Business Mentor: How entrepreneurs are surviving the pandemic

Armando Bartolome

Posted at Dec 19 2020 08:08 AM

A food delivery service provider waits for an order at a restaurant in a mall in Makati City on December 18, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

As another year is about to unfold, I look back at 2020, which was a tumultuous year for all of us.

I have asked a few successful entrepreneurs about their experience during the pandemic. To sustain a business during these difficult times is something worth applauding.

BM: “How affected was your business during the pandemic?”

Richie Cuna: Like most entrepreneurs despite the preparation & contingencies done. The uncertainties brought on by the pandemic caught us all by surprise! Businesses were affected badly and various expansion programs were all deferred!

Jesselle Suarez-Hablo: This pandemic has affected the whole of our business - our operations, manpower and finances. We stopped our restaurant operations, as it will be much better than to continue and have more losses. We, however, have focused on the distribution of our healthy products and savory pasalubong.

Imelda Dagus: The pandemic has definitely affected our coffee shop. Our revenue is down by 50 percent because of reduced capacity for dine-in customers. Looking at the good side however, the pandemic has also given us the opportunity to learn new things that could improve our revenue.

Marcus Dee: Just like most businesses, mine slowed down. However, I did not let it affect me so much that I became like a deer in the headlight. Through my career covering 3 countries and multiple industries, I have learned that these are bumps in the road to a better place. So, I saw this pandemic as an opportunity to pursue projects that have been put on hold for one reason or another. So, I used my energy in building my agritech startup business.

Alfred Carandang: Most of our pipeline projects are on-hold or canceled. We cannot operate on full potential as the market for design and construction is limited.

BM: “How did you resurrect the business after ECQ?”

Richie Cuna: As early as 1st week of April we were already on board in implementing our NNL Program (New Normal Landscape) Collaboration of all the subsidiaries under the Milkin Group:

  • Fiorgelato-Reinventing the Business Model
  • DM Express (Donburimix)-Create Multiple Streams of revenues
  • Kurimi Milk Tea-Transformation from Brick & Mortal to Digital Platform

Jesselle Suarez-Hablo: Through determination and perseverance, hope, and through prayers, we needed to adapt with the situation and “ituloy ang buhay kahit meron pandemya na hinaharap”.

Imelda Dagus: We started with pivoting to delivery service, which was not part of our business activities before covid-19.

Marcus Dee: Besides my startup business, I run an end-to-end waterproofing business. I repositioned the latter's market offering based on trends that I have been identifying for some time now.

Alfred Carandang: Slowly, we try to operate at least once a week in the office and work from home for the rest of the week.

BM: “Has your business regained its “power”?”

Richie Cuna: Businesses won’t be the same again. But mind setting and resiliency to adapt to changes has kept the group afloat!

Jesselle Suarez- Hablo: I can say, not 100 percent. But by God's guidance, He has made our business slowly regain (its footing).

Imelda Dagus: We are thankful that customers are back, and the business has regained its strength. I believe though, it can still get better.

Marcus Dee: I can say that my business is strategically more powerful than it was before. Strategic moves in times of crisis are what business people with vision and courage are capable of. On the battlefield, one needs to keep moving to avoid getting pinned down and slaughtered. You will never know whether you will survive but you will have better odds. Life and business are no different.

Alfred Carandang: Slowly it is coming back.

BM: “After all these months of living in the “new normal”, would you say you were able to create a dynamic plan that can sustain your business for the next months?”

Richie Cuna: Still striving hard to bounce back! But I would say we have pivoted quickly enough to adjust to the new normal. But (we) needed to build a new business framework to sustain (ourselves in the) current situation.

Jessele Suareze-Hablo: We, at Sir Jess, because of the pandemic, have paused, and took a while to realize what would be our plan in order to stand still and adapt (to) the new normal. We have been so grateful that a mentor like you, Sir Butz, has always been (just) a message away in case we have doubts about our business plan.

Imelda Dagus: I believe we have already crossed the most critical period. We have developed the resilience and strategies to navigate the “new normal”.

Marcus Dee: Yes. I have actually thoroughly shared this in my blogs.

Alfred Carandang: Yes by trying to keep the overhead expense within normal level.

BM: “What are the lessons you have learned in 2020?”

Richie Cuna: Nothing in life is permanent! Life and safety are of foremost importance. Through the months of our current crisis and at the midst of all these adversities we learned to hold on to our faith, dreams & commitment to our people & businesses! Above all, “The Power of Prayers”.

Jesselle Suarez-Hablo: 2020 has been full of realizations. It has made us slow down and appreciate things around us-our family, pets, good health, peace of mind, and including the business. The lessons I learned to be able to surpass the trials is to always ask ourselves what God's purpose is- why He directed us in creating the business. There are moments when we doubt ourselves, our capacity. But we learned to be resourceful and make use of what we have in order to survive.

Imelda Dagus: Keep extra cash. Be ready for at least a one-year burn rate. A contingency plan must be in place for business continuity and risk mitigation. Mental and emotional resilience of the business owner or leader will also give the team strength to keep going. Ability to think creatively and take action, in spite of fear or uncertainty.

Marcus Dee: People with vision and courage are the ones who will thrive at the end of this pandemic tunnel. Vision and courage are not something that just drops on your lap from the sky. It is developed through learnings from a track record of overcoming challenges.

Alfred Carandang: That work from home, virtual meetings and events is possible. Whatever great and exciting plans you have can be stopped anytime by forces you cannot control. Faith in God is an important foundation of anyone and anything we do in our lives.

I truly salute all those entrepreneurs who are able to sustain their businesses despite the economic turmoil and also to those new entrepreneurs who have made it possible for them to turn this unfortunate event into something positive for their families.

I hope and pray that 2021 will be a much better year for all of us. The year 2020 indeed strengthened all of us and made us become more aware of what we may have overlooked for so long --- having quality time with family, preparing for the future, and to become stronger despite adversities.

For more information, you may contact Armando "Butz" Bartolome
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