The South African business community will never be the same again. Sometimes things are allowed to evolve over time, but often change is thrust upon us, forcing a new way of thinking; a new direction to secure survival. In 2001 the 9/11 attacks changed the world completely, emphasising a critical need for tighter security both in the real world and online. In 2008, it was the US housing bubble collapse that lay bare what the financial world was getting up to, and ended up causing the death of some major multi-national businesses. And 2019 will go down as the year humanity entered the ‘new normal’ phase of existence, where at the drop of a hat businesses of any shape and size can be ordered to shut shop indefinitely – with little to no financial support during the downtime. The trick is not to focus on what isn’t working now, but to use these periods of closed doors to look at what could work well and get a business back on its feet once the all-clear has been sounded.
###Addressing the fire damage Mmusi Maimane, former leader of the Democratic Alliance, contributed an opinion piece to the Daily Maverick newspaper in April of 2019. He suggested that stopping the spread of the COVID-19 virus with a lockdown was merely an extinguisher spraying the fire. The real test of leadership comes once the flames have died down. “The true test of leadership is not in putting out fires, but in rebuilding after the damage the fire has caused.” – Mmusi Maimane The same is true for the business world, where the real challenge is going to be the reassessing and rebuilding of traditional business practices post-lockdown. Maimane shares that this rebuilding will need to be guided by lessons learnt during the shutdown. There might need to be uncomfortable questions asked about how traditional models can be replaced, or how a business might prepare for something of the COVID-19 magnitude moving into this new decade.
###Post-pandemic rebuilding process Once we know the damage, and what we’ll need to rebuild our businesses, we can begin the reparation phase – which might just be the hardest part. With many financial houses offering stays of payment or refinanced loans, businesses have options when it comes to avenues of rebirth. Here are a few core activities a business can look into when planning a recovery strategy:
• Secure capital and bolster team Very few businesses across the planet have come out of the COVID-19 sweeping lockdowns with any capital to show. These reserve pools have had to be tapped to cover overheads during the period of zero trade. So, the first step to rebuilding a business after shutdown is to secure the funding needed to kick-start things. This is no different to when first opening a business with investment capital. Also, if a business has had to lay off any employees during the COVID-19 period, another step to take in the early stages of rebuilding would be to source the talent needed to run the organisation once lockdown lifts.
• Reclaim customers During a shutdown, customers have to go without the things they’ve grown accustomed to in their lives. Going to the gym, visiting restaurants and retail therapy are sought after immediately after a shutdown is lifted. Unfortunately, many businesses will not be able to trade at full capacity immediately and might take a few days or weeks to get going again. The bad news is that if a business isn’t open on day one to reclaim their pre-shutdown customers, there’s a good chance the competitors will.
• Restock and reload Depending on where stock levels were just before lockdown, chances are many businesses might have been unable to resupply their stocks during the national shutdown. Another critical step to rebuilding is to fill the shelves once again, but not falling into the trap of stocking the same old stuff. A post-lockdown society is one that has changed, and will be looking for new product and service offerings; exciting things to sate the consumer’s new diversified retail appetite.
• Less expenses, more opportunities COVID-19 has taught all businesses across the globe that what we thought was important is not really the most important. In a world where complete shutdown can occur at the drop of a hat – and last for an indefinite amount of time – the need for leaner businesses is now. Businesses can cut away any wasted expenses from their post-shutdown operations, and should ideally have a list of potential opportunities ready to investigate as soon as a shutdown is lifted and people are looking for services again.
Give back and prepare Finally, we can all agree that a national lockdown and subsequent business world shutdown hits the poorer members of society the hardest. Community charity drives are great during a lockdown, but are also greatly needed once the wheels of society start turning again. Businesses that give back to struggling communities after a shutdown will be praised and supported. Also, businesses should be crafting contingency plans in the event that something of the COVID-19 magnitude strikes South Africa again.