The Covid-19 pandemic has compelled entrepreneurs to adopt innovative ways to keep their businesses alive. For many, this has meant an entire reinvention not only of how they run their business, but also what business they should be running.
The most important thing to do when this level of disruption hits your business is to make a realistic assessment of the situation and be honest in your diagnosis. Face the reality of your situation head-on. This is obviously easier said than done, especially when you've been running your business for many years. The temptation is to look at Covid-19 as a passing phase, but that perspective carries the dangerous risk of complacency.
By all accounts, the world will never be the same, and this pandemic and potentially others after it will impact how people move and socialise, and this will affect their behaviour as customers. It's not a trend. It's a shift. The sooner you accept this, the better chance you have to reinvent your business in a relevant, sustainable way.
Now that you know you need to change, it's time to apply the meaning of that word you are probably tired of hearing: pivot. To me, it means to fundamentally change the direction of the business when you've been punched in the face. And to achieve this change, you need to do at least three things. Be flexible. Be customer-obsessed. Innovate.
If flexibility doesn't come naturally to you, work on it. If you challenge yourself to make changes as and when the situation changes, you will see good results, starting with a sustainable business.
A big lesson we all learnt from Amazon is the value of being customer-obsessed. Start by listening to your customers and giving them what they want, not what you think they want.
Too often we are so in love with our product and our way of delivering it that we forget the most important stakeholder - the person who pays for our product. Speak less. Listen more. Execute on what customers ask for.
If you truly listen to your customer, you will immediately see the need for innovation - which to me simply means finding a better way to delight your customer. We are endowed with the beauty of technology for almost any area we want to innovate in. If your business is not technology enabled, you are dying a slow death.
The other realistic conversation you need to have with yourself is whether your business model is still relevant in this new normal. I speak to far too many entrepreneurs who are struggling because they are hellbent on sticking with a model that is simply no longer relevant or competitive in its market.
If you have tried your best at making your business work, but the pandemic or other factors have made it near impossible to win, move on. Your business is not the love of your life, your husband or wife. You don't have to die before you leave it.
It is for this reason that governments created limited liability entities such as (Pty) Ltds. Policy-makers knew they needed entrepreneurs to start and build companies, but many of these businesses may not work out and they may fail and shut down. But no-one wanted business venture failures to negatively affect the entrepreneurs' ability to start again, so they created entities you could trade under and if things didn't work out, you could liquidate and try again.
As long as you are not reckless or negligent, you are allowed to shut the doors and move on. So, I beg you, stop beating the dead horse. It's not going to get up. This article first appeared on www.businesslive.co.za on 30 May 2021.