The fourth edition of the Entrepreneurship Hangout held on Tuesday, April 14, 2020. The discussion was led by Obinna Ekezie- Co-Founder, Wakanow on Business Leadership through tough times for SME leaders.

Photo by sydney Rae / Unsplash

The Convener, John Oamen welcomed everyone to the meeting giving background as to the essence of the group as being a time where we discuss realities of every season and how to deal with them. He noted that the difference between strategy and strength is that in strategy, we win without struggle but with strength, we have to engage the power to win. Here, we are learning from persons who have gone before us and have a clear understanding of the strategy needed to ensure we win.

Specific highlights discussed include:

· Business should utilize this lockdown period to create sustainable businesses providing solutions that would thrive post COVID in different markets and season.

· Creating sustainable business involves either modifying current business strategy or venturing into new ones

· Business leaders should understand the financial stance of the organization to enable the business make the right decisions

· Business leaders and financial advisors should determine how to effectively cut costs and still thrive in this season

· Communication with employees is very important. Help them understand the situation.

· Customer preference, post COVID will get more sophisticated with them looking to get more value for their money thereby looking for cheaper to deliver the same quality of service.

· Pent up demand is sure to be experienced once lock down is lifted. Organisations should plan and prepare for it.

John Oamen noted that the difference between strategy and strength is that in strategy, we win without struggle but with strength, we have to engage the power to win. Here, we are learning from persons who have gone before us and have a clear understanding of the strategy needed to ensure we win.

The season we are in is changing how businesses will thrive even after the pandemic. Hence, Entrepreneurs and business leaders should be thinking about creating sustainable businesses that will thrive in different markets and season. This lockdown time should be utilized to be productive and diversify. Solutions that would thrive post COVID 19 is what will sustain businesses after it.

Question:

Laser focus is important to have as an entrepreneur. It is essential to ensure scope creep does not deviate from the business’ core vision. Where do we draw the line between being versatile in developing sustainable businesses and already outlined business goals and vision?

Answer:

The business owner should be ready to make the difficult decisions of including other businesses or stopping what the organization is currently engaging with and act fast. This may be tough especially when it concerns members of Staff in the organization but if the entrepreneur does not, the organization may fall victim of not being able to manage issues that arise from the pandemic. Understanding the financial situation of the organization is also important to make the right decision. Be open and talk to Finance team.

Question:

What do you think about developing in Real Estate at this time especially when it concerns scaling up?

Answer:

It is wiser to hold on any projects now noting that the economy is not predictable. All businesses should spend as less as possible.

Question:

Companies are expected to have built a capital base in preparation for situations like this but there are other options to ensure survival. In exploring these other options. What is the fine balance between others and letting go of staff?

Answer:

Look into the financial capacity of the organization to know how long the organization will be able to manage without income flow, take decision based on this and take necessary action. It is important not to borrow money to sustain a business when you do not have an available source of income which is the case in this COVID season.

Also, be open about the situation with your employees. Offer furlough if they are willing to continue with the organization.

Question:

As earlier noted, it is important to have other means of income. There are temptations to branch out into other businesses especially in sectors that are thriving at the moment. At what point is it a distraction and balance?

Answer:

Modification of the business strategy. Spending money now is for deliverables. Businesses should come up with ideas to modify the current business to match up the new normal and still meet the needs of customers. Eg. Most supermarkets and superstores who would not ordinarily have been forced to go online and do deliveries. Study behavioral changes of customers and cash in as quickly as possible.

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Photo by Austin Chan / Unsplash

Question:

What are your thoughts on the event industry as it relates to Real Estate?

Answer:

Most major events have been cancelled due to the pandemic. Post COVID, the travel and events industry would take a while to stabilize or may not stabilize after all. Hence, creating other revenue streams is essential to be able to scale through and thrive.

Question:

What are the “sweeteners” investors will be looking at in a company which affects their decision to fund?

Answer:

It is better not to let go of any business at this stage. Due to the economic situation, investors might want to have controlling votes which in essence is selling the business. If any business is not desperate and can survive now- pivoting or not without having to sell out, it is advised that they wait and scale through.

Question:

For a business that wants to pivot to a new business, should they hire a new role to take up the reins of developing this other pivoted aspect of the business?

Answer:

Noting that the economy may be lagging behind, it is important again to look through the financials asking pertinent questions like- would the organization be able to sustain funding of the new hire before the new business starts making profit? If not, now there is enough free time for the initial persons to take up the responsibility and thrive.

Question:

What do you see happening post COVID when it comes to customer preference?

Answer:

Customers’ needs will get more sophisticated- looking to get more value for their money thereby looking for cheaper to deliver at the same quality of service. We need to put more value in our businesses so that they can be at par with the more expensive ones thereby getting the same attention.

Question:

The travel and hotel industry is Nigeria post COVID- how would they fare?

Answer:

Most travel firms and hotels in Nigeria are funded by corporate bodies essentially for corporate travel purposes. This would likely change. Most organizations in this pandemic are still running with major meetings happening remotely via the technological tools made available. This has enlightened noting that there is no need for those travel expenses except absolutely necessary.

Question:

What questions should entrepreneurs be asking during a pandemic and even after? Answer:

1.      How do I effectively cut costs?

2.      Can I modify aspects of the current business to accommodate a new angle? In answering this, observe what is most important to people in your business line now- essentials, then modify business to serve that purpose. Use relationships, networks to fleshed out the business and engage people to run them.

Question:

What are the idiosyncrasies observed in the Nigerian business space?

Answer:

1.      People are the most important aspect of your business that if not properly managed may cause an issue.

2.      It is important to determine how to protect yourself and the company if any issues come up.

3.      Finance are the first and worst hit when issues arise in any organization. Be granular in approach while ensuring oversight on company finances

Question:

Noting that hotel in Nigeria are maintained by corporate travel /clients and likely increase in virtual meetings, do you think the hotel business will still exist post COVID?

Answer:

They need to start thinking of other ways to pivot their businesses along the lines of their business objectives. For example, travel outside the country will stifle post COVID so customers would begin to look for resorts/leisure hotels to take vacations. This is a good time for those hotels to convert their spaces from business to leisure.

- Pent up demand is sure to be experienced once lock down is lifted- People wanting to enjoy the luxuries they could not being locked down. Companies should use this lock down period to actively prepare.

Question:

What was your biggest challenge in the retail space and how did you flow through it?

Answer:

Getting and training the right people to do the work I needed then to. And also the economic unpredictability of Nigeria