Are SMEs ready to re-open?

Even as the viral menace continues to upend lives, government leaders and economic managers have begun thinking  how to reopen factories, stores, offices  schools and other workplaces.

One question is top of the mind:  Are small businesses ready to resume “business, as usual?”

The SERDEF Research and Development group talked to three small entrepreneurs. We asked:  Are they ready for the reopening?  Are their customers ready?  What about the general public?

The answers gathered were a mixed bag.

Guarded optimism

Lubar de los Reyes, CEO of Driven Marketing Group, Inc., a company engaged in real estate selling, looks forward to the economic re-opening with an equal mix of anticipation and caution.

The company is ready he says. “We are very excited and at the same very wary .”

He thinks the general public shares the excitement, as well  as the cautiousness.  There should be proper guidelines to overcome the wariness.  Without straight-thinking  leaders to provide well-thought-out guidelines, he thinks the economy will crash deeper than before.

As far as real estate buyers are concerned, de los Reyes sees them keeping a wait-and-see mindset but not abandoning their dreams of home ownership.

In fact, he says, this is the best time for them to buy – “because many developers are offering easy payment terms, while banks are easing up on interest rates.”

The steps the company has taken to make the transition include:  orienting all workers on what COVID 19 is;   drafting guidelines on the conduct of business within the office;  and  establishing protocols to be followed during  field work.

Meanwhile, the company is waiting for further instructions from the government.

Once these are in, re-strategizing will follow. 

To de los Reyes, the outlook for business in general is bleak.  “Some companies  have closed.  A Many people  have lost their jobs; many more will. But there is reason to hope.   “There will be new opportunities out there.  New products and services will have to be developed to respond to the new normal. “

As far as his company is  is concerned,  de los Reyes is optimistic but not complacent.  “Driven Marketing is composed of over 500 online sellers.  We can continue selling online while carrying a new product.”  

He expounds on what lies ahead for his business: “First of all, we have to accept the challenge of a new normal.  Real estate sales will take a hit but will not stay down for long.  We  will need to make adjustments here and there to reposition  ourselves.”

Shift to online retailing

A 40-year old entrepreneur who owns a sporting goods shop (but has asked not to be named) reveals transition plans are in place. These include mandatory masks, limited seats,  servicing by appointment, and temperature checks. 

“Unfortunately,” he says, “we are heavily dependent on sports events. With no such events in the horizon for at least the rest of the year, I am looking at a more than 50 per cent drop in revenues.  What money we make won’t cover our overhead, let alone early 2021 expenses.” 

After long soul searching and discussion with his business partner and  other stakeholders, he has decided to close the brick-and-mortar store and shift to online retail.  “Later this month and in June we will have to let go of many of our  staff. “

“Painful,” he admits. “But It’s the only way we can survive now.”

‘No’ to a  full reopening

Chew Chai Milk Tea Shop, located on Countryside Avenue, Pasig City, was forced to shut down last March 16   It reopened on April 19 – but only for delivery and take-out.

“We have taken precautions worthy of certified paranoids,” says Alina Calleja, co-owner and in-charge of marketing. 

“All crew members are provided with masks, face shields and gloves.  Take-out customers enter two at a time.  No mask, no entry.” 

Inside, a PVC barrier separates the service crew from buyers at the counter.  Here, a tray is provided where customers place their payment and from which they take their change.   Surfaces are disinfected when the store opens and closes and every time a customer leaves.  Alcohol is available all around. 

Calleja does not see the store fully reopening anytime soon. Unless a vaccine has been developed or a cure discovered for the virus.

(For more entrepreneurship stories, visit the SERDEF website at