In the third of 10 webinars in the Survive and thrive series, brought to you by the Allan Gray Umbrella Retirement Fund, we explore how to leverage technology and innovation to enhance your business value proposition during COVID-19 and beyond. Watch the ‘Leveraging innovation and technology for a strong recovery’ webinar recording, and key takeouts below.
Bridge Labs founder, Musa Kalenga, Rekindle Learning founder, Rapelang Rabana, and Yoco co-founder, Carl Wazen, share lessons on how to use the power of innovation and technology to help stabilise and elevate your business into the future.
There are four crucial steps to forging a business comeback
Most business owners may be feeling like they have had the wind knocked out of their sails, as they take stock of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions. Kalenga says staging a strong business recovery requires entrepreneurs to take these four steps:
1. Stabilise Understand how your sector recovery will look like in relation to economic recovery.
2. Assess: Understand how to create value for your customers over time and then plan your horizons.
3. Reflect: Introspect on your mental resolve and agility implementation. Make sure you are at peace with the reality that things have changed.
4. Seize opportunities: Focus on customer validation, go hunting in new areas you would not ordinarily hunt and grab the new opportunities that arise.
Be strategic rather than tactical in your responses
Knee-jerk reactions are common in times of crisis, but acting tactically, rather than strategically, may be a mistake. Take the time to figure out how you can improve your services and make the lives of your customers better – this will be central to your business recovery.
“You need to shift from a tactical to a strategic response. Don’t assume that what you’ve always done is still going to work,” advises Rabana. “Take a step back and ask yourself: What do my customers need right now? How can I meet those needs better than I could before, leveraging the power of technology?”
Be nimble and adaptable
According to Wazen, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic requires business owners to be quick and agile, and not hung up on delivering perfectly polished products. If your business is centred around a product offering, for instance, he advises entrepreneurs to shift their mindsets from working towards a product launch, and think more along the lines of a release, even if the product is not necessarily where you want it to be.
Equally important to the success of the response, is keeping your employees engaged and securing their buy-in to the new strategy or direction your business may be embarking on, particularly in the wake of a restructuring process. Says Wazen: “The most important thing is to be radically transparent with everyone. Bring everyone in as often as possible. We went from meeting (as a team) every second week to three times per week, every time reinforcing that we need to embrace uncertainty because we don’t know. It was that shift that allowed people to feel comfortable that we don’t know all the answers. What we do know is that we need to create optionality as a business to respond to customers as quickly as possible.”
Incorporate technology into your innovation strategy
Technology can be a very intimidating word for entrepreneurs, some of whom, Kalenga says, mistakenly consider it to be “the big shiny thing”. While sometimes it is, technology doesn’t always have to be complicated or super creative. What is key is contextualising the problem your customers are facing and finding a way to make the user experience more satisfying.
“You don’t need to become a tech expert to understand your clients’ user experience journey. Look at areas where they waste time trying to navigate or get frustrated – make it easier. Start with the simple customer touch points, it’s not about inventing a new app or inventing a new product,” Rabana concludes.