68% of SMBs are optimistic they can recoup losses due to COVID-19 pandemic

Owners say they need outside tech expertise to develop new products and services and to move to online operations.

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Only 46% of small business owners say the resources designed to help them deal with the coronavirus outbreak were actually useful, but 68% are confident they will recover from losses caused by the pandemic, according to a new survey.

Small and midsize business owners who responded to a new Verizon Business survey listed these items as the top three steps they will take when the outbreak has subsided:

  • Improve cleaning protocols for officer or retail spaces    74%
  • Create or revise a contingency plan                                 63%
  • Increase cash reserves                                                     54%

Verizon commissioned Morning Consult to do a nationwide survey of 500 small and midsize business (SMB) owners and decision makers at the end of April.

SEE: Life after lockdown: Your office job will never be the same--here's what to expect (cover story PDF) (TechRepublic)

Businesses are split on the current state of the response to the coronavirus. Among all SMB decision makers, 39% are still collecting information about how to adapt to the new business climate while 47% have implemented changes to their operations. Fifty-three percent of  businesses with under 100 employees are moving ahead with the "new normal," while 50% of companies with 100 employees or more are still assessing the situation. 

About a third of all respondents have implemented new technology to allow for remote collaboration and added or transitioned to digital online operations. Real estate agencies and entertainment companies are the most likely to have implemented new systems.

Business owners described these new tasks as very challenging or somewhat challenging: 

  • Addressing issues sourcing materials due to supply chain interruptions             83%
  • Addressing declining employee productivity                                                        78%
  • Producing new items to help with coronavirus relief efforts (masks, etc.)            69%
  • Offering new products and services to adapt to changing customer needs        68%
  • Sourcing personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees                            67%
  • Implementing new systems or technology to ensure security                              67%
  • Addressing or transitioning to digital/online operations                                       66%
  • Delivering products and services differently (virtual servicing, shipping, etc.)     65%
  • Implementing new systems or technology to allow for remote collaboration      61%

The survey also asked companies what kind of external expertise they needed most to accomplish this digital transformation. The top five responses were:

  1. Offering new products and services to adapt to changing customer needs    73%
  2. Producing new items to help with relief efforts, masks, equipment                 72%
  3. Sourcing PPE for employees                                                                            72%
  4. Delivering products and services differently                                                     71%
  5. Adding or transitioning to digital/online operations                                          71%

The survey also asked respondents to describe the most helpful resource, program, or tool to help them survey the coronavirus outbreak. Responses fell into five categories: consumer spending, lift in restrictions, PPE and health resources, loans and other funding, and technical support. These comments are from the technical support responses:

  • Need to switch to online meeting platforms — Skype/Zoom/WebEx
  • A stronger IT department to set up more remote users to work from home
  • Security
  • Digital tools to move our business to a platform that can be used effectively

SEE: COVID-19: A guide and checklist for restarting your business (TechRepublic Premium)

A majority of businesses report lower sales (78%) and fewer hours for employees (61%) as the main impacts of the shut down. Reduced wages for owners and layoffs were the next two most common impacts at 45% and 44%, respectively.

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Image: Aurielaki/Getty/istock Images

By Veronica Combs

Veronica Combs is a senior writer at TechRepublic. For more than 10 years, she has covered technology, healthcare, and business strategy. In addition to her writing and editing expertise, she has managed small and large teams at startups and establis...