4 Small Business Lessons to Get Ahead in 2021

4 Small Business Lessons to Get Ahead in 2021

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  • 2020 was one of the toughest years to date for small businesses. For those that were able to survive, it wasn't done without struggle.
  • Lockdowns and uncertainty about when things would get back to 'normal' pushed businesses to find new ways to adapt and get creative with business as usual.
  • So what were some of the top lessons learned as a result of COVID-19? How did businesses adapt? Keep reading to learn more.

The year behind us was a challenging and transformational one. Businesses of all sizes were somehow affected, and surviving 2020 didn’t happen without hardships and huge lessons. It was difficult for companies to know what was coming next due to the uncertainty created by COVID-19.

It’s still challenging, but people and businesses are moving through it.

As we are now a few months into 2021, we can reflect on how businesses managed to adapt to changing circumstances and make appropriate shifts to stay afloat and meet their customers’ needs. 

In this article, we'll look back and wrap our heads around some of the key takeaways from 2020. So, let’s dive deeper into the lessons learned and what you can take with you in 2021 and beyond.

Business Lessons Learned as a Result of COVID-19

The top lessons businesses learned as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are:

  1. Adapt to changing situations
  2. Get creative
  3. Take your business online
  4. Embrace human0centric leadership 

1. Adapt to Changing Situations

Although the uncertainty was overwhelming in 2020, businesses managed to adapt and navigate through the lows of the pandemic. Even with raging crises, social unrest, challenging political environment and natural disasters, many businesses did better than expected.  

Small business owners turned to the digital world and took advantage of the ecommerce platforms and social media to optimize. 

Listening to employees and customers, shifting priorities and working proactively to adapt the business as needed will help in both the short and long term. 

For example, the founders of Afro Flow Yoga focused on live classes before shutting down in-person interactions. They contacted everyone they have engaged with and launched live classes. Their efforts were so successful that they plan to add virtual classes to their regular offerings once the health and safety measures are lifted. 

2. Get Creative

The pandemic forced everyone out of their comfort zone, and as a result, business owners became more creative and inventive in the way they conduct their business operations. 

According to Intuit Quickbooks survey, almost a third of small businesses reported that the current state of the economy impacted their innovation in a “positive” or “very positive” way. 

While facing an unprecedented crisis, innovative and creative solutions, including investing in technology, can make a huge difference.

The story of Miss Amara, an Australian online rug retailer, is more than inspiring. The company founders have noticed that the overall experience of buying a rug online was less than perfect. 

In an effort to provide their customers with a speedy, convenient and seamless purchase experience, Miss Amara developed an innovative tool called virtual rug styling. It’s designed to help customers visualize what a given rug will look like in their space. 

This is yet another proof that small business owners have embraced innovative solutions in the effort to overcome the challenges of the last year. 

3. Take Your Business Online

Having a strong online presence was important before the pandemic, but given the current circumstances, it’s critical nowadays. Due to health concerns, many customers went online. So, that’s where you should be too! 

Having a mobile-friendly website is a good start. You’ll also need to reach your customers where they are, using different channels and platforms depending on their age and interests. 

Email is also useful in connecting with the existing customer base and turning them into loyal customers.

Social media marketing is an effective way to reach new customers and drive more traffic to your website. When it comes to social media channels, it’s best to combine paid social media with organic content to reach your full audience.

Treat Cupcake Bar is a real-life example of leveraging digital trends. The brand took advantage of their customers reaching out through social media. They’ve updated their website and offered new online ordering. They've also provided their customers with an engaging and mobile-friendly experience, making the most out of the current situation. 

4. Embrace Human-Centric Leadership

It is up to leaders to support their teams and ensure effective communication, especially during a crisis. Clear information and detailed guidance are a great way to alleviate the stress and empower employees to focus on what they can control.

Showing empathy and understanding, listening to employees and acting on their ideas and concerns turned out to be some of the most important business practices. 

In comparison to business-centred leadership (where people are just coming along for the ride), the human-centric approach empowers the people to drive the business forward. The focus is on inspiration, skills and talking about problems to learn and evolve. 

REI, a successful recreational equipment brand, is creating a high-performing culture by applying the principles of people-centric leadership. The company is proactive about its workforce growth and development. 

They are committed to putting purpose before profits so they even opted to close all of their stores on Black Friday and give all their employees a day off. Still, the brand is growing profits while firmly sticking to its core values.

They’ve recognized that when employees feel valued they give more of their effort to the business, and people-centric organizations tend to outperform their competitors. 

Final Note

Last year has taught us all that small businesses are resilient and can adapt to changing circumstances and find innovative solutions. Use these lessons and takeaways to drive your business forward and thrive in 2021 and beyond.


Emma Worden

Digital marketer at Bizzmark blog

Emma Worden is a digital marketer and blogger from Sydney. After getting a Marketing degree, she started working with Australian startups on business and marketing development. Emma writes for many relevant industry-related online publications and is both an executive editor at Bizzmark blog and a guest lecturer at Melbourne University.


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