Small Businesses Need To Be Agile And Adapt To New Ways Of Working

    Greig Jansen, CEO of PURA Soda.

    Small businesses must fight for survival during lockdown – this is according to Greig Jansen, CEO of PURA Soda. Jansen believes that this crisis represents a burning platform – an extraordinary circumstance that necessitates a radical change in behaviour.

    Rather than downing tools and waiting out the lockdown, it is critical that small, medium and microsized enterprises work harder now than ever before. Despite the fact that PURA Soda is classified as an essential item, they have seen many of their sales avenues drop away in the wake of COVID-19 and the national lockdown. As a result, they have shifted into high gear, utilising innovative ideas and breakthrough thinking to deal with the current crisis.

    ‘A number of our channels, which are deemed as non-essential, have been forced to shut down, including restaurants, corporate offices and schools. We still supply the retail sector, but reduced shopper numbers and logistical issues have also had an impact on sales in this area. Although the lockdown is only temporary, it’s economic effects will last a long time. For any start-up, situations like this should be a call to arms, a time to utilise all the tools at one’s disposal to guarantee their sustainability,’ said Jansen.

    With a focus on four key aspects of the business management, he has the following advice for business owners.

    This is the time to innovate

    In times of business unusual, brave ideas and breakthrough thinking are critical. Set up regular calls with your team, encouraging blue sky thinking focused on ideas that will make the greatest difference to your business. Inspiration can come from the most unexpected of places so encourage people to share any idea, no matter how unrealistic. Remember decisive action is essential, so as soon as a plan emerges, put a team together and make it happen.

    A cut in revenue signals the need for two priorities – increasing sales in the channels still available and stringently controlling costs. For us, this means doubling our efforts in physical retail outlets, our core market, as well as shifting our focus towards online sales and exploring new export markets. Always remember that with challenge, comes opportunity. As a brand that’s passionate about healthy living, the current issues associated with life in lockdown present an opportunity for us to reach a captive audience who are actively looking for healthier alternatives. Take a customer centric view to determine how you will build trust, loyalty and market share during the crisis.

    It is also critical to develop strategies to control costs and defer expenses. Be bold and take immediate action to cut operational expenses, capital expenses and working capital costs, as well planning for vigorous cost cutting measures that could be triggered by varying revenue scenarios. Do not adopt a let’s wait and see attitude. Most start-ups have limited cash reserves and it is critical to preserve funds and ensure best utilisation of any funds spent.

    Get the most out of your team

    It’s a stressful time for employees and employers alike and, while it’s important to be sympathetic to that, ensuring your staff remain productive is essential. In fact, with the survival of the business at stake, business owners must demand productivity and even superior work from their teams. While you’re making the shift to remote working, don’t be shy about overcommunicating with your team but try to keep your engagement positive and productive.

    Being agile is important to maximise productivity so if the lockdown has made some team members’ jobs redundant, assign them new responsibilities. Try not to lose good people. If you’re struggling to pay salaries, talk to your team about reducing their working hours or taking annual leave. Apply to the Solidarity Fund to help lessen the load, and if you’re forced to cut jobs, help your employees apply for UIF.

    Test the strength of your brand purpose

    While everyone is focused on flattening the curve, start-ups have a different curve to contend with. Maintaining an upward trajectory is vital for a start-up. So, when current circumstances force you towards a premature plateau, survivalist thinking must kick in. The first course of action is to fall back on the basic tenants of your brand purpose. A strong brand purpose is essential because businesses that have just been coasting along, riding the crest of an industry wave, won’t be able to maintain their momentum.

    Prepare to propel your business out of the lull

    Make plans, make connections, explore new ideas, improve operations, develop your team, develop your brand, identify and address weaknesses, adapt to new ways of working and keep moving forward. This is the calm before the storm, and the return to normal is sure to be followed by fierce competition, as businesses jostle for new positions. Make sure your organisation is a step ahead of the rest by using this time to enhance your business and explore and secure new opportunities.

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    Pura Beverage Company