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The 2008 Great Recession was a catastrophic crash for the global economy. Businesses from around the world, especially SMEs struggled to keep afloat during those turbulent times, and many just managed to scrape by and survive. Over a decade later, it seemed the effects of 2008 were just beginning to settle. However, as businesses try to navigate the unchartered waters of COVID-19 today, it seems the threat to business life could be even greater.

However, the SMEs and the business owners behind them that survived the 2008 recession have proven themselves resilient and resourceful. These SMEs seem as strong and ever and many have shared the lessons they have learnt and the strategies they used to overcome the 2008 recession.

Here are a few of the key takeaways from SMEs and business owners who have made it through the massive economic hardships in one piece.

Take care of employees

Taking care of a business during rough times means taking care of your employees. One of the most important thing a leader can do during such times is to communicate optimism with their team, keep them safe, and support them through uncertain times  to avoid it having an impact on performance and productivity. There is no one-size-fits-all approach and some members of the team will need more flexibility with their hours than others, particularly for example those juggling child care with remote working.

Repurpose production lines

Especially in today’s COVID-19 pandemic, it is a good idea to look at whether you can repurpose your products or services, whether to directly support the fight against Covid-19 or indirectly prop up other activity. SMEs that produce alcohol could potentially switch to making hand sanitiser for example. This will help keep operations ticking and may even likely help qualify your company for tax reliefs and government support.

Invest in your future

Despite the heavy disruption to everyday operations, it is still a good time to look at how to future-proof your company. Many companies are rapidly embracing new technologies, reconsidering cash flow and finances and redeploying their resources, so it’s a good time to examine every aspect of the business. Think about future operations and take the necessary steps to position yourself and the business for the long-term. Take the time to consider new ways of doing things that can make your business more adaptable.

Adapt and innovate

Just like the 2008 financial crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic means that businesses should forget about their usual routine. The rules have changed and SMEs must look for alternatives that are more flexible. The hospitality sector, for example, has moved away from providing tourist accommodation and instead is providing space for quarantine centres. Retailers meanwhile have moved away from physical stores to offer digital customer services. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

To some, every passing day of the COVID-19 pandemic might seem like a lifetime, but you might be surprised by the resilience of your team and business if the right precautions are taken. Keeping an eye on the future and preparing for greater and better things is akin to planting the foundation to thrive when this crisis is over.


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