As the world seemingly gets the coronavirus problem under control, the United States is at the front line of anticipating a new post-pandemic future. With the lockdowns and business shutdowns being a thing of the past, the next problem we have to deal with is nurturing the economy back up.
Everyone is excited that the cases of COVID-19 are coming to a stop. According to an analysis by Deloitte, the next phase in this recovery is the gross domestic product, which is poised to boom beyond the pre-pandemic period.
However, despite the expectations, inflation is real, and it is coming at the US and global economy fast. The cost of goods and services has gone up and has stayed there, and it may worsen before it gets better. There will be a lull before the storm, and small businesses are presently weathering its greatest brunt.
If you run a business, you must anticipate the economy’s performance and appreciate the long-term effects of inflation and a roaring economy. This post will dive deep to analyze the most likely long-term effects of the post-pandemic economy and how your business can manage through it. Read on to discover.
What is Inflation?
Inflation is a period when the cost of goods and services shoot up. Inflation often begins with a shortage of service or product, leading to businesses increasing their prices and overall costs of the product. This upward price adjustment triggers a cycle of rising costs, in the process making it harder for businesses to reach their margins and profitability over time.
Forbes has the most straightforward clear definition of inflation. It defines inflation as a rise in prices and a decline in the currency’s purchasing power over time. Therefore, if you feel like your dollar does not take you as far as it used to before the pandemic, you are not imagining it. The effect of inflation on small to medium-sized businesses may seem somewhat insignificant in the short term but can quickly make an impact.
Reduced purchasing power means that businesses will sell less and potentially lower profits. Lower profits mean decreased ability to grow or invest in the business. Since most companies with fewer than 500 employees are started with the owner’s savings, it puts them at significant financial risk as inflation rises.
Effects of Inflation on SMEs
Here are the three most notable effects of the post-pandemic economy on US businesses every entrepreneur should expect.
Erosion of Purchasing Power
We have already noted it, but it is worth repeating: the first effect of inflation is often just a different way of describing inflation. Inflation hurts the purchasing power of a currency as prices of goods and services go up. Interestingly, prices go up fast during inflation but are gradual in coming back down, if ever.
Shortages of Finished Products in the Market
You may already feel the pressure of inflation as an entrepreneur, but its full impact is yet to be felt. Inflation is not linear; it ripples through an economy differently, at different times, and affects businesses differently. One of the most immediate impacts is a shortage of supplies that may prevent the completion of production goods.
When manufacturers cannot get all the raw materials, they need to produce finished products, the entire market hurts. While Just In Time (JIT) manufacturing was developed to address such a potential problem, the inter-connected market leaves many entrepreneur’s funds tied up in inventory-in-process, accumulating losses and driving demand and prices higher.
Inflation Raises the Cost of Borrowing
So the economy isn’t doing so well. But optimists paint a rosy and colorful picture of the economy once the pandemic problems are dealt with. If your business is hurting financially, why not just take a small loan to insulate it in these challenging times? During inflation, the cost and availability of loans can cause major problems down the road. This may not be an issue today, but it could be a bigger issue in the future.
How SMEs Can Manage Post-Pandemic Inflation
No matter what industry you do business in, your business must make the right strategic decisions in a time of inflation. The decisions that you make to manage inflation may determine whether the business sees its next anniversary or not. Here are five steps your business can take to forestall the effects of inflation in 2021.
Evaluate Product or Revenue Mix
There is never a better time to scrutinize and optimize the products your business deals in than during inflation.. The most effective approach is to analyze product or service streams, compare performance over time, and get a good picture of the business and available options in different geographical markets, client types, and distribution channels.
The whole idea behind streamlining your business during inflation is to cut costs and maintain profitability in a slowing market. To this end, a business may shift its production to focus on higher-margin products and services and protect the business’s bottom line. Analyze potential short and long-term effects of the shift and understand how it will affect the future of the business before implementing it.
Strengthen Your Products’ Pricing
The prices of almost every product go up during inflation. Your business, too, will have to consider price hikes to stay in alignment with the rising costs in the market. Even if economic inflation does not immediately impact your industry, it pays to be proactive by strengthening your product’s pricing and improve your business’ competitive market position.
Before increasing prices, analyze the competition and let their prices be one of your guiding points. You will also need to be upfront with customers about the price increases and why they are necessary. Transparency will help customers adapt to the new situation, and not it helps them prepare for higher costs without compromising their loyalty to the business.
Evaluate Risks to Your Supply Chain
A modern business supply chain can be long and complex. Contrary to what most people believe, the process by which a product moves from raw materials through manufacture to retail is riddled with risks. One effective way to prepare your business for inflation is to protect the supply chain, especially if you deal in physical goods.
The most common risks to small business’s supply chains are:
- Over-dependence on a single supplier
- Using long-lead-time suppliers such as imports
- Heavy, bulky, hazardous, or perishable products that are hard to store
- Materials that are passed through a JIT supply chain
There are many steps you can take to mitigate supply chain-related risks in your business in a time of inflation. Some of these steps may include:
- Setting up an alternate supply chain – not merely finding an alternate supplier
- Stockpiling critical supplies that have a low holding cost
- Putting in place an expedited supply strategy
- Reviewing stock levels at every stage of the JIT supply chain
Each business has different supply chain risks and now is the time to critically look at yours. What changes can impact the near-term and long-term health of your supply chain?
Understand Your Inventory
When prices start going up, a healthy inventory can be a competitive advantage. By the same principle, it is more profitable to keep a minimum inventory when prices are going down. Understanding your inventory levels and keeping them in line with market demand will help you make better decisions to maximize profitability. It also helps to improve internal accounting control, business oversight, and inventory management processes and accuracy while you’re at it.
Cash is King; Keep It
Proactive entrepreneurs take the time to anticipate potential scenarios of inflation. You can use the ‘What If’ technique to consider various possible scenarios that will affect your business. For instance, you can anticipate wage increases, higher material prices, and disruptions in the supply chain. Any time you forecast a scenario; consider the amount of money your business needs to get through each scenario.
Cash is always king. More than ever, in inflationary times, you should not let your customers use your business as a bank. A high inflation rate will pile risks on a business, and it hurts more when its receivables become uncollectible.
Prepare your Business for Inflation
During inflationary times, you need efficient systems and processes to drive greater visibility into your business, so you can act fast and stay ahead of the competition. The real question is, do you know your numbers?
Post-pandemic inflation is already with us, and businesses are already taking a hit. No matter your industry, you need a solid financial and operational strategy to evaluate the risks to your business and put measures in place to minimize them. Contact Signature Analytics and let us help you get visibility into your financial performance so that you can achieve your goals.