Last year was a bad year for many companies – here is how to make sure 2015 is better
A variant of this article was published as the Sanlam Business Tips for Business Owners January 2015 edition. This publication is a great resource for entrepreneurs, well worth subscribing.
Last year was one of the most difficult for businesses in recent times. The strike in the platinum mining sector started in January and was only settled in June. Losses to the mines and their workers were enormous, but the trickle-down effect of the mines not buying meant suppliers were badly affected. That in turn affected their supply chains, down to tax consultants of managers of third tier suppliers. Only a week after platinum strike settlement the metalworkers strike paralysed industry for a month. The post office did not deliver mail for months in some areas, new power stations again experienced construction delays, the radical EFF appeared on the stage and the e-toll saga developed in Gauteng.
On top of all this the South African national pastime of sharing bad news brought a mood of pessimism and resignation. Already in 2015 we have seen threatened strikes, load shedding xenophobic violence. What, you may ask will make this year any better than the previous one? One of the answer to that question is you. There are many things you can do to shield your business from negative external events, and to seek the opportunities that any adverse event brings.
First the bad news. Power outages and strikes, are not a possibility in 2015, they are a certainty. The duration and frequency are the only variables. Crime and corruption is not going away any time soon. There will be delays in postal deliveries, service delivery protests and traffic light failures. Plan around this, deal with it and move on. Budget for diesel for the generator and courier fees, talk respectfully not paternalistically with your workers, listen to their concerns and dreams and do your best to accommodate them. Invest in IT systems to make your business more efficient, secure information off site or in the cloud, optimise deliveries for bad weather and traffic light failures, then move on with business. All of these have a cost, so price or sales volume increases will be required, make this happen.
The good news is your business has the ability to shine against competitors when adverse events affect everyone. Smart entrepreneurs can turn any event to an opportunity. Energy efficient products sell well when power costs increase – get or make the right products then sell that feature aggressively. Exploit power outages to give better service or prices to your customers. Coffee bars may offer laptop and cell phone chargers, retail stores could give a discount when the lights go out. Think of the opportunities for suppliers with inventories of critical parts for their own and customers’ needs during times of disruption from strikes or transport delays. Do you think generator suppliers hope that Medupi comes on stream soon, or glaziers do not budget for the hail season in summer? There are huge opportunities in any bad circumstance, see them as a challenge.
We should all stop complaining about how bad things are. Reality check; if it is so bad why are we still making profits? In a recent survey eight out of ten SME manufacturers export manufactured goods and replace imports, according to a Manufacturing Circle report. Have you noticed the exotic houses being built in golf estates at an unprecedented rate? The luxury supercars being sold? The truth is that there are many wonderful examples of South African success. I suggest you collect some of these and make a point of dropping them in to the conversation when it again turns to our national pastime of complaining. It is fun to watch the faces and stops us getting depressed in a sea of blame and anger. The time has come to face the opportunities and grab them.
©copyright Ed Hatton. All rights reserved. You may republish this article or extracts from it provided you state I am the author, acknowledge my copyright and provide a link to my blog or my e-mail address.