Let's face it, South Africa is facing some very tough times ahead. Business confidence is at an all-time-low, the Rand is taking a hammering, pensions have already been spent. Things aren't looking great for us at a business level. 

 

With the immediate sacking of Nhlanhla Nene which has effectively clipped the wings of the South African economy which has now started its downward spiral - this, and other reasons according to Justice Malala's latest book "We have now begun our descent".

Scanning Twitter and other news articles, one gets the feeling that it is all coming apart at the seams very rapidly - and it is. 2016 looks like it is going to be South Africa's toughest year in the last 60 years or so. Some of South Africa's top economists and business leaders had this to say:

From Biznews founder Alec Hogg: "With last night’s action Zuma is no longer even pretending to run a democratic movement in a democratic country. You’re either with him – and all the future risk that entails – or you’re out. But this time he has miscalculated. Badly."

Nomura International economist Peter Attard Montalto: "We can no longer view the SARB as sacrosanct either but one should not underestimate the tenacity and drive of Lesetja Kganyago to protect the independence of the institution through any means necessary including constitutional court action. They would have a serious fight on their hands. We must watch for mandate changes."

And many more. 

Thing aren't looking great for business at the moment. Economic growth has leopard-crawled to 1% this year, the Rand-Dollar exchange has bottomed out, and inflation is sitting at 4,7%. There has been very little to no encouragement from government policies for business to thrive in and very little encouragement for education levels to be lifted for the youth who will be handed this mess to run with later on. 

So what can we do to keep our businesses alive and thriving for 2016?

1. If you can't afford it - don't buy it.

We all want to show the world how successful we are, credit companies are handing the stuff out like sweets, the products look wonderful, we have all worked hard last year and deserve a little 'gift'. No. Stop. You are going to need that money. It's the toughest policy to implement. Without a doubt. You have to be strong. My father-in-law always told me: "Live lightly, live well." 

2. If your business is in debt, Stop spending money.

You have to sit down and make a realistic budget. Don't lie to yourself, or your accountant, be real and write it. Limit your projected profit by 1/3 before you start and work your way backwards from there. Do you really need that new office printer that is going to cost a fortune? Do you really need to purchase that new delivery van, or are there 2nd-hand vehicle options? We as small business owners have to start thinking light. Nobody is going to bail us out. If the money stops, we sink. It is much easier to get out of smaller debt than larger debt. (Unless you belong to the government of course, but that doesn't apply to us) 

3. Watch your clients closely.

Talk to them, ask them questions, develop your relationship with them even deeper ask them where they see their businesses in 2016. They will tell you. This way you can see what to expect in the marketplace, clients will be spending less with you and you have to go out even harder and stronger to secure new business, which is expensive and could yield nothing. Hold on to your existing clients for dear life.
If your clients are costing you money - purge them before they do.
Do something remarkable for your core clients within your marketing budget. 

4. Evaluate your marketing tactics.

Marketing without a response mechanism that could drive sales is really a waste of money. Speak to marketing professionals, get their input, this is a time to think on your feet, look at what your competitors are putting out into the marketplace. You have to create a platform where customers can easily get hold of your business and close a sale. If you're doing promotional work at the moment, make sure that potential customers can engage with your business easily so that closing the deal is not difficult at all. Where you feel you have not got the kind of response you're looking for - then it is time to change tactic. Advertising people are particularly good at creating a campaign that will put your brand way ahead of your competition. It is money well spent. Also look for non-traditional advertising platforms that are inexpensive and will get the marketplace talking about your brand. Doing the same thing every year and expecting different results is not healthy. 

5. use the internet.

The internet is probably one of the easiest and biggest ways to secure sales without too much cost to your business. Facebook promotions are relatively cheap and other online platforms offer free software for you to optimise sales, create a decent CRM database and help promote your business through SEO and other means. Keep up to date with your website and try to make it current. Show your clients that you are the pinnacle of your specific industry. It creates brand trust too. 
Clients will go to a website first before picking up the telephone. 
The internet also has many free email marketing platforms that you can use to promote your business or products. Use them. 

 6. Speak to your staff.

This is one of the most cruical parts of this process. When staff understand the reality of the situation, it is up to you to explain that it is crunch-time and they need to pull together to cut costs and try to assist in keeping the company afloat. Explain that the situation is not permanent and explain to them that it is a short-term sacrifice and that when the sun shines economically again, they will surely benefit. Let them be part of the process too. 

7. advertise more.

When the competition zigs...you zag. Most businesses stop all advertising when times get tough. This is when you need to invest in more strategic advertising. Media companies will be far more willing to negotiate better fees than when the market is thriving. You could easily get up to 60% off if you're good at negotiating. But when the economy turns around again, you will be in the Pound seats. Your brand will be top-of-mind and your competition will be scrambling to book ad space that YOU already own. 

8. This is your greatest opportunity.

You need to understand that when you're calm and know that these times are not for the feint-of-heart you need to start looking for other opportunities to expand your business. When the immediate reaction is to panic and put pressure on your sales people to close more deals, rather have weekly ideas meeting and ask your sales people to look for other opportunities to expand your interests. Keep an open mind. When all those are crumbling around you, it creates more opportunities for you to step in and open that gap. 

9. Refuse to be part of it.

Not for one second am I saying that you should bury your head in the sand, what i am saying is that you need to stay positive. nevitivity has no space in a recession. The Empire State Building was built during the Great Depression. Great companies like Disney, Microsoft and GE were all born in very hard economic times. Go about business as usual. Do not succumb to the negativity of others. Focus like a laser on your core business, do what you do, just a lot better. Remember - these times will pass. 

In conclusion:

Don't panic, keep calm, keep your clients close, don't become part of the problem, advertise more and look for more opportunities. It is an uncrtain jungle out there. Keep your head, breathe and good luck! I have a feeling we're all going to need it. 

We wish you and your family a wonderful Christmas holiday and a successful New Year.

From all of us at Frank Design. 

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