A Sting Exclusive: “Entrepreneurship in the Coronavirus (COVID-19) era” written by the Vice-President of Junior Enterprises Europe

COVID 19 sorry we are closed

(Anastasiia Chepinska, Unsplash)

This article is exclusively written for The Sting by Ms. Natacha Lopes, Vice-President of Junior Enterprises Europe, a longstanding partner of The European Sting. The opinions expressed reflect the writer’s position on the issue and don’t necessarily represent The Sting’s view.

In late 2019, the first cases of COVID-19 appeared. From that moment on a lot changed. As people need to stay indoors and away from each other, European businesses are facing tremendous challenges and opportunities. This recent outbreak prompted companies and institutions to review their business models and redefine their value propositions. More than ever the world is becoming digital and organisations must adapt to this reality.

Challenges in a new era of business

As physical contacts are limited to the minimum, companies must ensure their business continuity. Retaining customers is one of the main issues faced nowadays by most companies. Sales departments are being forced to redefine commercial approaches and the way they structure their selling points. Getting new clients and keeping existing ones becomes difficult as customers are limiting their consumption to a minimum. In a B2B perspective, new sales, collaborations or even partnerships are becoming increasingly complex as most companies are reluctant to change. The novel economic situation makes businesses hesitant to new investments and forces them to consider the use of current resources.

However, the challenges do not end here. Besides the visible problems, there are internal concerns which need to be considered. Remote work brings barriers which were not recognised before. Lack of efficiency, communication problems and loss of focus at home are some of the examples. Remote work may be a good solution in the long-term, but individuals are still getting used to this new normality. It will take time to bring additional positive results. Furthermore, HR departments are facing uncountable challenges in what regards to talent management. In these unfortunate times, not only the motivation and development of their teams can be affected but also talent attraction becomes a bigger challenge. In times where normality is at stake, most candidates are not interested in a change of career or a new job. For applicants, remote interviews make it difficult to understand the culture and employer branding of the company. Interviewers struggle to assess team dynamics and profiles remotely.

Opportunities in a digital world

Nevertheless, these challenging times also bring opportunities. With companies being pushed to become digital and redefining their value propositions, they are now innovating and focusing on new ways to sell and distribute their products and services. Thus, companies now must understand how to increase their revenue through different income streams. This outbreak also bears good long-term opportunities. Companies and institutions are now forced to forecast their resources better to ensure their working capital is prepared for unforeseen circumstances. Furthermore, internal policies will also need to be reviewed. Even though this may look a challenge, for now, the revision of policies (for example in what regards remote work) will allow more close-minded companies to understand the importance of a work-life balance and the benefits of this kind of policies.

There is another benefit resulting from changes in our work style – companies are becoming more sustainable. For example, with the travel restrictions imposed by most of the governments, businesses are being forced to meet and work remotely, reducing significantly travels and costs made before. The urgency to understand what is important and necessary will make companies increasingly hesitant to overuse certain resources for something that maybe was not needed.

Junior Enterprises creating impact

In these difficult times, youth NGOs are in a fortunate position. These non-profit organisations are less affected by the main challenges of this outbreak and they can use this as a big opportunity to help others and create impact.

Let us look for the Junior Enterprises Network for a moment.

Due to the Junior Enterprises services nature (delivering real projects to SMEs), some Junior Enterprises are now actively helping companies in need in their current challenges. From providing consulting projects to helping SMEs to redefine their business models, the global network of around 51.000 students is doing an active effort to support SMEs and its aftermath by providing services for free. This action is called “1000 Initiative” and was born by Junior Enterprises Europe and Junior Enterprises Global. The two NGOs are working together to deliver 1000 projects (done by some of their Junior Enterprises) to SMEs in need.

SMEs compose a decisive share of every developed economy. As their prosperity is crucial to decrease unemployment and to increase general economic welfare, it is up to the young generation to support the economy as they can.

Additionally, the Junior Enterprise concept is, more than ever, contributing to the quality education of its students. While classes are being held remotely, they must have the chance to put their theoretical knowledge in practice. Due to the nature of the Junior Enterprise concept, students can easily access other learning methods and develop their entrepreneurial skills.

A matter of perspective

To finish, and of course, do not forget the difficulties and disadvantages of this situation, it is also important to reflect on the positive changes deriving from it. This outbreak made most of the companies think creatively, get out of their comfort zones, innovate and to make some of their processes and projects more agile. It could be said that this situation helped companies finding and adapting their business models in ways previously not considered. Now, it is up to companies, institutions and to us as citizens to identify benefits and continue with the good practices in the future.

About the author

Natacha Lopes

Ms. Natacha Lopes, Vice President Junior Enterprises Europe

“Natacha Lopes is from Aveiro, Portugal, 23 years old and a dedicated Junior Entrepreneur.
After 2 years as Marketing Consultant for ISCAC Junior Solutions, she joined the executive board of this Junior Enterprise. As Internal Vice President she managed 76 students and created and redefined internal processes on the organisation. After completing her Business Management degree, she became Vice President of Junior Enterprises Europe, a network of over 30.000 European students. She is now responsible for 4 departments and fosters entrepreneurship among students in Europe, increasing entrepreneurial and sustainable education.”

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