How do you even begin to rebuild your SME during COVID-19?

Some business owners have had weeks without turnover. Others are not sure when they can start trading again.

And even if you’re operating right now, you don’t know whether or not level 5 will force you to shut your doors in a few weeks.

Your fears are shared by thousands of SMEs.

Statistics South Africa asked business owner about the impact of COVID-19:

  • 85,4% reported turnover below normal
  • 46,4% reported temporary closure or paused trading
  • 30,6% said they can survive less than a month without any turnover
  • 54,0% can survive between one and three months

Covid-19 has changed everything about how we do business, and it’s not going away anytime soon.

So, we’ve gathered  advice from experts to help you forge a path in a new world.

1. Assess your situation

No business is untouched by the impact of COVID-19.

On an episode of CNBC Africa’s Business Tomorrow, Xolisa Nqodi, managing director of Shesha Tuks, said:

“It’s been really difficult for a small business like myself. We started seeing a negative impact on our operations since the last week of February. The last five weeks have not been easy for us…now that we are  starting our operations again it’s forced us to look at our business with a slightly different outlook.”

How has your business changed? Have a look at your SME right now, from profits to marketing budgets to staff.

2. Develop a two-year COVID-19 SME plan

Once you’ve completed an honest assessment of your SME, it’s time to get to the next step: preparing to run a business during the age of COVID-19.

On an episode of Business Day TV,  Pavlo Phitides, CEO of Aurik Business Accelerator, said SMEs needed to have a longer term view.

“The only thing we can be sure of is that Covid-19 is here to stay forever, and forever in a business life is two years. We’re going to be governed on the access of the economy based on the capacity of our health services to deal with the crisis as it unfolds and emerges…We will open the economy and close parts of it.”

Phitides said this was the only certainty.

“Hold onto that, it’s all that counts and forget everything else.”

To respond to these constant changes, business owners should come up with red, amber, and green strategies.

A red stage is a full lockdown.

“In the red stage, make sure you have staff who are able and capable to work remotely. If you can’t, the anxiety then rises. As the business owner, you are carrying the cost of that personnel, you are carrying the cost of the business.”

Another fact was that successful business practices before COVID-19 might no longer be effective.

“What led to your success coming  into COVID-19…will have to be very different from the way you will find success coming out of COVID-19.”

Phitides said this included practices, business leadership, and customer behaviour.

“The environment has changed, customers have experienced fundamentally different changes ..If you don’t adopt what you did and you do well in that new reality,  you could find yourself isolated from the opportunities that are going to emerge as we move out of lockdown into the new economy.”

3. Think about your next pivot carefully

When you’re coming up with ideas, it’s tempting to move into high-demand sectors.

But Nic Haralambous, serial entrepreneur, advises against this.

“If you weren’t already making masks, you’re probably not going to own the market for masks for the next 18 months. Stick to what you’re good at but try and evolve it.”

Haralambous was speaking with Business Day’s Michael Avery.

Study your industry. What are your competitors offering? What are the trends? What gaps can your business fill?

Maybe this means bringing a project forward, said Haralambous.

“What is the next thing you were going to do? What was on your development roadmap that you can bring forward to help accelerate the progress of your business because it is going on and off for the next two years.”

Haralambous suggested examining your existing skills.

“What tools do you have in your business that you can retool in different kinds of opportunities  that can generate revenue for you in the medium term?

“You need to be brutal with yourself. Be honest about your business survival opportunity…start retooling as quickly as you can.”

4. Determine your funding need

SMEs need billions of rands to keep their doors open.

More than 30% of businesses told Stats SA they had applied for government funding.

This week, the Minister of Small Business Development Khumbudzo Ntshavheni , told Parliament the department’s relief scheme was running out of the money, reports Fin24.

A good place to start is to determine your funding needs.

  • What does your cash flow look like over the next three to six months?
  • Do you need working capital to meet a backlog of orders?
  • Perhaps you need funding to fulfil a surge in demand?

5. Look after yourself

There’s a lot of uncertainty right now.

If you’re feeling worried and stressed, you’re not alone.

Personal development and business coach Charmaine Soobramoney has been helping SME owners navigate COVID-19.

“We all need to acknowledge that this is real, and it’s normal to go through the phase of anxiety. Lives have been impacted, the economy has been impacted, people are losing their jobs…People have reasons to feel anxious,” said Soobramoney in this video interview with Lulalend.

Soobramoney called on business owners to move towards accepting the new reality.

“This is the situation. Being anxious is not going to help me move forward in the way that I need to.”

She shared the mindset used by business owners who were finding traction:

“I’m in this situation. I have no control over it but I have control over how I choose to view my business , view the future, and grab opportunities that present itself.

“When you’re in this fearful state, you feel like the world is closing in. Yes, it is but you have control over how you open it.”

If you’re looking for fast access to funding, learn more about how Lulalend can help you grow. Click here for more information on how we work with business owners like you.

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