Business reimagined post-pandemic: How to ensure the success of SMEs
A recent Standard Bank SME Summit discussed how businesses need to be able to attract and retain talent and give their people something different, to stand out from the rest
Over the last two years of the pandemic, a lot has changed. Businesses have had to realign, rebuild and reinvent themselves entirely.
The unprecedented times demand that SMEs face challenges head-on, armed with the right information and tools to adapt and thrive in the future.
A recent Standard Bank SME Summit, in partnership with Business Day discussed the crucial elements needed to maintain a business post-pandemic, under the theme “Business Reimagined.”
Radio personality, entrepreneur and host, Msizi James, welcomed Standard Bank back for the fifth consecutive year.
Naledzani Mosomane, head of enterprise development at Standard Bank’s Business and Commercial Clients (BCC) division said the bank’s purpose was to drive Africa’s growth which could be achieved by partnering with businesses around the continent.
“Working with businesses across our economy has taught the division that businesses need a partner who’s willing to walk their journey with them, take the time to understand their vision and provide them with the appropriate financial and non-financial solutions to recognise and enable opportunity so their business can thrive.”
James went on to introduce the opening keynote speaker, futurist, economist and business trends analyst from Flux Trends, Bronwyn Williams.
Williams said the most important part of any business is its people and that all value, whether it comes from the metaverse, real world or the workplace, comes from human relationships with your team, with your staff and with your customers.
She compared the world of work before and after Covid-19 by explaining the K shaped strategy. The top half of the K represents prosperous businesses and the bottom half of the K represents struggling businesses. Williams said there was unfairness among businesses. She asked the audience and viewers how they would “build better back”?
Trends around the productivity paradox; digital connection aiding in disconnection rather than reconnection; burnout and the great resignation movement, have all come to play over the last two years. But what can be said about improving the business landscape when everything has been tipped on its head?
“To stand out, SMEs need to be able to attract and retain talent and give their people something different - if we want them to work for us and not a dollar based company. Management styles will need to change to empower employees by rebuilding human connection and trust.
"If we want to solve problems together and build relationships, we have to double down on the people in organisations and teams and make sure they’re as ‘un-cookie cutter ' - like as possible to ensure the evolution of innovation, new ideas and new business,” said Williams.
Leading the panel discussion, Tumelo Mojapelo, head of content at Flux Trends asked the panel for advice and tools business owners could use to reimagine opportunities with their customers, collaborators, capabilities, competitors and conditions.
“Don’t be married to one idea. As entrepreneurs you have this great idea and you get so fixated on executing it, when sometimes the outside factors tell you to move on. Give into the saying ‘fail forward’, keep going, learn to be agile and try pivot as fast as you can,” said Zandile Mkwanazi, CEO and co-founder of GirlCodeZA.
Mkwanazi also said the pandemic showed businesses that, “It’s important to meet your clients where they are, and where they are, is online.”
Moshima Shongwe, head of digital and eCommerce at Standard Bank’s BCC division spoke from their customers’ point of view. “With the pandemic came a lot of uncertainty and customers expressed it. It challenged the bank to really show up for them and work intimately with customers by supporting them.”
Shongwe said there was still a lot of value from human interaction, even with everything moving to the digital space, they still have a strong focus on human connection.
Shongwe said among the many opportunities the last two years brought with it, were that partnerships became a focus, and with those partnerships a gap in the economy opened up - enabling small businesses to participate and grow.
Getting out of your comfort zone drives new ways of thinkingDr Adriana Marais, theoretical physicist, technologist and advocate for off-world exploration
Arye Kellman, co-founder of Tilt, said it was important to reflect on how people felt and what they wanted during the pandemic. “Being customer centric was very important during those turbulent times and remains a top priority now.”
The panel agreed that staying top of mind with your customers requires a business to show up consistently and communicate in an authentic way - opening up doors for businesses.
Kellman said as far as opportunities go, there has never been a better time for small businesses to create their own content and reach audiences specific to them.
“This can be done cost effectively by jumping on a trend, creating a cool video and expressing your brand proposition.”
The topic of Gen Z and Millennials cannot be ignored when talking about reimagining business and Shongwe it was evident with the businesses that were now banking with Standard Bank. “The bank has seen a shift in what was once considered a hobby to it now becoming a career.”
The closing speaker, Dr Adriana Marais, a theoretical physicist, technologist and advocate for off-world exploration said: “Getting out of your comfort zone drives new ways of thinking.”
She related the ever-changing landscape of business to her journey of being selected to travel to Mars under the global Mars One Project, by asking the question: ‘How do we restructure things based on the changing realities we face?’
She took the audience through various scenarios of off-world exploration and said: “Putting ourselves in extreme environments by choice or not by choice will drive innovation and new ways of thinking.”
She encouraged the audience to lead through collaboration and compassion, which is the way business can truly be reimagined in 2022.