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Small Business Forums
#1
I Posted this elsewhere and though Fanatics might have views or experiences to share:

I was on a couple of small business groups. As of I now I am left with one (and even that mostly because it is a paid membership). I am not sure whether MOST of the members are delusional or so far removed from reality in their cocoons that they don't see what is going on around them. I know I have friends that seem to be part of much better communities than these. However this covers my experience with a few:


The prevailing attitudes are that they will return to 'business as usual' and old levels of turnover after as soon as L4 or L3 comes into effect. This is despite most of their clients still locked down and facing a whole new world of challenges or priorities. There is not even an attempt to change how they approach things...

Particularly annoying are the 1-man-band 'consultants' that 'can do anything' - the ones that will undercut you on price on something they know NOTHING about and then totally mess things up. I once pitched business development services at one of these meetings and one asked "is that all I do"... cos of course he could do everything... I find these to be support groups at best and toxic echo chambers at worst.

Despite the likes of Gartner, Accenture, Deloitte, IDC, Forrester, BMI-T etc forming views with copious amounts of data and with C-levels of every company struggling with this reality, somehow these these guys sitting detached from the real world are the sage, know-it-all gurus of COVID-19 and are selling their snake oil to struggling small businesses already. I do consider myself an expert at some things, and when asked a very tough question earlier in the week during a senior interlock, I had to talk to colleagues afterwards (in terms of how we tackle roles, measures, scope etc in this new post-crisis world - what is this new normal and how do you adapt to not just survive but become effective?) - the reality is that it isn't something you will immediately have the answer to, even seasoned professionals don't know and we can't necessarily even decide now on what that path looks like that we are supposed to navigate... there is more yet to come, multiple dynamics across industries, forced cultural shifts that will retard and accelerate certain things in equal measure... yet people out there are SO BLINDLY CONFIDENT that they are willing to both exploit the situation and lead people down what are objectively the wrong paths during this time - paths that are attractive because they seem so easy. "Small business gurus and specialists" build cults around themselves using the same tactics that false prophets use to attract vulnerable people.

There are those that will blame the government destroying their business (which was already terminal to begin with) and again they are the experts at running government and indeed the world... they know exactly what is needed during this time - I mean the world leaders should surely have chosen their one-man consultancy firm instead of thousands of researchers, doctors, economists, business leaders, financial institutions, emergency staff and experts in virology who themselves are still not totally confident. The anti-government/anti-Cyril/Conspiracy theorist posts were enough that I exited two of these groups earlier in the week as well as another this morning. It's a big joke to those remaining when people leave as well.

This week, after sporadically reading these things for the past months, I decided that even if I had no work at all, I would rather not be part of these communities. I joined these during certain times in my life where I either worked with SMMEs or because I felt like I needed support from these communities and they might result in opportunities. I thought I might at least get some guidance. They (in my experience in the past year and a bit) have been echo chambers of groupthink, infighting, racism, opportunism and the blind confidence with no thinking behind it that I mentioned above. The approach and thinking on COVID-19 was just the nail in the coffin.

All car groups and community groups I am on (when not tracking down popcorn machines) ALSO discuss their work situations, business situations and situations with family... however I find that most of these are more aware of realities of this kind of situation, better at suppressing negatitive or destructive elements and are more supportive and helpful than these SMME groups. I have also discussed ideas with work colleagues over the years more productively than SMME groups that end up being lobsters in a bucket, pulling each other back down.

MANY left one micro enterprise group last week because the group Admin (half motivational speaker, half psychopath) had become so toxic and annoying about the 'amazing opportunities' for everyone to get rich off Corona. We just had to collectively uncover them (he had none of these himself) and he was trying to use retrenchments and job losses to drive up numbers on the group AS WELL AS generating money from these people because they would have just been paid out... This, apart from being highly ethically questionable, was an insult to members as well as to those with family affected by these situations. The discussions are not around practical solutions - they are how best to position themselves as (false) prophets to navigate this 'apocalypse'

My guess is because many are 1 man operations or employ casual labour/treat workers as slaves, there is no 'we are in this together' attitude or approach. There is no 'feeling' for the families your business is responsible for supporting from a supply or employment perspective. There are people who have sent their workers off with no pay, no application for UIF etc. Some of my own friends are affected by this. There are some using this as an opportunity to get out of paying bills on one side (oh my staff need to be paid - hang on) whilst at the same time telling staff that 'oh nobody is paying us and we have all these bills to pay') - meanwhile they are sitting comfortably themselves. Again - discussed openly as though nothing is wrong.

Many over the past month have started talking about how to wind up the company just to avoid debts. One thing everyone has heard from me over this past year and a bit is just how bad it is extracting money from people when you work for yourself. Finding the work is not an issue - even in South Africa's economy. Getting paid requires perhaps 40 to 50% of your time as well as people bargaining after the fact on what they owe you or having a lawyer on speed dial. Imagine working with those same people during a time like this??

These are just some observations I have had. I am sure there is good but unfortunately I have seen little of it.
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#2
I think you get the types of people you mentions in all walks of life. Not just in the SMME groups but pretty much everywhere. In fact we have some of them on here too, but in my opinion, I do think we have enough positive builders on this forum too to outweigh that specific minority, even though in my opinion they have gotten their way a few times in the past.

That said, right now, I do think all business do have to think of new ways of generating income.  Like you say, it wont be business as usual after lockdown, at least not for a while. I believe, people will still be very cautious and more importantly, many will have less income available if they lucky to have.

Few small examples I noticed:
1. Clothing shop, The Bladetonian, wasn't allowed to be open. So they decided making cloth face masks. They got a CIPC certificate for this, and I was there yesterday to pick up my own 2 masks. Will go back again because the mask size fit my wife's face so will get at least 2 for her as well. They haven't made for baby yet, but will go back once they do.

2. Bottles App Only sold alcohol in the past. So with the alcohol ban, they changed their business model. They now will buy groceries for you and deliver to you at much better prices I saw on Uber.


I get the sense, that most if not all business will have to go this way if their normal business isn't allowed in level4/5. Those that can have their employees work from home are lucky and should actually consider keeping up the work from home model going forward. I for one, will from now on, only work for companies where I can work from home, after tasting this type of lifestyle, I want more of it, even after this pandemic. So there is that too.
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#3
So i work for a Big auto brand.
We were summoned to work today, We were initially  included in the 3rd phase of lockdown easing.
Seems  the money machine applied and now we have been moved into level 4 over night.

While i know we all still need to get paid, i fear that bringing us back will result in me getting the virus, we are exposed to all manner of people at the dealer.
I have a feeling the corps are taking advantage and will only end up with us going back to a full level 5 lockdown.

The Powers that be at dealer level have no clue how to handle this reopening either, im quite worried.
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#4
In my opinion, the "business as usual" mindset is not on the cards for now and I think it shouldn't ever be while we're still in any level of lock down. Frankly, I think even beyond the lock down.

This period (especially the first 21days) was somewhat of a RESET button. Workaholics were removed from work. Many of the unemployed yearned for liquid cash more than ever. Some relationships were put to the test. Schooling systems were disturbed etc. Yes, after a reset, things usually go back to normal but if anyone thinks that this is normal, they are wrong and therefore one cannot approach the consequences of the pandemic normally.


Such people (scavengers) will always around whether it's in the work environment, community or even personal space and it's good calling them out for the sake of those who are blinded or mislead by them. To respond from the point of SMME's, I'm in that world as well and of course there's a purge there too (though the industry I deal in is quite resilient and hasn't taken a huge knock) but it doesn't mean there's no RESET as well. It's time for evolution of some sort. I'm glad to know that it has begun already.
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#5
Normal is changing. Normal will never be what we were once used to.

For me the scariest thing is seeing large, multi-million rand companies with rich CEO's already playing the retrenchment card. Just on what (hand-to-mouth) level are these places operating? And why is their CEO able to fly chartered flights and drive a Bentley? Now suddenly their huge salary can't be met so the company is in trouble and biting their own noses.

The illusion of these huge companies having millions in the bank now suddenly means nothing. They may as well be street vendors because it seems the survival period without income is mutual...
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#6
It is just an illusion @ChefDJ . In one of my old threads about leaving the rat race I mentioned a few things about this.

We have been convinced that it is 'normal' to consume things as a service vs. owning things. Companies themselves have adopted this approach. At this point I would challenge ANYONE on this forum who works for a corporate to say their company has

a) not had consultants in
b) not been told by these consultants that there are excess resources everywhere DESPITE everyone being overworked
c) things should be moved from Capex to Opex/XaaS models (your core business isn't so why are you sitting with these assets/staff)
d) having these 'services' filled by the consultancy or their partners who hire the retrenched staff at half price and charge the business the same if not more...

There are obviously valid use cases, but the same way we have the residual/GFV crew here who are experts on how rich people spend their money, we have corporate equivalents. You then own nothing... during a tough period you are still owing other companies, landlords, banks etc for your ENTIRE operation. In a misguided effort to control risk and cost, you follow the 'status quo' or current thinking and end up with nothing in the end. Cash reserves can help, but nobody has these anymore because shareholders want to be paid and share price is everything...

I often talk to friends and colleagues about how nonsensically some decisions are made and in some instances how they seem to go against the ethos of a company. Unfortunately you don't know what the KPIs of the top brass really are vs. yours. What are their bonus criteria if staff are told they are all not performing for instance, yet the salaries, share options and bonuses are paid generously at the top. Are they preparing the company for a merger? Do they need to get certain individuals to leave? Is it to divest certain divisions? Is it to create the impression that expanion/innovation is happening to drive a competitor to react and burn resources? From a corruption perspective, have they colluded with consultancies/agencies in order to find ways of enriching themselves or creating narratives?

There is a LOT of creative ways to make things seem very rosy for shareholders and a LOT that gets swept under the rug at many places. When you're a worker bee, you believe some if not all of the spin often idolising leaders or visions. In management you start to see through the spin and that people are people and by the time your friends and yourself have started at the upper levels of leadership yo need to be able to afford that really expensive alcohol in order to deal with some of the reality... even hearing some of the war stories from your friends at similar levels in other industries.

It is easy for businesses that appear to be printing money and are otherwise structurally profitable to end up as you describe (hand to mouth) because the money that should be used prudently is used for paying out bonuses, incentives and dividends when they should not. We get these 'audited' results but how many disgraced consultants and auditors not just in SA but worldwide have been uncovered now? It is just a rubber stamping exercise sometimes.

I went through a lot to get myself to a point where I didn't need to necessarily have full time employment. There are other challenges as an SME, but with some of the businesses I worked with (unfortunately one of those posts lost sometime last year before I started what I am doing now) they would look to corporates and gurus and reported information to influence their own decisions... it is akin to watching your drunk uncle who has a ton of money and appears successful but is burning through it rapidly then deciding you want to model your life on his.

I mentioned before that things get astroturfed. By things it could be individuals, successes, case studies, business models etc etc. Everyone thinks it is carefully co-ordinated moments of brilliance and solid execution because it is simply not true. Alot of what is read, reported etc is TOTALLY FAKE. I watch some of these youtube channels and read a lot about failed businesses. If find it fascinating to see how companies/CEOs etc go through these cycles. They are OBVIOUS to see and yet the media, investors, other areas of business etc lap it up. They burn through employees/resources/time like fuel as this is happening.

Anyway I might post more around this elsewhere.
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#7
I am a small business owner, just to give some insight as to what's happening In the medical supply industry.
To contrary belief, the Medical sector in it's entirety is taking a huge knock.
Hospitals are closing departments indefinitely, surgeons are mostly performing urgent procedures, this leads to a massive domino effect to everyone in the sector.
Covid 19 testing, which is the only test that is booming is a probably 0.01 % of a laboratory's income. Especially after government has regulated pricing.
I know ex colleagues of mine are currently taking a salary cut, and face imminent retrenchment, these are huge companies which have implemented this.

To make things worse on our side, I have a distributorship license to sell SABS approved sanitizers and have been doing for years.
The market has been flooded with subpar grade of who knows what in a spray bottle and I had to go almost at cost to compete to free up cash.

The same with face masks.
Been doing it for years, I can still compete thanks to government rebate Regulations.
But supply is high and demand is ever so low. ( there is no shortage of PPE as government wants you to believe)

What makes this Avenue almost non existent in the coming weeks, stolen stock is infiltrating the market which there is no accountability for which brings down prices less than costs.


I'm starting to believe as a country, if we continue on this lockdown for another month there will be irreparable consequences economically.

Many have their opinions on this and this is mine,
Covid19 is going to be apart of our lives for the foreseeable future.
I think we should open up the economy up sooner but take the necessary precautions.

Similarly to evolution,
If we don't evolve our business strategies we may be forced to be the increasingly saddened statistic of the Unemployment rate.

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#8
(01-05-2020, 10:20 PM)LOW BOOST Wrote: To make things worse on our side, I have a distributorship license to sell SABS approved sanitizers and have been doing for years.
The market has been flooded with subpar grade of who knows what in a spray bottle and I had to go almost at cost to compete to free up cash.

The same with face masks.
Been doing it for years, I can still compete thanks to government rebate Regulations.
But supply is high and demand is ever so low. ( there is no shortage of PPE as government wants you to believe)

What makes this Avenue almost non existent in the coming weeks, stolen stock is infiltrating the market which there is no accountability for which brings down prices less than costs.

I think two things I have really hated seeing on social media have been seeing all these guys suddenly becoming experts at mask grades, talking about the volumes they want to let go of this 'secured and approved' stock at as well as hand sanitiser. There are millions of these and people are buying some very questionable stuff.

This is apart from those 3 or 4 weeks ago talking about how masks were useless and to donate them to medical pros who don't have enough PPE... Now everyone is on the mask bandwagon again.

There are also scams like "stock landing here in 1 week, R500 secures" then they disappear never to be seen again. Fools and liars finding each other in a big way during this crisis!

Unfortunately the only thing many people could do to get money in was also try to manufacture masks or sanitisers or shields. This is not adapting to the new environment that @Tinuva mentioned above. This is reactive short term subsistence until they are allowed to resume and adapt their actual business to the new world (which they will hopefully be planning for now). These are two different things or else on that basis "adapting" would mean everyone making masks and sanitiser or offering delivery services for supermarkets. 

This is a problem in that a) they are probably not good at it b) I doubt it will pay any bills depending on the company type and c) it kills people like yourself @LOW BOOST who actually do have the right capabilities and besides which it is your core business. I want to see how many of these services actually WANT to be doing this or find it profitable to make these ever fancier masks - this will become evident I guess at level 3. Look at what Nandos said about delivery services: It simply will not make enough money to keep the lights on with takeaway only and even less with delivery services added to the mix.

I have been able to work from home (in fact be more productive than ever) - the adaptation for most industries IMHO will be this... a culture shift to adopt new ways of work with tech as an enabler. Your work is what you do/output - not where you go to. Location-free work is going to be the best part of this but time management will start to become a problem - not because of laziness but rather the opposite (in my environment at least)

My issue personally is not the lockdown itself but rather how selectively things have been done and how many loopholes there are on one hand and blockers on the other. These CIPC certificates are issued to anyone and we have car washes that now offer 'medical steam sanitising and wheel/rim shine' (not kidding) and nail studios and hair salons saying they offer 'what they consider a medical grade service so email them and they will arrange an appointment'. I think with these loopholes in place infection rates etc are going to spike anyway. Certainly looking at scenes today we are going to end up with a harsh reality check in 2 weeks in WC, GP and KZN (I hope to be wrong about this)
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#9
Interesting read. Makes me sad as it all sounds so bleak. Good luck to everyone in this...
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