Most crucial business lessons are born from crisis management. This is what we are seeing amongst our small business owners during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Creativity in the workplace, at most times, leads to resiliency and a differential when it comes to operating your business. Fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, what we have seen amongst our small businesses is creativity, strength, innovation and reinforcement of customer centric models. As we said above, the most crucial business lessons are born from crisis management and the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly pressured small businesses to become creative and execute on any underlying opportunity that might present itself.
From what we have seen, 3 things in particular stood out when speaking to out small businesses
1. Local is Lekker
One of the biggest and trickiest challenge for businesses in South Africa has been learning how to adapt and operate a business when overseas and inter-provincial travellers are unable to visit. A lot of businesses either relied on overseas tourism or even local tourism to even out their annual sales and operational targets. With the current COVID-19 landscape, movement of individuals are not permitted and with that, businesses have had to look inwards rather than outwards.
This is not as easy as one might think. For years businesses have moulded and scaled their operations to suit a certain revenue stream and now, when things are certainly not like they used to, changing everything is quite a big task.
A lot of the businesses that are our current clients have informed us of how they had to change many aspects of their business in order to rather focus locally rather than rely on sales that usually came from local or international tourism.
What we have seen is a gigantic “knock-on” economical impact on a lot more businesses than we expected as the pure nature of economics. It is not only the hospitality and tourism industries that are impacted by the restrictions of travel, but rather their suppliers and employees and the spending power of the employees which trickles down into many other sectors of the economy.
This COVID-19 pandemic has forced our businesses to focus more locally. Targeting the local market and changing the product to best suit the locals. “Local” can be a broad term, but looking at the Risk Adjusted Strategy that has been implemented by the South African government, businesses can determine who is the new “local” target market.
Understanding what the new target market requires, their spending habits and product requirements can help your business pivot to service your local clients. This shouldn’t be too hard to know as you yourself are a local so you should know behaviour patterns of the market.
2. Adapt or Die
One of our good clients was faced with a big dilemma when lockdown begun. How do my clients view my products or worst, how do I sell my product if the doors of my store are closed. Her biggest takeaway from the pandemic has been the importance of understanding on how to move operations online and how to change your clients perception and behaviour from a retail store to an online e-commerce store.
Moving your business online is not as easy and simple as one might think. It comes with a whole new layer of complexities and operational change that one needs to adapt to. This does not mean that it shouldn’t be done, but rather be well prepared as to not let your clients down and make them disappointed with a service that they used to get from your “brick and mortar” store.
When moving your business online you have to make sure the following critical elements are ironed out:
A well designed website that is easy to navigate
Most people think that creating a website is easy, but it’s not. A lot of effort and thought needs to be put into the website to focus on one main goal – customer satisfaction. The website needs to be simple, easy to navigate and must allow the customer to create a purchase with as minimal clicks as possible.
A very important thing to do is to create what you think is the perfect website and then get user feedback on it before going live.
A good way to get some user feedback is by sending the link to your friends and family and get their input on how they found the website. Remember, your opinion is bias.
Establish a secure payment processing partner
Remember, you are now onboarding your clients via online website and there is a lot of dodgy activity happening online. Your number 1 priority is to provide a secure environment for your customers. You have to remain cognizant that your clients are going to be putting a lot of private information and their credit card or bank account number on your site. It is your responsibility to create and maintain a safe space.
Choosing a payment processing partner is of outmost importance. Do your research, make sure they are reliable, make sure they are efficient and make sure they have security parameters in check. Go on your competitors website and find out who they are using, that is always a good first step. Check for reviews online and make contact with them.
Onboard a reliable and reputable courier service
You can do EVERYTHING right your side and then throw it all away by having a bad courier service. The last mile of your sales funnel can be the most detrimental and important. Make sure you find and partner up with the best courier company that you can find to ensure timely delivery of your product to your customer. Remember, it might be their fault is the delivery is late, but the customer will blame you for it – so choose wisely.
3. Be Resilient
Make sure your business is as resilient as it needs to be at all times to prevent serious consequences when the world throws a spanner at you.
We have seen this in many of our businesses. They had to take immediate actions and switch off as many unnecessary costs and expenditures to the business and look how they can leverage off their existing infrastructure to adapt to the current times.
A lot of our businesses used their existing warehousing and production capabilities to pivot into making masks and sanitizers to enhance their current revenue and product offerings.
This kind of pivot to the product offering proves resiliency and adaptability to show that the business can withstand any kind of economic pressure and macroeconomic change.
From speaking to all of our clients, we got a lot of feedback and categorized them into the abovementioned 3 techniques. As we said, if you are an optimist (which being a small business owner forces you to be) and you see the glass half full rather than half empty, then you will see some positive lessons that you might have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Resiliency and adaptability is one of the main traits of small businesses and one of the advantages of running a relatively small business and lacking the bureaucracy thereof that comes with being a big business.