Now is the time to turn grit to growth for SMBs

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Now is the time to turn grit to growth for SMBs
Now is the time to invest in the areas of your business that have taken a back seat.
Photo by Luke Peters on Unsplash

From continued snap lockdowns to a mass migration to hybrid work, small and medium-sized enterprises continue to be hit hardest by the pandemic.

Yet two things unite them during this trying time: resilience and a collective determination to innovate.

Australian SMBs that have survived the pandemic so far still face a long journey ahead, but some of the innovations that leaders have adopted in the past 18 months are sure to outlive the pandemic itself.

In a survey we conducted of small business leaders across the country, 70 per cent shared that the events brought on by COVID-19– as devastating as they were – helped their businesses build resilience. More than half also told us their businesses are now more innovative and fit for the future.

Australian SMBs are optimistic for the financial year ahead, and the role technology played in ensuring survival over the past year is now set to spur growth. Four-in-five SMB owners told us that technology will help grow their businesses in the next year, with the majority planning to increase their investment in new technology in FY22.  

While many turned to e-commerce and digital payments as the primary channel for technology investments in FY21, much of it was driven by the need to survive. As small businesses look beyond recovery, there is an opportunity to consider how technology can play a meaningful role across the entire business – be it relieving staff of time- and labour-intensive processes, building deeper engagements with employees, or establishing workplace culture as we move to a permanent hybrid work model.

We know that SMB leaders who have embraced hybrid work and new technologies reap huge benefits in improved employee experience and wellbeing, better connection with customers, enhanced collaboration, and improved security.

One organisation that has benefited hugely is Judo Bank. As with many businesses, the challenger bank had to think quickly about how to transition its 200 employee-strong workforce to a home environment smoothly, safely, and rapidly.

By looking holistically at how technology could support its vision of an entirely cloud-based, high-performing team, the company’s leaders implemented the right tools – in this case across hardware and platforms – to allow for a mobile work experience and uninterrupted level of service, independent of the physical workplace. As an organisation growing rapidly and hiring new staff, the ability to remotely deploy laptops during COVID-19 and have employees up and running within a matter of a few hours securely has allowed it to transition from three primary office locations in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne to a 100 per cent remote working environment with full collaboration capability.

The bank also saw an opportunity to create a single sign on digital work environment to ensure security informed every technology decision.

In all of this, Judo offered its staff choice of Surface laptop that works best for them based on employee preference and use cases. Today, thoughtful investments in technology have allowed the bank to offer a different kind of workplace – one that is built around employees rather than desks and one that has seen the bank maintain high levels of employee satisfaction.

With the start of the new financial year, now is an important time for business leaders to consider how investment in technology can help bring their aspirations to life and set themselves up for success in the new financial year.

One place they can start is by evaluating the previous year and assessing areas for improvement. Leaders must ask themselves questions like “where was time potentially wasted?”, “how has the last year impacted employee engagement?” and “what areas of my businesses could use a little more TLC?” By assessing their approach each year, business owners can ensure they are not only surviving through turbulence, but thriving. 

In what has been one of the most difficult financial years for small businesses, now is the time to invest in the areas of your business that have taken a back seat since March 2020. Despite being strapped for time and resources, investing in technology – whether it be new hardware, collaboration software, or digital tools – is one impactful way small businesses can rest assured they are prepared for whatever lies ahead in FY22.

Jane Mackarell is Surface Business Group Lead at Microsoft.

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