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Why MSME entrepreneurs need peer support to adapt to the new normal

MSMEs often find themselves alone in the struggle for survival in these unprecedented times. Non-competing, trusted focus groups can help growth-oriented MSME entrepreneurs find actionable solutions.

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the COVID-19 pandemic has "gravely wounded the world economy with serious consequences impacting all communities and individuals". 

A nationwide lockdown followed by instability and fragile economic conditions have led to a slowdown that has put MSME entrepreneurs under immense pressure. . 

As the MSME sector paces towards recovery, it is important that it observes all required processes to adapt to a post-pandemic world. 

MSMEs often find themselves alone in the struggle for survival in these unprecedented times. However, non-competing, trusted focus groups for growth-oriented MSME entrepreneurs can help find actionable solutions during these times. 

These trust groups can assist MSMEs with key concerns, including raising working capital, managing cash flow, talent management, business expansion, customer retention, etc.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic is new for first-generation entrepreneurs and family business owners alike. However, the challenges and expertise of the former are very different from those who run family-owned businesses. 

  • Family-owned business entrepreneurs struggle with the dynamics of having multiple stakeholders. They struggle with decision making and adapting to new business practices due to a lack of clarity from multiple family members. Moreover, they struggle with keeping up with the legacy of generation(s).

  • A first-generation entrepreneur might be the sole decision-maker. However, they lack confidence as they do not have other leaders to rely on for the decision-making process and struggle to build a legacy business.

Trust groups and the post-COVID world

MSME trust groups can enable the scope of learning and knowledge sharing to help emerge from the pandemic while accelerating growth in varied areas, including defining clarity in roles, growth mindset, relationship management, etc. 

Here are a few ways how they can help:

Why peer support matters

An entrepreneur’s journey has become increasingly isolated post the pandemic, leading to challenges in decision making as they seek clarity and insights on way forward, bounce off ideas, second-guess themselves, and solve burning issues.

Since the economy is struggling with the newness of the issue at hand, entrepreneurs cannot depend on case studies or mentorship as they navigate their way through post-pandemic problems. 

Having a safe, confidential, and non-judgmental environment of like-minded entrepreneurs — who can enable each other to adapt to changing business needs and assist with individual knowledge for better decision making — will help businesses come out of the economic slowdown and prepare for the future. 

Networking and companionship to learn and unlearn 

Networking is a crucial part of an entrepreneur’s journey, and enables them to get business and funding leads, enhances personal learning, and helps build relationships.  

Since COVID-19 has restricted the scope of physical networking among like-minded entrepreneurs, virtual cohorts have become an integral part of entrepreneurs’ behavioural change. 

Entrepreneurs should connect at regular intervals with a purpose to learn, rehash business ambitions, find actionable solutions as a group, and share knowledge to help survive these testing times.    

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An entrepreneur’s mental health and well being are very critical, especially after the pandemic. Conversations within trust groups or peers can help in destigmatising failures or roadblocks, while open, honest conversations can help secure a solution-oriented approach from fellow participants. 

A network of trusted, like-minded individuals is necessary to develop actionable plans and undertake proactive measures to prepare the business for future uncertainties. 

It is also important to maintain ‘cautious optimism’ by helping entrepreneurs to adapt and realise revised goals through action-oriented measures.

Coping with technological disruption and economic changes

While earlier MSMEs struggled with technological disruptions, the pandemic taught them the importance of digitisation and automation of business. 

Traditional businesses are now changing gears and adopting technology to stay ahead in the game. However, there continues to be great resistance among many entrepreneurs even though the business’ survival depends on it. 

Having open discussions around these digital advancements can help SMB owners learn from early adopters among the group. 

Understanding government policies and allowances

While the government rolled out multiple policies and stimulus packages to strengthen Indian MSMEs in the face of the pandemic, several entrepreneurs still struggle with interpreting and understanding them for their specific business needs. 

In such cases, trust groups can help create a platform where entrepreneurs can provide clarity on the impact of government policies in their respective business. 

Having a trusted platform where business and personal challenges can be discussed openly gives scope to entrepreneurs to be themselves rather than being a ‘leader’. This non-transactional exercise of connecting with a focus group also allows an entrepreneur to self-introspect and witness evolvement through other members.