Tips on effective leadership for business owners through the crisis and beyond!

 For a small business owner, leadership skills are never more important than they are during tough times. Covid-19 has created the need for agile leaders who can see the new trends and make a great effort to move their teams in the path of excellence. The pandemic has also highlighted the unprecedented reaction to a crisis, and thus transformational leadership is vital. Tony Otoa, Chief Executive of Stanbic Business Incubator, explains that transformational leadership focuses on individuals in the company to have a role in transforming the company. It requires leaders to adopt to the new normal and innovatively plan for future uncertainties. Business owners tend to get more value from their teams while practising this kind of leadership.

 

However, we know that many businesses are struggling because the people supposed to lead and support them are still trying to find their bearings. We also understand that the company’s leadership can enhance or destroy the team’s trust and morale. There are a few core ideas leaders can’t ignore. Doing so would put them at a disadvantage. With that in mind, here are five tips to help business owners lead through the current crisis and beyond.

 

Develop razor-sharp focus: Set aside projects that don’t help the business thrive in the current environment and focus on those that do. You may be working on a much smaller margin than before, so concentrating on the bottom line is more important. Make sure your team knows your new priorities and where they should be devoting their time and efforts.

 

Be as flexible as possible: It’s never easy to make changes in midstream, especially when those changes involve a team of people with different personalities, circumstances and needs. Be willing to loosen long-standing restrictions if it will help morale. Listening to requests from employees and making changes to help them adjust to the “new normal” will go a long way toward increasing productivity.  

 

Delegate, but maintain accountability: Request for regular updates or status reports, even if things may be a little chaotic. You’re still steering the ship, so always make sure that you remain on course. If things aren’t getting done, find out why, and make the necessary adjustments. Your business needs to maintain top efficiency to get back on track.

 

Concentrate on communication: Communication is an absolute must, and it starts with you. Reach out to team members regularly. Check-in individually and hold regular team meetings. Please take advantage of solutions like Slack or Microsoft Teams that let the team communicate with one another. Also, look out for feedback on improving any aspect of work-life or the business itself. 

 

Recognize good work: Take the time to recognize when team members are doing work that helps the company thrive and survive. It makes a person feel good when their work is appreciated, and it makes others want to show their value. Both of these things can lead to a happier and more motivated team.

 

We know the pandemic has spotlighted the leaders and is magnifying every decision they make. Therefore business owners are encouraged to embrace these tips as foundational principles that can work, not just during a pandemic but all the time.

 


Government launched movable asset-based lending to expand access to finance for businesses

In late 2019, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni launched the Security Interest in Movable Property Registry System (SIMPO), a registry that allows individuals and businesses to use movable assets as collateral for loans. Movable assets include crops, equipment, vehicles, intellectual property assets, and other items owned by individuals and small business owners – different from land, which most financial institutions require as collateral for loans.

What does SIMPO do?

The SIMPO registry system was developed by Uganda Registration Services Bureau and established as a fully electronic platform open to secured creditors and borrowers. The system enables secured creditors (such as financial institutions) to register their security interests in movable assets. It then notifies the public of what securities the financial institution allows for a transaction. This information is helpful for an SME to know which movable assets are allowable by financial institutions for borrowing.

Why is it important?

SIMPO facilitates access to credit for individuals and entrepreneurs who lack property such as land but have movable assets that can be pledged as collateral for loans. Currently, the system has 115 lender accounts, including 21 commercial banks, 17 microfinance institutions, and 22 moneylenders. These lenders have registered a total of 8,992 facilities extended to borrowers, including 8,455 individuals, 372 micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and 165 others.

How do I access the system?

Uganda Registration Services Bureau will provide information upon request through their website SIMPRS | Homepage (ursb.go.ug), including a user guide on how to create a client account, log in, and carry out searches. Generally, only secured creditors like commercial banks, microfinance institutions, savings and credit cooperative organizations, leasing companies, judgement lien holders and their representatives are authorized to create user accounts and effect registrations through the online portal at www.simprs.go.ug. However, anyone can conduct an electronic search on the system to determine whether a particular movable asset is registered as collateral and even request a certified search report.

Uganda Registration Services Bureau is providing weekly training to help people access and use the system. To book a spot in an upcoming session, send a request via email to  simpo@ursb.go.ug.

For more information, contact Stella Kakwezi, Head Chattels Securities Registration, Uganda Registration Services Bureau on,

Telephone: 0779031320

Email: stella.kakwezi@ursb.go.ug


Four tips to help you to manage your business with the ongoing curfew

The COVID-19 pandemic has created much uncertainty, and an ongoing challenge is the curfew implemented as a preventative measure. Currently, the curfew starts at 7 pm and ends at 5.30 am. This has dramatically changed the working hours and consumption patterns of customers. This can create challenges for you as a business owner, so here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Communicate changes in work schedules to your customers, employees and business partners like suppliers.  Consider  opening a bit earlier and closing sooner to allow both customers and employees to have more time to get home, and if you do, make sure you get that message out across various channels Call some of your main customers, or communicate through WhatsApp or social media.
  • Tap into delivery services for your products. Your customers may not get time to visit your shop since they are also busy managing work, family and household needs, and  looking our for their health. Provide an option of delivering your products to their workplaces or homes where it is safe to do so.
  • If you can, think about having employees come in to work in shifts. Have all or some of them work from home and support them to adjust to their new working environment. Consider providing them with work tools such as internet to facilitate their work and also communication.
  • Get active on social media. People are spending more time on the internet than ever, so there is a growing opportunity to reach new and existing customers through this channel. Here are a few tips to kick start your social media marketing

 

New ideas? Feedback for us? Feel free to share with us at covid19businessinfohub@gmail.com.


Tips for virtual onboarding of new remote staff

The pandemic has taught us that geography is no longer an obstacle when hiring staff. Employers are now more open than ever to virtually onboard new staff. Onboarding is the process of introducing a newly hired employee into an organization. It provides people with technical information about their roles, and also builds the connections needed to set them up for the length of their career. Whether your business has just started working remotely or has already been operating remotely, a well-planned virtual onboarding process is essential. Now, let’s look at five tips your business can implement to make the virtual onboarding process seamless and efficient for the new staff.

 

Prepare thoroughly: For successful virtual onboarding, preparation is critical. Some of the core considerations in your planning process include setting up your computers and sharing access accounts in advance. You also need to identify someone to take charge of each person’s onboarding process.

 

Make expectations clear: Taking the time to show new employees their tasks and setting expectations is important. After the initial welcome team calls, utilize video and screen shares to walk new hires through guidelines to help them do their job well. Discuss work times and availability, response time, and productivity expectations.

 

Communicate regularly: Since there is no such thing as over-communicating with remote employees, establish open communication with them. Onboarding shouldn’t end after the first week. Instead, regular and ongoing cultural touchpoints are essential to building and reinforcing the remote working culture.

 

Get ahead of any remote work hurdle: There will be challenges with virtual onboarding, such as Wi-Fi connectivity issues or dealing with noisy neighbours. Having open communication across your team, especially with a new hire, can help reduce the impact of those challenges. Ask people what their specific issues are and how they like to communicate.

 

Don’t forget team bonding: To ensure that the new staff bond with the rest of the team, informal video hangouts at the end of the week can be helpful depending on the company culture. Or, consider sending out “welcome boxes” with some physical company merch when they come onboard.

 

These virtual onboarding tips can offer a good starting point on engaging with your new remote staff. Please let us know how they work for you via this email covid19businessinfohub@gmail.com.


Learn how Toddler's Gold, a store focused on clothing and accessories, has successfully navigated pandemic disruptions

In a recent interview, Rosemary Tusabe, the owner of Toddler’s Gold, shared how she successfully navigated her children’s apparel and toy business through pandemic disruptions. Toddler’s Gold is an online store that was launched in 2018 with offices in Muyenga and employs six staff.

What was the impact of the lockdowns here in Uganda on your business?

We found it challenging to access our suppliers and customers during the first lockdown because of movement restrictions. So, we intensified our online trading and arranged delivery to our customers through boda-bodas. We found that our demand increased because children were home, and parents realized children needed more clothes now than when attending school. As a result, we ran out of stock.

After the government lifted the first lockdown, we stocked more items for clients to prepare ourselves if there was a second lockdown. So, when the second lockdown happened, we were well prepared.

 

How did you navigate these challenges?

During the first lockdown, because we could not access our suppliers, we identified similar businesses that were struggling to sell because they lacked an online presence. They agreed to supply us on a cash basis arrangement.

Having increased our marketing online, we also generated many inquiries from expectant mothers, so we introduced a new service line called personal baby shopping for expectant mothers. Through this service, we agree with our customers on their shopping needs and pricing and then buy and deliver the items. They can do all of this from the comfort of their homes.

 

What business continuity strategies were most helpful as you navigated pandemic disruptions?

Since we continued to sell our products online, we were able to keep all our staff working. We also introduced regular meetings to discuss how to hit targets and understand staff welfare during this time. As a relational capital-focused business, we realized that rewarding and motivating our staff during the crisis would keep them happy and, in turn, serve the customers with a smile. So, we continued to pay full salaries for staff and also provided them with relief items.

We also introduced a new program, the winning mom’s mastermind. The program advises mothers on financial planning, conscious parenting, and personal growth and development. Although the company had set to start this program in 2 years, the lockdown presented us an opportunity to speak to mothers who were now at home and needed advice on parenting and personal development.

 

What other business continuity strategies are you implementing to survive any further disruptions?

The pandemic has taught us to prepare for a rainy day, and here are some of the strategies we are implementing:

The business has established an emergency fund to help us with any unforeseen circumstances that may arise in the future. We consistently put aside a certain amount of money from our profits that we don’t touch for any cash obligations that occur. I recommend this practice to other business owners as part of their continuity strategy.

We regularly engage our customers to understand their needs and problems to tailor our products and services. We hope that these interactions will enable us to get new product ideas to help diversify our offering.

Finally, we have embraced technology and digital platforms to seize online customers since most people use their phones and laptops to shop. The technology helps us understand customer purchase habits, and then we offer them a convenient shopping experience.

 

Learn more about our products on:

Instagram:     @toddlersgold

Facebook:     @toddlersgold

WhatsApp:   0776511499

Call:             0709728624/ 0776511499


Learn from Lilian Katiso, Proprietor of Maua and More, on the strategies she implemented to ensure business continuity during crisis

Learn from Lilian Katiso, Proprietor of Maua and More, on the strategies she implemented to ensure business continuity during crisis

The COVID-19 Business Info Hub spoke with Lilian Katiso, Proprietor of Maua and More, to understand how she managed to facilitate growth of her business during the pandemic. Maua and More, a seven-year-old company whose name means flowers and more, is located in Kampala and offers unique potted plants and garden accessories.

When the lockdown started and the mall where her business is located closed, Lilian quickly identified risks to her business and came up with strategies that would provide the best chance at business survival. These centered around four main areas:

 

Products

Lilian’s first concern was to ensure her products were cared for to avoid potential losses. The plants must be watered every 3 days, so Lilian discussed with her staff and came up with a plan. The business obtained a bicycle for one staff member who was willing and able to ride to the outlet every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to water the plants.

 

Suppliers

Maua and More relies on both local and international suppliers, most of whom require payment within three days of delivery. Knowing that this would be challenging during the lockdown, Lilian negotiated with international suppliers for a thirty-day credit period, which provided the business with enough time to sell products and use that funding to make payments before placing another order.

 

Team communication

Realizing that lockdown would make communication among her team more difficult, Lilian set up a WhatsApp group for easy collaboration. The group allowed the team to have regular discussions about ideas and issues as they arose in real-time. This was complemented by monthly progress meetings to discuss what went well, what didn’t go so well, and how to improve.

 

Customer engagement

Before lockdown, Maua and More engaged customers by posting live photos of the products at the shop. With the lockdown, Lilian shifted focus to posting about plants and their maintenance. These posts generated inquiries, and because people were home and could tend to their gardens, it also led to further sales. After the lockdown was lifted, the business saw sales double compared to those made pre-lockdown. Customers also asked for new varieties of plants, so Lilian began further diversifying her products.

 

With these strategies firmly in place, Maua and More was able to weather the challenges brought about by the lockdown and even achieve business growth. However, an increase in demand meant the need to purchase some products in bulk from a new supplier, which posed another challenge for the business. Unable to negotiate credit due to the newness of the business relationship, Lilian needed to come up with sufficient cash to cover the deposit, insurance, import tax, and transportation costs. To avoid facing liquidity issues, she approached a bank and requested financing to support the purchase. The business qualified for an unsecured loan and was able to go ahead with the purchase.

 

In addition to thinking about how some of the above strategies could apply to your own business, Lilian wants other entrepreneurs to know that business owners should not fear spending when it comes to ensuring business continuity. During the most recent lockdown, Maua and More purchased a motorcycle and scooter to ensure staff could get to the shop. While this required laying out cash for these purchases, it also meant three staff could get to work and generate revenue. Additionally, as customers increasingly look to making purchases online, spending for digital marketing can help reach more people in a shorter time. Lilian boosts her posts on Facebook with paid advertising to promote new stock as it comes in. The strategy works, so she has created a budget for this kind of advertising.

 

For more information, contact Maua and More at: 

WhatsApp: 0777014020

Email: mauaandmore@gmail.com


Learn how SME owner Rajab Mukasa implemented business continuity strategies to remain afloat during Covid-19 lockdowns

Learn how SME owner Rajab Mukasa implemented business continuity strategies to remain afloat during Covid-19 lockdowns

Rajab Mukasa, Director of Pique Nique Links Limited, shared with the Covid-19 Business Information Hub how his company managed disruptions caused by lockdowns and plans for business recovery. Pique Nique Links Limited is located at Lakeside crescent in Luzira and currently employs five staff. The company is engaged in bid management, organizing corporate events, and supplying general merchandise to enterprises.

What happened to your business during the first lockdown?

During the first lockdown in March 2020, we were unfortunate because our business came to a standstill. We didn’t expect the lockdown, so we had spent all our money to deliver on client orders but did not have cash flow from client payments. As a result, we closed for the whole length of the lockdown, and our staff had to find their means of survival. Upon easing the lockdown, customers began paying for the supplies we had made, at which point we re-opened business.

After re-opening, the company came up with a plan to only do partial deliveries to clients and agree on a short-term credit period. It was challenging to negotiate with the big corporations on these terms, but they eventually agreed. The plan enabled the business to build a cash reserve to continue operations during critical times, which prepared us for the second lockdown.

 

How did you manage to continue operating during the second lockdown?

During the second lockdown, we were better prepared. We learned that communication needed to be a key part of our business continuity strategy, so we actively engaged our clients and suppliers. We first informed our customers that we could not supply their orders because it was nearly impossible to obtain goods since suppliers’ businesses were closed. Customers understood the situation, and we also kept communicating regularly to alert them when we received some items available for supply. Given that we traditionally pay suppliers in cash, it was also critical to discuss alternative payment options with them. We used mobile money and bank accounts through agent banking, the new methods that allowed us to order by phone and pay remotely.

Another contingency plan that we put in place was to source jobs and consultancy work for our company directors, which funded the company’s operations despite reduced cash flow. This was important to help the company’s operations to stay afloat.

 

What other business continuity strategies are you implementing to survive any further disruptions?

First, we want to ensure that we have a cash reserve in our bank account at all times to be used only to finance critical activities during tough times. We hope this can shield the company against liquidity challenges resulting from delayed customer payments.

We are also thinking about diversifying into other ventures to widen our business model and obtain alternative income. In the past, events management was our primary source of income; given the current circumstances, other sources of income such as the supply of goods will be a priority.

The pandemic disruptions have been a learning experience for the business. The critical lesson here is about building a sustainable value relationship between clients and suppliers. Relationships require transparency and two-way communication where you share openly about the challenges and develop solutions to propel the relationship ahead.


Has it been tough to separate work and home life since the start of the pandemic? Here are tips for small business owners to create healthy boundaries.

Since the pandemic started, small businesses have dealt with ongoing disruptions in business activities caused by lockdowns and other preventative measures. For many, operations have gone virtual, which can lead to being online 24/7. These changes have made it hard for many business owners to set boundaries between work and personal life, which is key to a successful business and a sense of well-being.

Here are a few tips to help you set healthy boundaries, which can help keep you energized, motivated, and productive.

 

  • If you are working from a shop or other location, take time to reflect on your way to and from your business. Many business owners have begun walking to and from home to cut transport costs and crowding. Use this time well by asking yourself what went well for the day, thinking about any challenges you faced and how you responded to them and planning something to look forward to. This quick reflection can help you stay on top of your business activities, maintain a positive mindset, and avoid worrying about work when you are home.
  • If you are working from home, set office hours—schedule breaks for meals and a quick break from your computer or phone. Stretch or take a short walk once every hour or two. These steps can make you less vulnerable to distractions, eliminating wasted time. Exercise and regular meals are also important to a productive mindset.
  • Home offices have become inevitable for many, and unfortunately, can lead to feeling like work is taking over your home. To avoid this, create a designated space in your home to work. A small table or desk in a specific spot used just for work can create this sense of physical distance, making it easier to return to your personal life when the work day is done. It will also send a signal to your family that you are working and minimize the likelihood that you are disrupted.

While none of these tips will solve the challenges of achieving a good work-life balance on their own, they are a strong place to start. Let us know how they work for you via this email covid19businessinfohub@gmail.com

 


Learn how you can prepare your business to remain stable under disruption.

As part of the Covid-19 Business Info Hub’s focus this month, we spoke with Joseph Walusimbi, a national coach and trainer with the International Trade Center (ITC), an agency of the United Nations, to understand his perspective on business continuity planning. With ITC, Joseph builds SMEs’ capacity to export their products and services and advises enterprises at different life cycle stages to grow their businesses sustainably.

Business continuity planning helps SMEs ensure that critical business aspects remain stable under disruption. 

Joseph walked us through an example of the disruption faced by local agriculture exporting companies, which were hit hard by the pandemic last year when flights were cancelled and airplanes grounded. The European market that typically consumes products shipped by these producers was primarily indoors and could not consume the products. Unfortunately, most exporters were unprepared. Companies did not know how to manage human or financial resources in the face of such unprecedented disruption or continue servicing debts without cash flow. Business continuity plans would have ensured these businesses had measures ready to address many of these challenges.

These challenges have not been unique to one sector or type of business, indicating that business continuity planning is essential whether you are a grocery store owner, an enterprise in the information technology (IT) sector, or have a 4-acre garden producing for an export company.

 

There are six areas of focus that SMEs should keep in mind when developing business continuity plans.

  1. Designate one focal person to identify disruptions and disseminate information.This person should be in touch with relevant authorities to get accurate and regular updates for sharing with the team and other stakeholders.
  2. Identify products or services that are essential for business survival.These should be products or services that generate the most revenue for the business and must be made readily available for customers when needed.
  3. Prioritize key customers and engage them regularly. Customer engagement should involve timely communication about product availability, price changes, and delivery options, for example. Engagement should not be a one-way street – ask for feedback from your customers and incorporate it into your operations.
  4. Establish policies to protect employee’s health and safety. Companies must ensure that all employees understand what preventative measures they need to follow to stay healthy, whether on-site or remotely.
  5. Analyze your supply chain and engage critical suppliers. Regularly speak with suppliers and understand what products might be challenging for them to supply in case of disruption. Understand what changes they may need to make in operations. Understand whether your suppliers can also identify an alternative supply chain in case the main chain breaks down.
  6. Modify service delivery to respond to disruptions.Enterprises should explore flexible and convenient delivery options available that can respond to movement restrictions. These may include services that allow customers to order and pay online; then, you arrange delivery.

 

Finally, businesses should exercise and review the plan. Businesses can do this by taking the time to check if the plan is helping in achieving the objectives; if it is not, you may make some adjustments.

 

SMEs should identify potential funding options for business continuity activities. 

After developing a business continuity plan, SMEs may identify a need for external financing to implement specific activities. Businesses should seek financing options focusing on recovery, innovation, adaptation and sustainability, such as the Economic Enterprise Restart Fund available at Stanbic Bank Uganda or credit guarantee schemes that shift risk from the private to the public sector.  Agriculture Business Initiative (aBi) finance offers credit guarantee products through its partner financial institutions from which SMEs can benefit during challenging times.

 

Business continuity planning is critical to prepare for uncertainty caused by disruptions and must be part and parcel of SMEs’ strategic plans. If SMEs embrace business continuity planning, we will see more transformation and business resilience in the next two or three years.

 

For business support, call 0704006900 or send an email to walusimbij@gmail.com


Developing a Business Continuity Plan for Your Enterprise

The COVID-19 Business Info Hub spoke with John Kakungulu Walugembe of the Federation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises-Uganda (FSME) to understand the importance of developing a business continuity plan for enterprises and how this helps to build resilience during challenging times.

A business continuity plan can be defined as a document that outlines how a business will continue operating during an unplanned disruption in service. It contains contingencies for business processes, assets, human resources, and business partners – every aspect of the business that might be affected.

John K. Walugembe is the Executive Director of FSME, the umbrella/business association that brings together over 112,000 micro, small and medium-sized enterprises across 20 sectors in the country. Here’s what John had to say about the importance of business continuity plans in light of circumstances brought about by disruptions like the pandemic:

 

“Many businesses don’t have business continuity plans and do not know why they need to develop them.”

 

The impact of the pandemic on the MSME sector is unprecedented. Many businesses are closed, others have limited demand, and many are struggling to pay their staff. Businesses face challenges they have never encountered before and disruptions at overwhelming levels. So, “when we are talking about business recovery and resilience, we are trying to ensure that businesses get back to their pre-pandemic level” of operations. Business continuity plans can help businesses in doing just that. However, many entrepreneurs do not know what they are or how to go about putting them together.

 

FSME worked with International Labor Organization (ILO) to assist 200 MSMEs to come up with a business continuity plan according to a six-step process developed by the ILO.

 

FSME used the ILO’s six-step process for putting together a business continuity plan, which starts with an assessment of risk.

To assess the level of risk and vulnerability faced by a company, business owners need to focus on the 4Ps below and can assess their level of risk using the link included above.

People

How are your workers and their families affected by COVID-19?

Processes

How are the everyday operations of your business affected?

Profits

To what extent is your income and revenue affected?

Partnerships

How is the environment around your business affected by COVID?

Next, businesses must follow six steps as outlined below.

Step 1: Identify your key products or services.

Step 2: Establish the objective of your plan.

Step 3: Evaluate the potential impact of disruptions on your enterprise and workers.

Step 4: List actions to protect/minimize risks to your business

Step 5: Establish contact lists for non-physical activities (WhatsApp calls, Zoom meetings etc.).

Step 6: Maintain, review, and continuously update your plan.

 

“SMEs should also network and reach out for help.”

 

Although business continuity plans help answer questions about how your business can continue operations in moments of crisis, companies need to be agile and adapt plans to changing circumstances. One way to do this is by reaching out for support from organizations like FSME and to other business development service providers. Businesses can also reach out to their networks for ideas and support.

FSME is keen to support SMEs when and where possible, so please reach out to the organization via Tel at 0774147864 or via email at info@fsmeuganda.org or at john.walugembe@fsmeuganda.org