SMEs have faced great uncertainty regarding the sustainability of their businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many small business owners have questioned the viability of their businesses and its capacity to be successful.
Business viability refers to “a general assessment of whether a business is (or will be) successful”. This includes many parts of a business, including operations, marketing and financials.
Despite the challenges small businesses face there are several steps that business owners can take to ensure their business can survive the knocks that may come. This require that business owners run professional enterprises while also anticipating and quickly responding to any business threats and risks.
Here are five suggestions for improving your company’s long-term viability.
1. Get compliance right
While most business owners understand why it’s important to run a professional business, many underestimate how critical it is to ensuring their business survives the unexpected. This applies whether you are looking to approach funders during a financial downturn or being able to access access government tax incentives and financial assistance.
A compliant business is one that adheres to tax laws and regulations. All businesses should be registered with the CIPC and comply with industry regulations (depending on the industry that you operate in); zoning laws; licensing and permits and labour law.
Related: Starting a Business in South Africa
2. Focus on marketing
During tough times it can be tempting for small business owners to pause all marketing activities. However, it is during downturns that businesses should fight to remain top of mind.
Digital marketing has changed the game for small businesses and offers an affordable alternative that also allows businesses to track their marketing efforts. Some of the tactics that small businesses should be making use of are social media, email marketing and SEO.
By marketing themselves online business owners are able to advertise directly to their consumers and have the opportunity to build a business and personal brand.
3. Invest in IT
Technology is playing an instrumental role in improving the lives of small and medium business owners and employees in South Africa. This is especially true in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Cloud-based software make it easier than ever for businesses to efficiently manage their finances, operations, and people.
Key IT investments for small business owners include websites, e-commerce, digital marketing and customer relationship management (CRM) software.
4. Improve customer service
After COVID-19 customers expect more from the brands they support. Consumers are demanding that businesses up their game and offer a better service while making it easier for them to shop and pay how and when they want. Going forward business owners need to be more customer-centred than ever to thrive.
Some ideas for businesses looking to improve customer experience is to invest in their website and offer multi-channel experiences for customers in-person and the web.
5. Prioritise profit
Many small businesses found themselves without a financial safety net when the COVID-19 restrictions came into effect. Unlike corporates, SMEs often don’t have the cash reserves to deal with the setbacks. It’s important to build up healthy cash reserves so your business can protect itself against unbudgeted shocks or to invest in new ideas.