The past two decades were among the most prosperous in history, with over a billion people lifted out of extreme poverty. Then 2020 hit, and, along with it, the coronavirus pandemic. The effect on economies will be extreme. What can small businesses do to survive the Covid-19 crisis? Business coach and author Douglas Kruger provides actionable answers, with a list of 50 practical ways your business can survive – and even thrive – during this time of uncertainty.
Business survival entails a simple formula. You must achieve and maintain profits over costs. There are a remarkable number of creative things you can do to stay on the right side of this equation, provided you don’t lose your head. Do these things well and you’ll be able to keep your staff employed, continue to serve your customers, grow awareness of your brand, and even come out of this difficult period positioned for growth.
Right now, owners of small businesses need every smart-cut they can find. Virus-proof Your Small Business provides no fewer than 50, including how to manage and safeguard your cash flow; get your head around the size of the challenge and begin thinking in productive ways; cut costs without cutting employment; use different channels to deliver the same offering; ensure that those who supply you, and those you serve, stay open too. An absolutely essential read for any small business owner in this challenging time.
Disclosure: This interview was conducted following the president’s first national address of the COVID-19 situation and rules. At the time of writing this, restaurants were still allowed to remain open with 50 pax, but now it is lockdown for everyone, so obviously some answers may not in line with the current situation – like home delivery of prepared meals and bottles of wine and online wine orders. Please familiarise yourself with the current laws affecting your business.
How has COVID-19 affected your own industry?
The speaking and events industry was arguably one of the first to the wall and may be one of the slowest to recover. For that reason, I’ve actually dedicated my new book on how businesses can survive the crisis to my peers. The inscription reads:
To my fellow professionals in the speaking industry, which has been among the hardest hit.
We have been telling our tales, sharing our dreams and igniting minds to go further
since our audiences gathered in caves.
This is not the end.
Keep the words flowing. The crowds will grow again.
You help people grow their businesses. What should restaurants be doing to grow their business now?
There are actually a few options. The most obvious is delivery. A less obvious delivery option is by drone, which adds a touch of theatre. After that, there is the possibility of a drive-through window. Businesses globally are finding that if they explicitly mention ’no-touch’ or ‘hygiene conscious’ interactions, they do just a little better.
In terms of minimising interactions, it can be quite smart to offer to ‘pool customers.’ For instance, would a group of families within a gated community like to team up for a single delivery? There are always creative options available.
What should restaurants not be doing?
As with any enterprise, the worst thing to do is to give up hope. Planning and strategising will always outperform panic and indecision. There will be a far side to this crisis. Can you think of creative ways to keep your profitability higher than your costs? Perhaps by reconfiguring what you offer for a time?
What can customers do to support their favourite restaurant if they prefer to self-isolate?
A number of industries have taken to offering coupons that can be redeemed in the future. They incentivise customers with discounts or special-value offerings. Coupons permit an enterprise to encourage immediate cash-flow.
Now let’s go one step further. Is there a way in which you can offer loss leaders? Could you begin to aggregate tribes with some form of trial or sample? It may take a little creativity to apply an idea of this nature to the restaurant industry, and yet, sometimes the most successful creative ideas are the ones borrowed and applied across categories. An example from a wholly different industry: Adobe are permitting students to use their programmes for free during the crisis. This is at once philanthropic and brilliant. Many people will find it difficult to stop using their services later on. Is there a way you might apply that thinking to your world?
Are food delivery services a financially viable solution for restaurants?
Profitability often hinges on efficiency. In principle, delivery is an excellent idea. But for someone who has never done it before, there are many lessons to be learned. Start with a Google search: ‘How do I optimise deliveries for my business?’ There are excellent insights available, beginning with pooling a resource and going into minute detail, such as optimised routes and vehicles with extraordinarily low running costs.
Do you foresee any longterm benefits following COVID-19?
I believe efficiency will take on greater importance. We might just discover that our hundreds of hours of commute, and thousands of hours in meetings, were not as important as we thought they were.
Any suggestions for restaurants to bounce back after the State of Emergency has been lifted?
I would encourage two forms of thinking. The first is to brainstorm what you might need to prepare right now in order to be ready for resumed business flow. It could pick up sooner than you think. The second is to ask whether you could actually begin to encourage future business, rather than simply waiting for it. How might you prompt customers, now, to begin thinking about patronising your establishment sooner rather than later? Special offers for those who book early? A free bottle if you pay for your next dinner in advance? Something cleverer than that?
I believe you’re writing another book – can you tell us what it is about?
Yes, I’m writing book number 9, tentatively titled, ‘Who Gets Rich, Who Doesn’t, and Why? 50 Ways to Untangle the Money Myths that Hold you Hostage.’ That comes out early 2021. Now that you remind me, I’d better get back to writing it.
No, not that book! The one Penguin wants you to write about COVID-19?
Haha! Fell for it! Penguin commissioned me to write a book titled ‘Virus-Proof Your Small Business – 50 Ways to Survive the Covid-19 Crisis’. The book was written in one week flat, which is a record for me, after eight previous books, and a record for Penguin. People shared ideas and insights from all around the world. The book goes live as an ebook in South Africa on the 10th of April, then in Britain on the 14th, and the rest of the world shortly thereafter. This is a rare instance of a South African business book going global, and, hopefully, helping small businesses around the world.
Apparently Penguin gave you one week’s notice to complete it. How was that even possible?
They actually gave me ten days, but I managed it between two consecutive Wednesdays. Our story begins when a young Douglas took typing class with Mrs Holme at Allen Glen High. The fact that I learned to touch-type really, really helped! Beyond that, after writing previous business books, one learns to see the rhythms in how to communicate a topic. I guess after while you simply ’see the Matrix.’ With practice, you can learn to do anything rapidly. And hopefully also well.
Final question: What’s your favourite meal in a restaurant?
A census taker’s liver, with a nice Chianti? Failing that, I favour steak, red wine, and the ambience of a small Italian restaurant to make it come alive.
Douglas Kruger’s new book titled ‘Virus-Proof Your Small Business – 50 Ways to Survive the Covid-19 Crisis’ will be available in South Africa on the 10th of April 2020 from the following suppliers: Penguin, Takealot, Loot, Exclusive Books, and Readers Warehouse.