Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy
President & CEO of the International Council for Small Business;
Deputy Chair of the George Washington University School of Business, Department of Management
Micro, Small, and Medium-Sized Enterprises Established as the Core Engine for Growth and Optimism throughout the Global Economy
The dawn of 2022 finds the world in a state of a new tension and uncertainty with new Covid-19 variants. The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have been unrelentless and catastrophic for many businesses and entrepreneurs around the world. Governments are looking to each other as well as the private sector to forge new solutions to the problems facing us in these volatile times. Resilience has been the most popular theme for 2021.
Although the past 12 months have challenged all of us in the business world, we still believe that MSMEs and other forms of sustainable, humane entrepreneurship provide the best framework for a quick and explosive recovery. MSMEs are the most flexible, and the most in touch with their local communities. This allows them to extend the principles of frugal innovation further and expands the possibility of what this recovery can look like.
Although the pandemic has altered much of our previous expectations of 2021, there are still many positives and plenty of opportunities for businesses to take advantage of during these times. Looking forward to 2022, there are numerous trends that offer glimpses of solutions for those that are bold and innovative enough to take them. Here are ICSB’s top trends for 2022.
The inward reflection that stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that the world must not forget the central role that the arts have had and continue to have in our lives. As lockdown orders cemented, families and individuals realized the importance of incorporating art and creativity. By redecorating your home, creating a new business idea, or playing an instrument, entrepreneurs everywhere welcome the unique opportunity that the arts give us.
Not only should entrepreneurs be looking to the arts for growing opportunities for collaboration, but our need for creative inspiration highlights a missing piece in many of our entrepreneurship education programs. By restructuring how we look at the interaction between the arts and entrepreneurship, we will create products and services that feed an essential need for all communities, both local and global. Art accessibility will become an even greater topic of interest as we situate ourselves in the post-COVID-19 world.
SMEs should champion agility not only in business manufacturing and operations goals but also in their business mindset. The pandemic has reframed our existing models and routines. Therefore, SMEs should refrain from restricting themselves to the previous traditional status quo and embrace agility to exhibit fluidity as a small business.
Business operations have found themselves comfortable aiming for short-term financial highs and the quickest return. SMEs should understand questioning the status quo requires a different approach and needs its respective time. Doing what is good is not always easy, but staying within what is comfortable and copying from the past is. SMEs should find comfort in being uncomfortable, to speak a movement when others are stagnant to a past perspective.
Consumers now choose how to spend their money. As a result, there is a strong alignment towards meaningful experiences and coincides with their existing values. A purchase signifies merging one’s values with the brand from a consumer’s perspective. Therefore, SMEs should effectively communicate their brand values in new and existing touchpoints to reach their consumer base and employees.
There has been a mindful perspective towards shopping local and supporting small businesses throughout communities recovering from the pandemic. In addition, consumers have showcased a level of consideration to further expand their purchasing power past high-end brands and fast-consumption business models to engage in intelligent buying behavior that in turn aids in rebuilding their local economies.
Women have consistently met challenges with creative, quick thinking, often prioritizing sustainable, community-driven solutions. These are precisely the values and experiences businesses need to build and grow. Simply put, woman-run enterprises are one of the top growing economies in an ecosystem looking for new growth opportunities. Therefore, all women must have access to solutions that increase their participation.
Women make up the bulk of small business employees and have succeeded at creating a robust, innovative, and crucial small business ecosystem despite historical and current challenges to their participation in the business world. Realistic, concrete solutions to the challenges that enable women to transform the business world positively exist.
Funding holds a significant purpose towards the advancement and creation of SMEs. However, due to the pandemic’s effects, SMEs seek more creative financing through visionary solutions. As a result, decentralized finance (DeFi) emerges as a tool for smaller businesses in developing markets, particularly for remittances and small loans.
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are now becoming more widely accepted for payments. In addition, the blockchain technology that underlies cryptocurrency and its supporting financial infrastructure continues to develop to offer a financial services system. As a result, the banking industry sees DeFi as a potentially significant growth engine and disruptive force.
The pandemic influenced the world’s collective attitude to emphasize sympathy and empathy. This attitude has been expressed within our daily lives, professions, and purchasing power. Small businesses bring out the best in all contributors. As a result, a renewed focus has been established on coaching and mentoring for empowerment in the workplace.
Coaching and mentoring can benefit organizations of all sizes, tiny businesses. When conducted efficiently and productively, coaching and mentoring programs give employees new ways to connect, learn and grow within their career paths. Although the importance of mentoring in an organization can often be overlooked as the benefits are not easily quantifiable, mentoring increases job satisfaction and workforce engagement and, therefore, increase profits.
The pandemic has accelerated the growing acceptance and integration of e-commerce into global ecosystems. As a result, the business model has now been re-envisioned to support this transition through curbside pick-up and home delivery.
SMEs are encouraged to support this emerging consumer movement by utilizing mobile-friendly websites and applications, so the brand and its offerings are easily visible to its consumer base.
As technology increases, the market is increasingly exposed to various offerings. This can help maximize customer satisfaction, but it can overwhelm customers with too many choices. Instead, businesses must utilize Artificial Intelligence (AI) to differentiate and effectively reach consumers and supporters.
For example, AI can improve efficiency in digital marketing by facilitating conversion rates and reducing acquisition costs. As the cost of AI decreases, SMEs are on the cutting edge in this post-pandemic period. AI will continue to evolve and become a tool for SMEs that seek a cutting edge.
Small businesses have continuously adapted to the changing nature of work and how their customers interact in the new hybrid environment.
Despite the forced embrace of a hybrid model, most small businesses have only scratched the surface in terms of thinking through the flexibility within the future work environments and employee policies. This past year has adopted various models that promoted working from home, hybrid modalities, and family-focused employee structures to aid the quick transition the world shared. However, this flexibility must be balanced with the subsequent feelings of anxiety. To ensure the sustainability of pandemic-style productivity, SMEs should address these new challenges through creative solutions that innovate past the “previous norm.”
Entrepreneurs seek to build small businesses that match their lifestyles and passions.
The pandemic has opened a new era of opportunity for entrepreneurs. The consequent slowdown afforded many aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to pause and reflect on their careers. Witnessing a world open to new ideas, opportunities, and change, they have made a brave recent decision and catapulted into entrepreneurship. ICSB recommends exploring this new adventure and being strategically prepared for it.