The World Health Organisation on March 11, 2020 declared the outbreak of the viral disease COVID-19 as a pandemic. The virus has since plagued the globe with over 5.1 million cases in circa 200 countries as at today. World economies and businesses have taken a great hit, with about 65% of the global economy imposed with lockdowns. The adverse effect of this is seen in the collapse of stock markets, shortage of supply and consequent price hikes, decrease in oil prices among others. The Ghanaian economy is no exception, as government estimates a plummet in GDP growth to 2.6% – significantly lower than the projected 6.8% growth for the year 2020 – and a decline in international trade and reserves, to cite a few.
Indeed, we are in trying times and no one is certain when the COVID-19 pandemic will be over. However, we at Absa are confident of one thing: that if we look out for each other and work together, we will surely overcome this pandemic together. At Absa bank, our goal is to connect the dreams of Ghanaians to financial resources, services and opportunities to help bring their possibilities to life.
As a bank, we are convinced that the private sector is the soul of the Ghanaian economy; hence our continued commitment to help businesses find a way to get things done and grow. This piece is to share a few ideas on how your business can thrive in this time of crisis.
- Identifying Opportunities
- Cash flow Management
- Digital Transformation
Leadership in the time of COVID-19
What should you do if you’re responsible for a team, organisation or company?
- First and foremost, educate yourself on what is happening around you; on the virus, in your community, by your government and globally. Get information on the change that is happening. Observe and Orient, Decide and take Action. The OODA loop(Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) is a four-step approach to decision-making that focuses on filtering available information, putting it in context and quickly making the most appropriate decision while also understanding that changes (and difficult decisions) can be made as more data becomes available. Leverage your team by bringing them together to create and execute survival plans. Involve your employees (whether a large workforce or a one-man business), they are key stakeholders.
- Invest in communication. You must communicate with credibility and optimism. Be realistic but be positive. And communicate with all your stakeholders, especially customers.
- Most of all, Manage yourself. Discipline is critical in this time. Keep your focus, and be different. Winston Churchill once said “never let a crisis go to waste”.
Pivoting your business in response to COVID-19
All good pivots start with great questions. There are three aspects you should explore when deciding on potential pivots:
1. Value proposition – What value do you deliver with your product or service?
- Fulfil unmet needs – Shift to supply what people need today such as health, nutrition, safety, and in-home education.
- Create solutions – Provide complete solutions to meet people’s needs, not just a partial solution.(The trucking industry works with logistics companies to supply food.)
- Create new value with existing assets – Shift from nice to have and must-have.
- Rethink product/service distribution – Make your service a product or vice versa. (Deliver home school education products rather than provide education services.)
- Focus on what customers love about what you do – Make this a business. (Wrigleys gave away gum to support the original business of selling baking goods, and realised people liked the gum more than the baking goods.)
2. Value network – How do you deliver and monetise your product or service?
- Find new ways to deliver your value – Is electronic delivery of your product or service an option? How about direct delivery to customers and a free delivery service if your business can sustain it?
- Shift to a radically faster, better, cheaper supply chain –Are there options that you would never consider under normal circumstances?
- Connect through partners –Can you deliver needed value working with partners, such as out-sourcing your in-house delivery service to a courier service.
- Repurpose assets –What new products or services could you create with existing resources?
- Monetise differently –Can you find novel ways to get paid? Consider subscriptions or alternate payment methods. Use banking apps, mobile money or leverage on new Fintech platforms.
- Target customers: Who receives and benefits from what you provide?
- Reposition offering with existing clients – The best way to retain customers is to set them free. For example, consider delivering educational tools for home-schooling and explore novel ways to get paid.
- Find new clients – Who else could use your products and services? Could it be healthcare providers or food services?
- Orchestrate the ecosystem – What can you do with partners that you can’t do alone? Can you collaborate with supply chain members and local operators to overcome barriers? If we have X and a partner has Y, can we collaborate to deliver Z?
Managing cash flows in the period of crisis
Revenue is vanity, Profit is sanity, Cash is king – and I’ve heard it said recently that MoMo is sovereign. So it is cash in-flows and out-flow management that is very important to any business, especially during crisis.
- Cash in-flow management
- Conserve cash
Who are your clients/customers? How effectively can they pay you for your goods and services? Can you deploy alternative methods of payment and make it easier for your customers to pay you? Will discounts help? You need to think about these aspects, decide and take action.
- Ensure your own financing remains viable
Whatever your source of financing you need to talk to them to ensure that your existing lines are available to support you. Tough decisions on spending need to be made. You might have to put some projects on hold until the situation is clearer.
- Consider alternate or non-traditional revenue streams
If your scenario-planning is showing pressure on your continued revenue streams, consider ways you could temporarily, or maybe even permanently, replace that revenue.
- Cash out-flow management
- Who are your suppliers? Can you negotiate credit terms in the face of a slow down?
- Cut out non-essential expenditure
- Practice simple cost-saving measures, like turning off the lights when its daytime and managing utilities efficiently.
Using technology to enhance service delivery and operational efficiency can help keep your business alive.
- Find new ways to communicate and promote your business by leveraging on social media and online platforms.
- Automate your processes and employ digital solutions like online banking, online procurement and e.commerce. Making use of online IT solutions for book-keeping, filing systems and many other business processes could be another important consideration.
Absa bank businesses support initiatives
Lastly, to survive during a crisis, take advantage of business initiatives and offers from your partners to keep your business alive. As part of Absa bank’s support to customers, we are continuously engaging with them to understand their specific circumstances and tailor our solutions to help them find a way to get things done. This includes offering:
- Up to 500,000 collateral-free Loans to SMEs and local businesses
- Repayment Moratoriums of up to six months on qualifying loans for individuals and businesses
- 2% reduction in interest rates for qualifying impacted individuals and industries
In conclusion, I would like you to note that opportunity and crisis are linked; therefore, issues arising therefrom must be viewed in that light as you find the right solutions to get your business on track.
>>>The author is the Business Banking Director, Absa Bank Ghana. This is an extract from Absa Business Connect series.