It’s not the easiest time to own a business. COVID-19 has forced many companies to rethink everything they took for granted as they continue swimming in uncertain waters.
Abigail Mamo knows this all too well – as CEO of the Malta Chamber of SMEs, she acts as a bridge between businesses and government, and her work has only intensified over the past year.
“Being in business tends to be very lonely, and the government and authorities seem very big and detached from their realities,” she said in the second episode of Lovin Represents.
This is her advice to businesses about the Chamber and how it can help them navigate through the pandemic.
1. Weathering the storm is the trick
It may be hard to believe so now, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel and calm after the storm, and Mamo has urged businesses to take comfort in the fact that they’re not alone in their problems.
“Better days are coming,” she said. “We know how difficult it’s been, we know that businesses have been through a very rough year, but try to stick in there and support one another. At the end of the day, businesses are like one family.”
“By persisting you can get very very far… knowing that you’re doing the right thing and sticking to it gives you a lot of satisfaction and at the end of the day, you’ll manage, and it’s rewarding.”
2. The Chamber translates business concerns into policy proposals
Representing all kinds of businesses, from the self-employed to those employing tens of people, the Chamber of SMEs gathers feedback from its members, discusses ways problems can be solved, and then tries to open the eyes of the relevant authorities.
“We know how to go through the government’s complicated networks and get things done,’ she explained, admitting that while some authorities are helpful, others are more prone to slamming doors in their face.
“Businesses have someone who understands them, who knows what they’re going through and who will translate what they’re telling us into a bigger voice where it matters most.”
Membership fees are very cheap and the Chamber of SMEs makes use of EU-funded projects to cover a large chunk of its costs.
3. It isn’t affiliated with a particular political party
Unfortunately in Malta, praise or criticism of policies is often interpreted by some people as tribal support for the political party which had adopted it. However, Mamo has assured businesses that the Chamber of SMEs, which is over 70 years old, isn’t politically affiliated
“The biggest misconception about us is that we’re part of the government when we’re actually totally independent from it which allows us to speak as we do, or that we’re politically affiliated, which we aren’t.”
4. It realises businesses’ COVID-19 problems go way beyond the sickness and restrictions
Businesses have obviously suffered as a result of being forced to close down or severely limit customer activity as a result of COVID-19, but the Chamber of SMEs is well aware that their pandemic-related problems go much deeper than this.
“The major issue with regards to COVID-19 isn’t just in terms of the sickness and how it’s impacting business, but about whether we can have a bit of a ray of hope this year following a very, very bleak year.”
“This is our main focus. It’s not just about recovery but about whether we can really find some form of normality and start working again at a point.”
5. It recently won a prestigious European award
The Chamber’s work supporting small and medium businesses throughout the pandemic was recently recognised on a European level, with the organisation winning the European Economic and Social Committee’s Civil Solidarity Prize.
“I think COVID-19 gave everyone an opportunity to work really hard and we did that,” Mamo recounted. “We were there to support our members and we were recognised for our work at an EU level.”
– Part financed by Operational Programme I – European Structural and Investment Funds 2014-2020