Economic downturn, volatility and recession are all words that dominated 2015. Although it is a brand new year and time for a fresh start, these market conditions are unlikely to disappear in the year ahead.
Despite this, South Africa remains a fertile breeding ground for SMMEs, and local small businesses can still thrive with the right approach, which will ensure they not only weather this storm, but come out relatively unscathed on the other side.
We recommend: How Your Brand Can Drive Your Business Growth
I believe that approach encompasses seven key aspects that are critical for small business success in 2016:
Prepare for change
Knowing that we’re most likely in for a bumpy ride again this year means you can look back to the challenges your business faced in 2015 and try, as best, to prepare for similar trials that possibly lie ahead.
This allows you to more easily navigate the choppy waters, mitigating some of the risk involved in running a small business in a depressed economy.
Get your house in order
That includes your accounts, all in-house systems and processes. Knowing your business is running efficiently allows you to quickly respond to opportunities, challenges and sudden market shifts as they arise.
It also allows you to identify areas that can be streamlined to cut unnecessary costs. Cash flow is critical in this economy, so keeping your accounts in check is an absolute must.
The latest technology, including smartphones, tablets, phablets and laptops, really are small business owners’ best friends.
They offer a world of business apps, software programmes and innovations that can not only make your life a whole lot easier, but save you time and money as well.
We recommend: 5 Ways To Spot And Capitalise On Trends
If you don’t know how to fully use your digital device, ask for help and learn how to maximise the new technologies available to you (and your business!).
Be sure to also investigate cloud technology, especially for cost-effective data backup.
Outsource, outsource, outsource
So many entrepreneurs try to become jack of all trades in an effort to save costs.
The reality is, this usually ends up costing the small business owner a lot more in the long run – and not only financially, reputations can be comprised too.
Focus on your core business and growing your profits, and outsource other functions to the professionals in those areas.
Outsourcing doesn’t mean having to only go with the big firms; there are many other small business owners just like you offering a good service at a great price. Ask for word of mouth referrals in sourcing your outsourcing partners.
Re-look your customer experience
When last did you put yourself in the shoes of your customers and see your business through their eyes? Over time, customers’ expectations evolve, but our businesses don’t always keep pace as we’re unaware of the true extent of this evolution.
In addition, newer competitors could be catering to these ‘evolved’ customers off the bat, leaving your business behind.
Personally walk through your customers’ journey, from beginning to end, and look for opportunities to improve the experience at every touch point. Remember to encourage testimonials and word of mouth referrals from satisfied customers.
Get on top of social media
Technological advances have irrevocably changed the marketing landscape.
Your customer and stakeholder communications are no longer limited to traditional channels, and you now have the opportunity to add greater value to your marketing interactions through interesting, helpful or insightful content.
Maximise this content across new media channels, including mobile and social.
Don’t forget the immediacy of social media allows you to quickly respond to happy, and not so happy, customers, so take advantage of this benefit.
Use social media to positively build your brand and your potential customer base.
We recommend: How To Lock Up And Grow Your SME
Be adaptable to change
The only thing that’s certain in this economy, is the uncertainty! But sitting back and waiting for the axe to fall won’t do you or your business any good.
Rather, adopt a more flexible approach to the way you conduct your business, so that you can nimbly react to unforeseen circumstances, even adapting your business model if necessary.
Because as Richard Branson says, “Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change”.