The Corona pandemic has SMEs firmly in its grip. Increased infection figures and a renewed lockdown are preventing the economic recovery from the third quarter from continuing for the time being. The longer the crisis lasts, the greater its impact will be on many companies. It is little consolation that some sectors, such as construction, have so far been largely spared the negative economic impact. Overall, the results of our current representative survey of 1,500 SMEs, which we conducted for the 50th time this fall, show that the mood among SMEs is somewhat more positive than at the time of the first lockdown in the spring.
Nevertheless, the current crisis represents the greatest challenge for SMEs since the financial crisis, if not longer. However, SMEs went into the crisis well prepared: according to calculations by the Bundesverband der Deutschen Volksbanken und Raiffeisenbanken BVR (Federal Association of German Cooperative Banks), their equity capitalization rose from 7.5 percent in 2001 to 27.6 percent in 2019. Despite all their reserves, however, the companies directly affected by the two lockdowns in particular are often dependent on government support measures to survive. These should be granted as unbureaucratically as possible. However, our survey shows that this may not always have been the case: In the midst of the Corona crisis, it is bureaucracy that is causing SMEs the greatest concern, not the effects of the crisis itself.
However, the crisis was also a wake-up call for many companies with regard to future topics such as digitization and innovation. The two lockdowns, the significant increase in demand to conduct business over the Internet, and the increased need to use home offices due to the existing distance regulations forced companies to act quickly. In doing so, they demonstrated good adaptability.
Increased use of digitization will not only help SMEs get through the current crisis better. Greater use of new technologies will also make them more competitive for the future.
A detailed version of this blog post, which includes the latest results of our SME survey and the BVR’s VR Balance Sheet Analysis, as well as an extensive appendix of tables, can be found at www.mittelstandsstudie.de .