365 Days of Covid-19: The year that’s been

365 Days of Covid-19: The year that’s been

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27 March 2021 marked one year since the introduction of the five-tiered Alert Level system and South Africa’s move to Alert Level 5. Like many people, we’re reflecting on the year that’s been. 

 

One year later and many businesses are still feeling the effects of having to adapt and survive during a global pandemic. We’ve seen many businesses close their doors, some shift their focus and new businesses arise. All of this indicates that South African entrepreneurs are committed to strengthening the economy with the help of government subsidies and other alternative business funding resources. 

 

In more recent months we have seen an undeniable surge in business activity due to the easing of lockdown restrictions. There has also been overwhelming support shown between businesses as well. “There is a rich abundance of knowledge, skills, and expertise in our SME sector – all of which has played an essential role in SMEs survival and ability to adapt during the pandemic. Part of this is that we have had to move away from a ‘business as usual’ approach and realise the need to learn from the lessons that the past year has taught us in order to plan and prepare for the future,” says Trevor Gosling, CEO, and co-founder of Lulalend.

Download our eCommerce Guide for more information on how to take your business online.

 

Related: 5 Digital Marketing Strategy Tips: COVID-19 SME Support

 

The most obvious and widespread impact of the pandemic and resulting lockdown on SMEs was on revenue.

 

The commencement of Level 5 lockdown impacted SMEs income streams, leading to cost-cutting and even layoffs. Some of the most affected industries include tourism, hospitality, non-essential retail.  At the height of lockdown, a large percentage of Lulalend’s customer base told us that they only had 1 month of cash runway to make it through. 

Source: McKinsey & Co “How SA SMEs can survive COVID-19” July 2020.

 

In an effort to adapt and diversify, many businesses turned their heads towards a more digital approach during the early days of lockdown. This encouraged online sales and boosted vulnerable retail sectors that would ordinarily function on a bricks-and-mortar basis. And here we saw the rise in new – and quirky – new business too. The rise of eCommerce brought about a new digital age like never before. “People have now gotten used to living in a digital world,” says Gosling. 

Businesses that were able to take advantage of digital optimisation are those that had access to a line of credit in a time of need. Positive cash flow is essential for the survival of your business – especially during uncertain times. When you run into cash flow challenges, you are not able to pay your bills on time risking a decrease in its credit line or higher interest rates. That’s why having access to fast and efficient business funding or a revolving line of credit is essential for all small businesses.

 

Related: What Challenges Do Female SMEs Face in South Africa?

 

While the economic recovery from Covid-19 is well on its way, we have to understand that it’s far from over. Business owners need to take the necessary steps to plan and develop long-term strategies to survive and thrive in the ever-changing global economy. Taking the time optimise business operations will go a long way in determining the success of the organization in the long run.

 

Lessons learnt in the pandemic are key to SMEs’ survival

Lessons learnt in the pandemic are key to SMEs’ survival

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South African small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the engine-room of our economy and the country cannot afford for this to collapse because millions of livelihoods depend on them. For many small business owners, medium- and long-term planning is not a part of their business strategy, but it is time to realise that the steps taken today will determine whether their survival into 2022 or not. 

 

Request a callback from our Funding Specialists

 

 

“There is a rich abundance of knowledge, skills, and expertise in our SME sector – all of which has played an essential role in SMEs survival and ability to adapt during the pandemic. Part of this is that we have had to move away from a ‘business as usual’ approach and realise the need to learn from the lessons that the past year has taught us in order to plan and prepare for the future,” says Trevor Gosling, CEO of small business service provider Lulalend.

 

Related: 5 Growth areas for your business in 2021

 

The government’s financial assistance to the SME sector will need to be supplemented with decisive action taken within the SME landscape, he adds. 

 

“The R1.4bn relief package is not enough to save a sector that contributes an estimated R1.5trillion to the economy. Yes, the financial aid is welcomed but it is crucial that SMEs take action to ensure that they are able to recover from the economic hardship that the last year has dealt them,” says Gosling. 

 

To do this, it will require business owners to critically evaluate what did or did not work over the past 12 months. “While there is a renewed optimism, now that the first vaccines have been administered, it is not the time for SMEs to slow down and wait for recovery,” says Gosling.

 

“Are there better, cheaper, and more efficient ways of delivering your service, and are there unnecessary overheads that you can cut? These are the things that business owners need to think about when mapping out their plans to survive and grow over the next two years,” he explains. 

 

Related: What Challenges Do Female SMEs Face in South Africa?

 

Equally so, Gosling says that SMEs need to understand how their customer base and needs have changed, which includes the competition. “These shifts are important to consider, especially if you want your marketing efforts to yield the maximum results. If your customer base or their needs have changed, it is important that SMEs focus on building new relationships to deliver repeat business in the future.”

 

During the year ahead, time will need to be taken to revisit business plans and develop long-term strategies, to not just survive but to thrive. Many of the actions taken in times of crisis can be beneficial to a business in the long run. 

 

Owners should consider how hastily streamlined processes and drastically slashed overheads can be refined to create a new, efficient, and cost-effective business model that can still deliver the best goods and services to their customers. Combining this with the advantages of applying digital technology can set a business owner on the road to recovery and a thriving future. 

 

While most companies have been moving online over the past few years, the pandemic has shifted this into overdrive. He says that there is no turning back. “People have now gotten used to living in a digital world.”

 

Related: 5 Digital Marketing Strategy Tips: COVID-19 SME Support

 

But, going digital does not necessarily mean that developing an e-commerce offering is the only way that this can be done. “Digital technology can help to automate and streamline other aspects of the business, including stock control, financial management, and payment facilities,” he adds. 

 

Lastly, and probably the most important for survival, is for businesses to ensure that they have effectively managed their cash flow. As part of the planning, it is essential that time is taken to analyse what can be done to reduce financial constraints in the year ahead. In addition to this, access to capital to invest in growing or pivoting the business will be crucial.

 

“It is important that SMEs talk to their credit providers about access to funding, including a revolving credit facility to help manage their cash flow,” explains Gosling. 

 

“Survival is dependent on shifting business strategies and plans, as well as leaning on partnerships with service providers, stakeholders, and customers. The year ahead will be a bumpy one, but with the right support it will be possible to come out the other side in a much stronger position,” says Gosling.

 

5 Growth areas for your business in 2021

5 Growth areas for your business in 2021

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We all understand that growth is essential for any business. With that said, we also know that growth isn’t easy and many organizations struggle to find growth areas that work for them.

If you’re currently struggling to grow your business or are looking for new strategies, we want to inspire you. Here are our top 5 growth areas for you to incorporate into your 2021 business plan:

  1. Sales & Marketing Alignment
  2. Customer Experience
  3. Digital Transformation
  4. Data-driven Transformation
  5. Training

Request a callback from our Funding Specialists

 

1. Sales & Marketing Alignment

If you want to see effective results, your sales and marketing teams should not be working in silos. When you align these two areas, you enable our business to increase conversion rates, generate higher revenue, and retain more customers through streamlined sales and marketing funnel.

A collaborative sales and marketing team will not only convert more leads but also generate higher quality leads too. When a strong sales team informs the marketing team on what a ‘good quality lead’ looks like, they’re far more likely to find them.

 

2. Customer Experience

You may think you understand your customers but you still have to constantly ask yourself, “How well do I really know my customer?” because, as we know, people are ever-changing.

In order to retain your customers, you have to constantly put them first. You can do this by understanding what it is they enjoy about your brand, and what they don’t. Focusing on creating a memorable and positive customer experience goes beyond just making the sale. Having a follow-up journey and personalized added extras will show your customers that you value their business and will go the extra mile to keep them coming back.

 

Related: A quick guide to Bridging Finance

 

3. Digital Transformation

2020 showed us that we live in a time of a full-scale digital revolution. If it’s not online, is it really there?

The power of technology has allowed any type of business to seamlessly fit into our lives. Going digital has also made it easier for businesses to simplify and streamline their internal processes for a more efficient way of working. For example, using online tools to store your data like accounting or human resource documents can free up your time and physical space to do more.

 

4. Data-driven Transformation

The great thing about the digital age is that most of the data you need is readily available at your fingertips. However, the biggest factor that should inform any decisions you make within your business should be based on customer feedback.

Using data from sources such as your cancellation feedback, customer reviews, and even your customers’ behavioral patterns on your website to inform what changes you need to make to your products and services, will add greater value to the growth of your business than a decision made by one person.

 

Related: Gear up your business for growth

 

5. Training

Ongoing training is essential to the growth of any business and should always be a focus area year after year. Whether it’s technical training for machinery, customer service, or sales training, any form of educational improvement will spark new life into the quality of work your team pushes out. And it will show in your profits too.

By investing in your people, you’re directly investing in your business as well.

As we go into the new year, it’s important to stay one step ahead of the game and plan for success as far as possible. Use our 5 growth areas to kickstart your 2021 business projects with a bang.

5 Ways to support local businesses this Heritage Month

5 Ways to support local businesses this Heritage Month

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The move to Alert Level 2 means there has been a gradual increase in economic activity and for many SMEs, this was the first time they have been able to operate since March. While we are still practicing social distancing, there’s no better time to show our support for local businesses than now.

We’ve unpacked 5 ways we can all support each other as South African business owners and customers.

 

Find a local supplier

While we all love the convenience of being able to shop online and secure our purchases with the click of a button, in many instances, there are local businesses that have exactly what you’re looking for. Spend a little bit of time finding a supplier or store near you that stocks what you are interested in.

Many small businesses are happy to order from a supplier (if they are out of stock) and have goods delivered to you.

Chief operations officer of Rising Tide Capital, Jay Savulich, says “The most important thing to remember if you want to help small businesses in your community is that you are an investor in these businesses. Try to be as thoughtful as possible with where you as a consumer invest your dollars.”

 

Reschedule, don’t cancel

If you were set to attend an event, or you’ve booked a service but something’s come up (we all know, life happens), rather ask to reschedule your appointment.

Many small businesses that host events rely on this income to stay afloat. Rather than asking for a refund, commit to attending the event when a new date has been released or you can donate the funds to the business. The same goes for services if you cannot make it, reschedule ahead of time so the business can give your time slot to another customer.

This way the business is still able to make an income and you still keep your business for a later stage.

 

Related: 5 Ways Your Small Business Can Prepare For Black Friday

 

Spread the word

Giving your favourite local business a shout out on social media can go a long way. When you are particularly happy with the service or product from a particular business, follow and mention them on social media.

If they have a review portal, give them a thorough review of your experience with them. You can also go on business review sites like HelloPeter.

 

When in doubt, buy a voucher

For those businesses that are not yet open, there’s always an option to purchase a voucher as a gift for yourself or a friend. While you may not be able to take advantage of a business’s services or products right now, purchasing a voucher ensures they have made a sale and will welcome your business in the future.

In many cases, when customers buy gift vouchers, this helps keep the cash flow steady and means they are able to pay wages to employees. Doing your part can definitely go a long way.

 

Related: What is Bridging finance in South Africa?

 

Donate or volunteer

While we know money may be tight for many during this pandemic, if your income has not been affected, it is imperative to continue your support for local businesses in any way possible. If you are able to donate funds to a local business in your community, you could be saving someone’s job and livelihood to provide for their family. If you are cash strapped, give the gift of time by volunteering to help out in the business whether it be by cleaning, packing, or even delivering their products to customers. There is always a way to help.

Women in Business: Yolanda Sing, Chloe Consultants

Women in Business: Yolanda Sing, Chloe Consultants

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 Yolanda Sing

Founder of Chloe Consultants

The Business

Chloe Consultants was founded by Yolanda Sing, a Senior Human Resource Executive who has worked extensively and internationally in 15 different countries.

Her method for individual and organizational transformation is unique, as she utilizes “equine partners “to become part of the learning intervention; they provide authentic experiences and feedback on the effectiveness of our communication styles.

She has applied her learning to develop Emirati women in the Middle East.

She has successfully developed a blueprint for her unique offering in South-Africa, Dubai, Qatar, United Kingdom, and Kenya.

Her latest offering, post corona is a Virtual Equine Leadership and Coaching Program.

The company specializes in:
C – 
Coaching
H – 
Human Resource Consulting
L – 
Leadership Development
O – 
Organizational Development
E – 
Equine Assisted Learning

 

Related: Women Powering SA: Monique Pasqualle, HR Cartel

 

Yolanda’s story

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SUCCESS?

Chloe Consultants has been in operation for more than 12 years and that is by far our biggest achievement.

Yolanda has also been awarded the MOST INNOVATIVE LEADERSHIP TRAINING CONSULTANT 2020 – South Africa by Corporate Vision  2020.

Yolanda has a professional profile which includes qualifications such as M.B.A, B.A Hons in Clinical Psychology, Hons in Business Management Administration, and a B.A Personnel Management. She is a qualified Executive Coach and has also published her first book; “Power in the Paddock”.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST HURDLE?

The current pandemic has hit many sectors hard.  We had to completely pivot our business towards the new normal and had to develop a Virtual Equine Transformational Leadership Product.

Related: COVID-19 SME Support: Business Brightspot Listing

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO KEEP GROWING YOUR BUSINESS?

Now, more than ever, the world is ready for motivated, inspired, empowered, and re-energized Leaders and Teams who are reset for a new change. The equine leadership program helps to achieve that.

 

Get in touch if you would like to find out more about professional equine training for leadership qualities.

Contact Yolanda Sing and the Chloe Consultants team at yolanda@chloeinsa.co.za

COVID-19 SME Support: Business Brightspot Listing

COVID-19 SME Support: Business Brightspot Listing

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In this edition of the Business Brighspot blog, we’re covering two South African SMEs who have taken a knock during lockdown but have managed to keep their doors open.

Alice Taylor, Multiply Furniture

About your business

At Multiply Furniture we design, manufacture and retail a range of Scandi-lifestyle furniture and essentials, using both cutting edge technology and age-old carpentry methods. Our furniture is hand finished using sustainable materials in Cape Town, South Africa.

We pride ourselves in creating something unique for every home or office and more recently, home office.

How has your business changed during COVID-19?

Sales dropped drastically, but we are now seeing a gradual increase since there has been more economic activity. 

Contact details:

Alice Taylor

Tumi Rabaji, Shauku Hub

About your business

ShaukuHub is a coworking space that offers beautifully crafted workspaces where people can create, connect, and grow their businesses. Located at Horizon Shopping Centre, the space offers all the amenities a business can require from parking space, banks, food courts, shopping and a Virgin Active Gym less than 100 metres from your office.

Renting space in a shared office means surrounding yourself with goal-oriented and high-achieving entrepreneurs and business people. This means every day is an opportunity to network with small business owners, great thinkers, consultants, and other entrepreneurs.

Being part of a coworking community means you are surrounded by potential partners, clients and mentors – giving you the ability to easily outsource to talent when you need help.

How has your business changed during COVID-19?

We were closed for the first 5 weeks of lockdown and unable to open our doors to remote workers. Since Level 3, we have now started allowing a limited number of people to use our co-working facilities, under strick COVID-19 regulations.

Contact details:

Tumi Rabaji

 

Want to list your business? Submit your story here

The Business Brightspot blog is part of our Open for Business campaign. This is an initiative to give South African SMEs the tools and information they need to re-open their businesses during COVID-19.

For on the campaign, read this blog post.