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‘Our survival strategy during this lockdown’

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Elizabeth Ajetunmobi

Elizabeth Ajetunmobi, Life Coach, Author And CEO Of Aymie Staffing Solutions
How has this pandemic affected your business/operations?

Generally, the pandemic has actually affected businesses worldwide but we have been able to identify a lot of opportunities around us. We are leveraging on technology and our online training are in full effect. This has also given us more time to reflect as an organization and it feels like we are getting several light bulb moments, which is helping us innovate. We are carrying out research in different aspects of the business and this is positively impacting on our practices. I am very certain better days are ahead as the pandemic is helping us take a position for the future. 

What challenges have remote working presented to you and your staff?
My team members and I have been working from home this period via online interaction platforms. It is amazing to still hold meetings and training sessions online. Also, this helps save time and energy to get more done in less time as travelling time has been eliminated, improving efficiency. However, almost zero power supply, as well as poor and expensive Internet services, are a constant headache. If we would need to focus on remote working in Nigeria, we need to resolve these two challenges listed.  

How are you still managing to reach customers in this period?
We have a customer relationship management tool that helps us keep a strong database and this helps us reach out to our clients despite the lockdown to find out how they are doing. Our official lines are still open to receive messages from clients as well.

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What kinds of losses have you suffered?
We’ve experienced a slight reduction in revenue, which is caused by the worldwide pandemic, however, we have been able to cushion that through various innovative products we have developed this period. Despite the lock down, official duties are ongoing, majorly online and remotely. This has given us opportunities to develop new products and services which clients are excited about. One of the products is our online training for domestic staff.

What are other less traditional options/channels are you exploring to navigate this challenging period?
I would say technology and the use of digital media this period.

What critical lessons have you learnt during this period?
Lessons I have learnt include planning ahead for the future, leveraging on technology as it is here and here for good, whatever business we are involved in has to be built around technology, remote working can indeed reduce costs and improve efficiency; human interconnectedness: the term global village has always been used. However, when the corona virus broke out in Wuhan, China, it was as if China was so far from every other country and people thought it was China’s problem, little did we know it would spread like a virus that it was. Would the situation in the world be better right now, if the world had rallied around China to help them solve the problem at that time? This tells me that we are more connected than we realise, and we need to think in terms of better partnerships, collaborations and stop discrimination and racism among nations and organizations. Finally, proper cash flow management- nations and companies will need to have detailed plans to manage their cash flow in order to be able to pay vendors, creditors and employees.

Shileola


Ibironke Shileola, Managing Director/CEO, Micromedia Marketing Limited
How has this pandemic affected your operations?

Our cinemas and content management offices were shut down following directives from the government. The most affected are the cinemas and superstores. It’s a newly budding business but the safety and health of our staff and customers override the impact of the shutdown.

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What challenges have worked from home presented to you and your staff?
Our business units have always functioned using skunks patterning under project management procedure. 60 per cent of our reporting and strategy had previously been through technology: mails, SMS and WhatsApp, therefore all key staff members have continued to function in their daily roles. We have also brought forward some of the planned strategic meetings which were scheduled for Q3/Q4 2020. We are currently having those meetings via Zoom.

How are you still managing to reach customers in this period?
To be honest, there’s been a lull in business. Hopefully, as we progress into the next few weeks and the mortal effect of pandemic wanes, customers will be more open to business discussions.

What kinds of losses have you suffered/suffering?
The Q2 business report will certainly reflect the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown on our businesses but health is wealth.

How are you keeping above water during this period?
I’m daily logged on to webinars across various business schools to gain more insight in the economic recovery and opportunities posed by Covid-19.

What critical lessons have you learnt during this period?
I have recently learnt about the birth of habit, it’s gestation period and its life span. It’s a critical element in creating strategic goals for the sustainability of our business. Secondly, I have learnt to pray more and be more patient with achieving goals and set objectives.

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Dr. Jessica Okanlawon, Founder & Psychologist, Xela Care
How has this pandemic affected your business/operations? 

COVID-19 has brought a new reality to our operations, but a change we welcome. Xela Care is a safe and supportive environment that provides services to individuals with special needs, autism and mental health issues. My counseling sessions are virtual during this time and, truthfully, demand for the service I provide has increased. For my special needs clients, we have faced major challenges on how to continue to meet goals and educate them while at home. For example, without the possibility of social interaction with peers needed for social development, we’ve decided to ask parents to identify specific goals to work on and provide help for them in those areas. We assigned counselors to provide permanent in-home therapy to those with autism spectrum disorders. These are just some of the ways we’ve made adjustments to cope.

What challenges have working from home presented to you and your staff? 
Very poor power supply, expensive data, network issues and being unable to do face-to-face sessions. The major difficulty has been explaining to children with special needs about COVID-19, restrictions and why there is a major change in their schedules, in terms they can understand and can cope with. In counselling, body language speaks volumes but receiving that on virtual platforms has been difficult to see and gauge with the spoken word. 

How are you still managing to reach clients this period? 
Before the lockdown was announced, I knew that the population (special needs and mental illness) we serve could face possible challenges because our service is mostly face-to-face and their needs for help would remain irrespective of the lockdown. We began to prepare a week before to assign therapists to homes for those with autism and practice online counselling sessions. I am using social media platforms, emails, phone and video calls to speak to clients every other day. The only issue is that I have gotten new calls for families affected that are unsure what to do with their special needs children and have no home support. Sourcing out staff to work permanently in client’s homes and not seeing their families has been challenging. 

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What kinds of losses have you suffered/suffering so far?
The losses I am experiencing now is related to logistics where my therapists are unable to physically get to locations to serve all our clients on the autism spectrum. Also because most businesses are closed, a lot of people are not earning income and are unable to afford the services we provide. So we are giving out discounts, providing pro bono work and using online platforms to provide tips on how to work through one’s well being during this time.

How are you keeping above water during this period? 
Honestly, I am shifting my mindset on a daily basis. I am filtering what I listen to and take in during this time. Choosing to be optimistic, hopeful and know that things may be different, but it will still be okay. I am using this time to build skills and also spend time with my family and friends as much as possible. Lastly being grateful for health and family because those factors are most important now.

What other less traditional options/channels are you exploring to navigate this challenging period? 
It would definitely be telepsychology and providing counselling services with online tools. Most clients want that face to face time and connection that comes with physical sessions, but we have all had to embrace this new norm as we continue to work through objectives.

What critical lessons have you learnt during this period?
I have learned the importance of partnerships. There is a massive need for counseling services to address issues during this time and all hands must be on deck.  Also, it is important for business owners to at least have a six-month cash flow at all times. Finally, the importance of technology and communication platforms like Zoom instead of in-person meetings to increase productivity and save time, especially due to Lagos traffic. 

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Flora Takim-Ndifon, CEO, Flan Bedding Limited
How has this pandemic affected your business and operations? 

It has grounded my business and dampened all the excitement I had at the start of the year. I am a beneficiary of the AGEISM loan from NIRSAL bank. For the first time, I’m not contending with fabric but expanding client base. Our main profit centre is producing for schools but sadly, only two schools had ordered before the lockdown. With the lockdown, no orders are coming in and this is troubling. We have stock but no orders.

What challenges have working from home presented to you and your staff? 
Working from home is almost impossible for production businesses like ours. The tailors can’t work from home because of the quantum of fabric. We closed down since the 25th of March as I didn’t want to expose my staff and didn’t anticipate a prolonged lockdown. My admin officer and I had been doing skeletal work from home, trying to reach out to clients but the lockdown has made it impossible to reach new clients. We don’t get a reply to mails, SMS and Whatsapp messages; this is really hard for us.

How are you still managing to reach clients this period? 
E-marketing is only effective when there’s follow up, so for us, it’s a big challenge. I made frantic efforts to send a proposal to the COVID19 committee because I know beddings will be needed for the centres being set up, but we’ve not had any luck. We even did facemasks and scarves to give them but we never heard back.

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What kinds of losses have you suffered/suffering so far?
We haven’t earned a kobo since March and there are salary and rent to pay. We pray orders to come even though it will be challenging meeting deadlines. We would incur extra costs to meet the deadline, which will increase production costs.

How are you keeping above water during this period? 
It’s difficult to answer this, as the struggle is still very much on. I am still working on the window of opportunity to supply beddings or other protective gears to cushion the effects of the lockdown because salaries have to be paid. The Central Bank of Nigeria has extended moratorium and reduced interest rates so let’s see what happens.

What critical lessons have you learnt during this period?
Despite the numerous challenges, my focus is on staying alive and building on the experience I am learning right now.

Raufu Aishat Ayowunmi


Raufu Aishat Ayowunmi, Professional Shoemaker/Founder, Aeesha Collections
How Has The Pandemic Affected Your Business/Operations?

I have been badly affected, as orders are no longer coming in because of the pandemic. We’ve been sitting at home and not been able to do any production or make sales because who is thinking of shoes in the middle of a pandemic? Available products we have at the store for sale even before the lockdown commenced are going out of style. An exhibition that we were supposed to attend in a couple of weeks where we could have displayed our products for people to see and purchase has been cancelled. Until the outbreak is curtailed, I have no alternatives. A good number of our raw materials are imported from China, Italy and Spain and these are the worst-hit countries. According to our importers, they had stopped receiving raw materials from the afore-mentioned countries even before the lockdown started in Nigeria.

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What challenges have remote working presented to you?
There’s no way any of our staff can do anything because the movement is restricted in Lagos. They cannot work from home either so we are sitting at home with our shop under lock and key.

How are you still managing to reach customers during this period?
We try as much as possible to chat or call to check up on them and update our social media platforms to make them aware that we would start operations immediately after the lockdown is over. These are the only things we can do and have been able to do in the last couple of weeks to keep us in their minds.

What kind of losses have you suffered/suffering so far due to the pandemic?
Long before the lockdown officially started, we have been struggling with some issues including better machinery and funding to expand. If we have access to funds and those machines, we can produce over 300 shoes weekly. I don’t want to think about it, but I’m experiencing a lot of loss. Some of our raw materials will expire before we resume production because they’ve been abandoned. We just finished production and stocked up our display outlets before the lockdown commenced. A lot of money is on hold right now, pending payment from customers and resellers as well with no hope of payment. It’s really sad. I have no idea how I am going to pay staff salary either.

How are you keeping your head above water during this period?
Right now, surviving as an entrepreneur only takes the grace of God, but we give thanks to all the same and remain grateful to all the customers that believe and support us. They’re the ones keeping me alive right now.

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What critical lessons have you learnt during this period?
I’ve come to understand that we still have a long way to go in this country, a lot of things aren’t in place and government needs to support and encourage SMEs better because we are the future of the country.

Adeyemi Agbetoyinbo Ahmed- CEO, Divas Lasting Impressions 
How would you say you have been affected by the ongoing pandemic?

There is a total halt on demand for our products at this time. Since demand for products has dropped to zero, we tried to explore the training aspect of the business and we invited people for online training. We envisaged that the lockdown would hinder people from getting basic materials such as jewellery wire, pliers, beads, sinamey, weave-on caps, sewing tools and so on to facilitate the training, but we are still going on with it, hoping things would improve once the lockdown is lifted.

What challenges has remote working presented to your business?
I have staff working from home but the major challenges we have is supervision. We tried using video calls to help supervise staff but the high cost of data and bad Internet as been a major challenge and made this impossible. Now, we have exhausted our production materials and ordering for new materials is almost impossible and we also discovered that the current price of materials for production has tripled. This is because the few merchants willing to sell have inflated their prices. The question now is how many customers will be able to afford to buy after the lockdown?

How are you keeping your head above water during this period?
Our very thin lifeline is our online training. Aside the issue our students and us have with getting training materials, some of our students can’t continue the training because of financial constraints. They are saving the little money they have to eat, pay power bills and get basic essentials at this time.

What critical lessons have you learnt during this period?
I have learnt the importance of safety above all other things. We must sacrifice some things we think are important so as to stay safe and alive to look for money.

Do you have a safety net that you’re employing now to help you survive?
The major thing I am doing is creating and sketching new designs so that we can hit the ground running as soon as the lockdown is lifted.

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