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Reboot Your MSME for the New Normal with This Free Webinar

On a roll to help micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) with their re-entry planning, regtech startup UNAWA is offering its sixth free webinar, “Ready, Set? Reboot! MSME Enablers in the New Normal” on Friday, May 29, 4 PM–5 PM. Here, panelists will talk about the tools, platforms, and programs available for MSME owners to reopen their businesses in the new normal.

“For many MSMEs, the end of the lockdown doesn’t mean the end of their challenges, but the beginning of a new set of challenges with regard to re-entering the market amid a new set of limitations and government guidelines. Through this webinar, we at UNAWA aim to equip MSME owners with concrete tools and resources to map out their re-entry after the lockdown,” said Atty. Mona Dimalanta, CEO of UNAWA.

Interested participants can register for the webinar through this link: https://bit.ly/UnawaWebinar6.

Ready for Re-entry

To talk more about a range of government and private sector resources that MSMEs can use are representatives from the following:

    • The Department of Trade and Industry, which has been rolling out and sharing various helpful tools and programs for MSME owners to better cope with the effects of the lockdown; 
    • eCFULFILL, a provider of e-commerce solutions for business owners to better manage their online stores; and
    • PayMongo, a financial technology startup enabling businesses to accept different types of payment methods for their transactions

Prepared for the New Normal

“Ready Set? Reboot! MSME Enablers in the New Normal” is the sixth installment of UNAWA’s free weekly webinar series entitled “Navigating the New Normal.” For the past month, UNAWA has featured several panelists that include business owners, industry experts, and government officials who have all spoken about different ways MSME owners can prepare their businesses for the new normal, ranging from revenue generation to data privacy.

As the lockdown winds down, UNAWA has two more webinars planned to complete the series, which are as follows:

Topic

Schedule

From Unemployment to Entrepreneurship

June 5, Friday, 4 PM

Reimagining Travel, Hospitality, & Leisure (Sector Focus)

June 11, Thursday, 4 PM

To get more fresh updates and event registration links, follow the UNAWA Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/unawa.asia/.


Secure Your SME Digitally

“Navigating the New Normal,” UNAWA’s series of free webinars helping small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners with the new realities brought about by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), has addressed various aspects of business continuity in its past four webinars. One consistent recommendation brought up by our panelists is the need for businesses to go digital, with the remote working and social distancing environment benefiting from purely digital processes.

However, the push to go digital also comes with an increased need for data privacy and cybersecurity. As companies move their operations to digital platforms, they must also be aware of how to properly secure and safeguard these platforms from various cyber threats.

This was the focus of UNAWA’s fifth webinar, “Data Privacy and Cybersecurity–Is Your Company Ready?” Our panelists offered various insights from technological, legal, and professional perspectives on how SMEs can improve their data privacy and cybersecurity in an era of remote working and rapid digitalization. Here, we share five of these insights:

1. Don’t forget about data privacy and cybersecurity when digitizing your business.

Companies that are predominantly brick-and-mortar in nature are now exploring new ways to reach their customers digitally, such as putting up e-commerce platforms or setting up digital communication channels and apps. But Iannis Hanen, CEO of cybersecurity testing platform Secuna, reminded business owners going through this digitization phase not to forget about proper data privacy and cybersecurity practices. 

“As [businesses] cut corners, they use ways to collect and transfer information that’s very sensitive. And they usually tend to ignore the security aspect as they do that because at this point, a lot of SME owners are not thinking about security of the data. They just want to have transactions with customers,” Hanen pointed out.

This applies especially to companies who are developing or deploying their own app, website, or software. Business owners must be vigilant in ensuring the safety and security of these platforms and not simply focus on how they can boost the company’s operations.

“Some companies are a little bit more ahead and are already thinking of developing either a new site or a new app [for their operations]. At that stage, they’re not necessarily considering security, they’re just looking at functionality. They want to sell fast, and they are deploying software that’s not necessarily tested or vetted,” added Hanen.

2. Data processing must be transparent, have a legitimate purpose, and be proportional.

So how can companies practice proper data privacy and cybersecurity protocols? Atty. Leandro Aguirre, Deputy Commissioner of the National Privacy Commission (NPC), suggests a good starting point in the three guiding principles of the Data Privacy Act of 2012 (DPA), the country’s set of regulations governing how organizations should process personal information.

The first of these principles is transparency, which means properly disclosing to your customers how you’re processing their data. “Transparency goes into the whole idea of trust. You want to be transparent with your customers and with your employees in terms of how you’re processing their information, and you have to do it by communicating it to them in a clear manner,” explained Aguirre.

The second principle, legitimate purpose, simply states that if a company will process customer data, they must have a valid reason why they’re doing so. “We want [your business] to use information only for a specific purpose that you’ve communicated with your customers,” added Aguirre.

Last but not least, data processing must have a sense of proportionality. This means that the data you collect for whatever purpose must only be enough for that purpose, avoiding instances where customers are required to divulge too much information and increasing the risks of a data breach. “The idea here is we want to minimize the amount of information we collect. If you don’t need that information, don’t collect it,” said Aguirre.

3. Proper security is discipline, responsibility, and acting right without delay.

In the same vein as Aguirre, AJ Dumanhug, the Co-founder, CTO, and CISO of Secuna, also shared three factors that make up a good cybersecurity strategy. This can be summed up with one sentence: “Security is discipline, responsibility, and acting right without delay.”

By discipline, he meant that companies must be consistent and persistent in how they relay practices about cybersecurity to their employees and customers. This includes strategies against common cyber attacks, tips on securing their devices, and reminders on how to better protect their assets. “For discipline, [these are] regular things that your business should do, such as educating your employees [as well as] your colleagues and users,” said Dumanhug.

By responsibility, he referred to how a company is handling the data they’re processing and understanding the types of data they have to protect. While Dumanhug recommends conducting a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA), he also says that a PIA alone won’t be enough. “PIA is not just for the privacy, it should be working hand-in-hand with cybersecurity. You have to make sure that all the data [you are handling] are secure,” shared Dumanhug.

And by acting right without delay, he recommended SME owners to have a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) ready in the event of a cyber attack. But at the most basic level, Dumanhug said that companies must be smart, fast, and prepared to respond to a cyber threat. “Always remember that the winner is not the one with the strongest tools, but the one who is acting right the fastest,” added Dumanhug.

4. Make sure your data privacy and cybersecurity protocols consider remote working arrangements.

With these frameworks in mind, companies should have an easier time laying out their data privacy protocols and cybersecurity strategies. But Atty. Glorie Pineda, Senior Associate at multi-awarded law firm PJS Law, advised that businesses must take into consideration the new normal brought about by the ECQ, specifically the increased reliance on a remote working setup.

“Work-from-home arrangements are now here to stay. You must take this into consideration when you are drafting your policies and protocols, meaning that you must provide your employees with adequate standards. What do they have to take into consideration when they are working from home?” said Pineda.

She also recommended that business owners assess how their employees are accessing company data remotely. Without the proper protocols in place, businesses face a great risk of a data breach with different individuals accessing sensitive data from non-secure devices or connections. Companies must be diligent in implementing these protocols to protect their data even if their employees are working from home

“This goes beyond having the proper equipment, having the proper software, but also the security or the encryption methods that you must put in place when there is remote access to data, not just business data but also personal data. How do you extend that security that you have been implementing in your workplace?” explained Pineda.

5. Protect your business from cyber threats like you would protect your house from a fire.

In his discussion, Andrew Hong, Regional Director for Asia Pacific of multinational cybersecurity solutions provider CyberScout, brought up an analogy for SMEs to better relay the importance of having a concrete plan against cyber threats:

“Imagine you are a homeowner. In the event of a small fire, in every house you have a fire hydrant or an extinguisher, whether the mini tube one or the big one. But do you know that the mini type of extinguisher, you need to renew every year for licensing? Most people don’t, they just ignore. So when a fire happens, they take the fire extinguisher, and nothing comes out. There’s no foam because the things inside are expired. When the fire gets bigger hours later, you call for the [firefighters] to come in with their big hydrants, but then at least 90% of your property is lost [by then].”

Hong then explains that the fire is analogous to a cyber attack, and the fire extinguisher represents your company’s internal plan on how to handle them. Just like the mini fire extinguisher, your company must be careful with how they maintain it, and to make sure that it will be available when it is needed. The firefighters are the external organizations and experts that companies should call for help when needed, and Hong recommended that businesses be quick in asking for help.

“What to do when you have a cyber attack? Call for help early,” added Hong. “Do not delay [your] call for help.”


We hope this article was helpful. To get more information, insight, and inspiration,check out the other articles in UNAWA Explainer for more tips on how your business can navigate the new normal.


Lifelines for SMEs

With Luzon’s enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) lasting for over two months, many small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners have felt the impact in their businesses. As many SMEs deal with limited sales, non-moving inventories, and reduced foot traffic, entrepreneurs will have to make several difficult decisions to make their financials work for them.

Anticipating these scenarios, both public and private organizations have rolled out various programs and projects aimed at helping SMEs get back on their feet after the ECQ. These projects were the focus of UNAWA’s fourth free webinar, “Navigating the New Normal: Government Lifelines for SMEs,” which featured representatives from both government agencies and private organizations talking about various ways that entrepreneurs can steer their business in the right direction after the ECQ.

In this article, we summarized three ways SME owners can keep their businesses afloat mentioned in the webinar:

1. Apply for the government’s SME-focused loan facilities

Recognizing that SMEs will be among the most affected sectors by the ECQ, several government agencies have rolled out loan facilities, cash assistance programs, and other projects aimed at helping entrepreneurs. One of these agencies is the Small Business Corporation (SB Corp.), which recently rolled out the COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises or CARES Program, a Php1-billion loan facility targeted specifically to micro and small business owners.

Frank Gonzaga, Vice President for Planning and Advocacy at SB Corp., shared that the CARES Program can help entrepreneurs get back on their feet after the ECQ is lifted. Micro businesses, or those with an asset size of Php3 million or less, can apply for a loan worth up to Php200,000, while small businesses,or those with an asset size of Php15 million or less, can borrow up to Php500,000 from the program. 

“What are the purposes for you borrowing [from SB Corp.]? It’s either that you are going to restock your inventory, yung mga perishables niyo gusto niyong palitan (if you want to replenish your perishables) and you need more capital, so you can borrow from us. Or if you think you need more working capital, say for example you’re going digital and you’ll need to hire someone who’s really good in e-commerce, and then you can also borrow from us. Worse is may utang ka na binabayaran (you’re paying a loan) and you need to update those loans, you can also borrow from us to update those loans,” explained Gonzaga. 

He added that the CARES Program is only one of several projects that the government is rolling out as lifelines for SMEs. Many other agencies such as the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Agriculture, and the Philippine Guarantee Corporation are also offering loan programs that target SMEs.

“There are lifelines that you can call, and this is one of the lifelines that the government can offer. We are not the only one lending,” said Gonzaga.

2. Consider talking to investors when raising capital

While they are the most common, loans aren’t the only lifelines that SME owners can take advantage of after the ECQ. For Vince Rapisura, President and CEO of capacity builder SEDPI, he recommends that entrepreneurs raise capital from investors instead so that they do not have to deal with loan repayment terms that may prove harmful to company financials in the long run.

“Rather than looking for loans to restart your business, why don’t you look for investors who would share the risk and the profit with you? If you want to be on the safer side, it’s better to focus on mobilizing investors rather than seeking debt to restart and reboot,” advised Rapisura.

Rapisura points to two possible sources of investments at this time: an entrepreneur’s inner circle, which consists of friends and family; and crowdfunding platforms, where entrepreneurs can pitch their projects and ask for funds from various donors. These sources allow business owners to raise capital in their own terms and have better tabs on how much cash goes in and out of the company.

More importantly, Rapisura recommends investments over loans so that entrepreneurs can have more control over the deal. And if they are offering a product or service that can stand on its own, then Rapisura believes that SME owners won’t have a hard time getting the investments they need.

“The terms and conditions that you have to ask from your investors when they come in is that you still have control over your business,” said Rapisura. “If you have a very good business plan and if you have a very good product or service, and the need is there, madali maka-raise ng funds (it’s easy to raise funds).”

3. Prepare tax documents in advance

One financial obligation that many business owners have been worrying about is how they’re able to settle their tax filings with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). While the deadlines have been moved because of the ECQ, SME owners will still have to deal with submitting their deliverables and filing their taxes when their business is already strapped for cash.

Mon Abrea, Chairman and Senior Tax Advisor of tax advisory firm Asian Consulting Group, reminds his fellow entrepreneurs that the best way to prepare for tax filing season is to prepare as early as possible. For him, dealing with the BIR only becomes a hassle if the business owner isn’t sufficiently prepared or is only doing the work on the deadline itself, especially with many BIR deadlines potentially overlapping in the near future.

Mag-ooverlap ang maraming deadline, pero instead na mag-panic kayo, plan it now (Many deadlines will overlap, but instead of panicking, plan it now). Plan it ahead. There are ways to defer payments, and there are ways to reduce taxes. Gawin niyo na po ngayon, hindi kung kailan deadline (Do it now and not when it’s already the deadline). It’s not just being resilient, but we have to be more proactive,” said Abrea. 

He also advised entrepreneurs to take advantage of any deductible expenses they may have incurred during the lockdown period. As long as these expenses are properly documented, they can help ease the burden of tax filing for any SME owner.

“Make sure that you maximize whatever possible deductive expenses. Halimbawa, marami sa ating mga kababayan (For example, many Filipinos), even the small entrepreneurs, mga nag-donate (donated) during this pandemic. Might as well use it as a deductible expense,” said Abrea.

Seek the Lifelines for Your Business

Recovering from the ECQ won’t be easy, but SME owners don’t have to do it alone. Both public and private organizations have rolled out various ways that can make this recovery easier, and entrepreneurs only have to be diligent enough to apply for these different projects. Now more than ever, there is no shame in asking for help.

If you want to find out more about other lifelines that the government is offering to SMEs, check out our article on the Philippine government’s 4-Pillar Strategy. We also have a Telegram group where we continuously update members on the latest government releases focused on SMEs and give tips on how businesses can better cope with the effects of the ECQ.


We hope this article was helpful. To get more information, insight, and inspiration,check out the other articles in UNAWA Explainer for more tips on how your business can navigate the new normal.


Remote Work Management

Ask people about their “new normal” amid the pandemic, and chances are you’ll get many answers about working from home. While remote work has been the norm among freelancers and in certain industries even before the lockdown, it has moved from alternative to mainstream as a result of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). Many workplaces are suddenly adjusting their operations to keep their businesses up and running.

UNAWA’s third free webinar, “Navigating the New Normal: Employee Welfare in a Remote Work Environment,” trained the spotlight on these issues and shared how business owners and leaders can keep the entire team engaged, productive, and well-adjusted while working from home. The panel featured representatives from the business, medical, and legal sectors who shared insights on how businesses can optimize their remote work setups.

In this article, we compiled one insight from each of our panelists on how SMEs and startups can better implement their remote working setups.

1. Find a daily schedule that works for you.

At its inception, game development company Altitude Games founded by Gabby Dizon in 2012 already implemented a remote work setup for 80% of its employees. The set up has been welcomed by many to the point that Gabby is now recognized in many other webinars for leading this remote working experience. 

One tip he shared in UNAWA’s webinar is for employees who are new to the remote working setup is to add structure to their daily routine. While an office-based setup automatically provides this structure, a home-based setup will need employees to create and adopt a structure that allows them to adjust to a remote working setup and achieve work-life balance.

“One of the things that we tell our team is to be able to create a structure for themselves, between what time they wake up, …prepare their breakfast, …do focused work [and] meetings, [and time] block[ed] off for their kids or family,” shared Dizon. “Without that kind of schedule or structure for yourself, it will be hard to thrive in a home-based environment.”

Employers should also be mindful of these schedules and help their employees adapt as much as possible. They can implement flexible working hours to account for more variation in schedules, and they can make sure that all communication lines are monitored in such a way that they are not used to outside of an employee’s schedule.

2. Explore collaborative ways to promote employee welfare remotely.

With working from home being an unfamiliar experience for most employees, some of your team may have difficulty adjusting to the new normal. Employees who are used to having casual conversations or hanging out with their workmates, for example, no longer have those outlets. This can lead to undue stress and feelings of loneliness.

Emma Guevarra, people director at multinational outsourcing firm TaskUs, revealed that the company has resorted to more creative ways of boosting morale while almost all of their employees are working from home. For one, most of their wellness activities, such as yoga and Zumba sessions, transitioned from in-person to a virtual platform, with many employees around the world joining in their video conferences to these sessions.

Guevarra also revealed that the company’s president releases wellness videos every week to help employees cope with the remote working setup. TaskUs has also established a website dedicated to helping their employees achieve “work-life harmony”.

“Even before COVID, we [have really been] advocating for a work-life alignment. You just need to set the boundaries, and the leaders respect that,” said Guevarra. “We continue that practice and culture even virtually.”

3. Executives should promote employee wellness efforts.

Following on from Guevarra’s sharing of her company’s practices, Suzy Roxas, a life and career strategist, highlighted another important factor that makes TaskUs’s activities work. Roxas pointed out that it was important that these employee wellness initiatives are either being promoted by the company’s executives, or are led by the executives themselves.

For Roxas, this setup allows employees to more easily integrate these programs into their daily schedules, which leads to them prioritizing their welfare. Business owners and leaders are best placed to set an example for the rest of their teams, as in an unfamiliar environment such as a remote working setup, employees will turn to their leaders for guidance more than ever.

“When the business leader is on top of the wellness program and he has a hand in measuring the quality or the importance of the wellness program and he holds everybody as part of the wellness program and actually participates in it, that buy-in automatically makes the employees value the wellness program, value well-being, and therefore join in the bandwagon,” explained Roxas. “As a result, you have a more flourishing work environment even in the time of stress.”

4. Analyze which parts of your operations can be done remotely.

While ideal, not every business can operate with every person working remotely. Some businesses require people to be on-site to be able to deliver their products and services properly, while others need to have an office-based team at all times. For these businesses, Atty. Regina Jacinto-Barrientos, managing and founding partner of award-winning law firm PJS Law, should think about how their workspaces can be more conducive to promoting a healthier environment.

“One of the things people should consider is analyzing their workspace,” reminded Jacinto-Barrientos. “Because there’s social distancing required, now you should determine how many people are in the room and if you need to be six feet apart. You need to analyze those things and consider moving people around, doing things, and even reconfiguring your office.”

Atty. Mona Dimalanta, CEO of UNAWA, adds that business owners should carefully examine their operations and determine which aspects can be done remotely. She believes that remote working strategies should be something that all business owners should think about when navigating the new normal.

“Break down your operations, …how you do your work, and take it up from there. What can be done remotely? What needs to be done in the office?” said Dimalanta. “There are also means like working in shifts to limit the number of people in the workplace at any given time.”

Make work-from-home work for you

While remote work has crept up on many businesses, it is nevertheless part of the new normal that employers and employees alike have to integrate into their lives. We hope that these tips can help you and your team craft a remote work strategy that can steer your business through the new normal while keeping your employees safe and healthy.

If you want to read more tips about working from home, Dizon shared a deck that goes over several tips and tricks on how your company can build an effective remote work strategy, which you can read here.


We hope this article was helpful. To get more information, insight, and inspiration,check out the other articles in UNAWA Explainer for more tips on how your business can navigate the new normal.