Analysis of Impact of Economic Downturn on Small Medium-Sized Enterprises using Ansoff’s
Model: The Case of Cinderella Guest House, Lilongwe, Malawi.
This research was carried out in a bid to find out how to mitigate the impact of economic downturn
on small medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) using the Ansoff model. This study was performed by
interviewing customers, employees and the business owner of Cinderella guest house, a lodge
located in Lilongwe, Malawi. Also in use was some secondary data gathered online. The data was
then analyzed using Microsoft Excel and SPSS. Findings from the study show that economic
downturn has affected both growth and survival of Cinderella guest house through the reduction
in expansion and low growth as well as a panic for current survival. Increased costs have hampered
the growth, which has led to the proprietor hiring underqualified personnel and charging below
average costs to entertain the customers. The lodge can grow if appropriate market penetration
technics are utilized as well as developing the current product market through advertising and
other suitable development technics.
About 95% of the world’s enterprises are small medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which makes
them an enormous contributor to the economy for their countries. (Ayyagari, Kunt, & Maksimovic,
2011) These businesses meet different challenges and are prone to fail at a rate of about 34%
within the first 2 years according to Jorden (2014). Malawi has had a mixed bag on the economic
realm within the past decade which has led to unstable operations of SMEs. (Ojukwu, Mwaba,
Addison, & Mpande, 2014; Gondwe, 2016) Many businesses including those in the tourism industry
like guest houses have suffered and are on the verge of shutting down due to a number of factors
which include the economic recession and the businesses inability to strategically plan ahead.
For firms to survive in such a highly competitive market, strategic planning including competitive
and analysis tools need to be used. (Pirnar, 2017) These strategic tools “are types of strategic
practices that enable managers to deal with the challenges they face in managing their
organisation’s strategic direction.” (Jarzabkowski, Giulietti, & Oliveira, 2009) Recently, much focus
has been put on “competitive analysis and competitive intelligence, SWOT analysis, PESTEL
analysis, Porter’s Five Factor Forces (FFF) model / analysis and Blue Ocean strategy for
competition.” (Pirnar, 2017) The Ansoff’ model which dates back to as early as 1957 has not been
frequently referred to in recent literature but this model still has a stint and may prove useful
especially for SMEs. The variations of use of 20 of the well-known strategy tools in recent years
shows that usage level of Ansoff’ model was about 15%, which is low as compare to SWOT analysis,
which represents almost 75% of usage (Pirnar, 2017). The benefits of using Ansoff’s matrix include
the fact that it is simple to use since all growth strategies are laid out in plain sight. (Jarzabkowski,
Giulietti, & Oliveira, 2009) This enables easy usage and understanding. The simplistic character of
the matrix showing possible directions ensures planners and management think about the risks
the business can meet when a certain direction is taken. Other advantages include discipline (it
focuses on the business), sets out aims and objectives, presentable to stakeholders, assessment of
alternatives, and creates a risk awareness culture (Munro, 2014).
Cinderella Guest House (CGH) is one of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Malawi that
has been contributing to the economic development of Malawi. It is located in the densely
populated part of Malawi’s capital city Lilongwe in Area 25B, just about 5 kilometers from the
Kanengo tobacco auction floors. Its main customers include Non-Governmental organization
employees, civil servants and tobacco growers. The guest house has 3 employees with no tertiary
education but can all read and write both in English and Chichewa. According to Kumwembe (2016)
the devaluation of Malawi currency (Kwacha) and high inflation rates has affected the prices of the
local commodities which are causing high operation costs. The high operations costs have led to
CGH raising its service rates and in some instances reduced the quality of service that they offer
which in turn has affected the demand for their services. With many years of operation and fair
pricing, the guest house would be expected to be trading above average but this has not been the
case. Current forex exchange rates and current commodity prices are affecting the smooth
operation of the guest house. Therefore, there is a crucial need to find a strategy to reduce the
burden of economy recession affecting Malawi, on the business.
The main objective of this research was to find ways of mitigating the impact of economic
downturn on CGH using the Ansoff’ Strategy model. The researcher considered whether market
penetration, development and product development can increase market and product demand for
CGH while also increasing market share. Thus the research question was: how can the Ansoff’
model be used to mitigate the impact of economic downturn on Cinderella Guest House? More
specifically, to get to a clear understanding and conclusion, the following questions were
fundamental to the study: to what extent has the economic downturn affected the demand for
CGH? Which activities do research participants believe can lead to a better experience at CGH? Of
the current set of operation activities and arrangements, which ones do customers prefer and
neglect? Do participants feel the Ansoff’ model strategies can help the guest house? If so, which
one? Can CGH adapt one or more of the strategies?
2. Research methodology
2.1. Research design
The research was carried out by interviewing customers and employees randomly to obtain both
qualitative and quantitative information. A questionnaire form was sent to the business owner due
to his tight schedule which made meeting him in person and over the phone or online difficult. A
few copies of customer questionnaires were also left at the reception for those individuals who
were not willing to have an interview but were willing to participate in the study. Available
secondary data was also analyzed to extract more evidence on the importance of conducting this
research. Due to the budgeting consideration, the context of the research and available data on
the internet, internet sampling was essential and used too through purposive sampling. (Blumberg,
Cooper, & Schindler, 2014) During the entire study, an ethical approach was made to ensure no
infringements are made. The collected data was used to give information that was used to answer
the research questions and objectives as proposed. All data collected were rightly stored and
discarded to ensure no leakages of information are available.
2.2. Sampling size and frame
The sample was selected from corporate and individual customers and employees. The chosen
sample size was 41 respondents as resumed in Table 1 below.
Table 1: Sample frame for respondent at Cinderella Guest House.
Sample Frame Population Sample Size
Proprietor 1 1
Customers 100 35
Employees 5 5
Total 104 41
2.3. Data collection method
A mixed method approach was favored for collecting data in this research. A mixed method
approach is an approach to inquiry involving collecting both quantitative and qualitative data,
integrating the two forms of data, and using distinct designs that may involve philosophical
assumptions and theoretical frameworks.(Creswell, 2014) This design allows us to develop insights
that may be hard to acquire through the use of other research designs employing survey data or
public documentation. (Pieterse, Caniëls, & Homan, 2012) Some of the reasons that have led to
the selection of the mixed method approach as the ideal data collection method include: the mixed
method approach provides a more complete understanding of a research problem than either
(quantitative or qualitative) approach alone… as it resides in the middle of this continuum
(quantitative or qualitative)… (Creswell, 2014) A number of scholars including Hohenthal (2006),
Dana et al. (2005) and Jick ( 1979) found that the method is ideal for entrepreneurship models
having noticed increase the validity of the research model and a better understanding to
phenomena (Hohenthal, 2006;Dana & Dana, 2005; Jick, 1979). Hence the use of the method
thereof. The method is designed for studies of both quantitative and qualitative nature (Creswell,
2014) and this study will also consider both qualitative and quantitative data. The mixed method
approach can elicit clear and well-rounded answers on the degree and extension of quality
management practices (Yeng, Jusoh, & Ishak, 2018)
An ethical approach to data collection was used. A research ethics application was made to the
Unicaf University Research Ethics Committee (UREC) and was approved. The application included
documents such as:
Research Ethics Application Form
Informed Consent Form / Certificate of Consent for Research Participants
Debriefing Form Template
Gate Keepers letter
Risk Assessment Form For Ethics Application
Participants were handed a consent form which was signed for at will when they accept
participation into the study
2.4. Primary and secondary research
Secondary and primary research was used information targets of the study and to gain more insight
on what strategies based on the Ansoff’s Matrix. Primary data was collected through interviews
and questionnaires which included questions that provided both qualitative and quantitative data.
(Jick, 1979) Secondary data was used because it is cost effective, less time consuming and was
readily available. Secondary data collected for the research assisted in highlighting the concepts of
economic downturn, SME and Ansoff’s matrix. In order to understand how CGH is currently
responding to economic hardship, researcher used the following sources of secondary data: books,
journals, newspaper articles, reports, and the internet.
2.5. Data analysis
Data analysis is a process of inspecting, cleaning, transforming and modeling data with the goals
of discovery using information, suggesting conclusions and supporting decision making (Yobot,
2016) The sample size and financial stance of the research have led to the utilization of Microsoft
excel and SPSS v.20 for analysis. Customer and employee data was analyzed separately in relation
to the nature of the data (whether the data was quantitative or qualitative). Due to physical
unavailability, a self-reported questionnaire was used to collect data from owners because they
are more familiar with their firms’ strategies and performance. (Anwar, Khan, & Khan, 2018;
tajeddini & Mueller, 2012) Codes were used to ensure privacy, ethnicity and simple analysis of the
3.1. Findings from customer interviews and questionnaires
The findings shows that the larger part of the customers get information about CGH from friends
and relatives. The others claim to have gotten the information from miscellaneous sources
including hearing it from bars and pubs near-by or just saw it while passing by (Figure 1).
Figure 1: How customers heard about Cinderella Guest House.
The research shows that about 65% of their customers are regular which show that they retain
customers while only 35% are new customers (Figure 2).
Figure 2: The customer visit, either first visit or not
A proportion of 49% CGH visitors’ visits the guesthouse every quarter (3 months) while 14% visit
weekly. Moreover, 26% visits the guesthouse once a month and 11% visits every 2 weeks (Figure
Figure 3: Customers’ frequency of visit
Most customers believe that the guesthouse is located at a convenient place as about 43%
responded that it is excellent, 31% responded that the place is good and 20% responded to be very
good while only 6% says that the Guest house is poorly located (Figure 4).
Figure 4: Customers’ comments on how convenient is Cinderella in terms of Location
According to the data, 49% of the customers that visit CGH come to Lilongwe for business and 20%
of customers visit for conference or seminars while 14% visit because friends and relatives invited
them, 6% visit the guesthouse to relax and only 11% come for other reasons (Figure 5).
Figure 5: Reasons why customers visited Cinderella
Cinderella guesthouse is offering good service with 43% of customers responding that the services
are very good and 34% responded that the services are excellent while only 23% says that the
service is acceptable at the industry level (Figure 6).
Figure 6: Customers’ perceived service quality
The majority (80%) customers feel that CGH services are fair and affordable while 6% responded
that the price rate is very expensive and 14% says that the rates are cheap (Figure 7).
Figure 7: customers’ responses on the price rates
About half (51%) of customers had the following compliments to CGH: great hospitality and
employees are very friendly and understanding; the guesthouse is affordable; the guesthouse is
conveniently located near the industrial site and trading center; the guest house is located
conveniently near entertainment spots; the guest house offers adequate security to all
clients/customers, and ; the cleanliness of the area and quality facilities (Figure 8).
Figure 8: Customers’ compliments
Only few people (6%) complained over the following: no open bar, small conference center, no
catering services available on site, and; noisy environment (Figure 9).
Figure 9: Customers’ complaints
Customers of CGH (34%) feel that it should improve its customer services Most of which relate to
poor check in times as in most cases, all employees are busy with other customers leading to other
customers having to wait for quite some time. Twenty-nine percent feel more can be done on the
quality of service. Some desire to have new beddings for the lodge just to give it a fresh feel while
others consider having a catering/breakfast lounge an essential part of today’s hospitality
departments. Twenty-three percent would like to see the house improve on its cleanness relating
to the fact that Cinderella is located in as dusty environment. The remaining 14% brought up all
sorts of issues ranging from bar presence, first aid box availability and taxi pick up and drop off to
be some of the things they would want to be improved and introduced (Figure 10).
Figure 110: Area that Cinderella need to improve
3.2. Findings from employee interview and questionnaires
3.2.1. Demography of the employees
About the gender, our results shows that the guesthouse has 3 male employees compared to 2
females. This is the actual number and not sample number as due to the small number of the
employees. Of the employees, 4 are married with one being single. The four include 2 males and
both females. In regards to skill, CGH house has more unskilled than skilled labors. Four out of the
5 employees hold a Malawi School Certificate of Education certificate (MSCE) which is equivalent
for the British O-level certificate. One employee hold a university diploma in hospitality
management from the Malawi Institute of Tourism (M.I.T). Sixty percent or 3 of the employees are
aged between 18 and 30 years old while the other two divisions (31-45 and 56-60 years old) hold
only for one for the remaining employees.
3.2.2. Working pattern of the employees
Of the 5 employees, one has worked for more than 10 years while two a piece have worked for 0
to 5 years and 6 to 10 years respectively. Two employees receive below twenty five thousand
kwacha. The two others receive between 25 thousand and 50,000. Its only one individual getting
more than fifty thousand kwacha. Only one employee works a maximum of 8 hours with the
remaining working 10 and hours respectively in pairs. Three employees believe that Cinderella
need to increase the number of rooms and conference Centre to improve while 2 responded that
CGH has to send their employees for training to improve their service skills to improve the
performance of the guesthouse.
The business has been in operation for more than 15 years now. The proprietor has seen the
business gradually decline. However it was discovered during the interviews with some
enlightenment, the Ansoff’s matrix can used to turn the tides. The proprietor does believe that the
business can grow and does support some of the points raised by customers. Proprietor
acknowledges knowing the problems that exist but turns a deaf ear to it due to the current
economic downturn. Safe to say, none of the employees brought up the topic of salary increment.
There was the consideration of acquiring a loan from the banks but a 30% annual interest rate
seems too risky for the businessman.
With the guest house having already a little employee population, it was noted that there were
only 2 women making 40% of the staff population. Following Stehlik (2014) finding, a hospitality
business like this can prosper with more female employees due to the characteristics females
possess such as individuality and multitasking.
The marital status of the employees is also key to hospitality tourism success. Özkan et al. (2015)
note that it is always hard to balance work life and family life. (Özkan, Esitti, & Koleglu, 2015) This
can be one of the reasons also for the poor performance of the house. There is no intention from
the business owner to train the employees as through experience, he has lost employees soon
after training them.
Generally, employees are the true asset of the organization. (Hailu & Nigatu, 2015) Employee
education even improves the value of the individual to any organization. It was however noted
that employee education level at CGH was also noted to be on the lower side. In such a business,
employees with adequate customer relation skills plays a vital role.
It was also observed that CGH hardly advertises on social media, radio or any other platform. Most
of its customers either hear it from friends and relatives or social media through comments on
platforms like Facebook. Advertising may be of help in such a case.
The location is ideal for the target customers and adds an advantage to the business. The economic
downturn has had an impact on the guest house but to maintain the customer base, the house has
had to settle for small service rates. It was also noted that during this entire study, no mention is
given on diversification. This would mean that its not an option for either customers, employees
Finally, it was noted that while the Ansoff Matrix is fairly straightforward and can aid an
organization in objective setting, it is important to realize that its use is limited when the Matrix is
used alone.” (Rodrigo, 2015) Thus it would and will make utmost sense to have the matrix used in
line with another tool that will help analyze the environment and competitors.
For the guesthouse in order for their fortunes to change based on the model at test, we place the
5.1. Market penetration
One applicable growth strategy that CGH can use is market penetration on the basis of suggestions
from its employees, customers and proprietor. This strategy has been recommended after
observing that Cinderella guesthouse has a lot of potential to increase its market share of its
current products in the current market. This strategy can be implemented through intensified
personal selling where they can go to company managers and sell their products and services such
conferences. The proprietor believes that the guesthouse can grow by using the profits and savings
realized by the business. Through the interview, which the researchers had with the Manager of
the guesthouse, she indicated that the guesthouse opts to use the savings rather than the loans
from the banks, which have high interest rates. The banks are charging high interest rates in
response to the economic downturn, which has affected many areas of business operations for
5.2. Product development
Product development can also be a good strategy for CGH as a way of attracting more customers
through introduction of new services such as gym, swimming pool, executive bar and airport
5.3. For future research
Having carried out this study, it is safe to say and support other authors who believe the Ansoff’
matric is ideal for business turnaround. However, the tool is not ideal to work independently and
would thus require other tools like SWOT and PESTEL to produce adequate result. I would be ideal
if in the future, a study can be done relating Ansoff matrix with either one of SWOT and PESTEL
and see how efficient it will work in a setting of low skilled and less educated individuals. Relate
how well and fast the people can capture the combination of the two systems and possibly be able
to apply the results globally. Also of interest would be to find out if other proprietors would go for
diversification as a method of avoiding and beating the downturn.
The importance of small businesses to the citizens’ standard of living and the nation’s general
growth cannot be overemphasized. (Adisa, Abdulraheem, & Mordi, 2014) An in-depth literature
review showed that to be successful in the 21st century, any country in the world needs to develop
an ideas-based can do economy and society. (Barba-Sánchez, Martínez-Ruiz, & Jiménez-Zarco,
2007) This study was designed to help CGH, one SMEs in Malawi, mitigate the impact of economic
downturn using Ansoff’ matrix. Our results indicate that the guest house has room for
improvement and has really been hit by the economic downturn. The two top stated methods
participants indicated are market development and penetration. Product development was talked
of but not in depth while diversification was not suggested. It was also noted that although Ansoff
matrix is ideal for the change, the tool is not self supporting. It would make ultimate sense and
benefit if the tool could be used in line with other tools like SWOT or PESTEL. It was not a smooth
journey all through the study as there were other limitations. This study has helped the owner and
stuff of Cinderella Guest House know some of the issues their customers complain about and
shown how they can increase customer retention. It has also given an idea of how the business can
grow through attracting more customers.
Acknowledgement: the author is thankful to UniCaf, Pascale Hardy,Cinderella guest house
management and all participants for their contribution in making this research feasible and
successful. May the Almighty God continue guiding and leading all who have been surpotive
Conflict of Interest Statement
It is to the author’s best understanding and knowledge that this research was conducted without
any financial or commercial that could lead to a potential conflict of interest.
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