By Ronald Kasasa
The COVID-19 pandemic has come hard at every business operation, regardless of size, balance sheet or level of preparedness. After months of watching the situation remain the same or in some cases, get grimmer, it’s safe to say that we’ve come to the point of fight or flight.
At an individual, business and national level, it is important for us to accept the reality we are living in, because acceptance will help us move to the next step – the fight to salvage what we haven’t lost and get back on the road to productivity, profitability and thriving.
Small and Medium businesses in Uganda have been hit especially hard by the pandemic with most having to shut down as they await Government directives on the next course of action for their specific sectors. There are factors which are out of control for SME owners but more importantly, there are more within your control which fall under learning, adaptation, diversifying and streamlining your operations. Getting these rights will buffer your business and prepare you for a future that is currently uncertain.
Whether it’s enabling online purchases and payments for your products, setting up Social Media pages for your business or even upgrading your company website, any step made towards digitalization is a step made in favor of the longevity of your business. The return on investment is bound to be in favor of returns for your company, with the added advantage of the low spend needed to set up most of these solutions. In the words of Charles Darwin, it is the species most adaptable to change that survives.
Rethink your demand and supply model
If the mountain cannot go to Muhammad, then he must go to the mountain. With fewer customers able to reach your shop, restaurant, bakery, consider taking the products to where it’s convenient for customers. While it might be difficult to understand and predict current market trends, you can still transform your business from one that is focused exclusively on in-person services and sales to one that approaches those sales from several angles; in person, online and delivery of orders made through calls and messaging.
Upskill your staff and yourself
For most SMEs, cutting down the number of people working in their businesses might seem likethe most logical thing to do. One way to work around this is to combine the restructuring of benefits with upskilling and realigning staff positions. Turn your sales team into a formidable delivery team and equip your marketing team with customer care and market research skills that are crucial for business continuity at this time. Class central is a resource that will empower your SME with free content on how to harness technology.
Power in partnerships
There is no better time to create or rebuild partnerships with individuals and organizations who will be of benefit to your business. dfcu Bank for instance, provides a range of financing instruments to SMEs customized to meet your unique needs. We’re also in the process of restructuring of loans for our SME customers to support them through this time. Contact us today if you require any information, assistance or guidance.
Renegotiate your Contracts and Terms of Trade
Most of the running performance contracts were entered in between parties with minimal anticipation for uncertainties such as delayed production and delivery, challenges in international trade supply chain, worldwide lockdown. Unless there is a deliberate quest to vary the contract terms, many might face a Force Majeure which might be so costly to parties that may have already invested heavily in production. As such Letters of Credit, Guarantees, Undertakings and Contract Agreements have to be renegotiated with Banks and Suppliers with the desire to extend the performance period to avoid damages.
Entrepreneurship comes with its fair share of pitfalls; the ones who turn out successful are those who treat the difficult days as learning opportunities. Approach it like you would any other roadblock. Staying positive keeps you focused on finding solutions as opposed to counting the difficulties – an attitude that will see you thrive amidst the times we’re living in.
The author is the Head Business Banking at dfcu Bank