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


Register for the Abantu webinar on running African businesses in the second year of COVID-19.

Register for the Abantu webinar on running African businesses in the second year of COVID-19.

 

Abantu Impact Foundation invites you to register and participate in the upcoming webinar on running African businesses in the second year of COVID-19. The webinar will respond to African entrepreneurs, requesting information on tackling the growing challenges they face as the world navigates the second year of the pandemic. The successive waves of the pandemic across Africa have led to instituting lockdowns that directly affected businesses.

Today businesses are seeking insights to help them navigate challenges that range from staffing, reduced markets and broken supply chains. At the same time, ways how to generate revenue to continue paying taxes, rent and salaries. Entrepreneurs will share experiences and challenges and learn about solutions accessible for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to survive the region’s current economic downturn. 

 

Date: 31 August 2021

Time:  07:00 pm – EAT

 

Keynote speakers

1. Abidemi Sonoiki, CEO, Noik Energy Limited, Nigeria

2. Manuela P Mulondo, CEO and Founder, The Cradle, Uganda 

 

How to register

To attend the webinar, register here before 23 August 2021.

Reserving a place at the webinar gives you free membership of Abantu Connect, a growing international, borderless community committed to supporting African businesses. 

 

For more information,

 

About Abantu Impact Foundation

Abantu Impact Foundation is an African-led and social impact organization. It exists to reduce poverty in sub-Saharan Africa by investing in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to help them become engines of economic development. 

 


Guidelines for the opening of business centers post lockdown

On Friday, July 30,2021, the government reviewed lockdown restrictions instituted on June 18th following a drop in COVID-19 infections, the continued adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs) by the population, and considerations for the country’s economic challenges.

Many businesses in Uganda operate in shopping malls and business arcades centers, both of which were closed during the lockdown. These centers can now reopen within specific guidelines, listed below.

 

Guidelines for re-opening business centers

  • The presence of compliance officers is a must.
  • Ensure adequate lighting and ventilation.
  • Provide dedicated entry and exit points.
  • Install CCTV cameras where they are absent.
  • Maintain proper hygiene and sanitation facilities.
  • Registration of all shop owners and attendants.
  • Adherence to the below SOPs.

Summary of the SOPs for business owners

 

   SOP Detail
Cleanliness of premises ·       Carry out disinfection and sanitization process regularly during and after operations
Customer management ·       Limit entry and exit routes of the premises

·       Restrict the entry of customers to the premises subject to the size of the premises

Health screenings ·       Ensure that all staff, suppliers and customers undergo a body temperature screening process
Hand washing /use of hand sanitizers ·       Provide hand washing points or hand sanitizers at the entrance to the premises and ensure that hands are washed before entering the premises
Use of face masks ·       Ensure that workers and customers use a face mask at all time when on the premises
Social distancing ·       Ensure social distancing of one meter at all times

Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and Ministry of Health will conduct regular inspections to establish whether the businesses centers comply with the set guidelines and SOPs.

Be safe and make sure you continue to follow standard operating procedures.

 Reference

Speech on the COVID-19 response measures issued on 30.07.2021


How might the recent increase in fuel prices affect your business?

The government announced new tax amendments for the financial year 2021/2022, including an increase in the tax per litre of fuel by UGX 100. The new tax consequently led to a rise in pump prices with a litre of petrol and diesel now, trading at an average of UGX 4,150, and UGX 3,710 respectively. The increased fuel prices will translate to a higher cost of business operations, especially in transporting raw materials and delivering finished goods to the market.

With movement restrictions lifted and the lockdown eased, businesses must make decisions to help manage fuel costs to sustain their business models. Here are some countermeasures that companies can use to minimize costs associated with the rise in fuel prices.

Examine fuel efficiency

If your business involves transportation, review the various elements that affect fuel efficiency. For instance, consider streamlining routing and dispatching. Shorter routes and better-informed drivers ensure less fuel consumption. Make deliveries when traffic is minimal, using the most direct routes, to avoid wastage of driver time or fuel.

Stay on top of maintenance

Vehicle maintenance can have an enormous impact on fuel efficiency. For instance, dirty engines use more fuel. At the same time, tyres that are worn or are at an incorrect pressure can negatively affect how quickly a vehicle accelerates, resulting in greater expenditure of fuel. Ensure regular car maintenance to improve fuel efficiency.

Plan ahead 

Consider the effect of price changes during the budgeting process. Consider offsetting rising prices by increasing the number of products or raw materials purchased at one time. For example, the company can reduce the frequency of purchases from thrice a week to once a week, thus reducing transportation costs.

 

These strategies can be used to help your bottom line and to avoid passing costs on to customers.


Are you struggling to manage your business due to pandemic disruptions? Business continuity and recovery planning can help you stay afloat.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruptions for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Uganda and the rest of the world. As Uganda comes out of a second lockdown, many small businesses are wondering how to re-launch operations and what they will do to stay afloat should further preventative measures cause additional disruptions. We’re here to help.

This month, the COVID-19 Business Info Hub will focus on a key strategy business owners can implement to plan for future disruptions – business continuity and recovery planning. Recent discussions with entrepreneurs and others in the SME ecosystem in Uganda have highlighted the importance of this strategy in the current environment. It was a key topic in a recent interview we conducted with Edward Katende, Chief Executive Officer of Uganda Agribusiness Alliance(UAA), and it came up during a discussion we had with Basil Mwotta, Chief Executive Officer of AgroDuuka Uganda Limited who shared the strategies he used that kept his business running despite challenges brought on by the lockdown.

Through discussions with experts and entrepreneurs with deep experience in this space, the COVID-19 Business Info Hub will focus on helping SMEs understand how to go about business continuity and recovery planning, including how to develop a plan, when and how to implement it, and where to access financing to cover key related expenses.

If you are interested in delving deeper into business continuity and recovery planning as a strategy to respond to the pandemic and better prepare for the next crisis, keep following the COVID-19 Business Information Hub this month!


What we learned this month about how to promote recovery in Uganda’s agribusiness sector

In July, the COVID-19 Business Info Hub focused its efforts on understanding recovery mechanisms and opportunities for the agribusiness sector. We engaged with many stakeholders, including SMEs, financing institutions, and organizations offering support to the industry. Here is what we learnt!

 

The agribusiness sector has faced a number of challenges. 

Just as SMEs were recovering from the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the second wave hit the country in May 2021. This led to another lockdown during June and July, which has brought more difficulties for SMEs operating in this environment. Some of the challenges faced by the businesses include:

  • Supply chain disruptions especially delayed transportation both by road and air cargo for agricultural inputs and products because of movement restrictions.
  • Working capital constraints because of reduced sales and delayed payments, which affect operational efficiency.
  • Reduced demand and price for agricultural products because buyers cannot easily access markets due to the lockdown.
  • Increased cost in retaining essential human resources as businesses work to keep staff on the payroll despite reduced operations to avoid losing critical talent to competition.

As a result of these challenges, SMEs have used up their cash reserves and thus need financial and non-financial support to recover.

 

Several organizations are providing support to help agribusinesses recover. 

Different sector players that we spoke to shared interventions they have in place to support businesses to stay afloat during the pandemic. Some are included here below:

aXiom Zorn creates digital profiles for farmers and agribusinesses to enable them to access financial services. The digital profiles capture data that builds a credit score for the farmer or the business. A credit score of 60% allows the farmer or agribusiness to access financing from a bank.

Stanbic Bank Uganda provides affordable loans to Savings Credit and Cooperative Societies (SACCOs) and farmer groups. SACCOs and farmer groups receiving these funds can then offer affordable loans to their members. Learn more about other interventions of the bank to reduce the financing gap in the financial sector.

Agricultural Business Initiative (aBi) promotes access to agricultural inputs by availing subsidized inputs to farmers to plant within the season. aBi Finance has also tweaked its credit guarantee product for partner financial institutions to help them to lend to customers with better terms.

Palladium is implementing a program to link farmers to service providers and markets via commercial agents. Through the model, over 80 businesses have benefitted to date with increased income.

 

Agribusinesses can implement a three-step plan to speed up the road to recovery. 

SMEs need to seek information to understand the shifts in the consumption, production and trade within the sector to plan for recovery and build resilience. Here is a three-step recovery pathway that SMEs can adopt;

  • Reflect: Pause and think about the impact COVID-19 has had on the business. Analyze what has worked during the period, lessons learnt and what needs to change. Then, adopt a holistic work approach to consolidate the best practices and manage change while maintaining a safe work environment.
  • Restart: Identify steps required to “restart” – maybe a new business process, a new product, or service line to fit in the new normal. Mobilize the necessary resources and take action.
  • Revitalize: Revisit the business environment to seize available opportunities along the value chain. SMEs need to optimize opportunities within the supply chain. They can improve volume flexibility, enhance delivery performance and identify areas where technology can help streamline processes to minimize costs.

 

For faster sector recovery, stakeholders also need to actively engage with the businesses to help them innovate and expand into new markets more than ever before.

 

SMEs can access information on:

Agribusiness financing from Stanbic Bank Uganda  

Call: 0800250250

WhatsApp: 0770588623

Visit:  www.stanbic.co.ug

 

Innovative digital solutions from aXiom Zorn 

Tel: +256 200 951 713/+256 200 903 099

Email: info@axiomzorn.com

Visit:  https://axiomzorn.com/

 

Commercial Agent Model from Palladium

Tel:   +256 774 040751

Email: jackline.kitongo@thepalladiumgroup.com

Visit: https://thepalladiumgroup.com/


Learn how Commercial Agents in Uganda link agro-input SMEs to smallholder farmers and help both increase their incomes.

Northern Uganda – Transforming the Economy through Climate Smart Agriculture Market Development (NU-TEC MD) is a seven-year Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) funded program to increase the incomes and climate resilience of poor men and women in northern Uganda. The program stimulates sustainable, pro-poor growth selected agricultural markets to improve the position of poor men and women within these market systems and make them inclusive for poor people.

Palladium, a global provider of positive impact solutions to the private sector, governments, and donors, implements the program on behalf of FCDO. The Commercial Agent Model (CAM) is one of the approaches that the NU-TEC MD program promotes as a win-win platform for the agriculture market actors.  The COVID-19 Information Hub details how the implementation of CAM has allowed small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to grow their businesses and increase farmers’ household incomes amidst disruptions of the pandemic.

The Commercial Agent Model (CAM) is an adjusted trader style designed to benefit farmers and off-takers. The model uses commercial agents to provide embedded services to farmers and aggregate produce for agri-businesses. The cost-effective model helps reach many smallholder farmers, including women and persons with disabilities. SMEs using the model incur less costs to source raw materials/produce. They have also registered a 75 per cent increase in sales due to the rise in volumes traded and higher quality raw materials sourced through agents.

Despite the benefits of the model, the pandemic has brought a lot of disruptions for businesses, and here is what SMEs are doing to stay afloat;

  • Process optimization is very critical at this time. Businesses should have an in-depth look into their operations, identify waste, eliminate them, and maximize resources like raw materials and staff time.
  • Seek information on how to adjust pricing because demand has gone down. It is now a very risky point because most companies react to reduce prices without considering the costs and margins.
  • Embrace opportunities for diversification in their business models. For example, if sourcing grain for the export market is a challenge, a business can add local food distribution.
  • Look out for new products or services lines. It means that if one business line is affected at least, the other keeps a business operating.
  • Mindset change on approaches such as mergers, partnerships and joint ventures. It is tough to remain afloat unless you’re able to network and collaborate with other businesses.

The program is discussing with; The Grain Council of Uganda (TGCU), Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA) and Uganda Small Scale Industries Association (USSIA) to encourage their members to adopt the CAM model and pivot their businesses and remain in operation.

If you need guidance on adopting the model, contact us on Tel:  +256774040751 or jackline.kitongo@thepalladiumgroup.com.

What is the Commercial Agent Model (CAM)?

The Commercial Agent Model (CAM) is an adjusted trader style designed to benefit farmers and off-takers. The model uses commercial agents as points of sale for farmers. These agents link farmers to service providers for (inputs, mechanization, spraying, training, extension, offtake) and aggregate farmers’ produce. Agents ensure that the broader portfolio of embedded services to farmers is premised on a commercial approach and builds trusted relationships among the different actors. Most large and medium agribusinesses use the model to channel their products and services to smallholder farmers and distribute their finished products in the market. Over 80 businesses have benefited from this cost-effective model to deliver affordable and quality products and services to the most remote farmer.

 

How is the model facilitating growth among agribusinesses?

The CAM is the last mile model reaching many smallholder farmers, including women and persons with disabilities. Initially, the cost for outreach, especially to women and persons with disabilities, was high. By designing innovative mechanisms, we have enabled businesses to invest and easily reach out and recruit female agents. Below are the ways that SMEs realize business growth by using the model;

  • Using female agents has enabled SMEs to reduce losses because female agents source better quality grain and provide the required volumes as per the advanced funds.
  • Companies have also noted reduced sourcing costs as commercial agents do the grain traceability, storage, and transportation.
  • Businesses see cost-effectiveness because agents earn no additional income from the company other than commission and profit margin on their services.
  • Companies see an increase in sales of over 75% due to the rise in volumes traded and higher quality raw materials sourced.

The model encourages partnerships along the value chain; thus, actors can leverage each other’s advantage. Businesses need clear growth ambitions and expected benefits, analyze possible risks and find ways to mitigate them to build successful partnerships. Companies can access information on partnerships through training, mentorship and coaching. It will enable them to understand how to collaborate, create value and propel businesses.

 

What should SMEs do to stay afloat during this challenging business environment? 

Since 2020, we have been encouraging businesses to develop business continuity plans. We help them assess if they achieve the planned objectives and guide them on attracting external funding to implement the strategies. To stay afloat, here is what businesses need to do:

  • Process optimization is very critical at this time. Businesses should have an in-depth look into their operations, identify waste, eliminate them, and maximize resources like raw materials and staff time.
  • Seek information on how to adjust pricing because demand has gone down. It is a very risky point because most companies react to reduce prices without considering the costs and margins.
  • Embrace opportunities for diversification in their business models. For example, if sourcing grain for the export market is a challenge, a business can add local food distribution.
  • Look out for new products or services lines. It means that if one business line is affected at least, the other keeps a business operating.
  • Mindset change on approaches such as mergers, partnerships and joint ventures. It is tough to remain afloat unless you’re able to network and collaborate with other businesses.

 

How can SMEs integrate the model the business operations?

Agribusinesses working with smallholder farmers and would like to integrate the model in their operations can contact us for assistance on;

Tel:   +256 774 040751

Email: jackline.kitongo@thepalladiumgroup.com

Visit: https://thepalladiumgroup.com/