OVER 4000 TICKETS SOLD ALREADY read the headline

That’s how many people bought tickets to watch Marc Lottering as he live-streamed his first online comedy show earlier this month.  That’s a whole new way for audiences to enjoy stand-up comedy.

Like Marc Lottering, all sorts of South African businesses in a variety of sectors are finding whole new ways to leverage the lockdown not just to survive, but to their advantage.

Even before the start of Level 3, payment processing company Yoco announced: “Trade returns to 44% of pre-lockdown levels for SMMEs”

Most businesses, though, have had to remain shut in compliance with crippling lockdown regulations for over 3 months.  Among the hardest hit are the food & beverage, personal care, tourism, health & sport, and events businesses.  

For many of them, their biggest costs are their rent, salaries and equipment leases.  I have clients with small engineering, hospitality, catering and training businesses, who have had to make the unavoidable decision to let staff go – to avoid having to close their doors. 

That is not always an option.  Accountant Lusanda Mncwabe tells of a client “who has 85 employees on his payroll, most of them low skilled. The one thing that resonated with me was the love he has for his staff. He has ensured that they all received their full salaries every month, even though we struggled a bit with UIF.”

UIF support and Relief funding hasn’t proved to be the reprieve that it promised either.  Heavy Chef’s research showed that only half of the country’s small enterprises had applied for financial assistance and only about 15% of the applications were successful.

The cascade effect of the lockdown on many large corporates has been that small businesses that service them are severely impacted.  Consider SMMEs whose clients are airlines (Comair), hotels (Tsogo Sun), clothing retailers (Edcon), retail landlords (Redefine), sin-tax companies (SAB and BAT) and restaurant chains (Famous Brands).

Despite all these head-winds, many entrepreneurs have responded to this unexpected crisis by developing imaginative solutions and repurposing their businesses for a changed world. 

Although a recent survey suggests that most small businesses won’t survive if South Africa’s lockdown extends beyond June, there are the businesses who have adapted without having to resort to retrenchment.

Some innovative SMMEs are embracing shared models, where they collaborate with complementary businesses to their mutual benefit.  When GranadillaSwim pivoted from swimwear to Granadilla.eats food delivery, they didn’t lay off staff, they adapted their online clothing fulfilment logistics to a new product line, delivering groceries.

How has your business responded?

2020/06/30

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