Surviving the Pandemic

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Oladoyin Phillips

Recently, we shared a summarised business guide for surviving the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is a quick summary of key the takeaways are:
●Draw up as complete a picture of your current affairs as possible – cash available, orders, suppliers, loans, etc.

●Build out clear and detailed projected scenarios (external situations) specifically for your
business.

●Chart out clear plans of action for each of the possible scenarios you have identified, given your current business situation.

●Take the time to painstakingly review existing contracts, and see if/how they can be re-negotiated to suit the current situation

●Reach out to your key stakeholders – clients, suppliers, etc. – to give them clarity on how you will be moving forward. Manage expectations, be reasonably transparent and strive to maintain the relationships you have built.

●In light of the conversations with your external stakeholders, have additional conversations with your internal stakeholders – your team.

●Keep it simple, especially because the future remains uncertain.

●Be honest with all of your stakeholders about potential changes, delays or challenges.

●This is a difficult time for most of us, so maintaining and building community is key.

This week, we would like to share case study insights from small and medium-sized businesses so you can see how peers are adjusting to the still unknown but potentially new normal. Regardless of industry, we can already tell that the effects of COVID-19 on businesses will be varied. Beyond this, each business likely has pre-existing constraints and/or advantages based on the state of its finances and operations before the pandemic brought the world to a halt.

However, one thing appears consistent across the board in the business response to Covid-19 — a need to adapt the business model. It is the successful implementation of this change, coupled with a strong financial and operational framework, that will determine those entrepreneurs whose ventures will survive the worst effects of the economic downturn. Accept that the world in which you built your model no longer exists and seize the opportunities of the new one. Be observant, be agile, think ahead.

In Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, La Tulipe Food, an importer of frozen meats and fish products, have had to change their business model due to the reduced number of open restaurants. They launched a decade ago as a wholesale supplier of imports from Europe and the Americas and have successfully sold products across their home country. In response to reduced wholesale demand, they suspended imports and sold off stock on hand to a new customer base – retailers, and even end-users. To achieve this, they redefined their sales strategy for the pandemic and fitted their trucks for door-to-door delivery routes nationwide. La Tulipe Food’s philosophy for the pandemic is hinged on flexibility. They have done this by leveraging available technology to identify and access customers.

Leveraging technology is certainly a key strategy for navigating this pandemic. Spacefinish, corporate design consultants in Lagos, Nigeria are relying even more heavily on technology than before. Being a player in the construction industry, the company has had to make dramatic changes to process and operations flows to maintain quality whilst complying with even higher safety standards. Additionally, the sales team has focused on emphasising the firm’s digital services, letting customers access its design services, even as the firm actively works out possibilities for remote project management offerings. Spacefinish CEO, Remi Dada, has suggested that entrepreneurs focus on community and innovation: “Don’t jump to laying off [staff] as the only conclusion. See how you can use your team to help you innovate out of the challenge, versus just cutting your team and trying to wait it out. Some of the most innovative businesses are birthed during such times of uncertainty.” As we emphasised last week, working innovatively and supportively with your stakeholders in these hard times will inadvertently lead to better value creation.

Recognising that some businesses might only see limited room for deployments of technology at this time, there are still impressive opportunities for innovation and adaptation. Joe-Han Network Marketing Ltd, which sells, repairs and maintains automated banking equipment across Nigeria has had to deal with a slew of order cancellations as pending purchases have been put on hold. Their engineers were, in the first few weeks of lockdown, unable to conduct site visits for repairs and machine monitoring. They allowed their engineers to offer detailed support assistance over the phone and on calls. Whilst this is not an ideal state of affairs, they have avoided a complete shutdown of operations and allowed many of their clients to receive their services. They have also benefited from the knowledge gained from this inadvertent remote servicing pilot and it will shape their operations in the coming months.

Whilst panic might seem attractive, resist the urge to make drastic decisions. Review your situation with a critical and forward-looking sensibility. We summarise the approaches taken by leaders across these three different industries as follows: Specifically identify the effects of the pandemic on your business operations and adapt your model accordingly. Get creative, get technological and get communal.

As always, we are here to answer any questions you might have and would love to hear from you. Send us an email at admin@spurt.group