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.
To apply, complete the application form on Bizportal.
Communicate with staff
Communication with staff is critical, said Robyn Stone, Head of Talent at Lulalend.
Stone suggested the following points to consider when communicating with staff:
Kindness was the most important, added Stone:
“The state of current affairs is heavy on the heart, so it’s important to be kind at all times. Not only as the Business Owner or HR delivering the comms, but by encouraging kindness between colleagues and teams. When you’re communicating remotely, things like empathy can get lost in translation so it’s important to express warmth in your tone,” said Stone.
Make sure your company is following health and safety measures
Develop a plan for phased return of staff
Stone suggested creating a shared document so all employees can check updates to the return to work plan.
The number of employees you have will influence your back to work plan.
Companies with fewer than 10 employees, for instance, need to comply with less requirements. These are discussed in clause 40 of this Gazette from the Department of Employment and Labour.
Work from home first
Staff who can work from home should do so, states the regulations.
Pregnant and vulnerable employees should be allowed to work from or work from an isolated space in the office, reports the National Employer Association of South Africa’s COVID-19 toolkit.
All your workers need a permit to come to work
You will need to complete a permit for each staff member considered essential. They will need to carry the permit and a form of identification when they travel to work.
Maintain social distancing
Some industries may only allow a percentage of workers to return to the office.
All workplaces must cater to social distancing requirements, said Nxesi.
“With regard to social distancing, workplaces must be arranged to ensure a minimum of 1½ meters between workers. If this is not practicable, physical barriers must be erected and workers must be supplied free of charge with appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).”
Stone encouraged companies to consider creating a shared calendar for when staff would be in the office.
Getting to work
Regulations have been relaxed for people travelling to work by public transport or car.
This is a time of major uncertainty for business owners. We invited Charmaine Soobramoney, a personal development and business coach, to share her thoughts on some of the issues raised by our community.
Charmaine has a diverse set of skills and experience. Her focus is on shaping, positioning and supporting individuals and organizations for excellence and growth.
Some of the topics we touched on in this interview are:
How to deal with anxiety about your business
What are ways to keep your staff motivated
How to have hard conversations with your staff
Could now be an opportunity for growth in any way?
Watch the full video here, and join our SA Small Businesses Unlocked community where you can engage with Charmaine directly if there’s any other questions you might have:
Joshua Meltz and Adam Duxbury have been running Granadilla Swim for the last five years, along with other businesses Rooftop on Bree and Sunn Kombucha. When news stories of the coronavirus and its impact on European countries like Italy and the UK started appearing, they knew they had to quickly find a way to adjust their strategy and keep afloat.
We chatted to the Cape Town based duo on how they adapted and used the power of community to transform their business during this time. Leveraging off their existing infrastructure, they’ve been able to pivot their offering to include delivery of groceries, coffee pods, olive oil and sourdough bread – with more to come.
Here’s their story, with some pieces of advice for other South African retailers on how to adapt in the time of COVID-19.
Join our community
If you’d like to be a part of our next live chat or receive real time COVID-19 updates, join our SA Small Businesses Unlocked Facebook Group here.
The coronavirus lockdown is in full swing in South Africa. Some of us are still working remotely, whilst others are unable to work at all. It’s uncharted territory, and we’re all still working out how we make this time meaningful.
Maybe you’re trying to set boundaries between your ‘home’ life and your ‘work’ life, which both play out in the same space at the moment. Maybe you’re trying to replace endless scrolling on social media with some meaningful content or channels for self-improvement.
Here are five online platforms which may give you the value and experience you are looking for, while you’ve got the time.
Connect with community
The guys at Ideas Cartel are an innovative bunch. While COVID-19 might have halted their shared office space and hotel business, it hasn’t stopped them from offering support and resources to entrepreneurs. As a member of their Cartel Connect community you can access workshops, talks and classes which range from fitness to practical business skills. Membership costs R99 per month.
Stay up to date
The National Small Business Chamber (NSBC), a non profit organisation which offers support and networking opportunities to SMEs, has set up a dedicated COVID-19 online centre. Here you’ll be able to find content from the media relating to small businesses at this time as well as a notice board of upcoming webinars and events.
Learn something new
Whether you are looking to sharpen your skills in a particular area or learn something new, there are loads of courses available online. Udemy has a range of educational courses for you to choose from – whether you want to learn how to play piano or build a website. There are even some discounts on some of their courses to make learning even more accessible over this period. Get Smarter also offers online short courses from credible universities and institutions. This is your chance to up your knowledge in areas like leadership and management or master specific skills ranging from topics like global health delivery to digital marketing analytics.
Never trust a skinny chef… well there’s never been a better time to take some notes from the pros. Heavy Chef has been hosting workshops geared at entrepreneurial mentorship and knowledge sharing for years. They’ve now taken the magic online – you can live stream talks by industry leaders in South Africa from wherever you are. Innovation is the order of the day on their line up, and business owners get hefty discounts.
Hang up your work hat
How do you decompress once you’ve sent that last email? Maintaining some kind of home/ life balance is important. If you’re missing the outdoors or even want an activity that you can include the whole family in, check out Wild Earth. This site gives you the opportunity to go on an online safari and interact with an actual game ranger. Who knew you’d be able to experience the African wilderness from behind your laptop?
Join our SA Small Businesses Unlocked community to get the latest COVID-19 updates, insights from other business owners and content to keep you sane over lockdown.