When the wrath of COVID-19 began to ravage world economies, taking lives and alter our way of life, many thought it was just a temporal occurrence. Six months down the line, we are still keeping social distance, wearing our face masks, and regularly washing or sanitising our hands. As anxiety fills the minds of entrepreneurs in industries like tourism, entertainment & sports (the worse hit), IT & health entrepreneurs are smiling to the bank.
In its early days, many market analysts forecasted that there will be a sharp recovery, we are gradually missing the opportunity for a quick recovery. As a Forbes article recently described: we are caught in the trap of accepting which alphabet will best describes the recovery, V-Shape, U-Shape or Nike (Swoosh) Shape.
It is now the norm to see signs like “No Mask, No Entry” boldly stuck on the doors of businesses across the country. Entrepreneurs have started looking into medium-term strategies to keep their staff and clients safe albeit maintaining confidence in their businesses. What started as a strange wave has now become our way of life.
With travel restrictions still in full force, importation has been reduced significantly. Whiles not losing sight of the fact that entrepreneurs who export their produce face a new reality, the travel restrictions, coupled with the reduced importation has created a unique opportunity to local entrepreneurs to fill the gap that would otherwise have been taken by imported goods.
However, this opportunity needs collaboration among entrepreneurs in an unconventional way, our old model of running businesses cannot succeed in times like this. Therefore, the proactive entrepreneur must: Collaborate to innovate:
My companies having been hit by the shortfall in demand decided to go back to the drawing board to help solve some of the new challenges this pandemic presents. I am delighted to say that within the spate of one month, we developed & produced COVID-19 Sanitization Chambers for the African market.
This project has seen the light of day because of the joint forces of our IT company, the creative potentials of our advertising firm and the full support of a local chemical disinfectant producer. We are duly certified and have started installing for our clients.
This new project has the potential to create 120 jobs here in Ghana. This collaboration is built on trust and the collective desire to survive in such a trying time.
Test new thinking models and approaches to business:
This may come in the form of customer service, sales channels or even working hours. My good friend Nana, an entrepreneur who owns and runs a restaurant has to rethink about how to package food for delivery to his customers at home and in their offices. He acknowledges that 80%-90% of his sales for 2020 will be derived from deliveries and not eat-ins as has been the case.
He shares his daily menu on Instagram & Facebook and receive payment via Mobile Money and delivers with the help of a local courier company. Any entrepreneur who only accepts cash today, and still sees MoMo, Visa, MasterCard among others as inconvenient payment options is rather disadvantaged. To the entrepreneurs who still demand clients to add the charges for MoMo; the least said about them the better.
Embrace technology unlike before:
Little did we know that it is highly feasible for SMEs to conduct virtual meeting seamlessly on our local telecommunications networks. Meetings on Zoom is the new normal, emails and whatsaps are constantly making targets achievable. My partner and I had a zoom meeting which lasted five hours, we shared presentations, invited others to join in for discussions right in the comfort of our homes. Other forms of technology and collaborative tools exist to make it possible for entrepreneurs to keep social distance whilst making impacts. Entrepreneurs in the education sector can take advantage of some of these tools as well.
As we go though the elongated wave of this pandemic, the signals are clear that we will be dealing with COVID-19 longer than we thought. Entrepreneurs cannot stop innovating and impacting lives whilst we wait for the pandemic to end, it might be too late to save our businesses. Courage is required to face this challenge head-on because of our relevance to posterity.
The writer, Kormi Courage Amese, is a serial entrepreneur, a consultant and a philanthropist. His passion is for the development of Africa through aggressive entrepreneurial initiatives. He runs a blog and video series called Consider.