Making Your Business Investment-Ready

Many small businesses go through a point of ‘reflection,’ where business owners find themselves thinking about scale and growth. With these objectives in mind, they often go through a similar process, first identifying a product or service that they can scale, exploring a new or untapped market to market to, and, in some cases, becoming more diligent about compliance and tax obligations. While these are all good initiatives, they may not be adequate to prepare these businesses for the next level of growth – attracting investment to help the business reach growth targets.

Many business owners struggle with this next step – finding an investor to provide that extra financial muscle, a capital injection that will take them to the next level. So, what does it take to be “investment ready” as a business?

To help with this unique challenge, this month’s COVID-19 Business Info Hub theme guides micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) on making their business investment-ready. Readers will learn a number of important lessons about business investment, including:

  • Understanding the different kinds of business investment ‘vehicles’
  • Identifying investment opportunities that work for your business
  • Recognizing the non-financial investments that may help businesses grow
  • What it takes for a business to become ‘investment-ready’

Through lessons from industry experts and interviews with experienced practitioners, business owners will learn what they need to do to put themselves in the right position to attract investment capital, understand the opportunities (or risks) they may face, and make their businesses as attractive to potential investors as possible. Similarly, readers will hear from MSMEs that have successfully attracted funding so they may learn from first-hand experience.

If you are looking for effective ways to attract investment funding and ultimately grow your business, keep following the COVID-19 Business Info Hub this month for more insights and relevant resources on making your business investment-ready!


Compassionate Leadership for Entrepreneurs Series: Leading with Heart

ConsumerCentriX, in partnership with Stanbic Bank Uganda Limited (Stanbic Bank), kicked off the first webinar in its Compassionate Leadership for Entrepreneurs Series on November 4th, 2021, under the theme “Leading with Heart: Adapting to a New Normal in a Tough Business Environment.” The webinar explored how the bank and other key businesses in the market adapted to the current business climate given the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of using compassionate leadership as a business strategy.

The webinar was moderated by Maurice Mugisha, a Ugandan journalist and Managing Director of Uganda Broadcasting Corporation, and the panel included Emma Mugisha, Executive Director and Head of Business Banking at Stanbic Bank, Dr. Peter Kimbowa, Chairman of the Board of Directors at the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), Thadeus Musoke Nagenda, Ag. Chairman of Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA), and Isaac Nsereko, Managing Director of RI Distributors Ltd.

Leading with compassion in a crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda has led to waves of lockdowns and business closures, making it impossible for businesses to continue day-to-day operations as usual. The disruptions have heavily affected decision-making, employee management, and the bottom line for businesses. All of the panelists agreed that leading with compassion during these extraordinary times has been essential. For them, this has meant listening to their employees and the concerns of their customer base, challenging the assumptions behind their convictions, and being ready to adapt to a constantly changing environment.

In the case of Stanbic Bank, leaders needed to adapt quickly to the crisis. When public transportation shut down, they had to find ways to transport their staff to branches. The bank had to adjust working hours to better fit customer and employee needs and implement changes so staff could work from home comfortably.  For branch staff who may have been exposed to the virus, the bank created isolation centers to help employees protect their family members from potential exposure.  As the pandemic dragged on, Emma Mugisha explained that Stanbic Bank has started to see an increase in customers defaulting on their loan payments. The bank has “put in place repayment extensions to relieve the customers who were affected by the pandemic,” said Mrs. Mugisha. Compassionate leadership teaches leaders to be empathetic and understand the challenges faced by their community. Loan repayment extensions not only benefit the bank’s customers, but also help the bank avoid mass default.

Dr. Kimbowa highlighted that at NSSF, the largest social security fund in Uganda, it was key to have a store of reserves, respond quickly to customer needs, and preserve the company’s workforce. NSSF launched a leadership ‘Think Box’ in order to tackle the biggest challenges, particularly how to avoid layoffs and keep employees fulfilled while working from home. Dr. Kimbowa is proud of the results of these efforts – NSFF largely retained its staff and reminds others that “firing people during hard times is in itself an admission of failed imagination [for leadership].”

RI Distributors, one of the largest logistics trading companies in Uganda, has had to make significant changes to its supply chains as a result of the pandemic. Mr. Nsereko explained that a key priority for the business was keeping its drivers healthy, happy, and employed. First, RI Distributors divested long-term projects and focused on ramping up COVID-19 testing stations for their drivers. The business also hired more drivers so to ensure adherence to safer social distancing policies through a more flexible driver rotation schedule. Mr. Nsereko said; “I think it’s compassionate leadership that knows the business will [have the opportunity to focus on making] money in the future and chooses to look after their people now, in a sustainable way, in order to stay in business.”

KACITA is the largest trader block in Kampala, and during the lockdowns most of the arcades, shopping malls, its businesses operate out of were closed. “When COVID hit, many of the members of the business community started selling their goods out of the back of their cars,” said Mr. Nagenda. KACITA has provided supplies, food, and funding for business owners, but more importantly, asked for a moratorium on rent for business owners. They also approached the government and advocated for reopening of arcades so that its business owners could continue doing business and making a living. KACITA focused on alleviating the monetary stresses that its small business owners faced. KACITA was successful in negotiations with some landlords, who eventually allowed traders to defer rent payments.

Lessons learned

To close out the webinar, panelists were asked to share lessons learned through their use of compassionate leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. A few key themes emerged from the discussion:

  • Work together. As business leaders, it’s important to share best practices and ask others to join in utilizing compassionate leadership. If more business leaders share their knowledge on how to listen to employees and customers, challenge assumptions, and adapt quickly in a changing environment like adjusting work hours to better fit customer needs or creating a “Think Box” for leaders to tackle the biggest challenges, then institutions will improve, and the economy will be strengthened. It’s essential to work together to solve challenges and find sustainable solutions. In the case of KACITA, Mr. Nagenda said that “most of the [arcade] landlords are also traders and part of KACITA. We realized as the business community that we can work together to find solutions.”
  • Adapting to change is imperative. Leaders should approach challenges as opportunities to shift their ways of working. The pandemic forced many sectors to embrace change through digitization, whether that included investing in ways for their staff to work from home or making loans available to more customers through mobile banking. Mrs. Mugisha mentioned that “it should be normal to have your video on and hold your baby,” stressing the importance of embracing flexible work structures for parents. Focusing on the mission of the business instead of the structure allows businesses to adapt to a new normal.
  • Trust is essential. The most valuable component of an institution is its people. A leader must build and maintain trust with employees in order to make compassionate leadership sustainable. When suppliers cut off credit lines, RI Distributors focused on preserving the business through adapting their supply chain lines and establishing trust with their truck drivers by launching a number of key safety measures – which helped retain our drivers to stay on track and mitigate business loss. Businesses that build trust with their employees, customer base, and suppliers are resilient.
  • Continue to Innovate. As institutions and leaders’ transition, adjust and recover from the shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to remain curious and willing to adapt to new business innovative solutions. Continued disruption can make it really difficult to make a concrete plan for the future, but it can lead a company to develop better practices. Continue to assess your beliefs and processes and make sure not to revert back to ineffective ways of working.

Compassionate leadership is essential in building resilient companies that survive in the face of adversity. The health and wellbeing of employees and clients should continue to be a priority for leaders in order to build a stronger and brighter future. Join Stanbic Bank for the next installment of the series that is expected to return in the first quarter of 2021.

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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.