People will remember who they could trust during this time

Steps small businesses can take now to survive Covid-19 lockdown

20 May 2020 - 08:00 By LIEZEL ALSEMGEEST
Small business owners who want to survive lockdown and beyond should reorganise, reduce and plan ahead.
Small business owners who want to survive lockdown and beyond should reorganise, reduce and plan ahead.

I have always had a healthy respect for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Whether they started their businesses out of a dire need for employment or had a vision and just went for it and created a livelihood for themselves, I think it is very brave, and their hard work and perseverance deserves admiration.

We find ourselves in unprecedented times. Apart from the social impairments we are experiencing by not being able to have contact with our family and friends, our working lives also had to adjust drastically to adopt to specifications in order to flatten the curve.

For small businesses, this lockdown and the subsequent restrictions placed on businesses have a monumental impact. However, entrepreneurs are known for their determination, perseverance, creativity and tenacity. These traits are exactly what is needed in times like these.

Some of the most important aspects to focus on are ensuring you keep costs to a minimum while trying to find new, creative ways to keep your operation running.

While doing this, you also need to strategise and be forward thinking about how your business can recover and be even stronger in the future, and, above all,  remain ethical and take care of your employees and customers.

Negotiate payment terms, reorganise operations, think ahead and act ethically
Steps to ensure your business can survive

Although keeping costs low has always been important, there is no better time than the present to instil this practice.

Most small businesses’ biggest expenses are salaries or wages. While it might be easy to lay off employees, it will definitely not be the best for the broader community. Therefore, before laying off employees and starting a ripple effect of financial distress, start reducing other costs.

Luckily, as the majority of small businesses were started with little or no money in the first place, this is something small business owners and entrepreneurs can manage well.

Large corporations and financial institutions may be willing to negotiate payment terms or payment holidays, so it will be in everyone’s best interest to contact suppliers and vendors for possible concessions. Remember, all businesses are in this crisis together and would rather negotiate than lose valuable customers.

The second strategy is to find new and creative ways to keep your business running.

It reminds me of some small businesses currently shifting their production or services to help with aspects of the pandemic, for instance clothing factories that have changed production to produce masks.

The most important part is to keep offering products or services to people while adhering to social distancing rules. This is where the creativity of the small business owner or entrepreneur will come into play in a big way. Think outside the box.

Most small business owners and entrepreneurs usually do not have time to strategise where they want their business to go in the future. Things are usually too busy, but now might be the perfect time to do that.

Take the time to set out a strategy for your business, not only during the pandemic but also for the years to come. How can you continue to grow and adjust? Again, creativity and thinking outside the box are key here, but educating yourself is just as important. With all the online resources available, it has never been easier to get information.

Also remember to still act ethically and treat your employees and customers well. This may not be profitable in the short term, but people will remember who they could trust during this time and who should be avoided. This will serve you well in the long run.

All the things I have mentioned are definitely easier said than done. I get that. But resting on your laurels and sulking will not. South Africans can get through this.

- Dr Liezel Alsemgeest (CFP) is acting director and senior lecturer in the University of Free State School of Financial Planning Law.