Many businesses are struggling. From November 2017, the “Zimbabwe is open for business” tagline was touted as the very identity of the new political dispensation. Sadly, the reality on the ground seems to contradict this assertion. Inflation keeps rising. Foreign currency is both scarce and expensive. As a result, production for most companies is constrained and profits are low or non-existent. But, in the middle of all the economic pain, companies need to weather the storm and remain afloat. In this article, we discuss a few tips on how businesses can keep going during these tough conditions.
As a business person, you literally must stay awake. If your business relies on imported raw materials or products, you must follow exchange rate movements very closely. From a starting rate of 1:2.5 to the US Dollar, the RTGS Dollar has slipped to 1:3.11 in just about two months. This has led to regular price changes, something which businesses need to stay ahead of to ensure continued profitability. If you snooze, you lose. To make matters worse, as things keep spiralling out of control, the government has often come up with various initiatives in an effort to improve the environment. Things like foreign currency retention thresholds for exporters have been tempered with a couple of times in the last six months. Any serious business person in the affected industries needs to be able to quickly adapt to these and other changes. This is a very difficult environment where prices, exchange rates and government regulations can change overnight. Your ability to understand their impact and align your business accordingly will determine whether you will sink or swim.
Never stop advertising
It is a fact that in this environment, disposable income is scarce. The temptation is to assume that there is no need to advertise or market your business because no one has the money. This is wrong. If the product is right, there are still people willing to pay for it. That your company may not have enough money to place expensive adverts in a glossy magazine is understandable but, it is not an excuse. There are cheaper marketing tools like social media which you can use to advertise your business. Use them effectively. In any case, many people are shunning traditional media and opting to do everything on the internet using their smartphone. Be in their face all the time.
Increase your internet presence
This tip is related to the above. Internet penetration keeps increasing rapidly around the world. As such, you should always endeavour to have your business on the internet. Invest in a website. If this is too much to ask, you can settle for social media pages like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others. With social media, you can reach millions of potential customers in a short space of time and your business definitely will benefit from this. However, just posting on social media is not enough. You have to respond to enquiries and interact with your followers. Do so in the shortest possible time. If you receive emails, respond quickly. That way, your presence on the internet will bear fruits.
Focus on the customer
In tough economic times, customers are hard to come by. This is because not many are willing to spend, especially on things considered to be luxuries. Because of this, you need to treat every customer like royalty. Whatever promises you to make, be sure to deliver on them. Any customer complaints should also be dealt with swiftly. Disgruntled customers are the last thing in this environment. Your competitors will be more than happy to take them away from you. Moreover, satisfied customers are your greatest advert. They will refer their contacts to you. Be willing to go to great lengths in order to retain your customers.
This is a good time to do things differently as a business. Resist the urge to follow the crowd and set your own path. Admittedly, without much profits, it may be difficult to do this. But, it must be done. Simply charging $100 for a pair of shoes just because everyone else is charging the same is not justifiable. You should continuously look at your costs and see where you can be different in order to attract customers. In fact, there are many areas where you can be different. If the rest are not delivering their products, for example, it may worthwhile to look into doing that. Sometimes it may be a part of the product that customers are happy to do without and can reduce the cost. This may just be what propels your business to greater heights.
When times are hard, many customers may approach you with suggestions on how they prefer to do business with you. Give them an opportunity to present their idea, weigh it and find the best way to assist them. The same goes for payment methods. You may have been accepting cash only for your goods. However, now that cash is hard to come by, be flexible enough to explore Ecocash, Telecash, OneMoney and others. You just need to be careful that this does not adversely affect your profitability. After all, you are in the business to make money. Rigidity will chase away potential customers so avoid it at all costs.
Stay in your lane
Never fool yourself that you are a jack of all trades. This greed will not take you far as a business. Specialise in what you are good at as a business and be humble enough to refer the rest to experts. That way, you will earn a lot of respect from your customers and peers.
While things are hard, keeping your business afloat should be your first priority. The above tips will contribute to ensuring that you do so. Employ them wisely.