By: Abu Addae
As the country moves into lockdown level four and the gears of the economy slowing start turning again, many business owners will be breathing a sigh of relief. Even so, survival remains far from guaranteed. Entrepreneurs will need to show great resilience and creativity to get through the coming weeks and months.
On average, SMEs only have about 27 days’ worth of cash in reserve and surveys indicate that as many as 60% have already had to retrench staff or are considering doing so. After five weeks of lockdown, business owners throughout the country are wondering whether they have a business left to salvage and, if so, how it can be done.
To survive the coming months – and thrive beyond them – entrepreneurs will need to draw on the five special qualities that got them into the start-up game in the first place: passion, motivation, optimism, creativity and risk-taking.
Starting a business isn’t easy, even in times of growth. It takes drive and passion to get an idea to market and see it succeed. That passion and determination will be crucial in picking yourself up again after COVID-19.
Once you’ve made a sober assessment of the state of your business, remember why you set out on this journey in the first place. It might also help to look at the challenge ahead as if you were starting again, instead of expecting to bounce back to where you were before the pandemic hit. This time around, you’ll have the advantage of experience.
With peak infections estimated to hit in September, lockdown restrictions may ease and tighten a number of times over the coming months. Disruption is the new normal and we need to find ways to adapt and function within it. That means getting on with the day-to-day tasks of running a business as, best you can.
Having a plan is essential; one that tracks bigger goals and smaller daily tasks. Take stock of your business and what’s happening in your industry, the state of your finances, how long you can survive, and how much debt you can realistically afford to take on before business picks up again. Work out what you need to achieve, week by week, to stay on track.
This is the time to draw on every last drop of optimism. A negative outlook will only dampen your motivation, creativity and decision-making ability.
Take advantage of interest-free loans and payment holidays and investigate what support is out there and what you qualify for. A recent study found that 85% of small business owners did not know how to access the emergency relief funds set up by the government and private sector.
You may also be able to call upon the goodwill of your existing customer base. They want to see your business survive and voucher schemes like those promoted on the Say Siyabonga website or Quicket’s Pay it Forward platform allow people to buy vouchers now that they can redeem for goods and services at a later date. The scheme is helping many business owners stay afloat – and stay positive.
The business you had before the crisis may not be the business you’re running in six months’ time. The pandemic has forced us to change the way we live and work and that means your customers’ needs may have changed too. Many businesses will need to adapt to survive.
Some nimble-footed entrepreneurs may even do well out of the crisis. Telemedicine, where medical practitioners offer virtual consultations, is on the rise globally and education is seeing massive disruption as learning moves online. Small retail businesses are scrambling to set up eCommerce platforms and some restaurants have started selling fresh produce from their suppliers direct to customers.
Look at what’s happening in your industry and the megatrends that are likely to have a lasting impact. Can you pivot your business to solve new problems or offer your services in a different way?
A great idea won’t be enough; you’ll need to take a chance on it paying off. Entrepreneurs tend to have an above-average risk appetite, but risk doesn’t always equal success. It needs to be calculated.
Before making any big decisions, do your homework. Test ideas with your existing customer base and research the competitive landscape. Work out how much you can afford to invest in tweaking or transforming your existing business model and how much time and effort it might take to start seeing a return. You may also have to make some uncomfortable decisions and sacrifices in the short term to ensure you have a business in the long run.
Finally, it’s wise to have a Plan B. What are your options if this doesn’t work out? Do you have any ways to bring in an additional income to see you through lean months? If you are a LifeCheq client, contact your Consultant for assistance with your Plan B. And if you are not, you can contact us for an obligation-free consultation about how we can help.
Whatever your strategy for survival, good data and robust planning should always underpin your approach. Following that, it’s the entrepreneurial drive that helped you succeed in the first place that can help you succeed again.
Abu Addae is the CEO and founder of LifeCheq.
Planning is invaluable.
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