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If your business made it through 2020, you have survived one of the biggest collective economic crises of our generation, which is cause for celebration. However, on the back of a year that can only be described as ‘unprecedented’, and as the national lockdown level 3 is extended, it is important to reflect on why some businesses proved more resilient than others, even within the same industry and region.

In this sense, the past year has provided invaluable insight for business owners. Based on this insight, here are seven business survival tips for 2021.

1. Check your information sources

In the fog of the crisis, reliable information has proven vital to business survival. Business owners who had cultivated solid sources of information, such as news organisations, business associations and carefully-selected individuals within their networks, were able to withstand the considerable misinformation polluting social media in 2020. This, in turn, enabled calm and accurate planning. In contrast, many business owners who lacked good information were prone to panic decisions and paralysis.

In 2021, business owners with access to reliable sources of information will also remain well-positioned to identify new business opportunities arising from the pandemic.

2. Beware of comfort zones

The pandemic has proven that nothing is absolutely certain, and businesses that found themselves deepest into their comfort zones had the most trouble finding their feet. This does not mean that business owners must live in constant fear of calamity, but rather that a minimum level of awareness and readiness for unexpected setbacks is healthy.

3. Adapt or die

We witnessed how the speed at which a business could adapt – whether it was to working from home, new forms of client interaction, introducing different products or services, or even alternative marketing avenues – was key to its survival. Keep in mind that agility is a function of mindset, business culture, planning and information sourcing, and is equally as important for spotting new opportunities, as it is for weathering crises.

4. Promote sound leadership

Businesses with strong leadership have coped much better than those adrift on the stormy sea. Leadership includes having a clear and agile strategy, good communication and execution of the strategy throughout the whole organisation, decisive decision-making and the building of a strong team around the strategy. An important part of crisis leadership is setting a tone of calm – not to be confused with complacency – in order to avoid panic and despair.

5. Stay abreast of technology

As lockdown hit, any lack of investment in information technology was sorely felt by businesses. In contrast, business owners with well-developed IT infrastructure found it relatively easy to adapt to work-from-home practices and remote communication with clients, avoiding a potential scramble to set up modern systems and, in turn, train staff to use them.

6. Compliance, compliance, compliance

From your financial information to tax compliance and staff employment contracts, it is important to keep everything in order and up to date. Having this information readily available allows your business to apply for support and finance without delays, as both private and Government financiers require this information before offering any support.

7. Contingency resources are key

If ever there was a time to dip into a rainy-day fund, it is now. The importance of contingency planning is closely linked to the lesson around being ready for unexpected setbacks. This goes beyond just having an emergency fund – it can include an emergency line of credit and a good relationship with potential investors.

About the Author: Jeremy Lang

Jeremy Lang
Jeremy Lang has been our Regional General Manager since 2013. He is also responsible for the overall management of the Inland Business Unit whose investment activity spreads across Gauteng, Free State, Limpopo, and North West Provinces. He has more than 14 years’ experience in the funding and support of SMEs. Jeremy is our go-to-spokesperson for all things business finance and growth, and business leadership articles.

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