Cash remains king as Kenyan SME’s deal with Covid-19
When the clock announced the arrival of 2020, I was very optimistic. After a few years of iteration, I could finally articulate my value proposition as a sales consultant and had 2 running contracts get extended, and 3 additional projects added to my plate. I anticipated winning 4 more projects by September 2020, and that would have put me at the same net revenue levels as I had when I was running a marketing consultancy 7 years ago.
But then the coronavirus pandemic brought the world to a grinding halt, infecting at least 600,000 people (and counting), crashing economies, breaking healthcare systems, and disrupting modern society on an unprecedented scale. As countries are going into lockdowns and curfews are put into place, people are told to stay home, practice social distancing and avoid congregations to slow down the spread of this pandemic.
Just like many Kenyan entrepreneurs, I immediately felt the impact of this virus on our economy. Only 2 weeks since the first case of Corona was announced in Kenya, and I am back to only 2 projects with the 3 new projects suspended. And if the pandemic continues, those 2 running projects would also fold.
My experience is not unique. I recently talked to 6 entrepreneurs running businesses in the IT and tech sector in Kenya, and the reports have been grim. One entrepreneur in hardware and maintenance had her contract suspended. Projects that require the physical presence of staff have been suspended, and 3 of the entrepreneurs have been negatively impacted by supply chain disruptions. The entrepreneurs are yet to decide on how to handle their employees, and none has developed a detailed restructuring plan to guide their businesses in this uncertain period.
According to UN estimates, African countries have so far lost an estimated $29 billion to the coronavirus economic disruption, despite reporting the very first continental case in Egypt only Feb 14, 2020.
In other words, compared to other countries, we are still at the first stages.
The suddenness with which the Covid-19 pandemic has come and the consequent prevalent fear and anxiety means that as an entrepreneur, you need to be agile to survive this. I believe that business planning during a time like this revolves around one major theme; cash is king.
Given that it is highly unlikely we’ll have any financial assistance from our government in the form of an economic stimulus, any short-term plans for your business should be based on the following cash-related scenarios:
- Take stock of how much cash you’re holding in your bank account that is at your disposal.
- Collect cash from debtors that have made commitments to pay in the current economic climate and have historically come through.
- Identify new sources of income: these could be projects you can complete under the current working conditions of remote working and lean staffing, and you have a guarantee that clients would pay you despite the uncertain economic conditions.
The 6 entrepreneurs had voiced their concern that healthy cash flow was going to be their biggest challenge though with so much uncertainty about the future in the air. In my next article, I’ll share how you can plan your next 3–6 months using the projected cash to keep yourself and your business above water.