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COVID-19: How Can SMEs Prepare for Post Covid-19 New Normal
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions for businesses in Singapore and worldwide, and the economic damage of the outbreak has not yet ended. Even as many businesses in Singapore are able to resume activities, we continue to see many of them struggling to cope with the aftermath of the Circuit Breaker measures that was implemented in April for a period of two months.
Businesses that are severely affected in the design built sector have just gradually begun to resume operations this month, with lots of red tapes and restrictions coming from the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Ministry of Health (MOH). The aerospace and aviation sectors are also still patiently in the waiting game.
Business landscape changed forever
The business landscape in Singapore will forever be changed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. We have seen certain trends being accelerated, namely telecommuting and digitalization. Businesses are forced to pivot their business models and adapt to changing consumer behaviors.
Furthermore, since the opening of our economy in Phase 2 of post-Circuit Breaker, mandatory safe distancing measures are being implemented everywhere we go. This forces everyone, not just businesses, to adjust to this new normal, and these safe distancing measures are likely to stay for a really long time.
To help businesses through this tough time of uncertainty, here are some key factors that business owners need to take into consideration and be mindful of:
- Safe distancing measures at the workplace
Things are not going to go back to normal like pre-Covid days. The only way to go is to move forward and ensure that the Covid-19 virus is kept under control so that we will not be placed under another Circuit Breaker again.
Companies need to ensure that safe distancing measures are implemented and appropriate procedures have to be followed, as well as most importantly, good hygiene and cleanliness of the workplace have to be ensured, especially for the F&B sector.
To prevent suspension of business activities and getting fines, and of course to ensure your employees' safety and well-being, it is for everyone's sake that we follow safe distancing principles when we are back at the workplace.
Although it may be a hassle, and having safe distancing measures will further limit the amount of space available at the workplace or restaurant, it is nevertheless the new normal that we have to embrace in a post Covid-19 world. Find out more on sector-specific requirements for safe management measures to avoid unnecessary disruptions to your businesses.
It's the digital age, and aspects of our lives are being empowered by the speed of technological development. With economic disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we see a greater emphasis being put on the digitalization of businesses in Singapore.
Singapore's leadership has worked to take a holistic approach to digital development, and this tiny red dot is in a great position to be the “digital technology hub of Asia”. According to the Digital Economy Framework for Action, Singapore's efforts for stronger digital infrastructures are based on four key pillars:
- To cultivate and harness the IP and capabilities of the research and innovation community
- Building sustainable and reliable regulatory structures around digital-friendly facilitation
- Building the infrastructure necessary to help enable unhindered connectivity
- Developing and supporting digital talent
The government has made it clear that their administration intends to back businesses and their respective workforces up in preparation for better digital opportunities.
- The rise of e-commerce
The world of e-commerce is one of those “things” that has been accelerated by the coronavirus, and the whole concept of “Going Digital” seems to be more readily accepted now.
E-commerce does not only help businesses to reach out to a greater number of customers, but it also expands the borders to other countries around the region. Even as worldwide economies are disrupted by the pandemic, your online business can continue to grow, expand and achieve new heights if you have the right strategies in place.
Businesses looking to grow online can tap on the E-commerce Booster Package by Enterprise Singapore, which comprises the Digital Marketing Programme. This package aims to help businesses enhance digital marketing capabilities, increase brand awareness and sales conversions.
E-commerce businesses will receive funding support of up to 90% for digital marketing advisory services for 3 months, and an additional one-time support of up to 90% of qualifying manpower costs for 3 months, up to 3 Singaporeans / Permanent Resident employees directly involved in the project. The programme also covers online Masterclasses over 6 phases in 3 months, with consultation calls and planning twice a month, and practical hands-on live streaming sessions. This programme costs S$10,000, whereby S$9,000 (90%) will be funded by Enterprise Singapore. E-commerce businesses only pay S$1,000 for marketing media / influencer fees.
Retailers and businesses that are interested to grow their online traffic and sales through social media can fill in the Interest Form here. Last day of application is 30th September 2020.
- Work from home
The pandemic has caused significant disruptions to working arrangements. Remote working has definitely become the new norm, and many companies still prefer to continue with remote working as they observe the Covid-19 situation.
However, working from home arrangement is not without its challenges. With the lack of physical interaction, communication amongst employers and employees is more important than ever before. Employers not only need to juggle between work supervision, but they also need to maintain fairness in handling work relationships, as well as consider the other aspects that come with remote working.
- Importance of cash flow
As of mid-June 2020, over 7,600 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore have applied for business loans under the government-assisted financing schemes that came to approximately $7.1 billion since the beginning of March this year. This is more than five times the credit that was extended in the whole of 2019.
With the anticipation of the severe impact caused by the pandemic, SMEs are reinforcing their finances as a defensive measure. Some companies applied for these funds as a way to meet short-term costs that most businesses incur like salaries, monthly rental bills and other small expenses that need to be met on a monthly basis. Other companies are deciding to use the funds as a way to reinforce their preparation phase as the economy recovers over time.
SMEs are also significantly more vulnerable to pandemic-disruption in comparison to larger corporations that are arguably in better positions to withstand unexpected adversity. Small businesses often lack the financial resources, long-term stability or strategic capabilities to outlast long-term crisis scenarios.
Business loans based on SME-relief schemes and other forms of government-assisted financing are there for a reason - acting as a buffer between a business's financial stability and the point of no return. It may also be worthwhile to check out your company's eligibility for a business loan with all the government support right now, while lending interest rates are still kept low.