National lock-down in SA is a great business leveler.

National lock-down in SA is a great business leveler.

And could provide the ideal time to take some important lingering decisions, and act on them.

In the last 100 years or so we have lived through some awesome life changing events; some of which include personal transport – 1908 with the Model T. Telecommunication in around 1937, flying in the 1950’s and the world wide web in 1983. Each and all have enabled business to flourish the world over.

Significant industrialisation, conglomerates, oligopolies and more have closed out the small business space, who have barely survived on the fringes of industry in SA. Small business has been buoyed slightly by online access to information and markets, but the commercial environment remains hostile to small business. And if you thought that businesses with adequate BEE credentials were at an advantage, consider the costs of delayed payments and customary corruption.

Enter the Corona virus and the resultant Covid 19 disease. An occurrence which is bigger than the great depression.

Yes, if you are not part of the essential service value chain, big or small, the immediate future is bleak, and looking a bit further, it becomes terrifying. And if you believe that its only small business which will suffer, think again.

Big business is in a world of trouble and perhaps even more so in SA when it must contend with funding its own competition in the case of state-owned enterprises. (I do feel for the likes of Comair and Fly Safair having to compete with SAA).

Big business must contend with anything from finding parking space for aircraft and paying enormous finance costs to paying rent for empty factories and offices, not to mention paying people to stay at home. Consider for a moment that we may well have seen the end of the cinema as we know it, some would say at R80 a ticket – good riddance.

Regrettably you may well be someone who has been sent home, and perhaps you are not sure that your employer will be in business for too long. We are beginning to see the great business leveler.

We are all now in the same boat so to speak.

Big and small business has been stopped. Now, for big business to work it requires a range of activations most of which are not permitted at present. Any bright ideas will require a variety of meetings, consultations, market surveys, more meetings, and yes, even more meetings. And then they’ll wait for weeks and months for everyone from human resources to finance to marketing to manufacturing and distribution. Enough already.

Its time for small business to shine.

Small business by its very nature is nimble, creative, innovative, personal, responsive, which all means you can ‘pivot’ – a new buzzword for something that small business does all the time without thinking about it – changing strategy.

Let’s put some words next to these actions that you consider or undertake automatically and we’ll borrow from the Founder Institute.

Your business pivots when;

  1. Your company is always playing catch-up.
  2. There’s too much competition.
  3. Your company has hit a plateau.
  4. One thing gets the most traction.
  5. There’s limited response from your marketplace.
  6. Your perspective has changed.

Small business play to your strengths.

You now have the time and you should use it to reflect on whether your business needs to pivot. For many this is a simple process which requires little, if any, consultation, and for those partnerships there are many online resources which make collaborating remotely a breeze.

Remember that pivoting is not restricted to little changes in how we do things but should consider all possibilities. This is the time to think far outside the box and reach out to family and friends and ask for input, there will be nuggets in all input regardless of how whacky it may seem. For example, there are not many small businesses that wont benefit from digitising.

As you consider what, where and how to pivot, the area of service is one where you will always beat big business.  Remember you are competing with people who have perfected the art of dismissing customer complaints through patronising scripts.

Shake things up a bit, and put your suppliers to the test, your costs could potentially plummet, there has never been a better time to get real value from other small businesses. And if they are big business you now have an opportunity to put the squeeze on them to rewind their last few price increases. Any business which cannot respond during the lock-down is probably not worth speaking to and may well not be around at the end of this.

The world wide web is a highway bringing customers directly to your door, that’s right directly to your door, and there are many online resources which can be leveraged to boost your exposure. It is high time that you broadened your customer base eliminating reliance on a handful.

Start-ups there may never be a better time to start then now.

With businesses of all sizes now paused so to speak, the great business leveler enables you to make up ground quickly. So, how do you start this exciting new chapter, and where are you along the chain of events which must flow for your business to happen.

There is a good chance that you still have a bunch of questions which need answering to help shape your progress. The power of the available on-line resources is astounding, and this point cannot be overstated.

the great business leveler

Google Trends is an awesome market research tool.

We’ll assume that you have your product or service well defined, and its now time draw all the loose ends together to give life to your business. In search of the outstanding answers your smart phone has access to a mine of information, much of which is free and includes answers to perennial questions.

The big question is ‘how do I know what I don’t know?’

Thankfully there are plenty of online articles which will go into much detail about what you need to do to be a good compliant business citizen. As much as the internet as an answer for almost any question, it can be a little overwhelming with opinions and directions often contradicting each other.

And should you find yourself in an information overload situation and you need a little advice, feel free to drop us a line and we’ll do our best to assist.

The national lock-down is a great business leveler and affords start-ups and small businesses a good opportunity to deal with aspects of your business which your bigger competitors do all the time. These could include;

1. Review your input costs.

2. Draft a letter to your suppliers, and include new suppliers asking for information on special offers.

3. Re-calculate your operating breakeven.

4. Refresh your business collateral (price lists, website etc.)

5. Consider digitising your products and perhaps create an on-line shopping cart.

6. Update or begin a database of your customers both past and present, and draft a newsletter. And it is not absolutely essential that you incur costs to distribute news updates by using bulk mail senders, you can achieve this using your email programme.

7. Re-negotiate everything and anything you can, and yes that includes any and all outsourced services, accounting, marketing, advertising for example.

And there are still more interventions that you can make right there from home.

Need help?

Get in touch with us and we’ll do our best to assist you. And remember that this short window of opportunity levels the playing field for all, and no doubt it will be business unusual when we get past this.