Nothing could have prepared us for the disruption of Covid-19. We learnt the true meaning of “winging it”. Literally, we invented our plane while flying it

By Raymond Kasinganeti

This week on the Brawlers Book Club I narrated my experience in dealing with unpredictable situations like Covid-19 and the need to pivot and adapt quickly, as opposed to adopting a wait-and-see attitude. Pivoting becomes the defining moment in one’s business.

When we started our eCommerce project – we were using just one platform but it soon became clear that to scale, we needed to diversify our platforms at breakneck speed – which we did through expanding the team and focusing on big wins instead of just being busy for the sake of it.

Today we are on 12 different platforms and scale is imminent. The alternative was to conclude that the environment was too tough but we chose to create a defining moment through resilient pivoting.

That was my experience of creating defining moments – through a series of decisions and actions that lead to one (seemingly) big win. Research suggests that an “overnight success” is usually eight years or more in the making.

After I was asked to expand on this subject from the Brawlers Book Club whatsapp group to the Sunday Express I decided to share my experiences. We have gone back to our media partnership with a good story to tell, and this is my story, coming out of Covid-19.

 

 

Like everyone else in business – the Covid-19 pandemic caught me and my team unawares. They told us that the lockdown would last just three weeks and life would go back to normal. Unfortunately, nothing could have prepared us for the intensity and depth of the disruption that Covid-19 caused.

We soon learnt the true meaning of “winging it”. Literally, we invented our plane while flying it.

First, I learnt the value of not panicking. The dangers that Covid-19 presented were real but I had to make a choice to respond to the situation calmly but quickly, with wisdom gained from studying the pandemic and exploring the opportunities it presented.

I learnt this the hard way. Being in eCommerce, we decided to overstock and it later became clear that we did so out of fear and desperation, and not after careful analysis.

I subsequently learnt to stay calm in the face of deadly challenges and to take time to analyse the situations, craft a response to the challenges, and then execute my strategy with cold precision.

Second, the situation called for resilience. There was a time when we were down to our last potatoes and it became clear that I had a choice to despair and cry with the rest – or be resilient and fly with the best. This part is where I was truly tested because I knew that even my team could start losing faith in the future of the business if I did not respond with a concrete and effective strategy.

 

 

I had to be the life-force of my team, energising them and keeping the vision of building one of the biggest eCommerce companies in Africa alive. There were times I would encourage my team in the face of grave threats and later on at night, alone in my bedroom, I would close my eyes, completely drained and pray for wisdom to navigate my challenges.

Third, I pivoted. Of all the strategies I implemented, pivoting was at the heart. A pivot means fundamentally changing the direction of a business when you realise the current products or services aren’t meeting the needs of the market.

The main goal of a pivot is to help a company improve revenue or survive in the market, but the way you pivot your business can make all the difference. eCommerce is all about platforms.

The wider the reach of the platform, the bigger the market and the greater the revenue. Before the pandemic set in, there was always a steadily growing market that shopped online and we were steadily growing, using just one platform. As the pandemic progressed, it became clear that we needed to expand the reach of our market nationally.

I personally, researched different platforms, their benefits and eventually targeted the ones we wanted to partner with. We have grown our reach from just one platform to twelve, and our product range has also grown exponentially. Basically, we diversified both our distribution points AND products to leverage off the very challenges-cum opportunities that the pandemic offered.

 

 

With restrictions on movement imposed and out of sheer fear of the pandemic, many people went online to do their shopping and that is when we exploded.

I expanded my team to help us execute our pivot quickly, knowing that if we scaled quickly, we would become market leaders. Speed was of the essence. As a result, our revenue soared and we then had to find ways to fund the growth.

Fourth, we iterated. We reworked our entire value chain and pricing points to come up with a pricing model that suited the new business environment. Presently, I have several responsive pricing models. Never be afraid of change, even when it looks scary. There are always opportunities in every challenge but these need to be studied and priced real-time, and if you fail, fail successfully.

Glean your learnings, do not waste time sulking, and at the crack of dawn be back at your grind.

 

 

Fifth, we oversolved the problem. I made the decision that I never wanted to be caught unawares again and even though I had to learn to solve challenges on the move, I ensured that my solutions would carry me through future disruptions. We are quicker on our feet. We have responsive pricing models.

We always keep an eye out for potential investors for rainy days. The pandemic forced us to experiment with and understand our model aggressively.

Sixth, remember that an overnight success story typically takes at least eight years. No one is there for the tough times. No one recognises your business when it is young but when you are “happening”, everyone wants to share in your glory, and everyone thinks you are an overnight success.

Many quit after a year or a disaster because they cannot be “overnight success” stories. If you haven’t done at least 8 years in your business, you haven’t failed yet. You are just building towards a defining, glorious moment.

So, to all you underdogs out there, grinding every day for a better future as entrepreneurs, lift your heads high, raise your glasses and let us toast to your overnight success story.

Raymond Kasinganeti is Founder and CEO at Radek Investments, a venture holding company that invests in eCommerce solutions. He is also Thought Leader, SMME Influencer, Business Coach & Keynote Speaker at Game Changers Club. email: raymond@radekinvestments.co.za

 

 

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