Chris Koney column: Surviving COVID-19 as a young entrepreneur

Abubakar Nii Commey Boye

A conversation with Ghanaian entrepreneur, Abubakar Nii Commey Boye

2020 came with its fair share of surprises. Not only was the world at a standstill because of the devastative effect of coronavirus on countries and communities, but the ripple effect of shutting down all activities all over the world is now being felt as many economies slip into recession and many more barely hold on.

One thing that has managed to surprise everyone is the fact that despite the hardship and economic downslide, some young entrepreneurs seem to have it all under control and are running thriving businesses. Falling demand, reduced spending on nonessential things and stay-at-home curfews mandating that certain businesses remain closed have certainly taken their toll on many companies.

Abubakar Nii Commey Boye is a young Ghanaian entrepreneur who manages Lyon Properties Limited, a property management and sale company which also consults on investments into properties. He is also the pillar behind Boniak Ventures, importers of furniture, building materials and cars.

The young entrepreneur grew up in Alajo, Accra with my parents till the death of his father in 2000 at the age of 13. He lived with his mother who took care of him and his two siblings, making sure they had the best of education. He attended Achimota Primary School and proceeded to Accra Academy Secondary School. He graduated with a degree in Marketing from the Wisconsin International University College

After secondary school, Abubakar decided to take over his father’s real estate business without knowing much about the business. He learnt the rudiments of the trade and introduced the retail arm to sell building materials. For this purpose, he travelled to China to establish contact with suppliers and that was the beginning of his entrepreneurial journey.

I recently had a conversation with Abubakar on how young entrepreneurs can survive this current trying times and scale to the next level in their businesses. Passionate about the subject, he highlighted the important of young entrepreneurs to come up with businesses that are vital in helping many countries make the shift from old norms toward fully digitalized services.

“It is important to remain dynamic, unique and innovative especially in these difficult times when the entire world if facing the harsh impact of the coronavirus. To be able to sustain your business in this critical time, you cannot operate ordinarily, but rather, find alternative ways of doing things that will provide the required results,” he stated.

Looking beyond the present circumstance, Abubakar indicated how young entrepreneurs must ensure the survival of their companies in the years to come and surpassing the proverbial five-year mark in their businesses.

“Relevance is one of the most important factors to consider in business. If your business is no longer relevant to the consumer, then it is time to change it up. While the manufacturers of toilet paper may have witnessed an unbelievable surge in sales during the “toilet paper paranoia” early this year, everything has started to go back to normal as people realize that toilet paper isn’t such a big deal. Manufacturers of toilet paper, therefore, should not expect the same surge in sales as they did a couple of months ago. It may be time to restrategize and ensure that they stay relevant after COVID-19,” he added.

According to Abubakar, having a fresh approach is a very important step entrepreneurs cannot ignore. “Business is very tricky and there is no exact formula to guarantee a startup. A young entrepreneur who started thriving during the pandemic may have put in place strategies to have a presence amid all the confusion.

Abubakar Nii Commey Boye

However, moving forward, these startups need a fresh approach to accommodate their companies not just for the rest of the pandemic, but also after the dust has settled. The design, culture and ways of business have to adapt if it is to survive the five-year mark,” he emphasized.

Currently, most consumers of products and services are stuck at home because of the pandemic and entrepreneurs are to find a way to reach out and make sure their products and services are being used even if they cannot physically see the customers.

Abubakar further stated that “we have to meet the needs of our customers and actively involve them in decision-making about the company. Going forward, businesses must take care of customers’ current needs and be ready to change up when those needs change as well. It’s important to be flexible and understand the market trends and attend to the particular needs as and when”.

Abubakar believes it is the perfect time for young entrepreneurs to take a step back and take a long, hard look at their business. Are there any services that need to be added or removed? Are there outdated approaches that will not work after COVID-19? Are there systems currently in place that may need to change during the coming years? All these questions should be asked and answered to help their business grow.

In conclusion, he said “customers must be actively involved in all change processes. Information on new products and services or the cancellation of old ones must be disseminated to customers promptly. Newly added products and services must also be announced to customers, or they may get discouraged about the change and move on to other prospects.”

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