The Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown has disrupted business across just about every sector, putting immense pressure on small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). As a result, many of them have implemented radical pivots to not only survive but also thrive. 

Businesses that have successfully pivoted during the Covid crisis were the focus of the second episode of the Business Day SME Matters online event in partnership with Johannesburg Business School, which took place recently. 

Moderated by Mummy Mtembu-Fawkes, Earthy founder, a key theme of the discussion was the need to remain positive and to take the time to navigate businesses out of this crisis by thinking creatively and to try different things. 

Watch the video below:

Matt Brownell, head of brand marketing at Yoco Technologies, a technology company that builds tools and services to help small businesses get paid, saw both its own income and its 95,000 small business clients decrease significantly in the early days of the lockdown. "Just 10 days into Covid and we were down 98% on revenue," he said. 

The team spent the first month conducting surveys and listening carefully to its customers and then moved rapidly into build mode in order to pivot its business offering to offer a different value.

John McDonald, co-founder of Redshift, an easy to use, do-it-yourself website builder, explained how the company created the Redshift Store Connector to allow small local retailers such as spaza shops to set up an online presence during the lockdown. So successful has this initiative been that it has accelerated the company’s growth trajectory significantly. "The old rules have been thrown out of the window," said McDonald, adding that "it is incumbent on businesses that can help smaller businesses survive this crisis to do so.” 

Plant-based chef, Arabella Parkinson explained how she has had to pivot from offering a high-end clientele plant-based food experience and catering services to becoming an integrative health coach offering nutritional education. It was tough going at first, particularly as much of the work she was doing in the early days of the lockdown was for free. 

Most successful business pivots all had a strong community in place prior to the pandemic. When the crisis hit they capitalised on this community support and have subsequently focused on building even stronger digital communities. In addition to Redshift’s Store Connector, tools such as Google My Business can help small businesses build their customer base. 

"To succeed in today’s environment requires flexibility, agility and a positive attitude. Those businesses that are digitally oriented have undoubtedly had an advantage," said Philasande Sokhela, Johannesburg Business School faculty member.

If you enjoyed this online discussion, tune into the next Business Day SME Matters in partnership with Johannesburg Business School around Why context-driven purpose is more important now than ever on Sept 16 at 9am.

Click here to register >>>

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