Friends & Friction: Desiderata, SA style: how to face the year

Muzi Kuzwayo
Muzi Kuzwayo

It is going to be a tough couple of years.

The race to Mahlamba Ndlopfu, the president’s official residence in Pretoria, will get uglier as we approach the finish line.

First the governing party will suffer from national election fever that will ensue, followed by the country.

Democracy may be the best political system we have, but it is not the cleanest. Still, it has its own homeostasis in the form of elections.

“When elephants do battle, it is the grass that gets hurt,” goes the Swahili adage.

So, here’s a reality check for 2017 and beyond: While it is hoped the economy and jobs will not suffer, you would be wise to plan for the worst-case scenario anyway. After all, growing sales in South Africa is tough as citizens tend to prioritise politics and holidays over work.

Chances are, you will have to work twice as hard to get the same amount of money. Thankfully, hard work, in and of itself, has never killed anyone.

Statistics show that unless you are a violent criminal or a con man, you are more likely to die in your sleep than at your place of work.

You will need to keep a tight lid on those costs. Think twice about the posh new office or making the latest bling purchase.

They say cash forgives all mistakes, so take stock of them and rectify them now. Tell your business partners, who have a voracious appetite for money, to go cash-banting.

Contrary to what analysts say, a business with loads of cash is a healthy business, whereas a company with a plethora of strategies but no money is a business in distress.

Review your customers just as you do your workers. Put bad payers on cash-on-demand. Get rid of those who give you headaches, so you are free to spend more time on good customers.

Tough times are not all that bad for business as they provide an opportunity to grow market share.

This is the time to literally mind other people’s business. Make it your business to know what your competitors are doing.

Sun Tzu, the Chinese military general, said: “Know yourself and know your enemy, so in a hundred battles you will never be defeated.”

Look out for the businesses that are on autopilot, especially those whose owners spend more time on the golf course, in coffee shops or at other places of leisure.

Make sure you know what their customers want and offer them better service (but not prices) than they do. It is good practice to bend over backwards, but never forwards.

Avoid things that are likely to give you sleepless nights or damage your reputation. Lost money can be recovered, but a broken glass cannot be mended.

In short, know the things you will never do, and do not place yourself in a situation where you are forced to do them.

In the feeding frenzy of dog-eat-dog, some will scavenge on corporate carcasses. Learn to say no because it is a good word to recite during tough times.

When the bills pile up and sales are scarce, remember that the best business is the other guy’s business. You see his successes but do not experience his pain.

Beware of charlatans. They will be on the rise, hungrier and more deceptive than ever.

And, because you will face your own pressures, you may be easily seduced into acquiring new partners who are likely to help destroy your business rather than build it.

It is not the good times that show the real potential of a businessperson; their true colours emerge when things fall apart.

The person with the temperament to hold it all together, while others panic, is the one who is bound to succeed.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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