Last Sunday, a fellow UI Industrial Engineering alumni contacted me. This friend of mine is one of the SMEs in Indonesia. A few moments after greeting each other because we haven’t seen each other for a long time, we finally decided to make a video call.
In the video call, my friend, the SME actor, told me about how hard it was to run a business as an SME in the midst of the Corona pandemic (COVID-19). This friend of mine happened to be a SME actor in 2 sectors, both manufacturing and services.
He told how much he and his fellow MSME entrepreneurs were depressed because they never considered the existence of a COVID-19 pandemic.
Many MSMEs have projected that demand will increase in 2020, take bank credit to increase production capacity, increase inventory, and prepare accurate marketing strategies. However, at the end of February until now the COVID-19 pandemic emerged.
The encouragement of social distancing and work from home, makes the structure of community demand change far from before.
- Retailers are no longer many visitors
- Restaurant entrepreneurs no longer have many customers
- Transportation entrepreneurs lost many passengers
- And many more, which if mentioned one by one make sad.
This is the real situation in Indonesia, were dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak is a real dilemma. More or less I understand the dilemma of the decision taken by the government to deal with COVID-19.
On the one hand, if applying ‘full firmness’ or suppression, as suggested by Tomas Pueyo in his article “Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance”.
We might be able to control the distribution of corona within 1-2 months, but that means it needs to sacrifice MSMEs around 3-4 weeks for vacuum.
That is, there is no income at all, even always loss because there will constantly be expenses such as rent and employee costs. If MSME decides to layoff, there will be a lot of unemployment. With more and more unemployed, it will certainly add new problems.
On the other hand, if the government is somewhat ‘loose’ in handling COVID-19, the recovery period from COVID-19 is certainly long. That way, MSMEs will also feel a much longer challenge that can’t even be predicted when COVID-19 will end.
This of course is also very difficult. The government is currently trying to provide incentives and credit interest relief for MSMEs, but of course, there are also many MSMEs who choose the path without debt, where many MSMEs will be left untouched by government stimulus.
When relying on the role of government rather than the solution, the independence of MSMEs in producing solutions will be key.
So, what strategy must be taken to maintain business for MSMEs amid the Corona COVID-19 Pandemic? So asked my friend, who asked for a view from an academic standpoint.
I was also encouraged to make a few concrete contributions in the form of input for SMEs who were affected by MSMEs.
As a lecturer in technology entrepreneurship at the University of Indonesia, I myself have the assumption that there are no standard solutions or strategies that I can provide because MSMEs in Indonesia is very diverse.
In terms of employees, for example, there are Indonesian MSMEs that have 2 employees, 10, 100, to 1000. In terms of assets, there are also hundreds of millions of new ones, up to billions of rupiah.
Not to mention if we talk from the side of the value chain and supply chain, then different sectors will also need different strategies. In detail, the diverse sectors take many forms: from agriculture, fisheries, trade, food and beverage, hospitality services, assembly, and many more.
So, my suggestion to my friend, the most important strategy for MSMEs to survive in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is to learn how to produce the right strategy, execute, and evaluate the strategy periodically in accordance with their respective business fields.
Once again, the best strategy is to learn how to formulate the right strategies, execute it, and evaluate it continuously.
One technique that I usually give to my MSME clients to produce the right strategy for themselves is to formulate and answer powerful questions.
Powerful questions are questions that are able to provide powerful and empowering answers. I wrote about this 6 years ago in the article “Techniques to Become a Business Coach for Yourself.”
In that article, we need to be careful with the questions we throw at ourselves because they are 2: constructive questions and destructive questions. Please check back in more detail in my article.
Back again to powerful questions, then what kind of questions can help us to produce strategies to survive in the midst of this COVID-19 Pandemic? Before formulating the question, there are at least 7 aspects that need to be considered by every MSME actor,
Information and Communication
- Human Resources
- Products and Services
- Key Network
- Technology and Data
- Marketing and Sales
Now, I will give an example of some powerful questions that can be used to produce a survival strategy in the midst of this COVID-19 Pandemic:
INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION
What is an effective strategy that can be implemented in my company to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 Hoax and ensure that everyone in my business gets accurate information every day?
How do I make long-distance communication and coordination effective for my team, but also efficient (cost-effective)?
What is an affordable strategy to ensure that everyone in my division or business is safe from transmission of the COVID-19 virus, without interfering with their work productivity?
If I am a business leader exposed to the COVID-19 virus and have to stop working temporarily, what kind of leader criteria can replace me and who will I trust to run the business that I lead?
PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
Who are the people or clients or networks that I can contact to help me spend inventory on my business? (if you already have a lot of inventory already)
What are the most realistic alternatives to turning my inventory into money?
If the COVID-19 pandemic occurs in the next 2-3 months, what is the strategy so that products that are currently unsold can make money for my business?
KEY NETWORKS (SUPPLIERS AND CONSUMERS)
What kind of collaboration can I synergize with my suppliers so that the supply of raw materials remains smooth?
What consumer demand opportunities can I and the team take advantage of in the midst of this COVID-19 Pandemic?
TECHNOLOGY AND DATA
If my business applies for work from home (WFH) to employees, what is an economical strategy to keep company data safe and confidential?
What technological facilities are economical but can support the productivity of employees in my business while working from home?
MARKETING AND SALES
- What marketing and sales strategies are most suitable for use in the COVID-19 pandemic?
- What is the cheapest and most significant creative marketing strategy to boost my business amid COVID-19?
- Besides the discount/price discount strategy, what strategies can make people want to buy my product or service at a low price?
What is a cost-effective strategy to make my product or service easily accessible to the community, in the midst of COVID-19?
How effective collaboration can I do with my distributor, reseller, or agent so that their sales increase amid COVID-19?
If you are a business person who happens to be reading the questions above, try to ponder and think about the answer as much as possible. If you can’t do it alone, try to get your key partners or teams to discuss.
Who knows, this discussion can open up possibilities for possible answers that were not thought of before. If you have already answered, please write down your answer in the comment box below.
The questions above are only samples/examples, where you can formulate your own questions and try to answer them together with your team. You can also contribute questions that you think are powerful, by writing them in the comment box below.
Hopefully, it will be useful and impactful for all MSME friends.