Small, Medium, and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) have become, over the last decade, the engine of the South African economy representing and accounting for more than half of the private sector workforce. This is a staggering third of our country’s GDP. The achievements and failures of these SMMEs may cause a ripple effect that impacts many lives and communities, either positively or negatively. When we assess SMME’s which find themselves collapsing due to a shortage of cash flow, our attention is drawn to the negative and jarring effects of job losses, ultimately trickling to the wider community members who are “supported” financially or otherwise by the person who has lost their job.
All in all, the survival of SMME’s is a matter of socio-economic survival. Entrepreneurs have faced extremely challenging times, with only a glimmer of the sunshine coming through, however, entrepreneurs are “built differently” as they are aware of the risks that come with operating their own organisation and never shy away from a challenge. The main key factor for success as an entrepreneur is an excellent support system, grit and determination. An “in-it-to-win-it attitude also assists in overcoming obstacles.
The shift in consumer behaviour towards online purchasing and the changing commercial landscape has completely upended the way that business is conducted, opening more markets for organisations while creating opportunities to digitise and future-proof their businesses. Although there remains a huge gap between who can access the online opportunities and who cannot, big companies across the globe are coming together to provide the specific tools and resources to bridge these gaps, while also making provision to improve digital knowledge among entrepreneurs who may not have had access to the ‘digital, online world’.
In conversation with the knowledgeable Queen Ramotsehoa, Executive and Leadership Coach of Tsheto Leadership and Coaching Academy, she says, “Its human nature to directly attribute our success to luck yet it is not so, victory comes with the ‘no-die’ attitude”. She further shares a reminder of what went into every victory over the pandemic, to be used for future reference, should the need arise to repeat the process again:
- Majority of entrepreneurs had to restructure their expenses to stretch the cashflow: This was executed by cutting out all expenses that were not necessary, and only kept what worked. Being frugal gives entrepreneurs an opportunity to have enough money to grow their business. As entrepreneurs forge ahead it is advisable to use this experience to ring-fence money that you require to fortify your business, and also grow it so that the enterprises’ income increases.
- SMME’s learnt a valuable lesson on how to prioritize: The pandemic forced us all to do this, whether work related or within our personal lives. This is a gift that entrepreneurs must not let go as South Africa moves into the recovery period.
- Some enterprises had, prior to Covid-19, practiced the principle of retaining at least 5 months business overheads in their bank account: Always one to practice, what she preaches, Queen had this strategy already running based on her business’ down-time, which runs from December until the end of February. Part of her commitment to ensuring that emergency funds are readily available is the strategy of saving a percentage of her business income to rebuild reserves, and with lessons learnt from the pandemic the aim now is to accumulate a minimum 12-month reserve.
- Strict discipline: It would have been near impossible to have emerged from South Africa’s hard lockdowns still afloat without discipline at a physical, psychological, emotional, social, spiritual, and mental level. People have finally learnt the importance of looking after your own wellbeing:
- Physical – Rest. Eating well. Exercising. Seeking medical help when required. Queen had a personal battle with Covid-19 in May 2021. It took everything in her power to restore her body back to health. People must realise that we cannot gamble with our physical wellbeing. Routine is an important key that assists one to reach a level of consistency.
- Psychological –This was a topic of concern before the pandemic; mental health and stability; which then became an issue of importance and has finally been recognised as a global crisis. In whatever situation one finds themselves they will either win twice or lose twice. Once your thoughts become directed towards giving up therein lies the first step of your downward spiral with only adverse effects taking the passenger seat. The fact that you have come out on the other side as a victor means you have chosen a positive attitude and developed a solution to the challenges that arose. Moving forward, every entrepreneur is reminded to ‘keep in check’ their attitudes towards life and the relationships that surround them. Develop a positive mindset that will allow you to view every challenge through positive lenses. That is the main thing that encourages entrepreneurs to endure.
- Emotional – Manage your emotions. This might sound impossible but simply follows the point made in the paragraph above. Once you have developed that positive attitude and express your optimism towards life, the labels and words that you use to describe your challenges will influence the emotions that you will feel. Negative labels conjure negative emotions. Be conscious of your word choice, ensuring that these align with the intention, ‘to continue winning’.
- Social – The fact that you are still here shows, to a large extent, that you had invested in great relationships before the start of the pandemic. A fortunate number were even able to build solid relationships during the pandemic. As we press forward into the unknown it is extremely important to continue building positive and long-lasting relationships. Covid-19 enforced a profound truth upon the global society that; ‘no man is an island’. A great support system among co-workers, families, friends and communities is invaluable and therefore generous time should be spent on nurturing it.
- Spiritual – Where did you draw your strength from and where do you draw it from now? Who informed you of what you needed to do? How did you distinguish between right and wrong, good and bad? Where do you draw your hope from? As a Christian, Queen believes that the “down-time” that came hand-in-hand with the pandemic gave her valuable time to connect with God and her faith enabled her to nurture a positive attitude in regards to all the challenges, thus leading to a good emotional state. To be able to press on successfully confirm where you draw your strength from, and how you can strengthen that source.
- Mental – This is about your thought patterns. If they are defeating, you are defeated! Secondly, invest your time in increasing your knowledge of your industry, business, sector, customers, products and suppliers while continuously improving your skills and expertise. Golden rule, “know what you are doing” with every aspect of your business so that when disrupted you understand where the impact is, and how best to mitigate its possible negative impact. Make mastery your second nature.
As an entrepreneur, below are some words of wisdom in preparation for the year ahead:
- Think about how you can differentiate your organisation from others. What is the specific value proposition you can deliver from a product point of view? And can this be adjusted to what your consumer expects.
- Revisit your business (and life) plan. Go back to basics if required
- Be open to new opportunities and new ways of doing business. Look at the digital opportunities that are available to you and how you can leverage them in your business.
If uncertain, ask! Help is always readily available to provide the necessary clarity.
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