Essential Advice for SMEs to survive throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic

Small and medium-sized enterprises are involved in business activities of various industries of the economy. The COVID-19 pandemic followed by travel restrictions and close-down of country borders with lockdowns resulted in a range of challenges for companies especially for the small businesses most likely having limited resources to survive with uncertain difficulties.

The following are some key advices to sustain businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic along with views from some industry players:

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1. Decisions need to be taken and taken very fast with a survival plan to look at ways to cut down on costs as much as possible. Be careful with your resources and set priorities for the next six months on essential business expenses and resources needed to maintain your core business focused for survival. Prepare new budgets, projected income statements, projected balance sheets and projected cashflow each month.

“We decided not lay-off any of staffs but until it restarts, we will redesign the operation,” Mr. Shujau Ali, Owner of Eden Baani Lodge Guesthouse in V. Felidhoo stated. “We use few part-time staffs too before COVID-19 but now each full-time staff has one extra role to play. Minimum staffs with extra workload”

“We are very optimistic about surviving the crisis,” Ahmed Thahseen, Director/Architect of Spaces. Inc stated . We were negotiating some new resort design projects when the pandemic hit us. And we still are, no party have backed out from their commitments. Hope is to get going around July. Our projections for local projects is that it will take some time to get going.”

2. Focus on cashflows and not on profits. While the focus should be on collecting receivables, that would also be under pressure now. While your business might not be functioning as usual now, you can offer your customers with discounts, gift cards and vouchers with no expiry date and earn some cash. Figure out if you can offer some essential services to your customers, even if it is not the main line of your business.

“We have few local visitors who are ready to come as soon as borders open and we offered them a discounted holiday if they make an advance booking” Shujau Ali further stated.

“Adapt to new ways of working and reduce costs where possible, without compromising your team,” Mr. Adheel Ismail, CEO of Think Advertising outlined. Sustaining your business should be your main strategy.”

Adheel Ismail | CEO of Think Advertising | Corporate Maldives
Mr. Adheel Ismail, CEO of Think Advertising

3. Governments all over the world are putting into place financial assistance plans for small businesses. Find out if you are eligible for any such assistance whether it is any financial assistance or easier terms in terms of business loans and special financial packages like SME loans.

“I assume that stimulus package and other relief packages alone is not sufficient,” Mr. Shujau Ali outlined.

“We will be utilizing the SME loan received to kickstart the works for materials and all rather than exhausting totally on salary,” Mohamed Irshan, Managing Director of Built Spaces Pvt. Ltd mentioned. “However, we aren’t letting go off any staffs and neither have reduced their salaries. Also, we are considering revising the values of self-funded projects that can help our clients and so help each other.”

“Unlike bigger businesses, SME’s won’t have a big reserve,” Mr. Ismail Hameed, Vice President of National Boating Association of Maldives outlined. “Hence, a support sooner the better. This pandemic becomes a wakeup call for every industry, to preserve and plan things well.”

Mr. Ismail Hameed | Director Marketing of Highrise | Corporate ...
Mr. Ismail Hameed, Vice President of National Boating Association of Maldives

4. Reach out to your customers through email and social media and engage them whether it is through quizzes, games or any such activity. Remember that customer is the king and you need to keep the communication going even if it is leading to any sales during this period.

“The market is emotional during this situation. Focus on the immediate value your brand or products can create to your customers. Don’t push profit over people, if you do that customers will lose trust in your brand. Think of ways that you can position your brand to help out during the pandemic. Customers will react positively, and you are likely to convert more customers,” Mr. Adheel Ismail mentioned.

5. Could train your existing staff on additional skills, which could make them more productive and efficient, rather than hiring more staff. There’s plenty of online courses that are very affordable, and these will allow them to focus on other areas of the business when their department is down- like, the sales team could perhaps also help the marketing team.

“Employers and Employees must work as a team to overcome and sustain. No one knows how far this will go and how long this will be.  Only together we can manage. Meanwhile government should come up with a stimulus and a relief package to bail out SME’s without letting them crash,” Mr. Ismail Hameed stated.

“Communicate and update the team of the situation regularly and assure them job security and the need to work together. Your team is your biggest asset,” Mr. Adheel Ismail further stated. 

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