Turn the Lockdown Around

January 31, 2022 by

UNAWA recently concluded its first free webinar geared towards helping entrepreneurs navigate the new normal brought about by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). Called “Unlocking the Lockdown: Startup and SME Opportunities Amid the Pandemic,” the webinar saw three entrepreneurs from different industries share their experiences, insights, and advice on dealing with the effects of the lockdown from their unique perspectives. UNAWA’s resident legal and business experts also weighed in to add more enriching information to the discussion.

The panel raised several helpful insights that entrepreneurs can apply to their own businesses. Here, we highlight three that stood out:

1. Pivot your business to seize relevant opportunities
When Darwin Mariano founded Ticket2Me in 2017, it functioned mainly as a ticketing platform for concerts, conventions, and other large events. However, Mariano revealed that, even as early as then, some small groups were already using Ticket2Me to raise funds, whether it was a family affair or an alumni association hosting a charity event.

When the pandemic hit, this enabled Mariano and his team to quickly shift Ticket2Me into a crowdfunding platform, turning the tickets sold into donations for requirements of medical personnel. It has paid off for the company, as across the various major campaigns that the website currently hosts, Ticket2Me has processed over Php18 million in donations so far. Among its most successful campaigns was a donation drive for COVID-19 frontliners organized in cooperation with the Office of the Vice President of the Philippines.

For Mariano, being able to pivot immediately from an events management platform to a crowdfunding and donation drive aggregator was only possible because their team was willing to make a massive shift from the platform’s original idea. He advised fellow entrepreneurs to try to find similar opportunities within their business model; a massive pivot, while daunting, can be just what your business needs to stay relevant amid the crisis.

“If we were too in love with our original business idea, I doubt we would have pivoted as quickly,” said Mariano. “You have to be able to step back, assess the situation, and think of how your business can serve in some other way.”

2. Don’t wait for the ECQ to end before making your move
As the ECQ progressed from days to weeks, you might have noticed some of your favorite restaurant chains populating social media with posts on how to transact with them while on lockdown. While some restaurants are focusing on making their menu available through delivery or take-out, others have resorted to selling their raw materials and ready-to-cook items so that their customers can enjoy their meals in the safety of their own homes.

According to Rommel Ng, co-owner of restaurant chain Buffalo’s Wings N’ Things, these are only a few of the strategies restaurateurs are applying to make sure cash keeps flowing into their businesses. With the lockdown forcing restaurants to temporarily close all of their physical branches, Ng recommends that his fellow restaurant owners find creative ways to deal with the financial impact of the ECQ.

“As a leader, you have to think of the future,” said Ng. “You have to think of business continuity.”

He further expands on this point by sharing an insight he himself has given to his followers in The Resto Coach, an online informational platform for restaurateurs. As business owners themselves, restaurateurs need to act during the ECQ so that their businesses do not play catch-up after the crisis is over. Whether it is about finding revenue opportunities or making a pivot, restaurateurs should not wait until after the lockdown to take the next steps.

“Whatever is available at your disposal that the customers need, you have to adjust and pivot right now. Hindi ka pwedeng huminto (You cannot pause),” said Ng. “When the recovery stage comes in, you will realize [that] you have equipped yourself because hindi ka huminto nung ECQ (you did not pause during the ECQ).”

3. Build trust within your network and uphold your company’s values
It is no secret that the current lockdown has brought with it a huge amount of pressure for everyone, most especially business owners. Many of them have to face critical decisions regarding their companies that will undoubtedly affect the lives of their customers and their employees.

Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, president of social enterprise Rags2Riches, urged her fellow business owners in the webinar that one of the most important things entrepreneurs should do during these trying times is to build trust. While cash flow and reserves are very tight for most businesses, she reminded entrepreneurs that the number one priority they should have is helping other people, whether it is their own employees, their partners, or even their customers.

“When you prioritize your cash allocations, always [put] people first,” said Fernandez-Ruiz. “Our team knows na mauuna pa ‘kong mawalan ng sweldo (I will be the first to have my salary cut) than everybody else. When your people understand that, then trust is being built.”

This is part of Fernandez-Ruiz’s point of upholding your company’s values during times of crisis. With everyone feeling the brunt of the impact of the lockdown, employers should make sure to show their employees that they are here for them, and that they will do everything they can to see this through with no one being left behind.

“It’s very important to show your values right now, not just to your employees but also to your customers,” said Fernandez-Ruiz. “Madali (It’s easy) to live our values if times are easy, but living your values during the crisis is actually where values are most critical.”

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures—and extraordinary doses of creativity and inspiration. While the audience asked so many more questions that the webinar could not cover, UNAWA hopes that this is only the beginning of deeper, more honest conversations and tighter collaboration between and among sectors. To learn more about UNAWA’s weekly webinar series entitled “Navigating the New Normal”, like or follow the UNAWA Facebook page.

We hope this article was helpful. If you have any further questions, click here to chat with UNA, and check out the other articles of UNAWA Explainer for more tips on how your business can navigate the new normal.

January 31, 2022
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