How to keep your business afloat in uncertain times

by | Apr 2, 2020

No doubt, the world is at the point of entering an uncharted timeline. This new reality has since impacted companies, especially employees. At separate ends of the spectrum are businesses discovering ways to adapt and those that will not make it.

Nevertheless, ending a business is not really a tragedy. Vivian Nwakah, CEO, Medsaf, posits that “if some businesses have to shut down now and start again later, it is not a sign of weakness.”


Suggested read: Is your startup failing? Tell your employees


Scaling is every business’ dream. And as a startup, the first five years are said to be the most terrifying period. But again, there is probably one that beats that – a global pandemic. It is undebatable at this point that survival is crucial.

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Foresight versus hindsight

It is not enough that some companies could seamlessly transition to remote work ahead of a lockdown while others were forced to adapt. The question to ask is how prepared these companies’ employees are for such a change.

Despite the popularity of the idea of working from home, the downsides have not gone without notice. A Forbes analysis of this concept highlights some of its drawbacks, one of which is a possible decline in productivity resulting from employees’ delayed response in times of immediate collaboration.

However, some founders may have devised means to keep their employees online, especially during work hours.

Akin Jones, CEO, Aella Credit, disclosed, during a free webinar organised by Techpoint where founders shared their experiences while working remotely, that his startup ensures workers are adequately equipped with resources –  Internet vouchers and subsidised costs incurred on fuel to run generators – to encourage effective task execution.


Suggested read: Social distancing and the coronavirus outbreak in Nigeria; what’s the bigger picture?


Away from how companies are coping with telecommuting, something else instrumental to survival is foresight.

Nwakah, while describing how Medsaf has been able to stay afloat this period asides the fact that it provides an essential service, says it was a vision she had years ago. This did not only inform the startup name — Medsaf Disrupt Pharma Tech — but formed a basis for an effective business model.

“I had a vision that the pharmaceutical supply chain in Nigeria could be managed completely using data and technology. This would increase availability, access and quality of medications.”

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This brings to mind how a company’s business model can influence its survival during an unpredictable season.

Opeyemi Fademi, an experienced business analyst and corporate consultant suggests a way to successfully sail through.

“A business is a going concern. At such times, it is important to revisit the Business Model Canvas (BMC) whenever it appears to no longer propose value. This is necessary for survival post-COVID-19.”

Asides that, companies that are quite relevant – health, FMCGs, ICT, eCommerce, and logistics – should revisit their strategies to make the best of the situation.

Laying emphasis on cutting costs, especially while the business is no longer assured of profit, downsizing, salary slash, and unpaid leave may become inevitable.

For Kola Aina, Ventures Platform founder, it is a similar proposition.

“When at a disadvantage, do an analysis of the situation, and develop a business continuity and disaster recovery plan.”

Since all that matters is business survival, the founder may have to put some projects on hold.

Gladly, it is not all woes

Irrespective of which end of the spectrum a business finds itself, uncertainty has a way of either causing excitement or hysteria, and at other times stalling decision making.

Considering these responses, entrepreneurs or startup founders having revisited their models have the task of deciding what method to employ in order to stay afloat. However, not all businesses can be assured of survival or recovery after this.

From an investor’s perspective, Aina established the fact that businesses are born during certain downtimes, probably during a pandemic or an economic crisis.

For new ideas looking to emerge, there may be the apprehension that the potential market is not ready or equipped enough for it; Nwakah advises that it is important to understand people’s needs and empathise with them. Then build the solution and put education out for people that need it – it may as well help them adapt to technology.

Not ruling out the possibility of pivoting, panic may lead a founder to blindly make such a decision without proper evaluation. Nwakah adds that if history is examined, it is possible to also import business models as long as they fit the market.

Aina concludes that the current situation doesn’t exactly put a cork on investment activities. He projects that during this timeline, investors will still find ways to fund companies.

“It is going to be a new reality after this (pandemic), and investors will have to look out for businesses that can fit well into this reality.”


Suggested read: Ventures Platform announces seven startups to help fight coronavirus in Nigeria


In the meantime, this period will test each business’ viability. Ultimately, knowing what best practices to adopt hereafter is key to handling the post-COVID-19 impact.


I am Oluwanifemi Kolawole, and I’m interested in your well-being. I believe the coronavirus (or COVID-19) will not remain an enigma for too long. But while we await a cure, discard the myths and maintain good personal hygiene. Also, stay away from crowds as much as you can, and arm yourself with the right information.

Stay safe 😇

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