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Entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners are typically lauded for their abilities to operate agile companies that flex and grow with changing market conditions, resulting in sustained business success. Whether during times of prosperity or adversity, they are often the trailblazers who forge a path into unknown territory and develop innovative products, services and solutions to swiftly address opportunities or issues, which help pave the way for longevity in the marketplace.
Savvy leaders understand that operating based on the status quo is not an option but rather adhere to the mantra that change is vital to their existence and success. Due to their size, SMBs have a significant advantage with regard to embracing change because leaders often recognize positive/negative trends within their client base sooner, which typically become indicative of the global marketplace in general. This knowledge enables them to act quickly by making informed business decisions/adjustments to meet the current state of business.
As entrepreneurs and SMB leaders continue to remain relevant, they should be aware of three key events that can signal a change to business operations — shifts in the economy, deviations in the competitive landscape and fluctuations in the labor market.
Related: How Agility and Resiliency Help Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Succeed
1. Economic conditions
Tracking economic conditions is central to business operations because inflation, interest rates, tax rates, supply/demand, consumer confidence and more dictate numerous aspects of business operations – from product pricing and employee wages to advertising/marketing and company growth – impacting a company’s bottom line.
When leaders keep economic conditions top of mind, they are better equipped to make informed decisions about increasing profits and reducing losses. For example, during good economic times, expanding product/service offerings, increasing pricing and bumping advertising/marketing budgets can help boost revenues. During a poor economy, a greater focus on controlling expenses, streamlining processes and seizing missed opportunities can help companies weather the storm.
In both scenarios, people-focused business leaders realize that economic conditions significantly impact employees from a professional and personal perspective, so taking care of their people — a company’s most valuable asset — is paramount, including financial assistance/perks, clear communication, mental health/wellness programs and unwavering support. When employees are treated as valued members of a team, engagement and performance increase resulting in a positive effect on the bottom line.
2. Competitive landscape
While business leaders should always be aware of the competitive landscape and make decisions accordingly, there are certain situations that may justify changes to business operations that can be a differentiating factor in the marketplace. Companies can explore opportunities to invest in new programs, such as introducing a new product/service, developing brand ambassadors, forming strategic alliances, boosting industry-related technology and increasing customer service initiatives.
If there are budget constraints, there are still ways for SMBs to make changes to help them stand out in the crowd, such as positioning themselves as thought leaders for editorial opportunities, speaking engagements at tradeshows and panel discussions facilitated by trade associations. Companies can also become more active on social media platforms to increase their influence in the marketplace. Volunteering in local communities is another way to not only give back, but also increase brand awareness and a company’s reputation.
Significant changes in the competitive landscape can impact employees who may want to jump ship for perceived better opportunities. SMBS must create and nurture a company culture that encourages employee retention through training and development programs, mentoring programs and defined career paths. They should point out ways that SMBs not only feel like family, but also how they offer greater access to executive leadership and faster advancement opportunities with more responsibilities.
Related: The Tech Landscape Has Changed and It’s Time Tech Leadership Change With It.
3. Labor market
Even before the ramifications created by the Great Resignation and/or the Great Reshuffle, SMBs were no strangers to the challenges of the labor market. Historically, they have competed with larger companies for top talent, but the still-tight labor market continues to add another degree of difficulty to attracting and retaining employees. According to the most recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of quits was just under 4 million in March.
Although SMB leaders are conditioned to the challenges, it should inspire many companies to change their recruitment strategies to attract top talent. For example, implementing employee referral programs; using social media to reach qualified candidates; improving the process to treat applicants with respect; and offering internships that lead to permanent employees are ways to fill open positions.
Of course, one of the best ways to address the labor market is to have a great culture that employees want to be a part of, resulting in increased employee retention and a pipeline of job seekers. When employees are taken care of from an individual and professional standpoint with programs that address health/wellness; financial perks; reskilling/upskilling; career paths within the company; and flexible/hybrid scheduling, it brings out the best in them and leads to a loyal, long-term workforce.
As entrepreneurs and SMB leaders position their companies for the second half of 2023, they should evaluate their business operations to identify areas where change can be leveraged to address fluctuating market conditions for optimal results, further demonstrating their agility and resilience in the economy.