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SMEs to tap into entrepreneurial spirit to weather the fourth wave
December 9, 2021  

Supplied by Minx Avrabos from SAIEE

 

As many provinces in South Africa have officially entered a fourth wave as a result of Omicron, many businesses face uncertainty. This is compounded with the issue of supply-chain disruption which the pandemic has wrought worldwide.

 

Sam Clarke, CEO at Skynamo, a customer relationship management (CRM) mobile app for field sales teams, says that now is the time for local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to tap into their entrepreneurial spirit ahead of the festive season to weather the storm once more. “SMEs are creative and resilient by nature. This, combined with being armed with learnings into account from the previous COVID waves, means that businesses may now be better prepared.”

 

To illustrate how businesses can survive the fourth wave, he highlights two Skynamo customers: Upat South Africa, a supplier of power tools and spirit levels to the construction and mining industry, and Pesto Princess, whose products are in hot demand in gourmands’ kitchens and restaurants. 

 

Take note of customers’ needs and think digital 

 

For Upat SA, the first three months of hard lockdown (April to June 2020) were hard. However, the company took into account that the needs and interests of their clients had changed and after changing their focus, to date the business has grown 25% year-on-year. “DIY has become very fashionable,” says Charl Weber, national product specialist at Upat SA. “With many people working from home, they don’t have as many travel expenses, and some people had more money to spend,” 

 

Recognising this trend, the company started putting together DIY videos to inspire their customers. “We are building a 300 square-metre facility to record YouTube videos, as well as invested heavily in social media marketing as people were spending a lot more time online,” he says, adding that the company’s marketing team has tripled in size this year.

 

Relationships are key in a socially distanced world

 

When it comes to Pesto Princess, the business shrank by 60% and has still not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Lauren Gregory, Western Cape sales manager at Pesto Princess, which distributes its pesto products via a network of stores, delis and restaurants says that to mitigate this, the company implemented a telesales strategy. 

As a result, this year they expanded into Gauteng and in 2022, they aim to employ two new sales reps in the Western Cape.  “The lockdown has underscored the importance of nurturing relationships to keep your products on retailers’ shelves. “Without sales reps being in stores, we got smaller orders,” she explains. “You can’t maintain a relationship with the stores and the buyers if you don’t visit them regularly, especially the top stores.”

“Skynamo, has also assisted us with this. With the app we can see exactly how many stores our reps have visited and how many orders have been made. You're even able to see what your merchandise looks like on the shelves,” she adds. 

 

There is light at the end of the tunnel 

Both Upat SA and Pesto Princess are upbeat about the economy’s prospects next year. “I see only growth going forward,” asserts Gregory. She is grateful that the company’s leadership decided to persevere through last year’s crisis. “No one could have anticipated that the pandemic would have these lasting effects,” she says. “Nevertheless, we decided our motto was to press in and persevere. By March or April next year, we should be breaking even again.”

As for Weber, his advice for SMEs who are currently struggling with the disruption in supply chains is to allow plenty of time for delivery, and when they buy, to purchase in bulk and have enough stock. “The people who have stock can sell, it’s that simple” he says. His other top tip is for retailers to do as much online marketing as possible. “People feel much more comfortable buying online post-Covid,” he says, “so do your best to take advantage of it.”

“It is important for local SMEs to try to remain positive and tap into their resilience over the upcoming months,” says Clarke. Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, and resilient people are good at harnessing their inner strengths and resources so they can bounce back quickly and fully from setbacks. I have witnessed this in action from many of our clients, and it is important for all entrepreneurs to know that no matter what, there will be light at the end of the tunnel,” concludes Clarke.