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Coronavirus Outbreak and the Business Operations of UK SMEs Essay

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Updated: Feb 17th, 2022

Introduction

The 2020 Corona Virus outbreak is arguably the most disruptive force to affect businesses in the 21st century. Stemming from a health emergency, the virus was first detected in China and has since spread to almost all parts of the world. In a bid to contain its effects on human health, governments have been forced to lockdown economies and shutdown businesses as people are increasingly being urged to stay at home (Egger, 2020). These mitigation measures have had a significant impact on business activities by disrupting supply chain activities and decimating the demand for goods and services in certain sectors of the economy (United Nations Industrial Development Organization, 2020). These effects have mostly come from a decline in air traffic and restricted movements across different countries, regions, and cities.

In Europe, the effects of the crisis have been reported across multiple economic sectors, with the United Kingdom (UK) being among the most affected (Statista, 2020). While many multinational companies (MNCs) have the resources to persevere through such a crisis, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are vulnerable to emergencies with little resources to cushion them from their adverse economic effects (World Economic Forum, 2020). Consequently, most business owners have been forced to lay off their employees as more consumers stay at home in compliance with government directives to practice social distancing (United Nations Industrial Development Organization, 2020). These containment measures have affected different aspects of business operations, including the ability of firms to operate as a “going concern” and their viability to remain profitable in the long term.

One of the most affected aspects of business management is business processes, which have been overwhelmed by disruptions in demand and supply because of restrictions in transport and movement of people. SMEs have been affected the most and are currently suffering from the effects of uncertainty in the market, including how they will guarantee the safety of their workers when businesses resume fully. From this background, this paper outlines a research proposal aimed at understanding the effects of the Corona Virus outbreak on the business operations of SMEs in the UK. The aim and objectives of the study are highlighted below.

Research Aim

  1. To find out the effects of the 2020 Corona Virus outbreak on the business logistics of SMEs in the UK
  2. To determine the extent of the effects of the 2020 Corona Virus outbreak on the operational costs of SMEs in the UK

SMART Objectives

  1. To establish the effects of the Corona Virus outbreak on the cost of doing business in the past year for UK SMEs
  2. To estimate the extent, in percentage points, that the coronavirus outbreak has had on the operational efficiency of UK SMEs within the past year

Overall, the findings of this study will be useful in advancing existing knowledge relating to business management as the main research area. Specifically, it will provide useful insights on how to improve business process management as a unique field of study.

Literature Review

Business management is a key aspect of corporate performance. In academia, it is characterized by administrative actions taken by a business to maintain peak operational performance. To this end, business management is defined by several activities, including human resource management, marketing, sales and finance. These activities are tied together using a robust network of business processes that are partly a creation of their internal organizational structures and the external market dynamics, such as competition or a health emergency. Based on their distinctive role in maintaining corporate activities, business processes refer to all activities associated with the daily running and revenue generation functions of a business. Broadly, these activities relate to the processes, people and resources used by an organization to fulfill its objectives.

Researchers have investigated business processes in the context of their respective fields and their contribution towards the fulfillment of organizational goals in specific areas of management. For example, Suša Vugec, Tomičić-Pupek and Vukšić (2018) examined business process management in the context of the evolution of managerial practices in the past and today. They found that, throughout the years, the evolution of this concept has been caused by the desire for companies to increase their revenue, productivity and efficiency. In this regard, they say that the business processes involved in revenue generation will have an impact on a company’s productivity and efficiency (Suša Vugec, Tomičić-Pupek and Vukšić, 2018).

Based on the strategic role played by business process management in maintaining corporate success, the types of business processes adopted by an organization will have a more profound impact on its operations and profitability. For example, automation has helped to insulate some businesses from the effects of adverse supply chain disruptions because of such disruptive forces, as some business activities will be supported digitally as brick-and-mortar functions slow down. In this regard, automation has emerged as a stabilizing factor in business process management.

Staffing is also an important tenet of business process management because human beings do most of the work involved in maintaining such systems. Although automation has forced some managers to consider reducing their workforce, people remain an important factor of production for most businesses, especially those that operate on small scale (Xu, 2020). Therefore human resource management remains a critical tenet of business processes management because it helps managers to understand how many people will be needed to complete specific tasks and to determine the qualifications they should have (Pejić Bach et al., 2019). In line with this function, small businesses rely on a small number of employees, who are normally generalists, to perform their daily organizational tasks, while giant multinationals require a large group of workers, who are typically specialists, to oversee their most critical tasks.

Besides staffing, location is also an important determinant of business success for certain types of companies. For example, a restaurant may significantly depend on an excellent place strategy to sustain customer traffic. Comparatively, a decentralized business, such as Amazon, may not be keen on having a prime location for its business because it operates virtually. Therefore, location considerations are dependent on the type of business involved. Nonetheless, this aspect of business management is critical to the effective running of SMEs because of their sensitivity to customer and resource access (Asatiani, Penttinen and Kumar, 2019). For example, their ability to gather and deploy adequate resources in adopting new technology to manage their daily operations is pertinent to the smooth running of their corporate activities because technology helps companies to optimize their business processes (Ugargol and Patrick, 2018). When its effects are analyzed with those of automation and staffing, a company’s business operations emerge as the creation of several factors underpinning the daily management of organizational tasks.

The impact that a health crisis would have on a business’s processes is contingent on understanding the multiplicity of the above-mentioned factors. Particularly, the issues identified above are essential in understanding the logistical requirements of SMEs because there are several moving parts involved in making sure such enterprises run smoothly (Shaheen, Zeba and Mohanty, 2018). The cost of maintaining these business operations is one of the most important functions of small business management because such firms often operate on tight margins (Montejo et al., 2017). For example, employee costs are a critical part of their operations because workers need to be properly compensated in a manner that is commensurate with the type of job they do. Therefore, logistics and cost management are important tenets of small business operations. These two areas of research underscore the research aims of the proposed study, which seek to find out the effects of the 2020 Corona Virus outbreak on the business logistics of SMEs in the UK and to determine the extent of its effects on the operational costs of SMEs in the UK.

Methodology

Research Strategy

There are different types of research strategies to use in undertaking a study. Action research, quantitative surveys, case studies and quantitative interviews are some of the most commonly used techniques (Coe et al., 2017). The case study technique will be used to undertake the proposed investigation because of the difficulty in conducting national research. It will provide a contextualized approach to the research problem using Liverpool as a case study. Therefore, the findings obtained from the city will be used to make deductions about the UK in general.

Research Design

Different types of research designs can support a case study research strategy. They include longitudinal, cross-sectional, monomethod (qualitative or quantitative) and mixed-method (qualitative and quantitative) techniques (Leavy, 2017). The mixed-methods approach, which integrates both qualitative and quantitative elements in research, will be used in the proposed study. Its use is justified by the expansive nature of SME operations, which contain both qualitative and quantitative attributes. For example, people’s processes are defined by motivational factors, which are intrinsic and qualitative. At the same time, business operations are measured using known indices, such as sales and costs, which are quantitative.

Data Collection

Data will be collected using a combination of surveys and interview methods. The techniques will be used because they will allow the researcher to collect in-depth data from small business owners who are available for interviews and quantitative data after surveying those who cannot make it for a physical meeting. Small business owners in Liverpool will be eligible to participate in the study. They are selected as the main participants because of their immense knowledge of local business operations. It is expected that the researcher will reach 25 business owners who operate in varied sectors of the economy. This number will be adequate for the study because of time and logistical limitations of engaging the informants.

Sampling Strategy

The strategy adopted by a researcher to collect data is a function of the sampling technique. A sample refers to the methods used by a researcher to find a representative group of participants from a larger population (Hesse-Biber and Johnson, 2015). Generally, there are two main types of sampling techniques – probability and nonprobability sampling. The probability sampling technique refers to the random selection of participants, while the nonprobability method does not involve this type of selection. The researcher will use the random sampling method, which is a probability technique, because of the need to seek a broad and representative sample of SME data from the respondents. Stated differently, priority to use the random sampling method is guided by the need to extrapolate the case study findings across the UK SME segment of the economy. Therefore, the probability sampling method will be adopted because of the extent it allows the researcher to extrapolate the findings of the study to the larger UK economy.

Data Analysis

Qualitative data will be analyzed using the thematic method, which is a reliable technique for analyzing interview data (Creswell, 2015). Comparatively, quantitative information from surveys will be reviewed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) method.

Ethical Issues

To safeguard ethical integrity, all the respondents who will take part in the study will do so without coercion. However, one challenge that may emerge from observing this principle is an informant withdrawing consent after the study has commenced. To mitigate such a problem, they will be required to give their consent in writing. The information communicated by the respondents during the research will also be treated confidentially to protect the identity of the respondents and prevent unwarranted access to information from unauthorized agents. Lastly, all the information obtained from the respondents will be stored in a computer and protected by a password, which will only be known to the researcher. The goal is to prevent unauthorized access to information and data leakages. The safeguard would also minimize the possibility of data loss or tampering. At the end of the research investigation, the information gathered from the respondents will be destroyed.

Timeline of Research

The proposed research should be completed in six months as outlined in the Gantt chart below.

Activity 1stMonth 2ndMonth 3rdMonth 4thMonth 5thMonth 6thMonth
Conducting preliminary research
Contacting and prospective research participants
Data Collection
Compiling the report
Presentation of the Findings

Reference List

  1. Asatiani, A., Penttinen, E. and Kumar, A. (2019) ‘Uncovering the nature of the relationship between outsourcing motivations and the degree of outsourcing: an empirical study on Finnish small and medium-sized enterprises’, Journal of Information Technology, 34(1), pp. 39-58.
  2. Coe, R. et al. (eds.) (2017) Research methods and methodologies in education. London: SAGE.
  3. Creswell, J. W. (2015) A concise introduction to mixed methods research. London: SAGE Publications.
  4. Egger, M. S. (2020) Tackling the long-term impact of coronavirus in Europe and Central Asia.
  5. Hesse-Biber, S. N. and Johnson, B. (eds.) (2015) The oxford handbook of multimethod and mixed methods research inquiry. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  6. Leavy, P. (2017) Research design: quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods, arts-based, and community-based participatory research approaches. New York, NY: Guilford Publications.
  7. Montejo, L. et al. (2017) ‘Increasing Influenza immunization rates among retail employees: an evidence-based approach’, Workplace Health and Safety, 65(9), pp. 424-429.
  8. Pejić Bach, M. et al. (2019) ‘BPM and BI in SMEs: the role of BPM/BI alignment in organizational performance’, International Journal of Engineering Business Management, 9(2), pp. 1-10.
  9. Shaheen, M., Zeba, F. and Mohanty, P. K. (2018) ‘Can engaged and positive employees delight customers?’, Advances in Developing Human Resources, 20(1), pp. 103-122.
  10. Statista. (2020) , 2020. Web.
  11. Suša Vugec, D., Tomičić-Pupek, K. and Vukšić, V. B. (2018) ‘Social business process management in practice: overcoming the limitations of the traditional business process management’, International Journal of Engineering Business Management, 4(1), pp. 1-10.
  12. Ugargol, J. D. and Patrick, H. A. (2018) ‘The relationship of workplace flexibility to employee engagement among information technology employees in India’, South Asian Journal of Human Resources Management, 5(1), pp. 40-55.
  13. United Nations Industrial Development Organization. (2020) . Web.
  14. World Economic Forum. (2020) . Web.
  15. Xu, H. (2020) ‘Career indecision profile-short: reliability and validity among employees and measurement invariance across students and employees’, Journal of Career Assessment, 28(1), pp. 91-108.
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