Small Businesses are Powerful Agents in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
When transitioning from a moment of crisis to a fundamentally new normal, further reflection is required of us. We must ask ourselves not only how our decisions and action will affect this moment in time, but also we must ask how we foresee a future for all. It is only through this type of reflection that we can genuinely and optimally create a present that is informed and encouraged by our reimagined future. The Sustainable Development Goals are the only apparent solution that focuses on the inclusion of all people, independent of societal status or national identity.
Negotiated for over a year by working groups across the globe, these intentionally constructed goals provide the cornerstone needed to bring about a more equitable world for all. The SDGs search to eliminate and end all social, economic, and environmental abuses at play in our current system. The SDGs are purposefully designed to interrelate with each other, meaning if a group or business decides to focus on three of these goals, they will end up working on all of them. As micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) represent about 70 percent of the formal economy and about 90 percent of the total employment in the developing world; it seems as though MSMEs are the perfect sector to begin working to create and disseminate newly created systems that aid the local community while working from a global perspective. In this moment of COVID-19, people’s financial, social, and humanitarian needs are amplified like never before. Industry, as it has for much of human history, creates the channels and timing of our lives and, therefore, holds impeccable power. We can use entrepreneurship and MSMEs to create jobs and promote markets in the world. The developing world is an enormous market to be engaged in. In contrast, the developed world has room for MSMEs working to create humanitarian- and environmentally-focused markets to allow for sustainable growth.
In this unique moment, groups like the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Council for Small Business (ICSB) can work to unshackle the traditional constraints on MSMEs. Those include limited access to information, to strategic resources, adequate financing, to scaling solutions, to reliable electricity, in addition to favorable business environments, to competitiveness, to market concentration, and online trade readiness. By viewing MSMEs and the SDGs together in a transformative light, we can devise solutions focused on growing prosperity with and for everyone, while working effectively at our available, finite resources. As much of the world still live without access to essential drinking water, to food, or proper healthcare, there is a big market for finding sustainable solutions to solve the world’s most pressing and vital issues.
Organizations centered around promoting the work of MSMEs are empowering business owners to provide services and necessary access to the SDGs. The UN Global Compact saw an incredible commitment to learning to implement sustainable principles by MSMEs around the world. However, the next step for these organizations would be to generate information that can be understood, and that is relevant for all MSMEs. The G20 is putting forward 5 trillion dollars, and it is of the utmost importance that this money is dispersed appropriately amongst MSMEs, specifically those owned by women. If done correctly, this financial assistance can work to rebalance the current imbalances in industrial realms. In addition to financial aid, hopefully, we can bring attention to raising awareness of MSMEs and their ability to reach SDG opportunities by adapting the tools to their needs and then follow by supporting innovation and incubators with the deployment of the solutions that MSMEs can create, which will eventually accelerate the new sustainable ecosystem imagined. It is from this work that we can focus on pre-emptive processes to create insurance funding for MSMEs after future economic and natural disasters. This fund will promote the wellbeing of all, by supporting the MSMEs that uphold our communities and nations.
It is only through transparent and dedicated partnerships that this work will be achieved successfully. UNCTAD works to amplify consensus building, research and analysis, and technical assistance of MSMEs. By creating open forums with the UN Member States, they can create entrepreneurship policy frameworks, resolutions, and promotion and market access for entrepreneurs. In working with partner organizations, like the ICSB, they can continue to publish researched reports on the current states of trade and development, world investment, and technology, and innovation to find effective policies. These studies also help determine the best technical assistance for MSMEs’ entrepreneurs to achieve structural transformation.
In their concluding discussion, Dr. Alex DeNoble, from San Diego State University and the ICSB, and Dr. Chantal-Line Carpentier, Chief of Office of the Secretary-General UNCTAD, pushed each other to develop their collective understanding as to where universities can best situate themselves as educators and creators of future entrepreneurs, while also promoting the research and educational exchanges possible within and throughout their global communities. These possible exchanges hold the potential to release incredible theories and practices of innovation and purpose put forth by future and current MSME owners. The future is of a sustainable essence, one that is created with and for all. The most encouraging way for us to imagine our best possible future is through the eyes of MSME entrepreneurs around the world. Let us hear them and let us work with them and for them.
Written by: Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy
“Imagine a new dawn for MSMEs globally and reimagine purposeful and meaningful startups.”
As we step into our new world, seemingly blind, we begin to build our post-corona lives, meaning the choices that we make now are momentarily becoming the cornerstones of our next normalities. Ahmed Osman, President of the International Council for Small Businesses (ICSB) and a small business owner, brings us to front our reality and then urges us to look further. His particular position within our current situation as an entrepreneur, centered in the realm of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), coupled with his leadership position as the head of a renowned international organization, allows him to be at the forefront of both global knowledge and MSME reality. It is thanks to this perfectly situated go-between that we can begin to think about how we might “imagine a new dawn for MSMEs globally and reimagine purposeful and meaningful startups.” This then permits us to think about working in the future, including ways in which MSMEs can learn from this pandemic to create their new normal.
The first mode of operation in this new world must be surrounding financial assessment and security. For MSMEs, they must assess their current situation. By collaborating with their Accountant or Financial Advisor, they can better understand the deficits, future inflow of funds, potential expenses, and liabilities of their current enterprise. From this, we can work to create a new six-month action plan, for which we need both “reliable and accurate information about government relief packages, financial support initiatives,” and investor opinions before executing the newly designed financial strategy. As reality guides this “financial health check,” companies can then decide whether they need to make “potential pay cuts, pull back on investments related to infrastructure or expansion, [or] halt new recruitments,” which then, once effectively communicated, can be initiated.
Next, businesses must re-evaluate their business plan based on their financial assessment, the risks, and their revival strategy. Within these uncertain times, our pre-COVID-19 business plans can not guide our businesses in the way we need them to. Therefore, by “redefining business goals and planning a more realistic and well-rounded growth plan,” we can then integrate all involved stakeholders, including employees and external investors. With all stakeholders reaching mutual agreement, this three to six-month plan will depend on the “company’s current financial situation and will most likely include defers in funding rounds, acceleration in private equity funding, or new collaborations and business partnerships,” which will all help to achieve the renewed business goals.
The third method for MSMEs at this moment involves creating a robust digital ecosystem. One in which both employees and customers can engage. By becoming empowered digitally, businesses must transform the preconception that a digital platform is a luxury. It is now a necessity for almost every company wanting to survive in current and future climates. Your business’s digital engagement will not only help “positive brand recall,” but also assist in generating business, especially for those in retail. Additionally, an active social media presence can work as a “magnet for consumer and stakeholder engagement, not only in times of social distancing and lockdown,” but also for the foreseeable future. This impressive digital ecosystem must also support remote working while upholding data protection as well as the productivity and well-being of employees.
The fourth way in which MSMEs can advance into the post-COVID age is through adopting the Fourth Revolution for Businesses. By leveraging modern innovations in technology, MSMEs can find simple ways in which they can incorporate these strategies for a higher return on investment in the long-term. With a “well-planned strategy, a technology-enabled, highly productive, next-generational business” can be created by mapping out a two to three-year plan. By implementing this urgently, a business’s post-COVID revival could help accomplish short-term growth goals and effective mitigation strategies for future disruptions.
Next, it is essential to note that businesses now know that they can rely on less physical space and assets. Remote working is no longer for the young, millennials, but rather a real, active, and productive mode of operation. In interacting online, physical meetings can be held much less often, which can lead to a “dramatic reduction in office space, meeting room size, as well as fewer overhead costs associated with security, utilities, and insurance.” As this pandemic has already pushed many to both produce and consume from home, these trends will dramatically alter the physical space necessary to run a business for services, retail, restaurants, and tourism. Pre-coronavirus, we saw an incredible decrease in the amount of privacy allotted to individual employees, especially with the augmentation in open office plans, which was initiated after the last recessions as companies attempted to “do more with less space,” or to densify their offices. We will see a reversal in these practices as they no longer fit the code for current sanitation and health policies.
Lastly, MSMEs much put in place a crisis management strategy, which will work to consider both “immediate and long-term impacts.” Therefore by creating a back-up financial plan, an emergency fund, in addition to a robust digitally enabled ecosystem, we can ensure a maximization in productivity, even in the wake of a crisis. We need robust revival plans to support MSMEs during and following moments of uncertainty, like the one we are currently situated in.
In using reason, even in times of panic, these methods can assist businesses as they envision their futures. With risk management and intentional reflection, we can begin to think globally and act locally. These actions, for example, supply chain diversification, can allow us to look to the opportunities available within our regional communities. Despite the challenge of the present moment, especially for MSMEs, Osman reminds us that we are concurrently surviving and analyzing this situation so that we can prepare and innovate for a future of uncertainty. Now is the time for meaningful and sustainable businesses. This pandemic will be positive for MSMEs in the future, which may be difficult to imagine. However, we must hold on to the belief that “the struggle we are in today is developing the strength we need for tomorrow.”
Article written by: Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy and Mr. Ahmed Osman
Re-imaging Entrepreneurship Education and Research
This moment of connected isolation has changed everyone’s plans from cancellations to postponements. We have re-envisioned and amended our preconceived ideas about learning, teaching, working, and producing. It has only been through acceptance of our new normal that we have found the encouragement and creativity necessary to critically reflect, in a way that allows us to reimagine our current capacities, capabilities, and preconceived pedagogies. In doing so, our new normal will hopefully become something more than what must be, and it instead transforms into something better, an environment that cares and supports all its actors.
As we recognize the absoluteness of our current situation, there has never been a better time to tease apart our current system, to recognize our strengths, and to eventually rebuild our new, stronger, and more expansive community. In thinking about entrepreneurship and innovation during this changing time, educators, researchers, practitioners, and learners must decide what needs to be amended in our current pedagogies of entrepreneurship that will eventually allow us to appropriately create more prepared entrepreneurs. That is those ready to learn and adapt to the world’s pressing and ever-changing challenges. Thinking about entrepreneurship as a contact sport, the game starts with engagement, a general desire to play; however after, students need to understand the language, tools, concepts, and theories that underlie the rules of the game. We can start to demonstrate, then, that it takes more than just an entrepreneurial mindset. The skills to act on our ideas and passions, in addition to the guidance to respond appropriately to the demands of creation and innovation are essential.
In clarifying the true essence of an entrepreneurial educator, the focus moves from the possibility of teaching someone to be an entrepreneur to if the entrepreneur is open to learning. The idea is that educators are not creating the passion for their students, but rather they are fueling it and guiding it. Educators are looking for students who have the desire, the “fire in their belly,” to help them develop their skills sets, professional networks, and frameworks to think about complex entrepreneurial matters. As the entrepreneurial path includes many assumptions and, often, very little knowledge supporting these expectations and beliefs, it is only those who behold an entrepreneurial spirit that will survive the unraveling of their assumptions. This is the determining point of an entrepreneur, one that makes disappointments into their ending or those who transform these missteps into their reassessment and continue with a new lense.
In looking at the California Entrepreneurship Educators Conference, a local conference that, after its creation, attracted quite an international community, one understands the embodiment of entrepreneurial spirit. Initially this conference would be cancelled because of the travel limitations put in place due to the current pandemic. However by recognizing the strengths that this crisis has created, for example, the public’s newly-found, general comfort in engaging online, we can reimagine a conference that is not only transmitted online, but that is enhanced upon. After a year of preparation, the solution is not to postpone or cancel the conference, but to host a better conference online. Therefore, the important topics and the necessary learning that takes place during this conference transforms with its platform.
In setting limits on entrepreneurs, we are only giving them a greater opportunity to create and innovate. As Dr. Alex DeNoble, Professor at San Diego State University, and Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy, Professor at George Washington University, converse, they challenge each other to further develop upon their initial responses. As the two professors, both active in their local and global communities’ work for entrepreneurial studies and right, describe their own questions, they end the discussion at a crossroad, one at which they are excited about the future while remaining informed by the past. In hopes to amplify the academic perspective, they promote the entrepreneurial spirit, which seeks to thrive in face of limitation. By recognizing the strengths of their communities and of others’, this conversation acts only as a predecessor to the conversations that will be available at the 2020 California Entrepreneurship Educator Conference happening at the end of this week.
Reference video: Re-imagining Entrepreneurship Education and Research – Giving a Voice to the Academic Community
BBC “Business Matters: More government money for US small businesses.”
Following the recent 388 to 5 passing of the Congress bill to add an additional $484 billion to help small businesses, the BBC reviews the reasons for the necessity of this addition as well as how this money might affect small businesses. Dante Disparte, the Head of Policy at the Libra Association, announces that 36.4 million Americans have applied for unemployment claims, demonstrating the enormous turmoil for both American employees out of work and the small businesses who no longer have the resources to keep their staff on the books nor their doors open.
Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy, executive director of the International Council for Small Business and George Washington University professor, begins by describing these additional funds as “excellent news;” however, later, he admits that we need more. As the first wave of support did not reach many small businesses, this original inadequacy “lost” many SMEs for good. Those that decided that they had to close their doors will most likely not be looking for a recovery plan. The uncertainty of timing, logistics, and aid could have played a major role in their endings. Dr. El Tarabishy does point to a “middle-class,” so to speak, of small businesses that have yet to close their doors, yet who remain in a limbo. Their journey will certainly be characterized by their ability to access financial support, specifically that of this most recent stimulus addition.
When asked if there was a risk that the first round of funding, Dr. El Tarabishy stated that the money most certainly did not go to the right people. In the “frantic effort” of the first dispersion, the government did not consider how the “first come first serve” setup of administering aid was indirectly designed to assist companies, such as franchisees, that have access to banking systems. According to Dante Disparte, this prevents those who truly need it, especially those living or established in vulnerable communities to receive the government support that they need to survive. Disparte believes that this recent intervention is welcome, however the government must be “sharper” on its administration, meaning that we need not just a comprehensive package but also comprehensive plans to make sure that the small businesses targeted are receiving their rightful aid.
Following, Stefanie Yuen Thio of the Joint Management Partner at TSMP Law in Singapore, describes Singapore’s $64 billion Singapore dollar plan, which she believes to be more targeted than the US package. As the Singaporean government works to put “cash directly in the hands” of its constituents, the program seeks to help everyone. When questioned as to from where this money is coming, Stefanie points to Singapore’s enormous reserve pool. Therefore, the country is not printing as much money as they are utilizing past savings to support their nation in this crisis.
Taking a moment to speak about Europe’s financial situation and subsequent package, BBC’s Andrew Walker explains the European Union’s recovery fund angled to rebuild. Involving a lot of decision making, this push forward forces us to imagine what it might look like as well as how it will be financed. After an e-meeting amongst EU leaders, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, described seeing a lot of progress, however, while still not receiving all of his wishes to assist Italy. Walker describes that this “collective financial rescue package” is designed to minimize long-term damage by “tidying European economies over the crisis.” Dante Disparte sees this deal as incomplete. He believes that the EU needs a “reminder of solidarity,” in order to globally map out a way for global solidarity to preval.
Stefanie Yuen reminds us to pay attention to China as they are using this moment to expand their power, exemplified by their aid to Italy. As the west attempts to pull away from their created ideals of globalism, we must be aware of the superpowers looking to step up in their place.
Reference News Clip: Business Matters- More government money for US small businesses
The Need for Inclusive Entrepreneurship.
During this near society reversal set in place by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have the rare opportunity to realign ourselves with what is important. Currently the American society is an idea often defined by innovation, efficiency, exchange. In times like this, we need an evolution of the ideas that structure our world. So the question for us centers on how we can create an America which adds care, kindness, and humanity to the mix.
Following an interesting conversation with my seat neighbor on a flight home about three months ago, I was left captivated. After rotating through the normal flow of flight conversation, the woman next to me spoke more deeply about her struggles accessing affordable technology that could help her exist in a world made exclusively for the typically-abled. This woman was recently disabled after a horse-back riding accident. A strikingly grave incident that changed her body and her reality forever. This woman shared her struggles and our conversation ended with my attempt to optimistically add that potential new technologies could assist her in maneuvering through a world that was made without her in mind.
If only this conversation had been a couple weeks later, I may have more wisely placed my words. This woman’s abilities places her in the “high-risk” category on a typical day. Now add a pandemic. Every public service announcement seems to be repeating the need for social distancing and frequent hand washing. However, how is this woman supposed to social distance when she needs someone to help her out of bed? The simple answer is that she can not.
This one example makes me wonder who else our system has once again forgotten. We know to protect the elderly, those who are differently abled, and those who are immunocompromised, however we have forgotten to research and provide the necessary insight with these people on how they can protect themselves. We need to move beyond the advice of staying home and cancelling non-essential events to start innovating for those who must go to their doctor’s appointment and those who struggle to wash their hands on a normal basis. These people’s realities are not easy, not ever, and certainly not now, so where are the solutions.
As our government barely manages to provide aid for those contaminated and those who risk contamination every day to uphold the nation, the answers will not be found in the public sector. Therefore we must ask whether the private sector can truly care for the American population as it needs.
As an advocate for small and medium-sized enterprises, I have long studied the capabilities of the working population, and as we continue to wait for officials, I believe that it is only right that capable entrepreneurs and tech teams stand up to help provide solutions for the American population and continue in a way that allows for the technologies created today to prevent the next pandemic from advancing tomorrow. I recognize this request as possible as we have already seen products be released that help maintain the lives of high-risk populations.
For those with limited mobility and those who can not risk contamination through social contact, delivery apps are available to provide for basic and essential needs. There are also Task Experts who work through a two-sided marketplace that connects Task Seekers (those needing assistance) with Task Providers (those ready to help). Allowing people to outsource small jobs to nearby community members, this promotes connection, independence, and economic flow. Additionally, the sharing economy holds the potential to fill in large gaps in access to care. For example, the minimalist movement benefits those in and out of the high-risk group as it relies on the help of local workers, thus stimulating the economy, reducing costs, and avoiding long travel and possible contamination. Additionally, the transportation sector can implement a transportation movement by taking advantage of the available vehicles that are suitable for those who need safe, contamination-free, handicap accessible transportation.
As we have already seen businesses take precautions to help these groups without the aid of Washington or the Trump administration, I encourage us to look to the examples that grocery stores have shown us. By setting aside senior hours at the grocery stores and managing distance requirements, they have proven that this new reality is possible. We must accept it for what it is and progress from there. Entrepreneurship moves fast. The ship in the word represents opportunity. Let’s capture this moment in time, this opportunity. By doing what we are capable of, creating, we can create a new reality that is made for and involves everyone’s needs. It seems about time to get started.
The BBC World Business Report released a broadcast that described a wide array of perspectives on the financial and social consequences of COVID-19. After interviewing Neil Bradley, we understand that about one in ten businesses are less than a month away from shutting down completely, and despite federal and state spending, some businesses will not be able to come back from their current deficit. Following Bradley’s statement, Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy of the International Council for Small Business describes our collective movement towards a new normality. He comments on our current situation by enlightening the audience to the hurt of small businesses. Enterprises, housing only four to five employees, are those that often survive financially on a month-to-month basis. Additionally, El Tarabishy comments on how even large businesses who have invested in the upcoming spring season will feel this crisis. Throughout this moment, the unknown of time is the most important variable. Dr. El Tarabishy indicates that companies would have an easier time adjusting to this moment of loss, if they were able to define an end date and work backwards in adjusting their income structure. However, definitive time is not a luxury for which our current crisis allows. As about two trillion dollars are coming from the government, most businesses, who without aid would be severely suffering, are feeling grateful to stay open and be able to pay their employees properly. However, what will happen when it is time to pay the April paychecks? This conversation must also include a monetary percentage, therefore if businesses are able to pay their employees with the help of the government this month, they will have to replay this scene again next month. Luckily, according to Dr. El Tarabishy, small businesses are known to try to first take care of their employees.
The presenter then asks Dr. El Tarabishy if this shut down is too large a price to pay for the pandemic, to which El Tarabishy immediately responds “no.” He states that small businesses are based in humane entrepreneurship, and while there are those who will see this virus in a negative light, there are others that will note how their enterprise’s sacrifice was made for humanity. It is this change in the narrative that will shift the way that the next generations view this moment in history. Small businesses are resilient, and that resilience shines brightest in moments of crisis, like that of today. That spirit will hopefully work concurrently with a long term plan set forth by the government. As it seems impossible to predict the future, especially as we find ourselves in such a volatile state, only the evolution of time will determine if large spending during this period will be worth it. Dr. El Tarabishy notes that if people are willing to sacrifice in the short term for their long term survival, they often need to know how long that short term period will last. This uncertainty leaves us individuals with a choice. One in which we can choose to wait for the worst or another in which we can show our true resilient humanity.
Reference broadcast: 25% of US small businesses could close