Over the past few months CommBank has worked with the government, business leaders and clients, gathering insights and advice to help all our customers manage the impact coronavirus has had on their business. 

One of those advisors is a customer of our own – Naomi Simson –who founded experiences group RedBalloon 20 years ago. Simson regularly mentors business owners and over the past few months has become a champion of small businesses as they strive to stay afloat.

Simson says the pandemic has changed the way we work, and the way we think about work, forever.

“The world has changed and things will continue to happen differently. It’s not just about the virus. Consumer sentiment has shifted forever and what’s important to people,” she told CommBank from her home office.

Simson says work is not where we go, it’s what we do. Workplaces will become a place where the team gathers to share ideas and experiences rather than a place where they go to work.

She says her team has been working remotely since the pandemic was declared and the results have been telling. Staff have welcomed the flexibility to work the hours that suit their personal situation. “We need to look at the outputs, not the inputs,” says Simson.

Forging ahead by planning for a future state

Turning her attention to business owners, Simson says after the initial panic when heavy restrictions locked down many operations, businesses have been struggling to determine what to work on today versus what to work on tomorrow.

“It’s the balancing act between ‘I’ve got urgent requirements right now but if I don’t build my business to be better, stronger, more resilient in its systems and processes, then I’m always going to be chasing my tail’,” she says. “We don’t want businesses to survive but are then crawling from step to step to step. We want them striding and the only way to do that is to invest a year from now, even if it feels incredibly painful.”

One of the best ways to make that decision about the future is to refine your business purpose. Organisations need to build their sense of who they are, what they stand for and why they’re important to the economy. The next step is to share that purpose with their stakeholders.

Simson says considerations will include things such as cost – consider every line in the balance sheet and determine how it can be improved. Lease agreements – does your company need its pre-coronavirus office space? Companies now need to be more agile than ever, as many have demonstrated in the past few months. And consider how partnerships can benefit the business – whether you’re trying to survive locally or looking to expand overseas, partnering with a business that’s trying to reach the same audience is a smart move.

Naomi Simson’s tips for online success

If you’re one of the many businesses that has been forced to pivot and you’re digitising part of or all of your business, Simson has some helpful tips:

  • Customers want to know that you’re real people doing real work – ensure they can always reach you, don’t hide your contact details.
  • Make your site easy to read and navigate – learn from other sites, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
  • Get the delivery logistics right. If you over-promise and under-deliver, it does more damage than good to your brand.
  • Site speed is crucial – don’t use big images and always check how things look on mobile.

Supporting business by building resilience

RedBalloon has 2,000 small business clients and Simson feels an acute sense of responsibility to help them survive. That’s because the local communities in which those businesses operate are also counting on them to survive  the businesses attract customers who then go on to spend with other businesses such as cafes and accommodation and contribute to the local economy.

Last year, for example, RedBalloon put 600,000 customers into the community and for every dollar spent with them, there’s a ten-fold impact on the local economy. But the coronavirus has had a huge impact and many of Simson’s suppliers have had to reassess operations and, if possible, pivot to find experiences that complied with coronavirus restrictions.

“It’s been heart-breaking after a summer from hell and then talking to suppliers I’ve had for 20 years who are literally driving a bus to keep their family fed,” she says. “The more forward bookings we have, the better it is for our 2,000 suppliers. We need to keep the economy rolling.”

And to keep a business rolling requires resilience. Simson advises organisations that emotional resilience is based on three key tenets.

The first is safety. “The foundation of resilience is safety. That’s both physical and emotional,” she says.

“The second is, ‘I feel part of something that is bigger than myself. I belong here and I am part of this team’.

“The third is ‘my work is valuable and worthwhile. I do a good job here, people value it and I can be proud’.”

Building resilience builds a better business and that is Simson’s hope for all small business owners.

To learn more from leading experts about what’s important to business and the economy visit CommBank Foresight™ – insights for future-facing businesses.

About Naomi Simson

For 20 years as an entrepreneur, Naomi Simson has been bringing people together, whether it’s with her experience businesses, her speaking or writing. As a business leader, she is navigating a better normal, working with her business partner David Anderson, Group CEO Big Red Group (which houses RedBalloon, Adrenaline, Lime & Tonic, and RedBalloon for Business) to create the ‘future of work’ and reboot Australia. Passionate about small business and local community, Naomi is considered a home-grown success story in 2019, delivering 600,000 customers to experience suppliers representing some $850m of economic impact.

Naomi had a corporate career with Apple, KPMG, IBM and Ansett Australia prior to becoming an entrepreneur. She is a prolific blogger and business commentator, and appeared as the #RedShark in four seasons of Shark Tank Australia. A true business leader and influencer, with more than 2.9 million LinkedIn followers, Naomi is Australia’s most followed person on the business networking platform. She has authored two best selling books Live What You Love, and Ready to Soar, and is an engaging and insightful speaker.

Things you should know

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