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4 Crisis-Proofing Lessons for Small Business Owners

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October 14, 2020 7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

We have all had to re-invent our approach to in the wake of the crisis created by the Covid-19 pandemic. But we have learned during the pandemic that crisis is not all-together bad. Crisis helps us think deeper, stretch our imagination, restructure our organizations, and discern the real needs of our business. 

But how do we, as business owners, crisis-proof our business? We may not be able to stop the crisis from coming, but our business can cope with it better when that crisis does arrive. 

and crisis management are consistent features of Forex and . Here are a few areas where can draw significant wisdom from the art of currency trading. 

Avoid false advertising

Many small businesses constantly grapple with the crisis of customer defection or a consistent inability to attract and keep new customers. The problem is often with their .  

A leisurely scroll through your timeline on will expose you to a myriad of ads from small and medium-sized businesses all vying for your attention. In many of these ads, you will find one nasty feature; false advertising. While these ads promise astonishing freebies or cut-price deals, the reality behind often reveals something totally different. 

I once received mail from an advertising business I had almost patronized. It read, “I noticed you stopped short of making the purchase. Hey, I know the ad was a bit deceptive but…” Needless to say, that put me off from the business. 

One key feature of Forex trading is the risk factor. It is one of the most glaring features of the market, so glaring that Donald Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis caused quite a stir. Every serious-minded Forex trader, trainer, or broker reveals the nature of risk involved in trading while advertising their services or teaching their courses. 

My early foray into Forex trading brought me in contact with FxBro, a sibling run Forex trading community where they were so vocal about the risks of trading Forex that it almost seemed like it was their marketing strategy.

However, I noticed I was drawn to Maksim and Nina Konstantinov’s strategy (Fx Bro Co-founders), because their clear warnings made me appreciate even further their offer of guidance. 

While taking advantage of PPC campaigns and ad marketing that social media provides, you must realize that building a loyal following does not involve sacrificing the truth on the altar of appeal. 

It is pertinent that you market nothing beyond what you can offer, and though you must engage your creativity in marketing, you must also draw the line just before creativity begins to drift into dishonesty. 

In co-founder of Fxbro Maksim Konstantinov’s words, “When we fall downstream, we always say it loud and explain to our customers that even after the 15 years experience I have garnered trading Forex, we can still make losses and so would they”.  Konstantinov finds that having begun from scratch himself and experiencing all the downturns, it is great to always be clear about the risks while advertising. 

This is the attitude that marketers should have across the board and is one of the most powerful ways to avert the crisis of customer defection. 

Related: 6 False Advertising Scandals You Can Learn From

Spin the wheel, don’t reinvent it

Two years ago, I served on the panel for a grant-issuing body for upcoming African entrepreneurs. As I sat on that panel, I discovered that almost 90% of those who were unsuccessful were failing because they were trying hard to reinvent the wheel. They were trying to run a business that was novel in every single aspect. Their crisis was a “lack-of capital,” and it was self-engineered. 

Granted, innovation and invention are generally good for business, but they are not always necessary, especially when there already exists verified working systems that are yielding massive results in your industry.  

Forex trading platforms realize that many people are not going to sit down to study the technicalities of the market, so to enable the largest number of people to invest, they have to integrate a “Mirror Trading System.” 

Alex Campbell, Chief Executive Officer of Vast Triumph, in explaining their “mirror trading” and AI strategies that have been used to great effect, explained it as  “a system that minimizes the need for vast knowledge and experience of the market. Mirror trading pairs investors and new traders with our top-earning traders, yielding results for investors without the exertion of personal trading.” 

No system guarantees success, but if you can find working, proven systems for your business to adopt, I often advocate the “Ctrl C, Ctrl V” approach. There is no shame in copying working systems. Given the same circumstances, there is no reason they won’t work for you. 

Upcoming entrepreneurs can stand out with their company culture, values, and mission, but when it comes to business strategy, learn what works and spin the wheel. When you insist on constantly treading uncharted waters you are easily prone to unforeseen errors. 

Protect today with yesterday

My first attempt at trading the Forex market saw me obliterate a $300 account in one day. It hurt, and I learned. Crises are unavoidable in business, but if you are keen on documenting your experiences and adjusting your business to become resistant to that same crisis, you’ll win in the long term. 

The human body becomes more and more immune to the diseases it has survived before, Hurricane-prone areas of the state begin to re-imagine its infrastructure to withstand such a harsh climate. 

Likewise, in Forex, every successful firm or trader has a “trading journal,” where they document all their moves in the market to further understand how it moves and reacts. 

For small business owners, it is necessary to know that to become crisis-proof, you may have to cherish and document all wrong business steps as well as the right ones. Not moaning over losses and failures is the best way to understand business and, more specifically, your industry. 

Nothing you read in books will prepare you for the business experience you gain firsthand, so write your own books by keeping records, and make sure your business evolves with this knowledge. 

Related: How Journaling Can Make You a Better Entrepreneur and Leader

Balanced risk-reward ratio

The question I get asked often from young entrepreneurs is “How do I maximize profit?” This question is vital, but becomes a bit worrying when I see these businesses trying a little too hard to make money from every margin in their business. 

Often, profit maximization can become the direct opposite of customer satisfaction. Small businesses must be satisfied with bearing a lot of risks. To do this, you would have to find a balance between profit and risk

This place of balance is a place where you do not overextend yourself as a business, yet offer the customers enough satisfaction to warrant their continued investment.

In currency trading, a trade is considered bad when the risk far outweighs the profit potential, and a trade is safe to engage in when the risk-reward ratio is at least balanced. This is an invaluable tool for all successful currency traders and firms: risk management

Related: 5 Ways Entrepreneurs Learn to Manage Risk

To prevent a crisis, you need to become analytical, patient, alert, balanced, truthful, and customer-centered. This makes it far easier to evolve positively as a business and grow a thicker skin in the wake of a crisis. 

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The Trump campaign celebrated a growth record that Democrats downplayed.

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The White House celebrated economic growth numbers for the third quarter released on Thursday, even as Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign sought to throw cold water on the report — the last major data release leading up to the Nov. 3 election — and warned that the economic recovery was losing steam.

The economy grew at a record pace last quarter, but the upswing was a partial bounce-back after an enormous decline and left the economy smaller than it was before the pandemic. The White House took no notice of those glum caveats.

“This record economic growth is absolute validation of President Trump’s policies, which create jobs and opportunities for Americans in every corner of the country,” Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign said in a statement, highlighting a rebound of 33.1 percent at an annualized rate. Mr. Trump heralded the data on Twitter, posting that he was “so glad” that the number had come out before Election Day.

The annualized rate that the White House emphasized extrapolates growth numbers as if the current pace held up for a year, and risks overstating big swings. Because the economy’s growth has been so volatile amid the pandemic, economists have urged focusing on quarterly numbers.

Those showed a 7.4 percent gain in the third quarter. That rebound, by far the biggest since reliable statistics began after World War II, still leaves the economy short of its pre-pandemic levels. The pace of recovery has also slowed, and now coronavirus cases are rising again across much of the United States, raising the prospect of further pullback.

“The recovery is stalling out, thanks to Trump’s refusal to have a serious plan to deal with Covid or to pass a new economic relief plan for workers, small businesses and communities,” Mr. Biden’s campaign said in a release ahead of Thursday’s report. The rebound was widely expected, and the campaign characterized it as “a partial return from a catastrophic hit.”

Economists have warned that the recovery could face serious roadblocks ahead. Temporary measures meant to shore up households and businesses — including unemployment insurance supplements and forgivable loans — have run dry. Swaths of the service sector remain shut down as the virus continues to spread, and job losses that were temporary are increasingly turning permanent.

“With coronavirus infections hitting a record high in recent days and any additional fiscal stimulus unlikely to arrive until, at the earliest, the start of next year, further progress will be much slower,” Paul Ashworth, chief United States economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note following the report.

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Black and Hispanic workers, especially women, lag in the U.S. economic recovery.

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The surge in economic output in the third quarter set a record, but the recovery isn’t reaching everyone.

Economists have long warned that aggregate statistics like gross domestic product can obscure important differences beneath the surface. In the aftermath of the last recession, for example, G.D.P. returned to its previous level in early 2011, even as poverty rates remained high and the unemployment rate for Black Americans was above 15 percent.

Aggregate statistics could be even more misleading during the current crisis. The job losses in the initial months of the pandemic disproportionately struck low-wage service workers, many of them Black and Hispanic women. Service-sector jobs have been slow to return, while school closings are keeping many parents, especially mothers, from returning to work. Nearly half a million Hispanic women have left the labor force over the last three months.

“If we’re thinking that the economy is recovering completely and uniformly, that is simply not the case,” said Michelle Holder, an economist at John Jay College in New York. “This rebound is unevenly distributed along racial and gender lines.”

The G.D.P. report released Thursday doesn’t break down the data by race, sex or income. But other sources make the disparities clear. A pair of studies by researchers at the Urban Institute released this week found that Black and Hispanic adults were more likely to have lost jobs or income since March, and were twice as likely as white adults to experience food insecurity in September.

The financial impact of the pandemic hit many of the families that were least able to afford it, even as white-collar workers were largely spared, said Michael Karpman, an Urban Institute researcher and one of the studies’ authors.

“A lot of people who were already in a precarious position before the pandemic are now in worse shape, whereas people who were better off have generally been faring better financially,” he said.

Federal relief programs, such as expanded unemployment benefits, helped offset the damage for many families in the first months of the pandemic. But those programs have mostly ended, and talks to revive them have stalled in Washington. With virus cases surging in much of the country, Mr. Karpman warned, the economic toll could increase.

“There could be a lot more hardship coming up this winter if there’s not more relief from Congress, with the impact falling disproportionately on Black and Hispanic workers and their families,” he said.

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Ant Challenged Beijing and Prospered. Now It Toes the Line.

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As Jack Ma of Alibaba helped turn China into the world’s biggest e-commerce market over the past two decades, he was also vowing to pull off a more audacious transformation.

“If the banks don’t change, we’ll change the banks,” he said in 2008, decrying how hard it was for small businesses in China to borrow from government-run lenders.

“The financial industry needs disrupters,” he told People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, a few years later. His goal, he said, was to make banks and other state-owned enterprises “feel unwell.”

The scope of Mr. Ma’s success is becoming clearer. The vehicle for his financial-technology ambitions, an Alibaba spinoff called Ant Group, is preparing for the largest initial public offering on record. Ant is set to raise $34 billion by selling its shares to the public in Hong Kong and Shanghai, according to stock exchange documents released on Monday. After the listing, Ant would be worth around $310 billion, much more than many global banks.

The company is going public not as a scrappy upstart, but as a leviathan deeply dependent on the good will of the government Mr. Ma once relished prodding.

More than 730 million people use Ant’s Alipay app every month to pay for lunch, invest their savings and shop on credit. Yet Alipay’s size and importance have made it an inevitable target for China’s regulators, which have already brought its business to heel in certain areas.

These days, Ant talks mostly about creating partnerships with big banks, not disrupting or supplanting them. Several government-owned funds and institutions are Ant shareholders and stand to profit handsomely from the public offering.

The question now is how much higher Ant can fly without provoking the Chinese authorities into clipping its wings further.

Excitable investors see Ant as a buzzy internet innovator. The risk is that it becomes more like a heavily regulated “financial digital utility,” said Fraser Howie, the co-author of “Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China’s Extraordinary Rise.”

“Utility stocks, as far as I remember, were not the ones to be seen as the most exciting,” Mr. Howie said.

Ant declined to comment, citing the quiet period demanded by regulators before its share sale.

The company has played give-and-take with Beijing for years. As smartphone payments became ubiquitous in China, Ant found itself managing huge piles of money in Alipay users’ virtual wallets. The central bank made it park those funds in special accounts where they would earn minimal interest.

After people piled into an easy-to-use investment fund inside Alipay, the government forced the fund to shed risk and lower returns. Regulators curbed a plan to use Alipay data as the basis for a credit-scoring system akin to Americans’ FICO scores.

China’s Supreme Court this summer capped interest rates for consumer loans, though it was unclear how the ceiling would apply to Ant. The central bank is preparing a new virtual currency that could compete against Alipay and another digital wallet, the messaging app WeChat, as an everyday payment tool.

Ant has learned ways of keeping the authorities on its side. Mr. Ma once boasted at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, about never taking money from the Chinese government. Today, funds associated with China’s social security system, its sovereign wealth fund, a state-owned life insurance company and the national postal carrier hold stakes in Ant. The I.P.O. is likely to increase the value of their holdings considerably.

“That’s how the state gets its payoff,” Mr. Howie said. With Ant, he said, “the line between state-owned enterprise and private enterprise is highly, highly blurred.”

China, in less than two generations, went from having a state-planned financial system to being at the global vanguard of internet finance, with trillions of dollars in transactions being made on mobile devices each year. Alipay had a lot to do with it.

Alibaba created the service in the early 2000s to hold payments for online purchases in escrow. Its broader usefulness quickly became clear in a country that mostly missed out on the credit card era. Features were added and users piled in. It became impossible for regulators and banks not to see the app as a threat.

ImageAnt Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China.
Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

A big test came when Ant began making an offer to Alipay users: Park your money in a section of the app called Yu’ebao, which means “leftover treasure,” and we will pay you more than the low rates fixed by the government at banks.

People could invest as much or as little as they wanted, making them feel like they were putting their pocket change to use. Yu’ebao was a hit, becoming one of the world’s largest money market funds.

The banks were terrified. One commentator for a state broadcaster called the fund a “vampire” and a “parasite.”

Still, “all the main regulators remained unanimous in saying that this was a positive thing for the Chinese financial system,” said Martin Chorzempa, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

“If you can’t actually reform the banks,” Mr. Chorzempa said, “you can inject more competition.”

But then came worries about shadowy, unregulated corners of finance and the dangers they posed to the wider economy. Today, Chinese regulators are tightening supervision of financial holding companies, Ant included. Beijing has kept close watch on the financial instruments that small lenders create out of their consumer loans and sell to investors. Such securities help Ant fund some of its lending. But they also amplify the blowup if too many of those loans aren’t repaid.

“Those kinds of derivative products are something the government is really concerned about,” said Tian X. Hou, founder of the research firm TH Data Capital. Given Ant’s size, she said, “the government should be concerned.”

The broader worry for China is about growing levels of household debt. Beijing wants to cultivate a consumer economy, but excessive borrowing could eventually weigh on people’s spending power. The names of two of Alipay’s popular credit functions, Huabei and Jiebei, are jaunty invitations to spend and borrow.

Huang Ling, 22, started using Huabei when she was in high school. At the time, she didn’t qualify for a credit card. With Huabei’s help, she bought a drone, a scooter, a laptop and more.

The credit line made her feel rich. It also made her realize that if she actually wanted to be rich, she had to get busy.

“Living beyond my means forced me to work harder,” Ms. Huang said.

First, she opened a clothing shop in her hometown, Nanchang, in southeastern China. Then she started an advertising company in the inland metropolis of Chongqing. When the business needed cash, she borrowed from Jiebei.

Online shopping became a way to soothe daily anxieties, and Ms. Huang sometimes racked up thousands of dollars in Huabei bills, which only made her even more anxious. When the pandemic slammed her business, she started falling behind on her payments. That cast her into a deep depression.

Finally, early this month, with her parents’ help, she paid off her debts and closed her Huabei and Jiebei accounts. She felt “elated,” she said.

China’s recent troubles with freewheeling online loan platforms have put the government under pressure to protect ordinary borrowers.

Ant is helped by the fact that its business lines up with many of the Chinese leadership’s priorities: encouraging entrepreneurship and financial inclusion, and expanding the middle class. This year, the company helped the eastern city of Hangzhou, where it is based, set up an early version of the government’s app-based system for dictating coronavirus quarantines.

Such coziness is bound to raise hackles overseas. In Washington, Chinese tech companies that are seen as close to the government are radioactive.

In January 2017, Eric Jing, then Ant’s chief executive, said the company aimed to be serving two billion users worldwide within a decade. Shortly after, Ant announced that it was acquiring the money transfer company MoneyGram to increase its U.S. footprint. By the following January, the deal was dead, thwarted by data security concerns.

More recently, top officials in the Trump administration have discussed whether to place Ant Group on the so-called entity list, which prohibits foreign companies from purchasing American products. Officials from the State Department have suggested that an interagency committee, which also includes officials from the departments of defense, commerce and energy, review Ant for the potential entity listing, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Ant does not talk much anymore about expanding in the United States.

Ana Swanson contributed reporting.

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