Nobody can simply wave a magic wand and get their business expansion right during these uncertain COVID-19 times.
The pandemic has forced many small businesses to either shut down or hibernate. The few that have survived are struggling to operate at their optimal capacity; struggling to adapt to the new remote working dispensation and changing customers’ shopping behavior. That is why it may seem- to many small business owners- like there are no opportunities in sight for business expansion. But there still are expansion strategies that small businesses can leverage to grow their businesses during this pandemic age. We will discuss those strategies in a moment but before we do, what are the key challenges to business expansion during the pandemic?
The Expansion Challenges Small Businesses are Facing During the Pandemic
Business challenges become more apparent when you start thinking about possible expansion. While growth can lead to a lot of opportunities and experiences, it is marred by a lot of challenges which include:
- Most businesses now rely on online interviews when hiring new employees. It is extremely hard to assemble the right team- and train new employees- when you can only meet them online.
- Large corporations like Amazon and Walmart are offering stiff competition to smaller businesses given that they remained open and running when the pandemic hit.
- The geopolitical fallout between China and the US, the two biggest economies in the world, is making the cost of doing international business unreasonably high.
- Disrupted supply and distribution chains mainly because most small businesses rely on manufacturers from China, the pandemic epicenter.
How to Expand a Business during the Pandemic
Business expansion during the pandemic is hard but not entirely impossible. For starters, you can leverage global PEO companies when hiring and managing employees abroad, so you don’t have to establish entities in the countries into which you expand. That saves you time, money, and eliminates the need for you or your associates to travel abroad in the middle of a pandemic. There also are tech tools that you can leverage to ensure that your existing employees, who probably are working remotely now, stay productive and collaborate effectively with the new employees. Note that you need the experience and expertise of your existing employees when launching operations overseas. Among the tech solutions that you can leverage here include Asana which can be used to streamline communication, Basecamp for project management, Slack, GoToMeeting, and Dropbox for cloud storage.
You could also outsource all your localization needs to a reputable translation company as opposed to having your staff members actively involved in the process. That means hiring translation services to translate your business website, social media content, product descriptions, and user guides. Localization also means capturing local cultures, religion, politics, and consumer behavior when packaging and marketing your products in new markets. Hire a translator with proven capacity and expertise to do all that without overblowing your localization budget.
And then there is the challenge of supply and distribution chains’ disruptions. Despite the disruptions observed at the onset of the pandemic, supply chains have found ways to adapt. Among the things that suppliers are doing include monitoring supplier and worker compliance to safety regulations to ensure business continuity. Suppliers and distributors are maintaining visibility and transparency by constantly evaluating their processes ahead of their operations. It is up to you as a business owner to find and partner with suppliers and distributors that have well-laid down mechanisms to shield businesses from further disruptions.
How Small Businesses Can Compete with E-Commerce Giants When Expanding
You need to take your products online if you are to appeal to international customers who have almost shifted entirely to online shopping. The online space is where Amazon and Walmart thrive. How can small businesses compete with these giants? Well, Walmart collaborated with Shopify in order to reach out to more customers during the lockdown. That partnership gave them the muscle to compete effectively with Amazon. Small businesses can borrow a leaf from that.
For small businesses to expand and thrive in this pandemic age, they need to start thinking of potential partnerships in order to claim a stake in the highly competitive international market. Having a partner that understands the context and business dynamics of the region you want to expand to will give you a smooth sail into the marketplace. You can find partners by asking for referrals from business associations such as the chambers of commerce, through foreign embassies and trade commissioners governing foreign markers, or published books and studies.
Tech Opportunities for Businesses Looking to Expand During the Pandemic
Rather than spending a lot of money traveling overseas for meetings with employees, stakeholders, and partners, you could utilize virtual meeting platforms like Zoom or Skype for Business to connect with your business network. You can even up your marketing strategies by utilizing augmented and virtual reality tools to showcase your products and services to new markets. When you are present in the virtual world, you should be careful to maintain your online security. To do so you need to make use of the right VPN. Learn more about VPNs in order to be able to make the right choice about it.
Nobody can simply wave a magic wand and get their business expansion right during these uncertain COVID-19 times. Small business owners must exercise utmost patience when planning their expansion strategies and agree to experiment on different approaches until they get it right.