Proven strategies for sustainability


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THE key to ensuring business survival and sustainability in the face of new obstacles is the ability to quickly adapt and implement different strategies depending on the situation, say seasoned entrepreneurs.

With the Covid-19 pandemic and the movement control order (MCO) bringing forth unprecedented challenges for businesses, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) must employ innovative strategies and techniques to embrace the new normal.Insights into tried-and-tested solutions were given by MyNews Holdings Bhd founder and group chief executive officer (CEO) Dang Tai Luk, Plus Solar Systems Sdn Bhd co-founder and CEO Ko Chuan Zhen, PKT Logistics Group Sdn Bhd group CE and managing director Datuk Michael Tio, during an April 23 Facebook Live and Zoom video conference titled Resilient Leadership During Covid-19.

Moderated by Thriving Talents Sdn Bhd founding CEO Michael Teoh, the knowledge-sharing session was the third installment of the SOBA SMEBiz Webinar series, which is aimed at addressing pertinent issues among SMEs in sustaining their businesses beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.

SOBA 2020 is organised by Star Media Group with Digi, PKT Logistics Group Sdn Bhd and RHB Bank Bhd as main sponsors, Credit Guarantee Corp Malaysia Bhd as co-sponsor and the Malaysia External Trade Development Corp as official trade promotion partner. It is supported by Bursa Malaysia and audited by BDO. For more information on SOBA, email soba@thestar.com.my.

MyNews Holdings Bhd founder and group CEO Dang Tai Luk

AIM for business sustainability with employees in mind. We’re all in it together. Saving the employees is saving the company and vice versa, so it becomes a non-zero sum game where no one profits from others’ loss and measures are taken for survival and sustainability.

Introduce new measures as the situation unfolds, because there’s no one-time strategy that is applicable throughout the crisis.

Also remobilise as many staff as possible to clear any backlogs, improve store conditions and clear all the work that we normally find no time to do. This allows quick realignment to the new norm, boosts efficiency and productivity, as well as drives new strategies to bring in new channels of revenue, such as e-commerce.

A hidden opportunity that we should work on aggressively is setting the foundation for long-term resilience and competitiveness, as we have to cut away all the fat to make big choices to focus on what is truly important.

Go all the way out to correct mistakes and weaknesses that have become more visible in this time of crisis, and enhance the strengths that are also becoming more visible now.

Be hungry for new ideas, keep looking out for what consumers want and introduce it to bring them to your business.

Engagement and daily catch-up with heads of departments and key personnel is very important to bring new situations and developments to the table, so the team is able to brainstorm new ideas and plan and execute strategies.

Plus Solar Systems Sdn Bhd co-founder and CEO Ko Chuan Zhen

WORKING culture and methods will be very different, with working from home becoming a norm. Companies previously seeking to expand their business by opening up new offices will reconsider as working remotely has been proven possible and is more efficient and cost effective.

It goes back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Ensure employment security and enable employees to work from home (such as through a broadband allowance). Once they have peace of mind, we can then align everyone on the same page.

Be result-oriented, but also remember that there needs to be more empathy and understanding for improved communication, which will facilitate easier and faster implementation of innovative ideas.

Train and change employee mindsets to embrace new developments.. To move forward into the future, it’s important to change your people’s mindsets to be really agile and adaptable to any situation.

Engage customers through social media or emails. Actively reach out to talk to them to understand their problems and needs, to find out how you can help them.

Keep your customers’ three biggest areas of operational costs – raw material, payroll and electricity – in mind and see how you can address it. Adjust your products or services accordingly, or if the solution is unable to serve those areas of concern, look into serving a different market.

You can also pivot to find a new solution that can solve customer problems in the existing market. If you have time, this can be done through research and development. If not, a critical way to consider is to collaborate with others or do partnerships, because it’s difficult to jump from an existing market and solution to new ones overnight.

PKT Logistics Group Sdn Bhd group CE and managing directorDatuk Michael Tio

WITH the current challenging market, speed of communication – and a flat communication channel – is what enables quick changes when implementing new ideas, so it’s essential for the success of a company.

Keep communicating with the staff and preempt them to make sure they know what you’re doing. This is the best way to steal the hearts of your employees, so that you can get their buy-in and also get valuable feedback that can enable you to innovate new ways of working.

Keep employees top of mind and execute employee benefits immediately. For instance, introduce hardship allowances to motivate employees who are required to go back to work in essential industries. Give and take when it comes to managing employees working from home. You have to be understanding, as they might be facing new challenges.Support stakeholders during tough times, be it extending credit terms by a month, giving them advice on areas of concern or introducing new products and services to address current pain points and needs.

As entrepreneurs, our job is to position in the right segment of business, so you should be looking into joint ventures with other companies in different countries to ensure you have a variety of business.

It’s important to find ways to transform your company, especially if you find that Covid-19 has stunted your growth and you can’t grow. Come up with a new direction and vision for the company, because it’s what you need to drive the company forward.

Move up the value chain to create high value products and services both for your company and your clients, but find a niche market. Products or services introduced don’t have to be strictly limited to your current business; instead, find complementary verticals.

Diversify away from recession-prone industries to recession-proof ones, such as fast moving consumer goods, food and beverage, e-commerce and education.

Thriving Talents Sdn Bhd founding CEO Michael Teoh

RESILIENT leadership means being able to stand firm despite uncertainty to balance the productivity and wellbeing of your employees, especially during the MCO.

We need to have the guts to reposition our business, innovate, pivot, try new things and most importantly, put our employees as priority No. 1. We take care of them as much as we can.

Have an open mind and admit the fact that what has worked in the past may not work in the post-Covid-19 world. It’s about how leaders rally their teams, as well as reposition and reallocate their resources to remain resilient.

An advice to entrepreneurs is to not see Covid-19 as a stop to your biz; rather, use it to reimagine and rethink how we can lead business more efficiently and in a leaner way, so we can reallocate our resources better.

Practise the abundance mindset. If you don’t take care of your ecosystem (be it your suppliers, your vendors or your customers) and they don’t survive, your business will be affected as well.

Customers are more loyal now to purpose-driven brands, especially brands that help them during this time of crisis.

Whether you’re in the business-to-business or business-to-consumer segment, a powerful point is to continue to engage your customers through calls or messages. Or organise webinars and make customers more informed. Engage to let them know that No. 1, you’re still around and No. 2, to give reassurance that you’re there with them.

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