Milivoje Jovanovic, Beograd. 08/12/2017, Foto: Ivan Sepic

I, the entrepreneur, even and after the crisis

In Serbia, every citizen is an entrepreneur, he makes something out of nothing, and he makes a little more out of something small (someone and a lot), and those are the characteristics of innovative entrepreneurs. The crisis caused by the outbreak of the COVID19 virus is an opportunity to restore the entrepreneurial spirit in Serbia that we as a nation naturally possess!

It seems to me that these few weeks we have heard, for who knows how many times, more or less specifically, from this or that angle, from this or that interest, all those problems that the Serbian economy, MSME sector in particular, have encountered before crises caused by the COVID-19 virus and the decleration of a state of emergency. Our GDP is still insufficient, i.e. nominally USD 55 billion in 2019, per capita USD 7200, and the average salary 470 euros. Which means we have little demand and a chance to expand in the domestic market and replace exports, if we have it at all.

Then topics from macroeconomics: insufficient liquidity of the economy, unfavorable balance of payments, insufficient domestic and foreign investments… And there will be none and that is generally it . So, entrepreneurs and small businesses should not expect great help from the state, because if the state wanted and knew how to solve the above-mentioned problems, these figures would be much better, and all problems would have been already solved in the last 30 years.

If you look at the situation as an entrepreneur, it seems that the state still cares more about big companies. The European Union Act on Small Business (SBA), which says “think small first”, is not sufficiently applied in practice and that it is the way it will be as well through the application of all the measures we are now hearing about on television.

If I am wrong and if the state really wants us to develop a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem, the interests of small and family businesses and entrepreneurs must first be taken into account in creating a business climate and regulations for operating  in a crisis and in the days to come.

Not to remain “indebted” to the business community, I am especially irritated by wasting time at conferences, consultations, coffee on Skype, Google meet or the current ZOOM, as well as the advice of “experts” such as  “raising money to publish a book on how to make money” “ . Or those from the position of CEO, CFO, C .. (whatever) international companies that keep only their large salaries, but not companies (because their headquarters abroad do it, not them), and who did not even keep the corner shop because they weren’t capable.

What has been proven to be crucial  in today’s economy is the connection of entrepreneurs , mutual cooperation, joint appearances on the market and the placement of a larger range and quantity of products on the domestic and foreign markets. I think it is much more productive and smarter for each of us entrepreneurs to hold online meetings with our customers, suppliers, employees and think about creating a strategy and operational plan on how to maintain business, make it more flexible, diversified and, of course, more profitable and ready for the post-crisis period. . 

There are two ways to increase revenue and profitability:

The first  – investments to increase production and conquering new markets, which is currently less likely, and the  second  – to reduce operating costs by raising productivity and efficiency and making the same or higher profits, with reduced or existing business volume. Of course, the best solution is to accomplish both goals, but every entrepreneur and small business should see what is needed, realistically and sustainably, depending on the business itself, because it is not the same for all industries and sectors. Despite who is more and who is less affected by the crisis, and whether someone is profiting now and someone is failing, we should all analyze our existing business models and, if necessary improve them, adjust to Serbia and the world after the crisis, because at least for that, it seems, we have time at the moment.

In redefining the business model, we need to return to the basics, and that is that every product or service we offer solves a problem, that is satisfies the need. If the needs change due to the current situation, every entrepreneur should design an adequate offer in terms of the product / service, price, distribution and promotion (4P marketing mix). And something I heard a few years ago from a “drool” but wise entrepreneur: “Fall in love with the problem / need you are solving and it’s a sure way to constantly and dedicatedly work on R&D, monitor changes and improve the product / service until you reach customer satisfaction ”.

Speaking of “back to basic”, I would repeat, ie. rewrote the definition of the term “entrepreneur”: one who organizes, manages and assumes the risks of a business venture hoping for profit.

Profit is the only measure of business success, and if there is no more profit – change the business. Of course, only if the new business model has not given the results or if customer needs have changed drastically. Be in crisis (especially after the crisis), an innovative entrepreneur who introduces new products / services, accepts new production methods, finds new markets and reorganizes business. On the opposite side is the so-called Entrepreneur Drone, who does not accept challenges and does not want change, and with his “perfect product” pushes to the end, ie. to the collapse of the business.

And as they would say in the movie Balkan Express, which I just watched for the 58th time due to isolation: “Don’t worry, don’t worry, life makes sure, while there are people, there will be money.”

Don’t wait for anyone’s help, tighten the noose, do something for your business, solve problems, create a new chance for yourself and get back to work!

Milivoje Jovanovic

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