Over the past 20 weeks, we have hosted several small businesses in our Coffee Chat Forum. We asked each of the participants to share their story with us on how they have managed to navigate the pandemic and what they did to survive and thrive under these tough conditions.
Each of the participants stated that that these were challenging times and most were not sure at the onset of the pandemic and lockdown whether their businesses would survive.
What was abundantly clear was that they all faced the effects of the lockdown and pandemic and tapped deep into their experiences and beliefs to come up with strategies to not only overcome the challenge but to thrive.
The pandemic forced each of them to re-examine “why they were in business in the first place?”. Each participant mentioned this soul-searching that they had to go through to reaffirm why they ventured onto this path of entrepreneurship. Their beliefs, faith and relationships were all tested and reaffirmed.
When I analysed all the responses to the questions in the interviews the answers fell into seven major categories or factors. In my first article (URL link) proper business planning came out as the most important factor contributing to their success. With a larger sample size, the factors have changed and proper business planning was the third most important factor.
Figure 1 below displays the factors in descending order.
What was interesting is the changes in the factors with a larger sample size, that proved the adage that “People still buy from People” is still the most important.
Factor 1. Relationships with people – Each participant stated that having a solid relationship with their staff members, customers and suppliers was critical to them surviving and thriving. Open and honest communication allowed each stakeholder to understand what was required and could focus on their customers and strengthening those relationships.
Factor 2. Flexibility, Adaptability and Focus – The participants all mentioned a soul-searching process to reaffirm the question – “Why are we in this business?” Once they understood the “Why” they stated emphatically that the focus and flexibility were easier to achieve and allowed them to focus on opportunities around them.
Factor 3. Proper business planning – All the participants stated that the business planning process, with the help of a business coach, allowed them to do scenario planning and be better prepared for any additional unforeseen “body blows”. They also stated that the planning process forced them to relook at their business models and highlighted major gaps in their models and supplier relationships.
Factor 4. Test and refine your marketing channels – Interestingly by refining their marketing channels and through proper business planning the participants managed to identify new opportunities and pivot their businesses to delivering their products and services is a different way. Some even completely changed the products and services they are offering. They stated that the business planning and refining the marketing mix were closely intertwined and related.
Factor 5: Passion and belief – After the “soul-searching” process they went through, they found that their passion for their business and the products / services being offered took on a more personal tone and it resonated with their customer base. They now have a better understanding of what their respective customers are looking for and their customers reciprocated by being loyal.
Factor 6: Work / Life Balance – The single comment that each participant made about their work / life balance was how important “Time Management” was to the line between work and their personal lives. Another statement made was how accommodating customers were to have their children around and occasionally being distracted. One participant stated that that the lockdown helped her children get a better understanding of what their mother does during the day and understood the line between “mommy is working” and demanding her attention. Her comment was that her children now had an idea of where the money was coming from and gave her the space to work.
Factor 7: Financial controls – All participants kept tight financial control and found their financial institutions were more accommodating and forthcoming with suggestions and solutions. They all ensured that they had access to funds (either government or private grants) to get through the pandemic.