesses are turning to look at growth over the coming years. Before the pandemic, growth by acquisition would have been the path many took, but for many owners now is not an attractive time to sell and so opportunities to purchase companies are more limited.
Instead, the focus for many has been on organic growth. For these businesses, what is important is how to grow within the post-pandemic environment, and this is a challenging one.
Demand is higher but supply may still be struggling to keep up, customer expectations are increasing, and lingering rules and restrictions continue to create an uneven playing field. Businesses must perform well through this if they are to grow organically.
There are multiple things for a business to consider to do so. Importantly, many of the learnings of the last few years can help to inform this – businesses should look to these lessons and harness them over the coming years.
Protect supplier relationships
At the best of times, it is advisable for businesses to maintain diverse supply chains to minimise risk of disruption and ensure service lines to customers are not impacted in the event of an issue with one supplier. In the aftermath of supply chain issues over the last 18 months, it’s key that contractual relationships are protected and plans are put in place so that if one supplier falls, another can step into the breach and allow firms to deliver on commitments to customers.
- Engage and connect with customers – honest and transparent communication has never been so important. Consumers must be able to understand potential issues being faced by businesses, and a clear communications strategy is needed to articulate these issues. Being honest and realistic with your customers about what you can accomplish is far better than over-promising and under-delivering.
- Ensure a strong and stable workforce – without a strong performing workforce, businesses will not be able to maximise on the opportunities for growth post-pandemic. As the situation continues to evolve, there also remains an uncertainty among workers, about their jobs, income and working arrangements. To combat this, it’s important for leadership to set a clear direction and foster a sense of togetherness, and active communication is central to this. Being transparent with employees will help engender trust.
- Embrace technology – businesses should not be constrained by being too parochial. Technology has been essential to business success over the last year – from Zoom calls to QR code menus in restaurants. Effectively utilising technologies, including sustaining a strong online presence will open up new profitable avenues and expand opportunities for organic growth both within the business’s current locations, and potentially, in a wider geographic area than before.
- Consider funding – finally, businesses may require funding to navigate the coming months and years and ensure organic growth. There are plenty of options out there, for example through private equity and the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS). But if organic growth is the order of the day, businesses may find they are best to stick with their existing bank.
The pandemic has affected the environment for businesses and many are still navigating the new normal. Harnessing the learnings of the last 18 months and keeping these simple points front and centre is essential to putting your business in the best position to foster organic growth. Business leaders who do so will then be in a better position to exit or acquire when the opportunity comes further down the line.
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