WEBINAR: How can you as a business owner stay relevant in uncertain times?

How can you stay relevant in uncertain times? A deeply insightful discussion in the fourth and final instalment of the BizNews series with Henley Africa. Alec Hogg is joined by Henley Africa Dean, Jon Foster-Pedley, and Professor Andrew Godley from Henley Business School in the UK.

Summary by Nadya Swart

The Covid-19 pandemic presents a series of opportunities for entrepreneurs, Professor Andrew Godley from Henley Business School in the UK told BizNews editor-in-chief Alec Hogg from his home office in South England.

“Entrepreneurs exploit opportunities… while 90% of the population are dominated by fear and go into survival mode, entrepreneurs recognise that opportunities present themselves at times of change. And this is the biggest time of change that most of us have ever experienced in our lifetime,” he said in the last of a series of webinars presented by BizNews and Henley Africa.

Citing two examples from the UK – a trawler family taking advantage of the chaos in food retail, and particularly fishing industry, to home deliver their haul; and an entrepreneur taking advantage of the Brits’ love for gardening –  Godley said communication and empathy are key to gain consumer trust.

Henley Africa Dean, Jon Foster-Pedley, said desperation and urgency is the mother of invention – for example people are now doing gym and taking music lessons online, Airbnb is giving virtual tours and people are now having cooking lessons with the top chefs in the world. “We’ve seen people multiplying their income with these online offerings all over the world.”

South African virtual game drives are particularly successful.

Citing their own success, the pair said earlier this week, Henley hosted a webinar attended by over 350 people. Before the Covid-19 crisis, this would have been held as an event in Johannesburg and attended by 30 to 40 people. The prevalence of scalability has enormous potential implications for education and business schools, in particular.  It imposes a standard and presents lots of opportunities for customisation.

On the other end we have the particularly vulnerable industries. If you’re in a vulnerable industry you have options: 1) if you have money you can diversify by acquisition; and 2) switch to supplying products and services digitally.

If you’re stuck, like the businesses that cannot diversify from a labour-intensive model, for example mining, or discretionary purchases, they will suffer deeply, he said.

Godley said there are many tools available to help entrepreneurs think through their business models from a consumer perspective – which is vital at a time where entrepreneurs should have deep empathy with their consumers, and walk their consumers through inevitable ‘information gaps’.

Acknowledging that the conditions for entrepreneurs to be successful are somewhat created by government, Foster-Pedley said this is the time that good governments must bite a bullet and make bold choices to keep businesses alive.

We need leadership to support the economy. Certainly, business can’t be separate from government anymore as neither can do the job independently. Both will have to work together in novel ways in this really interesting time,”

To help entrepreneurs transition to digital, Henley is giving a free course presented by international and local academics and entrepreneurs, every day at 4pm for the next 11 to 12 days. You can sign up at www.henleysa.ac.za.

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