How to change your business game plan in tense economic times

Adapting to unprecedented circumstances is not easy. Pivoting takes planning, agility, courage, and a collaborative approach. Now is the time for entrepreneurs to spot market gaps and come up with the micro-innovations required to fill them. Philippa Wild from Santam and Doris Viljoen from Stellenbosch University weigh in on how businesses can change their game plan to emerge stronger from these times of business unusual.

Philippa Wild, Head of Commercial Underwriting at Santam, says an entrepreneurial mindset is essential in the current climate. “To change your game plan and adapt to the pandemic – it’s pivotal to really hone in on what’s important right now. An entrepreneurial mindset begins with curiosity and a sustained hunger to learn. Harness this and use the pandemic to force focus and drive innovation.”

Here are some of Wild’s suggestions for nimbly taking a new route to strengthen a business:

  1. People first, always: The decision to pivot needs to be a shared one. Ensure you ask for input from your team and make it a collaborative effort from the start. Open the floor to hear your stakeholder’s suggestions and solutions; ramp up continuous communications – it’s better to over-communicate than under-communicate. Make sure everyone feels comfortable, with clearly defined roles, emotional support and training throughout the transition.
  2. Look ahead: It’s easy to be paralysed by fear and indecision when surrounded by so much uncertainty. Now is the time to review your business operations and services; and seek stronger, cost-effective alternatives when possible. Identify any business gaps or opportunities for iterative innovation and pursue them. Be cautious with your expenditure and how you use your time. Keep thinking beyond the pandemic – how are you setting your business up for the long-term?
  3. Be purpose-led and client-centric: Right now, many South Africans are struggling. Businesses that can offer real value and make a tangible impact on people’s lives in some way earn loyalty. Now is the time to take client-centricity to new heights. Refine the customer journey at every touchpoint, eliminate pain points and streamline efficiencies. Look at ways to bring in consistent micro-innovations, and ask your customers for their ideas and feedback.
  4. Protect what you’ve built: Make sure your business and assets are properly insured. If you’re planning to change how you do things, consider how this will impact your personal and business cover needs. For instance, with remote working, are all your assets like PCs covered for home use? Have you considered your sums insured and whether your cover needs to be increased, for example, due to changes in the exchange rate? And have you adjusted your premiums to account for the fact you may not be driving as much?

While Wild gives some insight into what to consider for pivoting, Doris Viljoen, Senior Futurist at Stellenbosch University’s Institute for Futures Research, shares emerging trends that could inspire how to pivot. “Numerous global trends were already emerging before the COVID-19 pandemic, and now they provide opportunities for businesses that are considering a move to something new.” 

Viljoen highlights four trends that hold exciting possibilities:

  1. Platform organisations: People are increasingly willing to share assets, and platform technologies enable them to acquire and pay for or share access to an asset. This allows businesses to innovate and interact with one another in ways not previously possible.
  2. Order from the source/shorten the supply chain:  Growing numbers of customers are looking for products from their own community, items that are proudly home grown.  It is an eco-conscious trend where consumers are looking for products that did not have to be imported over long distances; they want a smaller carbon footprint.
  3. (Re)Emergence of the makers, artisans and fixers: Artisan-everything is increasing (think bread, alcoholic beverages, jams, clothing, cheese, cured meat, oils, vinegar, etc.). The fixers (plumbers, electricians, people that fix or repurpose existing products and make new ones through woodwork, metalwork, etc.) are also enjoying increasing market opportunities because people are becoming more responsible in terms of re-using assets to reduce potential waste.
  4. Increased connectivity and digital fluency fuelling digital disruption: Digital communication systems span the globe, bringing the possibility of increased connectivity and the potential to communicate with anyone or anything at any time and from anywhere. People’s levels of digital fluency are growing as well. Together, these two trends open opportunities for the digital disruption of existing systems. 

Wild concludes, “Changing your game plan takes gumption, courage and forward-thinking. It’s critical to scenario-plan to mitigate prospective risks and give yourself every chance of success. Make sure your business is properly covered, so you protect what you have built and are in the process of building. Speak to your financial adviser to come up with a plan to navigate your insurance needs as your business model changes.”

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