Twelve weeks ago, we started the Coffee Chat, a forum for small businesses to share how they coped with consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

From their contributions it was clear: The COVID-19 pandemic has confronted small business with its kryptonite: UNCERTAINTY.

But it’s also made them tap into one of its superpowers: INGENUITY.

Each of the small businesses that contributed expressed a passion for their business. They all in some way or another used the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown to revisit and renew the purpose for their business. Interestingly they all displayed new vigour for their business. This contributed to their ability and foresight to push through the bad times.

When I reflected on the content of the contributions of each of these small businesses, I realised that they all share quite a few factors that helped them to survive and thrive through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Figure 1 displays the factors in descending order by the number of mentions in the interviews.

Figure 1:

Conclusion It is evident from the interviews that there was some overlapping in the factors.

However, 7 factors stood out.

Factor 1. Having a strategic plan – All the contributors highlighted that having a strategic plan was paramount. The plan included continuous research of their marketplace, reviews of which businesses they want to collaborate with and a backup plan. The contributors knew what they wanted to achieve and set goals and objectives accordingly.

Factor 2. Flexibility and Focus – The contributors had a hard look at their business to see where their focus should be and accordingly took on a flexible approach so that they can adapt to pursue opportunities that arise from the “New Normal”.

Factor 3. Relationships, internally and externally – All the contributors stated that having good relationships with staff, suppliers and customers helped them overcome the challenges. They initiated open and honest communication making sure that their customers, suppliers and staff know that they play an important role in the future of the business.

Factor 4. Test and refine your marketing channels – Interestingly by retesting and refining their marketing channels, the contributors found new markets and new ways of offering their products. They also found that during this COVID-19 pandemic customers were more forgiving for mistakes and more accepting to new ideas.

Factor 5: Passion and belief – The passion the contributors have for their business was based upon their integrity and the belief they have for their business idea. The importance of having confidence in their idea was reaffirmed during this pandemic.

Factor 6: Financial controls – All contributors displayed prudence with their money. They kept tight financial control with cash and ensured that they had access to funds (either government or private grants) to get through the pandemic.

Factor 7: Having a balanced outlook on life – This factor was a surprise. Even in these challenging times everyone expressed that one should not take life so seriously. You need to take time out to breathe and be kind to one’s self. There was a profound sense of: “We are all inter-connected. We all have something to contribute. We shall apply our skills to overcome”.

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