How entrepreneurs can take advantage of their free time

With business conditions still slow for many, consider this an opportunity to support your community and plan for a new normal

Middle East, Arab, Modern - Middle Eastern Woman talking to her colleagues over a video call from home office setup
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As the social distancing measures are gradually lifted, some entrepreneurs will still find business slow as the effects of the pandemic start to show and we hit the quieter summer period.

Ask your network to connect you with budding entrepreneurs looking for some guidance, or team up with a business hub and offer your services to their members.

As a result, some of my acquaintances, who work in the consultancy and life coaching fields, say they have a lot of free time on their hands. While some have used those extra hours to learn new skills online, others are finally catching up with their exercise regimes to improve their fitness levels.

I always welcome free time and appreciate its importance in calming our minds to help us become more creative, but the extra time some of us have could be put to better use. For example, this time could be used to support our community, give back to your industry, network and meet new people who could become potential customers once this difficult period is behind us. Here’s what to do with your extra time:

Become a mentor

Though you may be facing a slow growth period, many are utilising their time to plan a business, launch it or expand it, which makes mentorship and guidance ever more valuable. If you have significant experience in an industry, dedicate a few hours every week to help others advance in their career.

Ask your network to connect you with budding entrepreneurs looking for some guidance, or team up with a business hub and offer your services to their members. When I was starting out on my entrepreneurship journey it was the hour a week I spent with my mentor that made all the difference. His advice is still helpful to my career to this day.

Offer your resources to small business owners

Many businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic, and it will take them a while to bounce back. People across the globe, who have not been affected as badly as others, are looking for ways to give back. In March, the Google search "how to help small businesses” hit an all-time high, up 700 per cent since February.

To help local businesses show their community how they could support them during these tough times, the search engine has allowed merchants in several countries to add support links for gift cards and donations to their Google business profiles.

Meanwhile, Oracle is offering free access to its Oracle Financial Statement Planning to all existing customers until May next year, and cloud storage service provider Dropbox is providing its services free for six months for non-profits and non governmental organisations.

Consider how you or your business could support your community or your existing customers. If you run an advisory or consultancy, then offer your services for free for non-profits or small businesses. Not only will they appreciate your gesture, you could even retain them as customers for the long-run.

Support local charities and initiatives

Whether it’s personally volunteering to move supplies, donating masks and personal protective equipment or helping charities deliver food to those in need, there is so much you can do for your community. Coca-Cola Philippines redirected its $3 million (Dh11.01m) advertising budget to assist front-line workers during the pandemic. Depending on your industry, you could help in conducting clinical research, sharing data, or dedicating your production line, manufacturing equipment, a physical space, vehicles or your expertise.

Train your team for a new normal post-Covid-19 

Seventy-nine per cent of people in the UAE expect to continue working remotely even after the social distancing measures are lifted, according to a new report from US-based telecoms firm Ciena. Use this extra free time to plan for a new work routine once the crisis is behind us.

If you've found over the past few months that a number of your team members can work remotely, then consider renting a smaller workspace and plan for that move. This could also be an opportunity to evaluate your digital infrastructure and see where you need to invest more to ensure you have an efficient and up-to-speed work environment.

As essential as it is for you to have some downtime, treat this period as an opportunity to support community members, save local businesses, make connections and prepare yourself and your team for a new type of work environment.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi