After almost a year, the coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of slowing around much of the world. The global economy has suffered an unprecedented blow, and many local businesses, especially SMEs, are in deep trouble.
To help members work through the difficult times together, and to learn from others’ experiences the Chamber invited four entrepreneurs from different sectors to share their experience at the SME Survival Strategies Sharing Session on 15 October. They discussed not only the difficulties they were facing amid the pandemic, but also their tactics to resolve their issues.
Since the pandemic began, people have had to adopt to a “new normal,” both at home and in the workplace. CK Lee, Managing Director of CK Lee & Associates, a human resource management and training company, noted that Hong Kong businesses have always been flexible. For SMEs, the pace of response to change is even faster, as most companies have been shifting to online meetings, flexi-work hours and work-from-home arrangements over the past six months.
Lee said he also realised that while only the strong survive challenging times, it is also a time when companies can explore new opportunities. He shared his partners’ experience in coming up with new business ideas when they were forced to stay in their hometowns, in Malaysia and Mainland China, when the pandemic first broke out.
Although the catering industry has been among the sectors hardest hit by Covid-19, Alan Lo, Co-founder of Duddell’s, pointed out that there were silver linings to be found. “With rents falling to a ten-year low, now is an opportune time for businesses to expand, if they have strengths, new ideas and a good team,” he said.
Lo stressed that companies should make use of technology in their operations. They could also consider new business models, such as developing online food ordering systems and takeaway markets, or even consider setting up cloud kitchens, to reduce operating costs.
Lexington Limited is engaged in product design, production, brand promotion, export trade as well as retail and wholesale. Its co-founder, Carlotta Wong, said the company focuses on responsiveness to stay competitive.
“In the past, it was ‘the big fish eats the small fish,’ but in the context of the current critical situation it is ‘the fast fish eats the slow fish,’” she said. “As such, we review our operations daily to allow immediate adjustment.”
Wong added that her company also pays particular attention to staff morale. During the pandemic, the company has encouraged employees to upgrade their skills, while also cultivating its internal marketing team. The aim is to create a sense of everyone working together as a team, from senior to junior staff, to tide over the hardships.
Kevin Ng, Managing Director of Tsangs Group, is a fourth-generation member of the family business, which focuses on financial investments. He said that while Hong Kong’s financial industry has been less affected by the Covid epidemic than some other sectors, it is obvious that innovation and technology is driving a change in how we all live and work. These have brought many new business opportunities, so the group has shifted to more investment in projects related to innovation and technology, such as fintech, biotech and blockchain.
The speakers all agreed that, given the rapidly changing development and impact of the pandemic, businesses should continue to stay abreast of the situation and respond promptly. They said that they hope that Hong Kong companies will aim to “think out of the box” and embrace innovation, putting themselves in a good position for both attack and defence as the current situation evolves.