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Ten-point manual for business survival today

By Suleiman Shahbal | June 16th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Last week I was invited to address young entrepreneurs on Zoom to advise them on how best to succeed in this time of coronavirus. 

There are 10 key steps that every businessperson needs to keep in mind and to practise in these difficult times.

First, business people should be creative; they should read constantly. If you are reading this article, then you belong in the group that is keeping track of changes and you are hopefully changing with the times.

Reading exposes one to many ideas and you will definitely pick up good ideas that will help you. I have never met a single successful person who does not read.

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Second, if the cheese has moved, then you move with it. These are difficult times and clients will have little interest in buying luxury or unnecessary products. Is your product critical now or will buyers reject it for essentials?

Is your business necessary in these current times? If you sell a product that is not critical now, then you need to look at your existing client base and ask yourself what they need and offer them that product – even if you were not offering it to them before. Follow your clients' needs.

Third, redefine success. We associate success in business with profits. Sometimes staying afloat itself is success. In these extraordinary times, profits do not always define success. Even limiting your losses and staying afloat is itself a success.

Current precautions

Fourth, there are certain basic realities that you must come to terms with immediately. Show an increased concern for health issues. Your clients will define you on how you treat matters of hygiene and the current precautions. We may not like being asked 10 times for sanitising and temperature checks, but we all accept this as necessary.

Fifth, you cannot control how much sales you make or your levels of profitability but you can control most of your costs. You must cut costs, rent, salaries and all unnecessary expenses. In today's accounting language, it is called zero-based budgeting.

Sixth, your staff are your most valuable asset. Unfortunately, when sales and profits drop, you will have to reduce staff. Please do not rush to fire people for as long as you can. If you stand with them in times of trouble, hopefully, they will stand with you in future.

Remember also that good staff are difficult to get even in good times and sooner or later you will need them again. Also remember to treat people with compassion when you fire them.

They all have responsibilities and obligations. Most people suffer immediate low self-esteem when they are fired, so you must make all efforts to explain to them that the cuts are necessary for the company to survive.

For free

Seventh, if you are a member of staff who has just been fired, please do not get bitter. It is not a reflection of your abilities; it is just that times are difficult. In fact, if you are fired, try and offer your services even for free, if you can.

It is better than sitting at home. Show support for your company even if they cannot pay you. It does not mean that you stop looking for other hustles. You are not being fired because you are bad, it is the circumstances.

Eighth, this is the time for all businesses to go online. Take this opportunity to start learning how to market online. It is a completely different approach to business. Find people who know how to market online and many people with these skills are cheaply available now.

This might even be an opportunity to learn this survival skill. Two of America’s greatest bookstores; Barnes and Noble and Borders went out of business because the online business of Amazon killed them.

Learn from other business failures. They were forced out of business, so do not become another victim.

Ninth, focus on improved and cheaper service delivery. You must learn to improve your services with fewer staff and lower costs. Your clients do not need to see your face or visit the store to buy your products.

If you are going to be delivering products and services to the doorsteps of your clients, then you quickly need to find cheap, fast and reliable delivery people. There are thousands of boda boda’s outside, but are they reliable?

Finally, stay positive. You must accept that tough times are also a part of the cycle of business. Stop complaining and learn to live with it. Complaining will not help. If you survive this difficult time then you will survive anything. This, too, shall pass!

 

Mr Shahbal is chairman of Gulf Group of Companies. [email protected]


Covid-19 Kenya oung entrepreneurs Young entrepreneurs Suleiman Shahbal
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