Tough times, they say, don’t last but tough people do. Whoever said this might not have lived during the COVID -19 pandemic. He or she may never have tried his hand at business particularly in the face of a pandemic. As Kenya waits with bated breath for the ease of some of the measures that were taken to contain the spread of COVID 19 , entrepreneurs find themselves constantly fidgeting in an attempt to sail through these tough times.
Every entrepreneur needs some motivation along the way. Here is what you need to remember during this crisis:
Normal is a long way from here
It has become common to have nostalgic conversations about the desire to go back to our “normal” lives. The longing is understandable. Celebrations and social gatherings are hard wired into the genetic makeup of Kenyans. Working from home while trying to ensure children continue to learn is a tough act. For entrepreneurs, restrictions on movement, delays at the port and disruption of supply chains have been a nightmare. Return to normalcy is desirable but it might not be attainable in the foreseeable future. COVID -19 continues to have devastating effects of various populations across the world and has been overwhelming for some of the most robust health care systems across the globe.
Even if the leaders in Kenya eased some of the measures, the fragility of the economic devastation left in the wake of COVID 19 will not go away in a day or two. The need to safeguard the health of the majority will make it necessary for precautions to remain in place in order to avoid a surge in cases. An entrepreneur who caters for events might never have the opportunity to cater for a party of two hundred people in the near future. Bakers who specialize in making wedding cakes might have to wait for some time before they can bake a seven tier cake. A fashion store owner might have to contend with delays in getting supplies even in the near future.
The world is slowly crawling back to its feet. It will not look or feel “normal.” It will not behave “normally.”
An entrepreneur who knows and appreciates this will gear up for the future knowing that yesterday’s best practices might not be good enough to sustain him or her today or tomorrow. New and unchartered paths present the best option.
Ask the right questions
As an entrepreneur, you need to ask yourself the right questions as you forge ahead.
These questions need to be at the back of every endeavor undertaken to brace any business for the future:
What has changed in how business is done globally? Have we adopted to it?
Cashless transactions have become the norm, rather than the exception. As people spend time working from home, there has been an increase in online purchases. Any business that does not have a robust online transaction system in place risks missing out on the gains that can be made as a result of adopting to this change.
What will not change in how business is done globally?
The most pertinent question is the sustainability question. Renowned management consultant Sunny Bindraonce said that businesses need to determine what will not change a few years from now and work towards developing that. It is often said that Kenyans on Twitter (#KOT) can build or break an enterprise using their keyboards. Customer experience remains one of the most fundamental aspect of any transaction between an enterprise and a customer. Entrepreneurs need to ensure that their customers know that they care about them. Efficient communication, attention to detail and respect will matter to customers long after the COVID -19 crisis is gone. Communication is not just in what you say but how you say it. As an entrepreneur, you can take this opportunity to improve your marketing and communication skills by upgrading your skills. If your website is not user friendly, this would be a good place to start.
What are we learning in the process?
Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan once said that he who is not busy being born is busy dying. For some entrepreneurs, this crisis will mean death of their dreams as they know them. This is hard and heart breaking but it can also serve as a platform for the birth of something new. There are hidden gems that will be mined in the trenches. There are lessons that are learnt best at the School of Failure. Those who want to thrive need to embrace a winning mindset that focuses on the lessons from failure. There is no shame in admitting things are not working out as planned. Mastering the shame entails differentiating between the person (You) and the failure.
Develop a culture of keeping a journal that will enable you to audit your journey and keep track of what you have learnt along the way.
Stay lean but don’t stay the same
For some enterprises, staying lean might require layoffs. Others might need to work with temporary workers instead of having permanent employees. As an entrepreneur, you need to communicate these decisions with respect. If you owe any of your employeesmoney, work towards paying them their dues. Do not ignore their pleas or give false promises. Honesty, as it is often said, is the best policy.Keep the contacts of those you have worked with. If possible, contact them whenever the opportunity to work presents itself. Having a lean work force should not make your mind lean. This is an opportunity to grow networks, albeit virtually, and leverage them in the future. This is an opportunity to join a network of entrepreneurs who will challenge your thinking and spur you to dream big.