“Even though the IMF projects that global economic growth will slow down to around 3.3%, this doesn’t mean there aren’t good opportunities,” Lang says. “In a slowdown, for instance, consumers generally tend to cut their costs. So, if your business is solution-driven in its products and services and can help consumers save money, it could be positioned very well.”
He says this is but one example of how savvy business owners can thrive despite tough market conditions.
The globalised nature of business means there is no room for complacency, even for businesses who don’t believe they’re under threat from global developments.
“Although global events may not impact you immediately, you cannot run a business in isolation anymore,” Lang says. “Even if you run a hair salon on the corner, your customers’ disposable spend is going to be impacted by events like the oil price going up. So maybe they can only visit your salon once a month, instead of twice.”
For local businesses to do well, he suggests keeping an eye on five key themes that are shaping how businesses operate, and how consumer trends are influencing markets.
The first of these is the increased emphasis consumers place on sustainability and ethical business practices. The lesson for business owners is that they can no longer feign ignorance about suppliers and what happens downstream from their business. More and more consumers are becoming educated about the impact of your business practises on the economy, society and the environment.
Secondly, rather significant changes to the world’s demographics could point to an opportunity. An aging population in East Asia, for example, may turn out to be the ideal consumers for a product or service unsuited to current South African consumer preferences as consumers of different ages have different needs
Next, Lang says, both local and global political factors cannot be ignored and could have a powerful impact on how the global economy performs, and where new opportunities might be uncovered.
The ongoing trade dispute between the United States and China, for instance, has created tremendous uncertainty, and with it a lack of demand. The same can be said about the election period for some businesses in the country.
The final factor that looms large for businesses of all sizes is the impact of technology. The rapid development of new solutions is a prime example of how an external factor could deal a death blow to, or breathe new life into, a business.
Lang says this means that business owners have a responsibility to stay abreast of developments in their key markets if they’re to thrive.
“One cannot ignore that the world is becoming a much smaller community, especially because technology is such a good enabler that allows companies to trade across borders. SMEs have no choice but to be aware of what is happening around the continent and world and how that impacts them directly or indirectly,” he concludes.