How good companies use difficult times to become great

'It is the thoughts that break us down – not the business', writes Karabo Songo


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I have just spent my day like every day as a business owner. I have been bombarded by all kinds of loan emails, SMS, MMS, adverts, including bogus lucky winner mails.

The sad part is that some of these ads are even getting hand delivered to my offices. It's clear that the South African economy and local businesses are going through tough time, but what's even sadder than the desperate messages is meeting with entrepreneurs, some who say they have lost hope in their business and ideas.

These entrepreneurs believe that the reason behind their failures is the underperforming economy. This kind of thinking has become something of a wave, similar to Mandela Fever or a popular song by Beyoncé.

How to compete within a tough environment

What I believe is if a company is truly great at what they do they can survive tough economic times and continue to thrive when the tide turns.

As a business owner and marketing expert, I often ask myself what the secrets to being competitive are. And while there are many articles on the subject written by experts from all over the world, I would like to focus on the following aspects that I believe are key during tough times:

"Build a team to weather the storm with you and who understand your challenges so that you have alliances for the tough road ahead"

1. Question your unique offering to the core. You may have enjoyed a number of successful years, but the main question is: how good you are in growing year-on-year, especially in the current environment?

2. Prepare your mindset for difficult times. It is the thoughts that break us down – not the business. This is a time when your belief will be tested to the core, and creativity is required to reshape the hurdles you have before you on the journey

3. Create an unforgiving costing structure. Use this time to re-evaluate all the costs within the business and only retain strict value-adding activities. Remember to also get rid of the ones that are no longer relevant. BE UNFORGIVING, I SAY!

4. Build a team to weather the storm with you and who understand your challenges so that you have alliances for the tough road ahead. Not everyone will go to war with you, be comfortable with this fact. However, no one ever makes it alone so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

5. Remember the reason why you started the business and re-invigorate this passion within yourself as well as in the business. There is a reason why you have made it this far.

6. Just like an explorer, a gold digger, a long distance runner or even a growing child, there will be pain, disappointment and hurdles, but the certainty and belief that we can overcome if we stay focused, must be there in order to be a winner and to lead effectively.

To all the entrepreneurs out there, embrace failure in order to win! Let's do great things. 

About the author: Karabo Songo is the Group Founder/CEO of Olive Communications And Media Group, a full-service strategic communications agency. He is passionate about building innovative marketing businesses and brands within Africa with strong Unique Selling Propositions.  Follow him at  on Twitter @mr_k_s and @olive_jozi.

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