SMEs: Practice to Help You Thrive in Difficult Times


By Timi Olubiyi, PhD

All small businesses and organizations need to figure out how to stay afloat and add value to their customers and audience during these challenging times. For businesses, be they micro, small or large, it has been a difficult time with the cost of running businesses in Nigeria like the rest of African countries. Recall that the review in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirits (PMS), gasoline, otherwise known as fuel, was about 300%, and the inflation number as of June 2023 was 22.76%.

These staggering numbers have caused disruptions to living costs and daily business operating costs. Businesses cannot continue to operate as usual; there is a need to consider strategies to help cushion the effect of the many consequences of the hikes.

Effective business communication is one of the simple strategies to adopt at this time for many reasons. It entails sharing information between employees within the business and also outside, which particularly would involve the customers and other stakeholders. Communication can entail announcing or sharing alterations to the business, new pricing, adjustments to delivery or operating time, a launch of a new product or service, targeting different market segments and so on.

Effective communication is the key to a resilient business and can help greatly at this difficult time for businesses and even households.

Most of the time, effective communication may just take the form of stakeholder engagements, talking to vendors or customers about current realities and mitigating measures, or even talking to colleagues in face-to-face meetings or through the use of computers, or smartphones, about key changes in the environment and the surviving strategies with clarity.

More importantly, regardless of the communication channels communicating accurately is essential. Whether the purpose is to update customers on new products or price differentials or to listen to the yearnings of employees or vendors, good communication is an integral part of effective business management at this time of high uncertainties.

In today’s competitive market and current realities, no matter the size of the business, proper business communication is critical to success and sustainability. It can also enhance organizational survival at this time of high business uncertainties.

Undoubtedly, effective communication can establish good interpersonal and strong working relationships and facilitate cooperation within the staff of an organization, which can help to overcome difficulties and difficult times.

Therefore, to be effective in the current business environment with high inflation rate an effective communication process should be adopted, which should be two-way. That is, good communication should be complemented with active listening.

That said, when communication is open and continuous amongst business stakeholders, customers, and employees, it can help make and maintain business objectives and keep away potential workplace conflicts from getting out of hand.

More so, when organization expectations and issues are regularly discussed and solutions proffered in both formal and informal settings, all members of business stakeholders, including customers, will better understand the status of the business and the new objectives. Therefore, do not make assumptions about customer experience or expectations, simply talk to them.

Ensure making honest conversations at all times to get meaningful feedback from all stakeholders. It would be wrong to assume clients/customers already know the economic realities and not communicate changes that are likely to happen within the business settings and also in services rendered. Take the time to communicate and let clients/customers know about the changes the current realities can cause and the expectations during this new era.

It is important to state that having effective communication can help businesses in so many ways at this time. Surveyed businesses within Nigeria indicated that effective communication could boost customer loyalty, employee morale, and business resilience, promote efficiency, sustain revenue growth, and increase customer engagement.

In response to the recent survey, business operators also indicated that effective communication could also help to lessen the chances of misunderstandings and potentially reduce grievances and even complaints or litigations in the business. Conversely, a lack of it or ineffective communication is seen to lead to disgruntledness of customers leading to poor sales or no low patronage,  employee frustration, lower business productivity, and increased employee turnover rate.

It may also increase the chances for misinterpretations, tarnish business goodwill, damage relationships, break trust, and increase anger and hostility. Unlike everyday communications, business communication is vital and must be taken seriously by business operators and entrepreneurs at this time.

Essentially, the customer is king and key to business survival. Consequently, establishing a feedback mechanism can help business operators monitor customer service and product progress, which can help with strategic adjustments to any anticipated change in the market, even with current realities.

Accordingly, developing and encouraging effective communication internally and externally among staff, vendors, and customers/clients is an important skill that all business operators must leverage. In business, therefore, communication can make the difference between success and failure. So, no method of communication in the form of feedback, engagement, interaction, listening or business conversation should

In conclusion, communication is a crucial and significant element in any business setup. Therefore, business organizations should have comprehensive policies and strategies for communicating with customers, employees, and stakeholders, as well as with the community at large.

A business should leverage technology for integrated communication, and every channel of communication should be considered effectively- social media, websites, the internet, phone calls, adverts, letter writings, and so on. Software like Zoom, Skype, GoToMeeting, and other video/audio conferencing technologies have made it easier for businesses to communicate with customers, employees, vendors, and clients.

Business operators and entrepreneurs should equally adopt a link between communication and the organisation’s strategic plan, which can include the organization’s mission, vision, and values to develop a communication strategy for the business. If you are concerned about enhancing or on how to build an effective communication strategy in your business, you may need to reach out to a professional for essential advice urgently. Good luck!

How may you obtain advice or further information on the article? 

Dr Timi Olubiyi is an entrepreneurship and business management expert with a PhD in Business Administration from Babcock University, Nigeria. He is a prolific investment coach, columnist, author, adviser, seasoned scholar, Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI), Member of the Institute of Directors, and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registered capital market operator. He can be reached on the Twitter handle @drtimiolubiyi and via email: [email protected], for any questions, reactions, and comments. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, Dr Timi Olubiyi, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of others.

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