Interview with John Gower from Omni Local – The future of small businesses

Businesses, particularly small businesses have taken a huge knock during COVID-19. We spoke with John Gower, Director of Omni Local. Omni Local holds local network meetings, held fortnightly, to help bring business owners together as a community. Omni Local works with businesses to help grow and develop new ideas and referrals. We spoke with John about what he thinks some of the biggest challenges have been for small businesses during this time and what he believes the future holds after the pandemic.

What challenges has Omni Local businesses faced during COVID-19?

“Our job at Omni is to bring together as many people as we can, together on a regular basis. We had to (within less than 24 hours) switch the business upside down and move online. The challenge then, was to not only get our team members briefed on how to use new tech, but also help our members use zoom!”

What challenges do you see happening for small businesses once the pandemic is over?  

“Very simple, everything has changed. There is NO normal now. We will still go back to our regular meetings, but also serve those who have enjoyed the online meetings.”

What would be your advice to small businesses who might be struggling during COVID-19?

“Firstly, stay positive. If you said that you are going to get much more time with your loved ones, back in January, many would have said “what’s the catch”. Now you have this time, that’s positive! If your business is calm, then work on improvements, both personal growth and business growth. For example, look at other areas where your business is weak, try and have SOME normality. Go networking, although we are seen as business owners, we are still consumers as well. Get out at least once a day, and set yourself at least 5 tasks a day. Either that or just ENJOY THE SUNSHINE! But, try and stay positive, on every downward tread, there is always an up, and be ready for it.”

In your opinion, do you think things will change for businesses after the pandemic? If so, how?

“Of course! I predict everyone will be looking at how they travel for business. Zoom and online meetings are now going to be the norm. Working from home isn’t going to be judged the same as many employers have been seeing it in the past. Offices will not be as necessary, and I see more freelancers striving, I also see that everything will be judged on what happens if this happens again.”

How much of an impact has COVID-19 had on Omni Local?

“There has been so much impact! Everything had to change in the way we did business, because we have managed to stay together as a community, it has given me more confidence in my business. So many people have shown so much support, it is overwhelming. On another level, cash flow has slowed down and paying my suppliers has been tough, but manageable. It has also shown me the nature of people, you know who you can count on when things get this bad.”

It is clear that it is going to take a long time to recover from the pandemic once this is all over. Businesses will once again be thriving and soon enough and back to being business as usual. As John puts it, “on every downward tread, there is always an up, and be ready for it.”

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