“What products or processes could you simply abandon right now? What alternative approaches might bring in money? By thinking in such a manner, you continue to champion your core value, even if your delivery channels have changed.”
Can small businesses survive COVID-19? Douglas Kruger has written Virus-proof your small business: 50 ways to survive the COVID-19 crisis. Naomi Meyer and Cliffordene Norton interview him about an essential read in this challenging time.
True or false? COVID-19 will change everything. If you agree, in which ways?
This may sound counterintuitive, but I certainly hope not. It is easy, romantic and idealistic to talk about “replacing the whole system”, but the reality of the matter is that our civilisation has taken a couple of thousand years to build and refine to where it is. Every time we have tried to replace it with something else, such as communism, people have starved in their millions. I do see refinements coming, and I would certainly welcome those. But I favour “increased efficiency” over “total revolution”.
Do small businesses have the cash flow to survive the extended lockdown?
Most simply do not. In places like Japan, which are often beset by earthquakes, tsunamis and trade wars, companies habitually create “survival funds”. Most small businesses either can’t or haven’t thought that far. Nevertheless, there are creative responses. For instance, could you offer vouchers in lieu of future service? “Buy now at a discount” in order to keep income flowing?
What can a small business owner do in these challenging times? What is the most important thing to do right now, in the medium term and long term?
Start with the determined decision to fight for your business. No matter how small or trivial it may seem, it is an important block in the foundation of our civilisation. It’s your baby, your dream – don’t let it go without a fight.
Then, begin to think about creative ways of keeping your profitability up and your costs down. What products or processes could you simply abandon right now? What alternative approaches might bring in money? If you are a gym, could you become a YouTube instructional channel for a time, sharing home workout tips? That can actually earn significant revenue, and it costs virtually nothing. By thinking in such a manner, you continue to champion your core value, even if your delivery channels have changed.
Not all small businesses can carry on online. What to do if your business needs real people in a shop?
Here are some options: Prepare for the possibility of delivery on the far side of lockdown. If you haven’t done delivery before, you may have some work to do to set up systems. Start now.
“Small businesses are everything to this nation.”
Could you “pool” a delivery service with other entrepreneurs? Could you offer a sort of “drive-through window” where customers collect the product? Could you go to their homes or to their premises? If so, be sure to let them know you can do so safely and hygienically. For instance, have staff wear gloves, and place parcels on a ledge for customers’ collection.
What if profit over cost is not possible? Or are there any ways in which you can make sure that it is?
Some businesses simply cannot make a profit right now. If that’s you, the smartest move is to look to future earnings. Could you use this time to position yourself as the logical choice when business picks up again, which may be sooner than you anticipate? Which player will be logically placed for success on the far side? How can you be that company, that brand?
If you are a solo practitioner, that might mean using this time to write that book, start that YouTube channel, propose that television show or write that course that ultimately positions you as the expert in your industry.
As a supplier, it might mean considering buying out competitors. Perhaps they want to exit the game. Could you consolidate and become the leading choice?
“Business is not a zero-sum game. The more everyone succeeds, well, the more everyone succeeds. That’s why we need to share useful ideas as far, and as fast, as humanly possible.”
Finally, what about large-scale trends? For example, the phrase “made in China” might soon become a lot less common. Who is currently shopping around for what you do, on a global level? Could you offer your services to them? Have you tried?
What if you, as an owner of a small business, get infected with COVID-19?
At any stage in a company’s life, succession planning is important. Right now, it may be more so than ever. The reality appears to be that well over 90% of people who get infected recover from the virus. Nevertheless, running scenarios and planning for dramatic changes is always a good idea.
How important are small businesses to the South African economy?
I have to answer this with an ironic shake of the head. Small businesses are everything to this nation. But, at the same time, South Africa ranks 110th on the economic freedom index, and our rankings grow worse each year. On the one hand, we are deeply conscious of the need for small businesses and of the fact that owning a (successful) business is one of the surest paths to real wealth.
On the other hand, we make it as difficult as humanly possible to get up and going. Nothing but red tape and restrictions. India, by contrast, is persistently repealing business legislation and freeing up trade. We roughly compare with them as a BRICS nation, but we can’t match their success, and that is why.
What is your opinion about clients (those who can) supporting small businesses by buying vouchers which can be redeemed after the lockdown?
I think it is simply wonderful. I even received a phone call telling me the tale of an industry association that has already collected fees for this year’s event. The participants collectively decided simply to donate that money to the association in order to ensure that it would be around next year. Humans are amazing. And, yes, vouchers are a clever way of keeping small businesses up and running. It matters that we do so. Business is not a zero-sum game. The more everyone succeeds, well, the more everyone succeeds. That’s why we need to share useful ideas as far, and as fast, as humanly possible.
There are always silver linings. There is always hope. There are always smart ways forward, and we should never lose hope. Growth may be just around the corner, both for you and for the nation. Now let’s explore the practical things you can do to keep your own profit-over-cost ratio as healthy as possible, for as long as possible. Here are 50 ways to survive the COVID-19 crisis …
The past two decades were among the most prosperous in history, with over a billion people lifted out of extreme poverty. Then 2020 hit, and along with it the coronavirus pandemic. The effect on economies will be extreme. What can small businesses do to survive the COVID-19 crisis? Business coach and author Douglas Kruger provides actionable answers, with a list of 50 practical ways your business can survive – and even thrive – during this time of uncertainty.
Business survival entails a simple formula. You must achieve and maintain profits over costs. There are a remarkable number of creative things you can do to stay on the right side of this equation, provided you don’t lose your head. Do these things well and you’ll be able to keep your staff employed, continue to serve your customers, grow awareness of your brand, and even come out of this difficult period positioned for growth.