As the Government’s business development agency that assists with the creation and growth of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) offers technical and other services that move a client from one concept all the way up to the market.
“So, persons who have an idea to start a business come to us, persons who are aspiring to grow their business to another level, persons who are aspiring to go into new markets or just to tweak their business model, they come to us and we will work with them,” Deputy Chief Executive Officer at the JBDC, Harold Davis, told JIS News.
“We help you with your business strategy. We help you to access relevant financial products, and we help you in your financial engineering and financial re-engineering,” Mr. Davis said on the JIS Television programme – ‘Get the Facts’.
He further noted that the JBDC also assists its clients with product development, process development and marketing strategy.
“Also underpinning all of that is research. We do assist you in research as well, because research provides the fundamentals for your business strategy. You need to come with a solid business concept and even if it’s not quite solid… we will help you to structure… and give you very poignant ideas and recommendations as to work you perhaps need to do to make it a viable business proposition,” Mr. Davis said.
“If you are in business, you [can] come to us with your business… and be very clear about where it is you want to go. Our advisors are equipped and trained to help you and to help you think through that process and structure solutions accordingly, to have you move from your point ‘A’ to your point ‘B’,” he added.
Regarding the impact of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on businesses, Mr. Davis noted that this was difficult to plan for.
“COVID is a pandemic that we had never seen before. Yes, you have to build your business model agile enough… understanding the risk profile of an environment and so on, but a pandemic of the magnitude of a COVID is difficult to plan for or plan a business strategy for,” he said.
He pointed out that as a result of COVID-19, supply chains were shutting down internationally and markets were significantly disrupted, adding that consumers who purchased products and goods went into crisis mode, so, therefore, they purchased the essentials.
“Many persons lost their jobs, so the consumers’ buying power was significantly decreased. As a result of this crisis, we did a survey in early April to find out the effects of COVID on our clients and up to 25 per cent of them had to close their doors because of the impact.
Another 12 or 13 per cent had to reduce staff,” Mr. Davis informed.
He noted that while the impact at the outset from COVID-19 was bad, it was not devastating for all businesses.
“So, if you were in the business of providing essential services or essential goods, supermarkets, pharmacies and things of that nature, you saw an uptick in your business practices. If you were in the business of the tech industry providing your services online from before and providing tech-driven services, you also saw an uptick,” Mr. Davis said.
“The main lesson is the structure of your business and making the structure of your business robust enough. We are talking about making sure you have multiple income-generating products, you have the capacity and you have moved your business to be able to trade and to do engagement online, because that is the way persons have been interacting and have been trading,” he added.
Mr. Davis said that while the knee-jerk reaction is for many businesses to go online, it has to “be in line with your business strategy”.
He argued that the business strategy will determine the value proposition that businesses will bring to clients.
“So, if most of your clients are offline, perhaps it does not make sense for you to be offering services online. There are many facilities, many tools that allow you to go online and develop a website and to be able to trade online quickly. But, if it’s not aligned with your business strategy, you will find there is going to be some dissonance there,” Mr. Davis said.
“When you go online you become exposed immediately to the entire world. If you are not ready for that kind of business, that kind of change, it may not be aligned with your business strategy,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Deputy CEO noted that the JBDC has moved a lot of its services online, adding that one of the things that came out of its initial survey in April was the need for upgrade and general training and sensitisation for businesses.
He said that in the period of three and a half months, the JBDC has done some 40 different webinars online. The organisation has hosted a series called ‘JBDC Virtual Biz Zone’, a concert series for creative industry entrepreneurs, and an ‘Entrepreneur’s Journey’ series.
“So, we have had to move a lot of what we would do offline, online. What we have found is, those who have done well as entrepreneurs have done a lot of that. They have looked at the environment and realise the changes and the needs of their public that they are serving, and pivoted their products and services accordingly,” Mr. Davis said.
He added that now is the time for entrepreneurs to go back to the core of why they became entrepreneurs.
“There are several opportunities that are going to come on the table because of this COVID-19. We just have to be vigilant, be aware of it and go for it,” Mr. Davis emphasised.