SMEs turn to business advisors in the pandemic

role of a business advisor in this current time is very important given the many challenges that SMEs face and the continuous trends they have to stay up to date with to attract their customers, as the way of doing business is changing in Fiji. Picture: SUPPLIED

During the first and second wave of COVID-19 in Fiji, SMEs were constantly under pressure to keep their businesses afloat due to less or no income being generated.

SMEs then looked up to Business Link Pacific (BLP) who were providing free business diagnostics, free business health checks and BLP was also referring these SMEs to certified Business Advisors at a subsidized cost that they could afford.

A role of a business advisor in this current time is very important given the many challenges that SMEs face and the continuous trends they have to stay up to date with to attract their customers, as the way of doing business is changing in Fiji.

People no longer prefer to stand in lines outside the shops but prefer to use online platforms to order the products they want and get it delivered as well, all from the comfort of their home.

One of BLP’s Certified network of advisors (BASPs), Nathan Powell who is a Business Development manager at Webmedia South Pacific, highlights that through the support he had from BLP not only were their client numbers increasing during COVID-19 but they were also able to stay afloat.

“This uptick in BLP-related activity was instrumental in helping our own firm remain on solid footing during the worst parts of the COVID-19 crisis.

“BLP was a savior to many and literally the only organisation I am aware of that offered ‘non-debt’ related support at this crucial and critical tenure.

“BLP’s assistance was immediate, it was innovative, it was impactful and it was incredibly appreciated by so many hard-hit and suffering businesses along with their attached workers and families,” said Mr Powell.

He stresses that BLP mobilised their enhanced support programs at lightning speed in the early days of the pandemic.

Mr Powell explains the reasons why they had a sudden increase in the number of clients during COVID-19 when businesses were suffering from devastating situations and trying to survive among the many challenges.

This increase in BLP clients was likely because of a combination of factors such as:

– The near complete loss and/or reduction of revenue streams for so many SMEs as they had so many businesses teetering and BLP’s enhanced subsidy levels offered a true ray of hope.

– They needed to develop a strong online presence and to multiply their word-of-mouth, marketing and sales support through online tactics.

– While things will sure return to some semblance of what they were before, businesses in the South Pacific have got to come to grips with the fact that the Internet will permanently play an increasingly larger role in their operations going forward.

– Those that do not try to stay ahead in the arena will find other entities moving at never before speeds to grab their market share but it works alternatively as well, if you are seeking additional market share or to exploit gaps, these same tactics can multiply your impact at an incredible pace.

Mr Powell states that one of the issues that was frequently brought to his attention by SMEs was a reduction in their revenue.

He further explains that this issue came about because of the inability of the SMEs to do any or most of their business online and their lack of marketing expertise.

It was a challenging phase for SMEs in Fiji to transition their business to the digital platforms.

“Many believe incorrectly that their logo or a slogan was their brand however that is not accurate, a brand is a level of quality that people associate with your business when they see or hear anything about you. If your word-of-mouth is bad, if your online presence is bad, if your customer service is bad, if your look is bad then your brand is bad.

“In an era of in widespread online communication, that can be crippling or it can be your savior. People are now realizing that habits have changed and people demand more online communication and businessflow and so SME’s remain motivated to further strengthen their online presence and communications,” explained Mr Powell.

Mr Powell encourages SMEs to diversify their businesses with the current online trends as the e-commerce business is the likely future.

“There is always a way to do it better, more efficiently and more impactfully,” advised Mr Powell.

  • Jessica Gounder is the communications officer Fiji Business Link Pacific. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily that of this newspaper.

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