By Alim Abubakre
As Nigeria commemorates her diamond jubilee anniversary of its independence, this year’s celebration should be a little bit different from the previous ones. Instead of the commemoration being a cause for celebration, it should be a period for a re-evaluation of strategies for success beyond the pandemic.
With the nation experiencing the ‘heptilema (seven and not two as in dilemmas)’ of the high level of insecurity, low national cohesion, dramatic forex fluctuations, negative growth, dwindling government and business revenue, low morale of staff and the citizen, and diminishing productivity-This is a time for sober reflection.
Leaders need to re-examine their underlying assumptions, core beliefs, and knowledge with the intent of developing strategies for mitigating the impact of COVID 19. Most importantly, it should focus on driving inclusive growth for the nation anchored by a vibrant and thriving private sector. So the trillion naira question for the CEOs and other decision-makers is how do I succeed in these challenging times for national prosperity?
Here are my quick suggestions for pivoting Nigeria for sustainable success post-COVID 19:
1) Engage Stakeholders
Effectively Mitigating the effects of the pandemic requires the contribution and efforts of everyone. As a savvy leader, communicate, show empathy but be honest, negotiate, and collaborate. Reach out to everyone and find ways to grow.
Stakeholders include employees, shareholders, board directors, suppliers, customers, creditors, government, and partners. All these parties are affected. Hence, it would be best if you explore concessions, but that’s not all. While the stakeholders have a diverging interest, the critical leadership task is to align the goals of all stakeholders for success during and after the pandemic.
2) Provide Leadership
If there is something big that people and businesses need now, it is leadership. Therefore, mentorship or coaching your team would be a great way to survive now and beyond the pandemic. In the process, be honest, but emphasise the silver lining, for example, create some quick wins and celebrate success.
At these trying times, good leadership and connections matter the most.
3) Be Strategic
In the short term, focus on survival, but remember to be strategic for achieving the long-term goal. More specifically, reflect your conceptual credentials on the present realities and adopt policies that reflect a cut in revenue for the next 12 months, for instance, due to customers that go bust and, for example, the second wave of COVID19.
Consider how to mitigate the future effects of reduced revenues & lowered forecasts in the short term. Possible measures to help this would be redeploying your teams, and optimising home working arrangements for staff to avoid further losses. But remember that it is a marathon and not a sprint, hence, you need to position your organisation for the future, adapting to the changes, looking for opportunities in a post-COVID-19 world and innovating for success.
4) Rejig Risk Management Credentials, Business Resilience
Amidst the COVID 19 Pandemic, one thing has come out clearly. Many businesses are fragile and unable to manage risk effectively. This is certainly a wakeup call for investment in business resilience. The focus should be on people, processes, operations, and how to respond to different scenarios.
Unlike ever before, re-building businesses resilience now is very vital for many reasons two of them are. First, the business environment is changing fast. Secondly, the same operating environment is becoming unpredictable. Therefore, building a business that can absorb stress and thrive even in a challenging ecosystem is very vital to future survival and indeed success.
5) Develop a Sense of Urgency and Encourage a Culture of Creativity & Innovation
Time is a resource that no one should waste, at least, during this time of COVID 19. Encourage everyone to develop a sense of urgency. Inspire them to be doing more with less and complete tasks faster. Also, inspire creativity & innovation through incentives such as rewarding those that come up with new business ideas and encourage experimentation.
Remember that the time to adjust operations is now. Waiting for a future that is uncertain and unpredictable is like expecting snow to fall in Abuja. So, act now and find out ways of surviving even when things get tough. Lockdowns, education closure, and restrictions might be there for quite some time, so learn to do business even in their presence.
6) Examine the Business Model
Micro, small, medium and even large enterprises should explore if they could develop new products and services that respond to the needs of present and new customers. Reflect on Internal Resources and Capabilities. Assess your business model and try to revamp it to identify and harness scarce resources for survival in the short-term and enduring success in the long term. For example, Spotify who was able to address her dwindling revenue from advertisements by developing customised podcast contents which helped increase its revenue from Premium Subscriptions.
For those in the public sector, we have not forgotten you! At this time of recovery from the effects of the pandemic, the best way to enhance growth is to reflect on the country’s internal resources and capabilities. More precisely, the focus should be on how to use such resources differently to generate revenue. The nation’s oil waiting to be harnessed and if developed, could be a revenue spinner for government-For example in Fintech, entertainment, outsourcing, technology and sports.
Reliance on oil, agriculture, and other few sectors alone is not sufficient. Additionally, growing processing and manufacturing industries will help generate more revenue as well as jobs. Most importantly, it will help improve the inclusive economic outlook of Nigeria.
7) Explore How to Be Different
Everyone wants to survive and thrive where possible. So, while the pandemic has changed the business environment, competition remains stiff and could even be fiercer now. To survive, learn how to be different in this present competitive landscape and how to outperform rivals. New product development and new ways of reaching customers can help you have a competitive edge over your rivals.
Look, anything that does not work now should not take your time. Instead, you should focus on what works now and in the future, even if it means working differently. You should also think about value-add for your stakeholders-How could you work more smartly to develop new products and services that would help your customers solve their problems and achieve their goals efficiently and effectively.
8) Optimise Decision Making
Re-organise decision making processes based on realities, but do not become bureaucratic as well as slow and less agile as this could affect the organisation’s ability to identify and capture limited opportunities.
While most businesses have continuity plans even during this time of COVID 19, the decision-making process determines the effectiveness of any operation. Reviewing procedures so that it takes less time to act is one way to survive now and beyond the pandemic. Self-evaluate and identify your biases and blind spots, and take deliberate actions to address this- E.g. get a mentor, read, watch a video on this subject or attend relevant pieces of training.
9) Refine Drivers of Long-Term Goals
Let’s face it! Successive Nigerian governments have had long-term goals. However, over the years, the results have not been forthcoming. Thinking that the same goals are valid now would be a lie. So what should happen? Refine the drivers of these goals.
The best thing at this time for the government is to set new specific and measurable goals that can unleash Nigeria’s potential even amidst the pandemic. How can that be done? Here are quick drivers of long-term goals to focus on:
- Reskill the population to tap new opportunities
- Provide accessible loans at reasonable rates for businesses
- Make Electricity available consistently.
- Have a Ministry of Implementation with an empowered Minister working with the private sector to prioritise the critical long term national goals and set clear milestones to achieve them.
10. Take care of your health
Ensure you exercise, eat well, have a minimum of 6 hours sleep and check your blood pressure regularly. It is only when you are hale and hearty than you can fulfil your potential and make the world a better place.
11) Be Prayerful
Above everything else, let us not forget that God is there, and He alone can change the current situation that is ravaging the world. Therefore, be prayerful and take to God that which you cannot do, for He knows nothing called impossible.
As I end, I would like to remind you that in crisis times, true leaders do not give up. They balance their focus between temporary disruptions and innovative ways of sailing through the storms. Most importantly, they act decisively and operate flexibly.
My final advice to you is: anticipate changes, adapt to the new normal, and act despite the disruptions!
Alim Abubakre (PhD) is a British based Entrepreneur with an unparalleled passion for Africa, Academic, and Director with active links and engagement with Africa.
He is on the advisory board of the London Business School Africa Society, lectures in Coventry, a top 15 UK university, and founded TEXEM, UK a consultancy firm ten years ago which has trained over 4,000 executives in the UK and Africa.
In 2010, Alim was selected as one of the top 100 Virgin Media emerging entrepreneurs in the UK and accompanied London’s Lord Mayor on his entourage to Nigeria in 2015.
He is a Senior Fellow of the Advance Higher Education Academy (HEA), the UK’s Gold standard in pedagogy. He is a Fellow of the UK’s Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs.