The longer the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic the more difficult it will be for many MSMEs to stay in operation. Even large enterprises with established reputation and market presence are currently feeling the shock of the pandemic. However, not all MSMEs will go down with the turbulence of COVID-19 pandemic, because it is in darkness that stars shine the most; so this will certainly be the time for some businesses to shine and take on new grounds.
Lack of access to markets, infrastructure challenges, access to information and an enabling environment that provides support services have been the challenges faced by Nigerian businesses over the years, thus the need for palliatives to help businesses scale though these times.
Beyond accessing the N50 billion Targeted Credit Facility (TCF) stimulus package of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), more needs to be done by small businesses at this time as a global recession looms.
As a business owner, what do you do to minimize the negative effects of the pandemic? what should you be doing differently in order to position your business aright now and after the Covid-19 pandemic? Below are some points to consider.
Maintain Existing and Build New Relationships
Relationship management is an important aspect of building a business. Before COVID-19 business or MSMEs owners were keen on networking and attending events that would lead to more business opportunities. Now is not the time to relent and be wondering why you need to spend more on data and phone calls. It is the time to reach out to all stakeholders within your sphere including your existing and potential suppliers, partners, customers and staff. People only remember you when you remember them especially in times like this.
Similarly, there are numerous events happening online these days via Webinars and Webcast, join in and get noticed positively. Ask intelligent questions, share your story, improve your business skill and get more information needed for your business to thrive.
With a thriving relationship, you can negotiate new deals, seek extension on old ones and get help. This would also boost your access to information which could probably be known only in closed circles.
“Relationship networking is about who you know and more importantly, who knows you. Building the right network can open new doors to future success in your business” – Heidi
Increase your Visibility
Visibility enables you showcase your value proposition and differentiating features. There are different ways to enhance your MSMEs and ensure your brand is appropriately positioned during and post COVID-19.
Beyond hosting webinars, Instagram-live sessions and the usual advert placement through various social media channels, you can also explore the following:
a. Optimize your website: Do detailed research on how to achieve this or get help.
b. Content Marketing: Develop content (text, image or visual) and embed your business links in keywords popular within your niche. You can write thought leading articles that can beam light on your products and services or your skill as an expert. By creating useful and educative content, you can attract more prospects, nurture and turn them into profitable customers that would continue to engage your business and make your company name top on their minds till the pandemic is over and afterwards.
c. Email marketing: Beyond your social media posts, send out personalized newsletters to your target audience and key stakeholders.
d. Offer discounts: This may be difficult for small businesses considering that consumer behavior is changing while demand and supply is slowing. However, as long as you have a valuable product, it may be the best time to use juicy discounts to attract potential customers to try your products and services and retain old ones. Everyone likes a deal and “volume” is sure good for your business. Would you rather have stockpiles or be sold out? Think about it.
e. Bring to live the unseen about your business: Peruse your archives and bring to life the behind the scene activities you have engaged in through-out the journey of your business. “Throwback” to the good and challenging times and let others learn from you. This would not only make your products and services visible but would enable you connect with your audience.
Rethink your Strategies, Business Model & Structure
The first step to developing and implementing the right strategy is to go back to the drawing board and rethink your business. Some aspects of your business you may need to consider include:
a. Your Processes and Procedures
This include your operations, strategies, business model and most importantly your governance structure.
Now that you have an atmosphere free from the usual hustle and bustle, you may need to create time to think through your business. Have sessions with your team and rethink the entire process down to the pieces that seem neglected. Consequently, you may realize that you are carrying so many burden (staff, asset, etc.) irrelevant for your business efficiency, and become fortunate to discover hidden treasures you can leverage on to diversify your business.
An efficient and effective standard operating procedure is sure going to help you stand out at this time. Explore the possible options and act now.
b. Your Platforms
Is your platform interactive or contributing to your business efficiency? Can people search for what they want on your website with ease?
Your platform could be offline or online depending on the type of business you run. If your engagements were mainly offline (e.g. event planning) now is the time to consider how to make use of online platforms as well and go digital. Consider adopting a project management suite that can enable you, your client and staff members work seamlessly. If you are a fashion designer explore means to make your platforms more robust. This applies to every other business as well. Do an audit of your platforms, revamp them or build new ones.
c. Your People and Policies
All over the world both big businesses and MSMEs are considering the option of downsizing because of COVID-19 in order to cut cost. Similarly, many are recruiting more because of the increase in demand. For instance, Amazon having to hire about 100,000 new workers within one month.
Although Amazon is already a big brand, the truth is, the decision regarding recruiting more, cutting salaries or laying off staff is dependent on what you are doing now. There is no “one size fit all”. As MSMEs you can achieve the best with your people if only you think through your business model. If in doubt, consult with experts, take up courses and talk to your coaches or mentors so you can make the right decision for your business.
In addition, you can use this time to put in place policies that would guide the way your business is managed. You can re-orientate your workforce about the culture of the business, retrain employees (via virtual media, courses), and integrate staff into the company’s vision and mission. It is also the time to study and reassess your workforce to determine the lapses that would require fixing. Also, consider putting in place a sustainable or business continuity plan that would enable your business stand the test of time.
Most importantly, prepare for new competitors that will emerge in your niche.
Funders and Donors usually seek out compliant businesses when opening up opportunities for them to access funds. Only clean and compliant businesses can easily access funding in a time like this and thereafter, because investors are likely to be more when giving out funds, considering the impending recession.
What are you doing about being compliant? Here are few areas you should consider, to ensure you are not left behind:
a. Your Records & Regulatory Standing
· Is your financial record in order?
· Are you tax compliant?
· Do you pay pensions for your staff?
· Do you have an insurance policy in place for your assets?
· Do you have an anti-bribery and anti-corruption policy in place?
b. Your Resources
· Do you have a structured business model or a business plan?
· Do you have a strategic plan that you can run with during and post Covid-19?
· Do you have policies in place to manage your human (internal & external), financial and operational resources?
c. Your Risks
· What are your risks?
· Do you have a framework to mitigate the impact of these risks?
Think through this and ensure to become MSMEStandards Compliant. You can also take our Assessment here www.msmestandards.com/
To ensure your business continues to earn during and post-Covid-19, implementing one or more of the points listed above will go along way in setting you on track.
For more insight and help in getting your business on track, you can reach out to us via firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also use the MSMEStandards Platform Free of Charge to list your services as a Service Provider and also benefit from engaging other reputable businesses as a Service User.