Analyzing ’strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats’ as a strategic planBusiness consultants MLA Companies advise a focus on developing a plan for purpose and growth. Visit mlacompanies.com.
(Dayton, OH) JUNE 20, 2022—When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, 43% of small businesses in the US were forced to close temporarily, largely due to reduction in demand, employee health concerns, and disruptions in the supply chain. Two years later, notes MLA Companies co-founder and CEO Seth Morgan, SMBs are still adjusting their strategies and business plans to deal with the realities of a much-changed world. Strategies could even further change upon the recent news that the majority of U.S. economists agree that the country is in store for a recession next year, reported by Fortune magazine. “Despite that,” Morgan says, “this is an excellent time to be running a small business. To make the most of it, however, businesses need to develop clear, reality-based strategic solutions for the challenges that lie ahead.”
Other specialists in the field see it the same way. In a recent survey conducted by MIT Sloan Market Review, more than 50% of global strategy experts agreed that the pandemic has permanently changed the way companies should think about strategy. A leading factor in this new landscape, according to those surveyed, is the COVID-driven alteration of employees’ relationship to the workplace, both in terms of geography and scheduling.
A conspicuous aspect of this changed relationship is what has been called the Great Resignation, but which, Morgan points out, might more accurately be thought of as a national labor shortage. As of December 2021, government data showed a record gap between the number of advertised job openings (11 million), and the number of unemployed people (7.4 million).(3) At the same time, he notes, there is a boom in new businesses. From January through November of 2021, just under five million people filed tax paperwork to start new businesses—a 55% jump over the same period in 2019.
Outsourced Expertise: Strategic Advisors
Partly as a reaction to these developments, says Morgan, there has been and continues to be an upsurge in the use of “fractional” employees: outsourced, or freelance knowledge workers, highly skilled specialists who provide expertise on a part-time basis to more than one client company. A recent survey shows that one in five (17%) of knowledge workers who are not currently freelancing are considering joining this freelance community in 2022.
One position often filled by a fractional employee is that of a strategic advisor. Morgan suggests that a strategic advisor can be of the greatest help to a small business in these critical times. Business owners, he says, tend to get sucked back into doing the same things when they get a little bit of margin. It is important to build an atmosphere of trust, so you can say, ‘Is there a better way to use the resources you have? That way, instead of repeating what you did before, you can solve problems at the source.’
“It is essential to remember,” says Morgan, “that in times like these, a business needs to reassess its strategy more often—to make sure all parties understand where the company wants to go and how to get there.”
To do that, SMBs need to make the best possible use of fractional services.
The use of an outsourced strategic advisor, however, does raise some concerns. One is the reaction of the hiring company to the advisor’s direction and counsel. He or she, for all intents and purposes is an outsider, telling the company what to do in a vital area of the business. The other is a lack of follow-through on the strategic plan they develop together.
The solution to both these problems, says Morgan, lies in a combination of advice and execution. The strategic advisor, he says, should from day one set the expectation that they are prepared to act on the steps they recommend. As those steps are taken, and the results measured, an atmosphere of mutual trust begins to build. The outsourced strategic advisor can then make suggestions about more substantial changes that will require a greater commitment on the part of the company to enact.
“What is most important in a small business,” says Morgan, “is that any change or execution of strategy is coupled with the ability to learn from its execution and result. Consumer and business demands can change and move quickly, and our clients must too. Learning to plan and execute iteratively with a keen eye on learnings and adjustments is critical.”
In a rapidly changing climate, SMBs need to make the best possible use of outsourced services, especially in the area of strategic assessment and planning. It’s a question of bridging gaps and executing solutions together.
 “The Impact of Covid-19 on Small Business Outcomes and Expectations” PNAS, July 20, 2020, pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2006991117.
 Forum, MIT SMR Strategy. “MIT SMR Strategy Forum: Has Covid-19 Permanently Changed Business Strategy? What Experts Say.” MIT Sloan Management Review, 30 Sept. 2021, sloanreview.mit.edu/strategy-forum/has-covid-19-permanently-changed-business-strategy-what-experts-say/.
 “The Flip Side of the ‘Great Resignation’ – a Small-Business Boom.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 31 Dec. 2021, nbcnews.com/business/business-news/flip-side-great-resignation-small-business-boom-rcna10356.
 Samojednik, Anita. “Council Post: Businesses Take Note: Flexibility Is Currency as Shift toward Fractional Market Grows.” Forbes, 14 Apr. 2022, forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2022/03/28/businesses-take-note-flexibility-is-currency-as-shift-toward-fractional-market-grows/?sh=699b92204d67.
About MLA Companies
MLA Companies is not a CPA firm that also does consulting. They are consultants whose customized, value-driven approach offers processes and services that align to client’s needs and future growth. Founded in 2006 by CEO Seth Morgan, they are financial experts positioned to understand a client and their business – to protect, guide, and empower. Clients who invest in building relationships with MLA Companies know that their purpose will not change but their service offerings can grow as the business grows. At MLA Companies the discussion with a client is centered around purpose and growth first – then finance and services second. Visit https://mlacompanies.com/.