There is no doubt that small businesses and entrepreneurs will be one of many that’ll take the largest hit from the current COVID19 pandemic. While the bigger companies have better odds of surviving the economic crisis, small businesses will tend to live only for a few months at most.
In this episode of VirtualPreneur Summit 2020, Stefan Kuruc, CEO of Help’n’Trade will talk about how small businesses can survive the turbulent times ahead and what actionable steps and insights we can learn from one of the most tenacious entrepreneurs we know.
THE SPEAKER: STEFAN KURUC
Stefan Kuruc is a native of Slovakia. He left his country at the age of 19 and ever since he has lived and worked in 5 different countries. Through his role as a “fire extinguisher” in IT project management and data visualization, Stefan was forced to become a fast learner.
His dedication to learning has helped him gain an extensive overview of the corporate world and technology. His career in IT consulting led him through a range of ups and downs which ultimately led to a path of entrepreneurship.
In April 2019 Stefan founded Help in Trade, a mobile web application serving the local circular economy while building an entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Later that same year, Stefan established meetup and podcast with the same purpose: to enable people to do their first step towards entrepreneurship, starting in their local communities
What Can You Learn from the podcast:
- How business plans aren’t absolute. (2:06)
- The difference between video conferences and personal meetings. (3:44)
- How can your businesses survive COVID 19 (6:01)
- Decisions: Limited to One’s Knowledge (7:11)
- Why it’s essential to remember your roots (11:51)
Quotes with Time
“If we were already online before the COVID 19 struck then we would have a really hard time.” (1:56)
“You cannot sell without trust, while there are challenges in selling things online, it’ll probably get better over time.” (5:15)
“I think that it is really essential to use this time to build customer relationships rather than just thinking of them as another transaction.” (10:55)
“Leaders aren’t created. Leaders are exposed through situations that can encourage everybody else around them.” (13:01)
BUSINESSES AND COVID 19
The talk started with Stefan’s observation of the current situation of the business in Europe and from other parts of the world.
Stefan describes this pandemic as a tough situation to be in, which is true, especially for small businesses. He mentioned that most of the stores are closed or rather are unable to continue their services.
Everything is frozen except the grocery stores, medicine, and shops which are still subjected to limitations.
The CEO expressed his concern towards the personal or face-to-face kinds of businesses that are really taking a lot of hits from the pandemic.
WE STILL RELY ON PERSONAL INTERCONNECTION
We’ve asked the CEO how his team was coping up with the outbreak. He replied honestly that COVID 19 has changed everything.
“If we were already online before the COVID 19 struck then we would have a really hard time,” says Stefan.
Stefan further explained that the Help’n’Trade application relied on the personal interconnection between people. It was built to connect those who needed and those who could offer help that could be entrepreneurial skills or resources.
However, the outbreak provided them a sudden change in their plans. “Although completing errands was not the purpose for which the application was built, we published the app because there was a sudden need to do so,” says the CEO.
“We wanted to provide help,” says Stefan. The CEO elaborated that the app was designed to create an entrepreneurial environment but with people and communities that are currently quarantined and limited with their activities and freedom. He made the decision to launch the application.
Stefan knew that their app could greatly assist the public. Whether buying groceries or someone who needs somebody to bring their medicine, it could all be done through their app.
The application did not use any social media platforms so that users could have an anonymous and convenient way to organize themselves.
Stefan further explained that the app can assist parents looking for daycares while they have to go do their work. Doctors who needed to do extra shifts can check in on the app to have someone do their groceries for them.
“So that’s how we decided to push the launch, it wasn’t pretty but it wasn’t ugly either. However, it provided us with an opportunity to help and we wanted to help,” shares Stefan.
PERSONAL MEETINGS OR VIDEO CONFERENCE
Stefan mentioned that although he doesn’t have the ability to see the future. He believes that human interaction cannot be replaced by virtual meetings.
“Human interaction is essential in order to succeed, and it’s not easy to sell anything online even with a video conference,” says Stefan.
Further, into the topic, it was agreed that humans are social as a species. However, Stefan also mentioned that personal interaction is vital in building trust.
“You cannot sell without trust, while there are challenges in selling things online, it’ll probably get better over time,” says Stefan.
He elaborated that 60% percent of information is hidden in your body language. And with a video conference, you are losing a lot of information from both the presenter and the client.
HOW CAN YOUR BUSINESS SURVIVE COVID 19
We’ve also asked Stefan for tips on how businesses can survive the pandemic. Stefan responded with two categories: Improvement and Self-Sustaining.
Stefan mentioned that your personal improvement is the ideal situation you’d want to use your extra time with.
While it may be difficult to create that kind of roadmap, you have to adapt and learn the new digital tools to continue to serve your customers. Of course, it is up to you whether you will use this time for personal improvement or for your business.
For the business to continue its operations, a leader also needs to know when to tighten their belt. This is true, especially, if the activity is already bleeding money or if your funds are getting lower than the 3-month mark.
After making sure that you’ve got your goals straight. You can also explore different value propositions for your clients.
Stefan gave two examples to be as concrete as possible. If you are a personal trainer, don’t limit your interactions in the gym. You can be creative and do recordings of exercises or do a one-on-one video call to guide your customers at home.
You can also create a guide for nutrition, health and safety tips for them to read over during the quarantine.
Stefan would like entrepreneurs to seek out opportunities from delivery, infographics, and guides to add value to their brand and business. There will definitely be a difference between your business and the one that doesn’t do this extra mile.
This extra value that you propose to your clients will not be forgotten that easily. You can also build their loyalty towards your brand because you gave them something while they were in a pinch.
And best of all, you didn’t care much if you were earning money from them. All you did was try to help them. One should definitely explore this area and have an open mind researching what other people are doing.
“I wouldn’t say to copy from them as that’s probably not the best approach. But try to implement certain factors which could benefit you and especially your clients towards a continuous development in your relationship,” says Stefan.
STEP OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Also, Stefan mentioned that this is also the perfect time to learn new skills. If you’ve always wanted to learn a skill, this month-long quarantine will give you the time and focus.
If you also found that you wanted to improve your website, then you can find someone online to do it for you.
“I think that it is really essential to use this time to build customer relationships rather than just thinking of them as another transaction,” says Stefan.
Stefan discusses how building loyalty can definitely assist your business for a longer time.
IT’S TIME TO REEVALUATE
We have to accept that at the end of the day someone has to lose in order for you to win. And although it sounds negative, entrepreneurship is not for everybody.
This is also the perfect time to re-evaluate your dedication if you really want to continue with your business. This is true in economics and it will not be pretty harsh.
However, before you even think about quitting. Stefan reminds us that all of this is temporary and this will not last forever.
While everything might not be the same as what they were before the COVID 19 outbreak, you just have to ensure that you have enough resources to sustain yourself.
And if you don’t have those resources then look for the opportunity around you. You can guide yourself by checking in on how you can expand your business if ever a situation like this occurs again.
You can also check how to deliver client values, create a strategy to successfully tighten your belt and save your resources. And don’t forget to take care of your employees and your client’s essentials.
Valuing your clients and your employees are little leadership skills that your members will look up to.
“Leaders aren’t created. Leaders are exposed through situations that can encourage everybody else around them,” says Stefan.
On an ending note, Stefan reminds us that opportunities are lying and waiting to be discovered all around us. The only thing we need to do is grab them, study them and be sure that you are making smart decisions especially when the resources are scarce. (A.Menchavez)