A business strategy to stand the test of tough economic times

Kobus Engelbrecht
In the third quarter of 2017 the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) showed signs of recovery, but South Africa’s sovereign rating was still relegated to junk status in November. While it’s clear that  we are by no means out of the woods,  Kobus Engelbrecht, Marketing Head: Sanlam Business Market says the New Year brings new opportunities and possibilities for business owners. The beginning of the year, he says, is the time to devise plans to ensure that your business will be resilient during tough economic times.

“Think of it this way: no sports team enters a big match without a plan. In the same way, no business can thrive without a strategy. Moving proactively towards defined objectives is far more productive than simply reacting to business events. A plan brings priorities into focus, while allowing for the reshuffling of resources to areas where they’ll yield optimal results.”

To succeed in business, a comprehensive plan needs to be revised continuously, with tracking mechanisms and measurable results, says Engelbrecht. “Check that your disaster recovery plan is up to date and ensure your insurance is too - anticipate what could go wrong in 2018 and plan accordingly. Fluctuating currencies, rising inflation and price hikes could lead to cancelled contracts, so plan ahead and work with a financial adviser and risk assessor to work out how to mitigate the biggest risks. Additionally, be sure to budget for price increases – including unforeseen costs like postal delays and strikes.”

Below are some of the factors to consider when reviewing your business strategy for 2018, according to Engelbrecht:
  • Do an AAR: An after action review (AAR) is imperative to understand what worked, what didn’t and why. It’s often helpful to host a workshop with the full team of decision-makers around this.
  • Analyse the market: Spotting gaps is a critical way to grow. If consumers are asking for a service and it doesn’t currently exist – or could be done better – that’s a prospective business opportunity. As the year begins, it’s vital to understand your industry in terms of forthcoming trends, potential risks and volatilities. You also need in-depth understanding of your customers to know how their needs and wants are shifting.
  • Revise your competitor analysis: New players are entering the arena all the time – and your biggest competitors may not be the obvious ones. Ensure you frequently reappraise the competitive landscape to identify your main rivals and what they’re doing better than you.
  • Conduct a SWOT analysis: Based on your AAR, the market, industry trends, stakeholder trends and your competitor analysis, how does your SWOT assessment change for 2018
  • Reassess your products and pricing: Are your products and services still in line with your customers’ needs and are they priced correctly? Additionally, check up on quality control to ensure standards are high.
  • Manage your marketing and sales plans: Make sure these are updated in line with the greater business strategy to ensure sales are boosted, targets are met and profit margins increase.
  • Suss out your systems: Ensure these are streamlined across the company. Relook at project, operations, and logistics and supply chain management to ensure maximal efficiency. Consider automating admin and integrating tech when appropriate.
  • Appraise your customer service: Unquestionably one of the most pivotal parts of any business, customer service practices need to be continuously reviewed. Make sure staff members receive regular training and refreshers to stay at the top of their game.
  • Review your people: Review your employees and management team’s performance. Reward the value they add and develop a growth plan for each person for the year to foster ongoing professional development.
Additional factors to review:
  • Evaluate your website: it should be up-to-date, modern and easy to navigate.
  • Examine your financial management, cash flow and working capital: Can you cut costs?
  • Check you have the right technology solutions for your business.
  • Consider whether your business premises are still appropriate and affordable.
  • Revisit your mission, vision and goals.
Engelbrecht says that businesses with a plan stand in good stead for 2018, “It’s about focusing on every aspect of a company to ensure all the cogs are working well together as a new season begins.”