Friday, June 09, 2023 | Dhu al-Qaadah 19, 1444 H
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Reading ups and downs for SMEs (Part 1)


In my weekly brainstorming around the topic to cover in my upcoming column for the Observer, I need to gauge the various interests of the readers.

At times I write about global economy: having lived in Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia, I consider myself blessed with multicultural insights that help me appreciate better the complex dynamics at work.

In other occasions I write about local business matters: as a former Mentor to the SME appointed by the Public Authority for Small and Medium Enterprise Development to support Omani entrepreneurs, I have appreciated the challenges of day-to-day operations. The latter — I must admit — is one of the dearest topics to cover.

In the past two weeks I posted columns about business cases where add-backs were not kept in account when calculating the valuation of a business.

After that column I have received countless emails and messages on Linkedin by entrepreneurs from Oman and beyond.

One of such messages stood out to me. It was form Mahfoudha, a strong female entrepreneur whom has been enduring the pandemic difficulties with ingenuity and resilience. After being retrenched in mid 2020, she decided to rent a small commercial space and to start cooking for take away and delivery. I will cover Mahfoudha’s story over the next two columns.

She told me that at the beginning it all went well, with so many orders that she could barely keep up. But just a few weeks in, she noticed a sudden drop in business.

By the end of 2020 — she confessed — business was so slow that she consulted with her husband on whether she should have stopped or continued until completing one full year of business.

Mahfoudha’s husband supported her and that turned out to be the extra help she needed to get back to a decent business volume.

Fast forward to last week when Mahfoudha wrote me asking how to grow more now that the daily orders seem to be stabilised. Moreover, how to avoid another dip towards the year end?

My first thought was on whether she should expect seasonal highs and lows. A simple explanation for what she experienced last year could be that in the beginning there was a sense of novelty attached to her new food business.

Her family and friends certainly supported her placing orders in the first few weeks. Other clients were curious about the new establishment and decided to try her food. If that was the case, then it was natural for that first boom to slow down significantly.

Some clients might have wanted to experience different food while other, simply put, did not find Mahfoudha’s food enough to continue ordering on a regular basis. I did not try her food — and I am sure it is delicious — but I could imagine that — especially at the beginning — she might have needed to fine tune some recipes, and perhaps lost some clients in the process.

I have a positive feeling about Mahfoudha’s business moving forward.

Every SME would experience ups and downs, but when signs of stability start appearing, then it is important to keep what works in place and carefully explore something new.

Next week we will see what else Mahfoudha can do to improve her business.

[The writer is a member of the International Press Association]

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