Sagicor Bank stages COVID-19 coping forum for SMEs


Sagicor Bank stages COVID-19 coping forum for SMEs

Friday, July 10, 2020

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Sagicor Bank recently staged a forum to assist customers, particularly those within the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) sector, cope with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic on their businesses.

The online forum, held under the theme 'Overcoming Anxieties: The SME Perspective', saw business leaders being engaged and encouraged by a panel of stakeholders to take care of their mental health as they lead their companies through the difficult period.

“There has been much focus on the economic impact of the pandemic on businesses, but we believe that some attention needs to be placed on the psychological impact and how this will affect our SME business operators,” a company release quotes Sagicor Bank CEO Chorvelle Johnson Cunningham. “Sagicor Bank believes in empowering businesses, celebrating their highs and supporting them through challenges.”

Johnson Cunningham also championed the need for an all-encompassing approach to restore the SME sector and, by extension, the economy. She explained that though measures implemented as a result of the pandemic are necessary, they have had a negative impact on some small businesses and have caused them to see a reduction or complete halt in their income.

Valrie Veira, CEO of the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), expressed similar sentiments, noting that her organisation has also witnessed cases in which the impact of the pandemic has brought despair on business leaders, some of whom have expressed anxiety, frustration and fear at the current realities.

Veira reasoned that some of these concerns stemmed from the fact that several of the business models utilised by SMEs were not optimised to navigate the realities brought on by COVID-19.

“We have found that the models that some businesses have been operating under are not going to work in the future; they have to re-engineer their approach because they are not ready for occurrences such as COVID-19. It might not be the virus, it might be the hurricane or many other things, but what we want to emphasise is the fact that we have to look at how we mitigate these risk situations,” she said, adding that all industries have experienced challenges in light of the pandemic.

“Our clients need to re-engineer the brain to move from panic back to passion because unless we do that we will always be in the fear and frustration mode. For us, the three Ps — planning, perseverance, and passion — are important,” she shared.

The JBDC boss urged business operators to regularise their operations to benefit from facilities developed to assist them during challenging periods, noting that some business operators who have been “doing a ting” instead of operating structured businesses over the years have been unable to benefit from Government support.

Occupational health and workplace wellness consultant Dr Yohann White, who also spoke at the session, stressed the importance of safeguarding one's mental health, especially people involved in businesses.

He said while business comes with its own sets of everyday stresses, especially bills and other operational expenses, it is vital that while taking care of companies and customers, operators also factor some time to take care of themselves.

“Take time for yourself to relax, you do not have to be at peak performance all the time. Anxiety is normal, it is a natural defence mechanism that raises your awareness so that you can be on alert. I want us to also appreciate that there are some things that are outside of our control; we did not invent this disease and we can't necessarily control the rate of spread of this disease,” he advised.

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