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The current disruption in the global economy leaves us (business owners or entrepreneurs) with no choice but to go back to the drawing board. In the words of Jimmy Dean, "If you cannot change the direction of the wind, adjust yourself." Change is inevitable either imposed or self-instituted. The scale of damage in light of the ongoing Global Pandemic (COVID-19) is on the rise. As at the time of writing this column, more than 1,300,000 people globally have been infected with the COVID-19 virus, with more than 79,235 confirmed deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
The country is in lockdown, and the world seems to be at a standstill. What does this mean for small business owners who do not offer essential products or services? No sales and no cashflow. It doesn't matter what the projections and assumptions look like on your Business Plan, the sad reality is, none of those seems feasible at the moment. The renowned South African entrepreneur, public speaker, and venture capitalist, Vusi Thembekwayo, has always dismissed the idea and relevance of a business plan for small business owners. It is redundant. It is time to go back to the drawing board, not another 300 pages thesis on SWOT analysis, business needs to be run at the "speed of change."
According to the Wide Wide Worx, there is an estimate of 650,000 small businesses in South Africa employing about 7.8 million people. The question that confronts us today is, in the face of this contrasting odd, where do we go from here? Here are my views:
Brace for a change in your business model if you have one: The post-Covid19 era will have an economy shaped by new habits and regulations based on reduced close-contact interaction and tighter travel and hygiene restrictions. Depending on which business sector you operate from, this may warrant you to reconsider how you reach your customers or how your products and services will be delivered.
Post COVID-19, if public gatherings are restricted to a limited number of people until the situation is completely under control, business owners such as public or motivational speakers will quickly have to adjust or integrate virtual methods of reaching their audience, but also earning at the same time. There are so many virtual communication platforms that speakers can leverage on, and the earlier they get on to them, the better.
Small business owners who work as travel agents will have to work extra hard as there will be a drastic decline in travelling, most especially international flights. Otherwise, they will need to find additional vocation to ensure continuous cash flow. Business owners who run Cinemas will have to think outside the box to offer their entertainment services.
Consider E-Commerce: Can you sell your products or services online? If yes, this is the time to get started. It is moronic to see a disruption that is evident and not do something about it. We don't wait for the storm to pass, we learn to dance in the rain. It's time for small business owners to start working on their online presence and give as much convenience as possible for customers to buy with a flexible delivery option. New time calls for new thinking. There will be a drastic change in customer behavior, business owners need to get ready for it.
It's not all doom and gloom. Every cloud has a silver lining if we are willing to look for it. It is time for entrepreneurs to stop and think. Life and business as we know it may not return back to "normal." We all need to brace ourselves for the days ahead. Finally, reach out to the department of small business development for financial assistance. Visit their website on www.smmesa.gov.za