In the midst of today’s global health and economic crisis, characterized by sharp decreases in GDP, even sharper rises in unemployment and widespread shuttering of SMEs; many might question the veracity of Albert Einstein’s famous statement: “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” I do not. And my belief in this sentiment was reinforced recently during a webinar organized by The Montreal Group: SMEs and the World Economic Outlook.
To be sure, The Montreal Group’s webinar paints a challenging economic outlook for SMEs around the world. It also outlines how governments and central banks have adopted several measures to support companies, in particular SMEs, in the short term. The Nigerian government has issued a moratorium on loan interest for up to 6 months. Japan has implemented “Go to Travel” and “Go to Eat” subsidies to shore up the travel and restaurant industries. Mexico has provided temporary liquidity for SMEs to respond to immediate commitments such as supplier debt, facility maintenance and operation resumption. Despite a long list of short-term challenges, in the long-run, webinar panelists foresee an increase in new business creation, dramatic growth in e-commerce and increased investment in new technology.
During economic crises, there is often an acceleration of innovation. Many of today’s most successful companies were created or have grown during recessions, including Microsoft during the recession of the mid-1970s, and Square during The Great Recession. Challenging times impact our behavior – forcing us to be more creative, adventurous and resilient; explore new ways of operating; evaluate new markets; and strengthen existing partnerships and develop new ones.
In difficult times, if SMEs are to find the opportunity that lies in the middle, they must: