Boyko Takov: How to Survive in Time of Pandemic, Useful Tips for Bulgarian companies from BSMEPA
Novinite.bg got in touch with Mr. Boyko Takov, Executive Director of the Bulgarian Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Agency (BSMEPA), to discuss the complicated situation of companies in Bulgaria and their chances to cope with it and survive
Below are the useful tips the Executive Director of BSMEPA gave in an exclusive interview for Novinite.bg.
- Mr. Takov, you meet with the representatives of companies from different sectors of economy in Bulgaria on a daily basis and are familiar with some of their problems. Would you tell us what advice you can give to the companies at the peak of the epidemiological crisis?
The crisis raised many questions, it made many companies face serious challenges and unprecedented situations. The international markets have suffered from the crisis caused by COVID-19, world economies are shrinking while consumers are changing their priorities and views. Maybe the biggest problem, though, is the situation’s unpredictability, no one knows when the course of events will take a turn to the better.
Yes, the end of the crisis is a matter of time, but the question is how long it will take, how long the companies will last in this critical environment, how long the governments will be able to afford pouring money in national economies in order to save them. It is not easy to give advice that will suit all owing to the specifics of individual sectors, companies, etc. I think, the Bulgarian companies have to give a thought to the following options:
Flexibility and adaptivity are of crucial importance, especially at this particular moment. The proper adjustments made now will decide the fate of many companies in the coming months and years. Currently the companies must be really proactive, they have to seek approaches to international markets, to get access to them, even if only digital, having in mind the circumstances. They also have to seek new customers and establish new contacts.
They have to keep their expenditures under proper control. When the international markets are volatile, purchasing power is dropping and the crisis is deepening, the companies have to start reorganizing their agenda and cut down the expenditures as per the order of priority. Actually, most frequently the costs of business development instinctively are curtailed first. This affects the future business, hence the generation of money flows in the future. I would say that these expenditures should be axed lastof all. It is also of crucial importance for the companies to strictly control their financial status in real time, they must keep a wary eye on their financial flows, foresee various scenarios and anticipate their response to each of them accordingly.
Companies have to stay close to their customers. At these tough times almost all of us confront with difficulties and each company has to pay special attention to its current customer base. They have to support their customers if need be because they are the basis for their future expansion. In practice, if the customers are in dire straits, they will be easily lured by the rivals’ offers.
Companies have to control their suppliers. Companies have to put to test the suppliers’ ability to ensure safe supplies in time of crisis, check if they have transportation problems or are going to change the supply costs/prices. If the suppliers, or their own suppliers, respectively, are based in the region more affected by COVID-19 epidemic, the risk of delays or closing down production would be higher.
Companies have to seek diversification. The companies should seek opportunities for greater diversification, both as regards their suppliers and their customers. When it comes to suppliers, they have to think about finding alternatives, be it local suppliers or those based closer to the respective destination. In case their prices are higher, it would be recommendable to negotiate the costs, quantities, etc. already now, before need arises. As for the customers, the companies which have access to more markets face lower risks to confront with the challenges caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
Companies should seek opportunities to offer new products/services. There are numerous examples of companies which reoriented their businesses quickly and started to offer new or improved products and services which enabled them to be in good shape or even expand. For many companies these temporary solutions will remain in their company portfolio in the future. Hard times require that managers and their teams think in a more creative and non-standard way.
90% of the Bulgarian companies are microbusinesses, however they generate over one-third of revenues in the sector
Companies have to use digital platforms and channels more efficiently. Owing to the well-known circumstances, a sharp rise in the use of digital communication platforms has been observed in the past months. In fact, recently it has been the only possibility to meet with your contractors, partners, customers, etc. Apart from becoming a part of the so-called “new normal”, they proved that a greater part of physical meetings may be replaced by online contacts. Thistemporary phenomenon will for sure set new standards in the long-term perspective. With this in mind, the skills in using such instruments, as well as the integration into a set of instruments needed for the management of business processes and communications required for import activities, etc., will be essential.
Companies have to learn to put the opportunities offered by virtual events to use. Having in mind that the pandemic made us limit travelling, suspended expos, fairs and business meetings, it would be a good option to use all the opportunities provided by webinars and other online events and virtual trade expositions. Recently many such events have been held, as our agency (EASME) also organizes online international business forums. These events are a good channel for finding new customers, partners and contacts.
Companies should invest in professional training of their employees. The most valuable resource of any company are the people. They are those who can give a boost to a business or vice versa, hinder its development. The information and communication technologies and products work differently in different hands. Knowledge and skills make the difference in productivity rate. The well-trained, able and knowledgeable personnel is a key to the development of any business. Cyber security, digitalization, as well as the entire agenda of today and tomorrow are related mainly to knowledge.
Currently we are conducting research among the Bulgarian companies and already have over 200 filled in questionnaires on different themes for professional training. After the research is concluded, we will analyze the results and will continue workingin the direction outlined according to the companies’ needs.
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