A survey of SMBs and entrepreneurs by global creative platform 99designs has found that as many as 56 per cent of business owners have pivoted to a new business model to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, while more than half are planning to launch a new company or side hustle during the crisis.
The survey of more than 1,200 business owners across Australia and the US about how the pandemic is affecting their performance revealed that just under half have experienced a severe decline in demand or have been forced to stop operations altogether.
“Entrepreneurs’ problem-solving skills, creativity and resilience come into their own during times of adversity, and with crisis comes the opportunity for reinvention and new beginnings. It is significant that we’re even seeing the language around business starting to shift,” said 99designs CEO Patrick Llewellyn.
In recent weeks, he explained, words and working styles more common to early-stage start-ups are hitting the mainstream.
“Pivots, collaboration, experimentation and iteration have made their way into the boardrooms of major corporations and small businesses across the country — often for the first time,” Mr Llewellyn said.
The survey further found that the pandemic has pushed businesses to embrace technology, with 66 per cent of businesses who were not online before the outbreak now admitting they are in the process of creating a website.
Moreover, more than a quarter of businesses (27 per cent) are looking at refreshing their existing website as a result of COVID-19, while of those with plans to add e-commerce to their website, a quarter have started due to the virus.
99designs also revealed that 39 per cent of businesses have either started or are planning on increasing their social media output as a result of COVID-19, while 41 per cent of businesses are exploring new ways to engage with their customers through online content.
Resilience and side hustles
The findings also point to resilience and creativity among the small-business sector, even in light of current conditions.
Despite global unemployment statistics, according to 99designs, 50 per cent of SMBs who employ workers have managed to maintain headcount over the past month, and 10 per cent have even been hiring.
Remarkably, a third (34 per cent) of business owners are taking online classes or courses to upskill during this time of disruption, while more than half plan to start a new company or side hustle during the pandemic.
While 64 per cent of those going into a new business said their primary reason was because they need the income, 41 per cent also said it was because they “have more time” and 37 per cent said it was because they “always wanted to”.
“There’s no doubt that the pandemic will have a lasting impact on society, but when it comes to business, it also has the potential to be a catalyst for innovation,” Mr Llewellyn concluded.