Positioning your business for success

Saleem Sonday  - 20 November 2020

In the final instalment of our 10-part Survive and thrive webinar series, brought to you by the Allan Gray Umbrella Retirement Fund, we unpack strategies for rebuilding the foundations of your business and setting it up for prosperity beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Watch the webinar recording of “Positioning your business for success” below.

Key takeouts

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the foundations of every business – big and small. Ralph Mupita, MTN Group CEO, Natasha Sideris, founder and CEO of The Tashas Group, and former Investec CEO, Stephen Koseff share their advice for and positioning your business for growth during times of uncertainty. Here is a summary of the key takeouts.

Keep lean and mean

With so many unknown variables to plan for – including a second wave of COVID-19 and the potential tightening of lockdown restrictions – the only way to truly safeguard your business from uncertainty is to tightly monitor cashflows and keep operationally lean.

“You have to be really careful with your cash and cashflow. If you were saving 15% or 20% or 25% in your business before, you’ve really got to up that. You’ve got to look at your own standards of living and you’ve got to save money because if another lockdown happens, or lockdown restrictions get stricter, you need the cash to survive. That’s the only thing that is going to get you through,” says Sideris.

Echoing her sentiments, Koseff says a key step for managing your balance sheet is to consider how to look after your core stakeholders – your people, suppliers or customers – and figuring out how to balance the impact on all of them.

Be agile and ready to pivot

The pandemic poses numerous challenges for businesses, but equally so, it continues to present opportunities for businesses to reinvent themselves, accelerate the execution of medium-term plans, and launch product or service offerings previously unimagined. Take the opportunity to capitalise on the potential for new revenue streams: Businesses that are agile and adapt quickly during a time of crisis stand a better chance of survival than businesses confined to their comfort zones. 

“You can’t sit and say I’ve always done this so I’m going to carry on doing it,” Koseff warns.

Customer focus is key

With consumers being spoilt for choice, positioning your business for success means ensuring that you deliver excellent customer service or an excellent product offering that sets you apart from your competitors.

“It starts with the customer. The businesses that succeed during and out of crises, the ones that have resilience and come through, are those that have a very clear focus on the customer. Sometimes businesses are not clear about who their customers really are; it can take a crisis for you to work this out,” says Mupita.

“Figure out what is particularly special about your business. You are either competing on product leadership, operational excellence or customer intimacy, or a combination of the three.”

Fix your foundations

Before you can plan for growth and the future, you will need to reassess your business’ foundational structures to check for cracks and identify operational inefficiencies that existed before the pandemic. Your focus should be on fixing these problems and strengthening the fundamentals of your business.

Mupita says a good way to shield your business from a range of outcomes is by maintaining a balance sheet that has enough headroom to withstand future shocks and one that will see you through the difficult times.

He concludes by reminding us that fortunes are not made at the top of the cycle; they are made at the bottom of the cycle.


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