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Coronavirus: Simple ways to keep your business running

Both the public and private sectors are scrambling to slow the spread of the illness and contain COVID-19 infection, as it is spreading rapidly.

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Coronavirus is beginning to shake up businesses and consumer behaviour on a massive scale. Both the public and private sectors are scrambling to slow the spread of the illness and contain COVID-19 infection, as it is spreading rapidly, with updates flying in every minute.

Depending on the industry you are in, some losses are unavoidable, but for many entrepreneurs, it is about minimizing your losses and finding ways to capitalize on opportunities. No longer is it business as usual. People’s routines and lives have been greatly impacted.

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What does this mean for you and your business? It means that unless you re-examine your marketing strategy, your ability to grow and expand your business is under siege.

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As the situation evolves, many small business owners are unsure of what steps to take to mitigate risk, protect employees and support customers. Here are the recommended tips that small business owners can take to accomplish all of those, and still make sales during the COVID-19 pandemic:

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Establish a remote work option

Implement a remote work policy that covers when you expect your team to be online or available, how to communicate (via email, Slack, or video call, for instance), and what deliverables each team member is responsible for completing.

[READ MORE: Atiku Abubakar’s son tests positive to coronavirus)

Reduce meetings and travel

Try to keep opportunities for exposure to the virus to a minimum. Postpone team meetings or hold them virtually. Skip conferences or other planned business trips.

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Communicate transparently with your customers

Everyone is facing this crisis together, so be transparent about what your business is going through. Customers can empathize with brands facing a crisis, as long as you communicate with them properly.

As Harvard Business Review reports, “When customers are separated from the work that’s being done behind the scenes to serve them, they appreciate the service less and then they value the service less.”

Describe the steps you’re taking to mitigate risk and give them insight into the steps you are taking to help the community. Keep your employees and your customers safe by being as proactive as possible about cleanliness.

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Shift your sales strategy to online

As storefronts are shutting their doors and workers stay in place, savvy business owners should shift their sales strategies to avoid heavy losses. If you are closing your store, find ways to keep your employees earning a paycheck by selling on social media, putting your email list to good use or using a video tool to reach new leads.

If your sales previously relied on brick and mortar stores, face-to-face meetings, tradeshows or events, it’s time to re-evaluate your marketing strategy. As cities lockdown and people are forced into isolation, one of their best friends becomes the internet.

This is your chance to move your digital communication to the next level! People will be seeking updates, answers, and ways to improve their personal and professional lives. If your business has a solid digital marketing strategy, you are in a better position to weather this storm.

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READ MORE: COVID-19: MTN Nigeria outlines new measures, staff to work from home

Important questions to ask when it comes to reaching your buyers online

  • Does your business have a reputable online presence and an intuitive and easy-to-use online interface?
  • Have you implemented a Pay per Click (PPC) online advertising campaign to pull in buyers searching for your services?
  • Do you have a social media campaign that engages with your potential customers?
  • Are your website and content optimized for search engines when clients are browsing and researching online?
  • Is your website delivering a superior user experience – making it easy to navigate, explaining your value proposition and how to buy your products and services?

If you have not invested in an Omnichannel digital marketing strategy, with consistently aligned messaging and customer experiences across channels and platforms, it’s not too late to start. If you are already invested in an online presence, consider devoting even more resources to this critically important area.

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How to identify, implement and optimize new sales channels

With social distancing being the preventative measure to contain the crisis, investing or reallocating resources to different sales channels may be the opportunity you have overlooked, until now.

[READ ALSO: Coronavirus: FirstBank deploys measures to protect employees, customers and other stakeholders)

Six ideas to help you sell more effectively in the digital world

  • Build e-commerce functionality on your site so customers can order your goods and services directly.
  • Make sure you offer quick, inexpensive delivery to online shoppers’ homes or businesses.
  • Add functionality to your website so users can easily book virtual appointments.
  • Offer webinars in place of face-to-face presentations.
  • Implement an online chat tool so online buyers and browsers have a way to get their questions quickly answered.
  • Post a comprehensive online FAQ on your site, with strong search functionality

Patricia
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Business

UPDATED: Court rules ICAN members do not need CITN license to file tax returns

The suit, which was filed some years ago by CITN, was basically struck out for lacking merit.

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Justice S. A. Onigbanjo of the High Court of Lagos State has ruled that members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) do not need to be licensed by the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) before they can file tax returns.

The ruling on July 2nd followed a suit filed by CITN trying to restrain ICAN members from filing tax returns for their clients unless they have a practicing CITN license.

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A notice to ICAN members regarding this development, as seen by Nairametrics, noted that Justice Onigbanjo struck out the suit after describing it as “an abuse of court process and an embarrassment to the judiciary.”

The backstory: Nairametrics understands that the disagreement between ICAN and CITN stemmed from the misinterpretation of a 2015 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Terms of Settlement (ToS) between the two organisations. Consequently, CITN had filed a suit before the High Court of Lagos State, seeking the following:

  • A declaration that the Memorandum of Understanding and Terms of Service both dated February 12, 2015 between the CITN and ICAN are valid, subsisting, and binding on the CITN and ICAN.
  • An injunction restraining ICAN whether by its agents, privies, assigns, or whosoever called, from repudiating, resiling from or acting in any manner or doing anything that is inconsistent with, contrary to or is a violation of the Memorandum of Understanding and the Terms of Settlement dated February 12, 2015, between the CITN and ICAN.
  • Determine whether the Memorandum of Understanding and Terms of Settlement both dated February 12, 2015 between the CITN and ICAN are valid, subsisting, and binding on CITN and the ICAN.

However, last week’s ruling by Justice S. A. Onigbanjo which, by the way, was delivered virtually due to COVID-19, has made it impossible for the CITN to implement the terms of the 2015 MoU and ToS. The ruling also aligned with ICAN’s earlier objection to the MoU and ToS.

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The status quo: In view of this development, ICAN has informed its members that they do not need to obtain any license from the CITN before they can file tax returns for their clients with the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS.

ICAN members were also informed that an earlier ruling by the Federal High Court on the case does not affect the status quo. This is because “the earlier ruling by the Federal High Court in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/125/2019 did not make pronouncement on the memorandum and terms of settlement between ICAN and CITN.” More so, regulation 5 of the FIRS Act was not reflected in the earlier judgment of the Federal High Court.

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China more willing to restructure Africa’s debt than private creditors

Agreements have been easier to reach with Chinese lenders than with private creditors.

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A recent study by John Hopkins University reveals it may be easier for African Nations to raise debt and also get debt relief from China than private creditors.

The report of the study comes a day after China promised to cancel interests from loans to African nations and restructure debt to Africa. The study also revealed that China has restructured $15 billion of African debt and written off $3.4 billion in the past ten years.

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After 1,000 Chinese loans, including restructured Mozambican and Republic of Congo debt, were analysed, the researchers concluded that “the agreements have been easier to reach with Chinese lenders than with private creditors”.

The Paris Club recently agreed to pause debt payment valued at $11 billion for the poorest 73 nations freeing up capital to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. However, not all eligible nations signed up citing fears of default ratings if debt obligations are not met.

The study discovers difficulties in renegotiating terms on International Bonds for African countries due to the disparate ownership structure making private creditors unwilling to grant complete debt relief, citing warnings on rating downgrades.

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China accounts for about 20% of Africa’s external debt and lent over $150 billion to the continent between 2000-2018 the study reveals. Chinese President, Xi Jinping has urged global leaders to be more pragmatic with debt suspension for Africa.

The study says much of the terms of Chinese debt to Africa has not been transparent and the relief negotiations may follow the same path.

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Orange, France’s largest telco operator, may come to Nigeria in months

Orange would also be looking at bolstering partnerships with health companies or institutions.

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Orange, France's largest telco operator, may come to Nigeria in months

France’s largest telecom operator, Orange, is set to extend its tentacles to Nigeria and South Africa.

Chief Executive Officer, Orange, Stephane Richard, who disclosed the news, said that the firm would make the move in a few months.

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He said, “It could make sense to be in economies such as Nigeria and South Africa. If one considers there are things to do, the time frame I am considering is rather a few months than a few years.”

READ ALSO: French telco inks investment partnership with MainOne

The Middle East and Africa, where Orange has a presence in 18 countries, is the company’s fastest-growing market.

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What you need to know: There are chances that the company may eye payment transfers (mobile) in Nigeria.

That is because it makes the largest chunk of its revenue from payment transfers (Middle East), a key part of the group’s diversification into financial services, and Nigeria, which is the most populous black nation, is always an attraction.

READ MORE: Multichoice to integrate Netflix, Amazon contents into decoder

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Meanwhile, earlier in 2020, Orange had stated that it was bringing its operations in the Middle East and Africa into a single entity, paving the way for a potential listing of the operations that could raise cash to invest in overseas expansion.

“Orange would also be looking at bolstering partnerships with health companies or institutions,” he added.

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