The tips shared below have been tried and tested and they work. However, it’s not the only way − find what is useful for you and use it
There was a time in ancient Rome’s history when under the rule of the great Caesar, the Roman empire came under attack by the barbarians. What made the barbarians unique was that they did not attack in the normal, formalised and structured manner the art of war would make it out to be, but turned the entire game on its head and were fighting in an unprecedented manner.
The same happened with COVID-19. It has changed everything as we knew it, how we live our very lives, how we work, how we practise our habits and cultural norms, and how we do business. The reality is that life, business and everything we knew will never be the same.
Pointers to consider post lockdown
Your business cannot exist just to make money, because when the market turns as it did, your business would not have a reason to live, because there will be times when there is no money. Strive to build a business that has a reason to exist; a business worth saving.
Agile planning is the watchword. Invest now for tomorrow. But remember that by lunchtime tomorrow that plan may have to be reviewed, or you might want to have another look at it. Be agile, or for lack of a better word, ‘go with the flow’. Ask yourself daily what you can do better than yesterday. However, remain true to your value system and self, as they are what will see you through.
The business owner learns to work on the business rather than in the business. We hear this all too often, but as business owners we too often find ourselves working to the bone in the business, chasing deadlines and delivering a good product. As the leader of that business, your number one priority is to ensure that the business is ‘businessing’ and planning for the future, regardless of how uncertain it is.
The single most outstanding quality of anyone running a business is is personal touch − in your client experience, client service, brand promise and brand performance.
- Go through the journey with clients – take them with you on digital transformation.
- Educate your client – invest the time and effort.
- And more importantly, listen to your clients and engage them. Become that trusted advisor.
Spend time, effort and money on strengthening your business processes. This covers every single process in the organisation, from the sales process to Human Resources, Information Technology and accounting. In the quest to improve and strengthen your process, go digital. This includes automatisation, robotics, bots, artificial intelligence and robotic process automation, workflow sequencing, remote teams, cloud systems and cloud efficiencies.
Invest in yourself and your people. Believe it or not, a big part of the digital transformation requires the human touch, the human experience. This is seen in our customers, our suppliers, staff and stakeholders around us, as much as in bots. People matter; you matter.
Drive productivity and upskilling
This is a tricky one: how do you ensure that the current team remains productive yet undergo development and upskilling? Focus on the following: team composition and skill set (do you have the right team for the future?); labour law regulations (have you kept abreast of the latest laws?); and remote working (how do you ensure that you keep the productivity levels and motivation going in the team and ensure that your organisation retains its culture?).
This is the way you reach, communicate, give your customers an experience and service them. Are you available online and how easily accessible are you? The pathway to your clients must be re-looked and improved on an ongoing basis.
- How do you communicate with clients? Can you engage them more? How is your product delivered to clients? Can that process be done quicker and better? And safer?
- How did the client-dating experience go? Do your clients feel like coming for a second date?
- How do you become more than just a brand they buy from? How do they become part of your business and its growth? How do you get your customers to become more vested in you and refer your work?
Ensure that your product is competing at a global standard; ensure that you are consistently re-inventing yourself, re-imagining your product. For example, in our line of business, we had to innovate our business from traditional accountants that would perform traditional tasks of preparation and compilation to start offering a more robust offering comprising solution-centric consulting and advisory, and distinguished by innovation and technology.
Collaboration is the new cool, get on with it.
- Collaboration with those in your industry to form bigger and stronger partnerships. This helps you access more markets and growth.
- Collaboration with those bigger than you for that support and cushioning. This would be the likes of supplier and enterprise developments.
- Cross-functional collaboration, working with complementary services. An example of this is an accounting firm joining forces with a legal firm whereby synergies can be derived.
- Trade receivables: Collect on your debtors promptly. Tips for collection include deposits, milestone billings or stages of competition, early settlement discount, late payment charges and penalties, debt factoring and debt collection processes. But ensure that the relationship between you and your customers remains intact. If a change in policy doesn’t work, try e-commerce for online payments, swiping machines and introducing debit orders.
- Inventory: Use technology effectively to determine with precision your inventory needs and optimise on those gaps, such as reducing lead times between delivery and delivering directly to client from supplier (where possible).
- Trade payables: With the exception of the taxman, you can pretty much get away with delaying payment. Always make an effort to hold onto the cash for as long as possible. Cash is king!
- Cash and equivalents: Cash is not the only form of trading commodity, so sometimes use the equivalents. This on its own can revolutionise how you do business.
- Liquidity and solvency: Ensure that you maintain a healthy appetite for you and your business but be mindful of the industry and see where the industry is going. These ratios are generally a useful indicator for the funder, investors and other stakeholders.
Peter Serite CA(SA), Managing Director, S&A Chartered Accountants