With vaccines in progress and much of the world hoping to soon return to normal, the end of the COVID-19 crisis may finally be in sight. However, many of its far-reaching, and long-lasting, effects on individuals and businesses are already clear. Never before in our lifetimes have we faced so much uncertainty. For many businesses, particularly those relying on physical locations to serve customers, the effect of the crisis has been catastrophic. Some companies have been forced to close their doors for good. For others, it has been something of a revolution. The work-from-home model was quickly adopted by many firms with knowledge workers who could work remotely. Others have had to think fast and develop a digital platform to keep the orders coming in. Right now, the only certain thing about the future is that it will change, and the COVID-19 crisis will have played a huge role in facilitating it. Here are some of the main things small businesses have learned from weathering the pandemic and how they are growing because of it. Online Presence Is Key Companies least affected by the COVID crisis were the ones operating entirely online. Small e-commerce shops have come through relatively unscathed, especially when business owners created the product themselves, although production lines have been disrupted for many larger companies. Online casinos, digital industries, and online teaching companies are also businesses that have continued strong, among others. These companies who embraced digital early on and made it the core of their business model have sailed through the crisis and even enjoyed revenue increases. Meanwhile, companies slow to develop a digital presence have either folded or reinvented themselves online. There has been an upsurge in digital marketing services, social media campaigns, and revamped websites as businesses compete to make an impact. Innovative services such as social distancing deliveries and mobile bars are especially popular. These trends are likely to continue into the future, regardless of how the crisis comes to an end. It’s likely that many businesses who once operated solely in the physical realm will now stay fully, or at least partially, digital. Remote Work Will Become the Norm If businesses had been thinking about moving part of their workforce onto remote positions, the COVID crisis accelerated the process and brought the benefits clearly into sight. According to a recent global survey of 317 CFOs and business finance leaders conducted by research company Gartner, 74% of them planned to move at least 5% of their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions post-COVID-19. This is a staggering number, but it’s also an indication of the cost-benefits at stake. On-site offices are a huge expense, as are real estate costs. At the same time, remote employees benefit from an elimination of expenses estimated to be around $4000 per year considering commuting, office meals, and other miscellaneous expenses. Other benefits include an increase in worker morale and wellbeing. With these numbers in mind, small businesses are seeing the benefits of more permanent remote solutions in the future. You Can Never Be Too Prepared Businesses that have adapted to the COVID crisis are now turning their attention to what went right and how they can do more in the future to protect against the unforeseen. Digitization is again an important component. It has become a saving grace in the crisis and a way to mitigate losses as companies have utilized remote access and digital backups to assets. Having a proper insurance plan in place is another example of preparation that can give you peace of mind and protect you against unforeseeable, damaging catastrophes. Insurance for small business owners is especially essential, as small businesses are likely unable to absorb the financial risks and losses that large companies can. Businesses with affordable, tailored insurance coverage will fare much better in the face of a disaster. Companies are looking beyond the crest of the pandemic’s wave at what could happen in the future. They are building more flexibility into their crisis management systems. This, coupled with customized insurance specific to their small business needs, appears to be the conventional wisdom going forward. Flexibility and Innovation Are Game-Changers Although you should prepare as much as possible, you can never predict the future, so it’s also important to be able to adapt and innovate in the face of change. A flexible crisis management system is what has kept many companies afloat in the last few months, and innovation has also been critical in adapting to a new normal and appealing to audiences with changed priorities and expectations. In the face of a crisis, businesses need the ability to make quick decisions and have the infrastructure in place to adapt to change. Preparations should revolve around the expectation of a crisis happening, rather than just the possibility, and creating options for when it does. Hand in hand with flexibility comes innovation. This is central to developing the practices of the future. Examples of small businesses that have employed innovation in their COVID crisis response include education organizations who have switched their lessons to online classrooms, health and wellness brands who continue to service customers using apps, and restaurants who pivoted to operating delivery-only services or opening isolated pop-up stalls. There’s No Success Without Resilience Despite the obvious need for a strong crisis management strategy, a resilient business model is nothing new. Businesses, particularly startups, have always needed to be resilient. Research indicates that 43% of small-to-medium-sized businesses fail after a disaster, and of those that do reopen, 25% fail within two years due to a lack of disaster preparation. Learning how to succeed as a small business means learning how to survive and weather disasters you may not be fully prepared for. Small businesses now surviving the COVID crisis are the ones with adequate insurance policies, flexible disaster plans, and innovative thinking.