At the end of 2021, I have circulated a survey asking businesses to outline what they believe will be the challenges they will face in 2022. All responses focused on the following aspects:-
- Negative impact from Covid and any further restrictive measures
- Staff retention issues and new employee shortages
- Supply Chain issues and rising costs leading to Inflation
- New & Evolving Competition
It is interesting that all listed challenges are basically all related to immediate issues being faced. For example no one mentioned other important issues, that are beyond the immediate, like:-
- Recovery: Rather than just always playing catch up, what trends are you seeing now, many of which have been created by the pandemic, which you believe will remain or grow even when the economy recovers in a post-pandemic world. Are you preparing to make the best of such trends?
- Digitalisation: The necessity of businesses to digitalise has seldom been as pressing. Digitalisation and the use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) can support SME integration into global markets by lowering transaction costs. It also supports innovation and allows firms to compile data and analyse their own operations in new ways, enhancing performance. Yet despite the benefits and opportunities that digital technologies bring, many SMEs continue to lag in adoption. Indeed, many face a financing gap in the advancement of technology.
- Cyber security: Cybercrime and ransomware attacks were rampant during 2020 and 2021. This is an evolving trend, and experts have warned that we can expect these attacks to continue. This is not an issue where you can afford to take your eye off the ball. Reach out to IT and cybersecurity experts to find out where your business may be vulnerable. Spend some time and resources educating your employees about the steps that they should be taking, especially if they are working remotely.
- Remote Working: Way back in March 2020, the vast majority of businesses had to find a way to allow their employees to work remotely. When they did so, how many business owners would have thought that the question of whether or not returning to the office was a good idea would still be on the table in the beginning of 2022? But here we are, and even though many businesses have pushed to get their staff back in and back to the old way of doing things in 2021, the question still remains. I think businesses need to approach this with an open mind wherever possible. The end of remote working does not seem to be anywhere in sight and gives the needed flexibility in the event of a wave of new infections.
- Sustainability: Climate change is not a buzzword. We are all living its effects. Hence the need to have all businesses becoming environmentally sustainable is going to become ever more important. However, SMEs face significant barriers to entry in the transition to the new economy, including a lack of funds but also by way of established business models and access to critical technology. SME need to address how they can leverage public incentives and funding to reduce their carbon footprint and become more resource-efficient, demonstrating their commitment to the green transition. This will not remain a nice thing to have, this will become a necessity.
Many solutions or mitigating factors, even to the immediate challenges are found in other perceived “longer-term” issues that seem to be on the back burner of many SME & Family Business Leaders. I believe 2022 should not be the year whereby you keep playing catchup and keep acting in a reactionary mode. It’s the year whereby you need to plan things further to solve not only the immediate challenges but be prepared for those that are are also knocking on your door.