Resilience Training: Small Business Innovation During a Recession

Small business owners already have a lot on their plate. There’s always too much to do in too little time — late nights, stress and sacrifices come with the territory. Their business is their baby, and they’ve poured their blood, sweat and tears into big-picture plans while eagerly embracing the day-to-day work.

The jury is still out on how the economy will bounce back amidst new bills and legislation, but in the wake of inflation, small businesses are facing a rocky future. No matter the sacrifices, the fate of any business is determined by a little thing called resilience, or how prepared they are to weather any given storm. People can’t control when an economic recession or a global event like a pandemic will happen, so in order to be prepared for whatever that future holds, business owners need to be ready to change, and ready to innovate.

It’s often believed that innovation is an innate talent that only a lucky few are born with. In actuality, everyone has the ability to innovate and it is something everyone can grow with practice. This article will take a look at the steps small business owners can take to fortify their businesses for the future as well as identify new opportunities to stay ahead of the curve.

While we can’t control when a recession or a disruptive global phenomenon hits, there are many steps that entrepreneurs can take to prepare for any hurdles they might face.

One of the first things a business can do to prepare itself is to save and cut costs. It seems like a no-brainer, but many business owners don’t take the opportunity to eliminate unnecessary expenses or make sure they have enough stored away.

It’s hard to know how far-reaching a recession can be. Even if businesses aren’t immediately impacted, their suppliers and vendors may be, leaving them in a tight spot with delayed inventory. That’s why rethinking operations and diversifying from beginning to end can set you up to quickly change course when you need to.

For example, if a lifestyle boutique is selling prepackaged beauty goods, it can expand into selling by-the-pump bulk soaps and lotions and refillable bottles to consumers looking for no-waste refills. And to avoid possible delivery delays, using more than one shipping carrier builds resilience as well and allows you to maintain more control over your ability to serve your customers.

With tough times ahead, it’s reasonable to think about new ways to bring more revenue in: “Should I add new products, new services, or should I try new marketing to reach a new category of customers?” That thinking isn’t necessarily wrong, but one of the very best things a business can do to build resilience and continue growing is to heighten its focus on its niche and invest in its relationship with its existing customers and community. 

Most industries are crowded and fiercely competitive. If you’ve managed to differentiate yourself and build an audience, there’s a lot of value to be had in doubling down on that focus and finding new ways to serve that niche better than anyone else. Consumers are looking for unique experiences and authentic connections with the brands they support, so staying true to what makes you different will help you retain your customers and build loyalty no matter what’s happening in the world around you.

Narrowing your focus has the added benefit of efficiency and sustainability. It’s simpler and more cost-effective to reach a niche audience versus trying to appeal to a wider group of consumers through a wider range of marketing and sales channels.

What goes up must come down, and no matter how hard people work or how much they get “right,” there’s a lot that’s simply out of our control. And often it’s the most uncertain times that bring about the biggest opportunities. The most resilient businesses are those that know how to spot new opportunities and are willing to change course quickly so they can make the most of them.

Oftentimes when people think about innovation, they think about creating a new product. But it’s a lot more than that, and the process of innovation and technological change can open the door to many new types of opportunities for a business. Innovation can be brought about in three ways: changes in technology; changes in the market; and changes to how products or services are used in a market. Around 80% of innovation happens in that last segment, where it’s often about unlocking existing products and services for a new market in brand new ways.

One example, Mountain Culture brewery, opened its doors to offer a new type of brewpub experience to tourists visiting the Blue Mountains of Australia. But wildfires followed by the pandemic forced the business owners to reconsider the very purpose of their business.

After they identified the opportunity, they moved on to experiment with how to drive connection between their customers and their craft beer process, finding new ways to help their existing customer base not only enjoy their product in a new way, but also make it easy to gift to others as a way for them to stay connected during isolation. 

Mountain Culture, when faced with uncertainty, found a new way for its customers to enjoy its products, and now thrives as an ecommerce business that brings the brewpub experience into people’s homes.

The ability to innovate is one of the strongest tools any entrepreneur can have in their toolbox. Change is imminent and it’s often disruptive. While people can’t control what happens overall, entrepreneurs can learn to innovate their businesses so they can ebb with every flow.

Good times don’t usually stay good forever, but there are a number of effective ways for small businesses to build resilience, set themselves up to quickly adapt and put control in their hands. It’s these business owners that will be set up to not only stay afloat but to continue finding creative ways to grow their business — and thrive.

, a company that delivers shipping that is good for the world by helping small businesses thrive. Sendle is also Australia’s first technology B Corporation and first 100% carbon neutral delivery service. With a compelling view of the future ahead of us, Moody is the Co-author of the best-selling book The Sixth Wave: How to Succeed in a Resource Limited World. He is also passionate about science communication and from 2004 to 2011 was a regular panelist on the ABC TV television program The New Inventors.