Defining Moments

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I think most businesses over the last 18 months that have survived the lockdown periods have faced a testing time. A testing time maybe an understatement as many who are employees have no idea how bad things have been especially in South Africa who have had no Government assistance. Having no income to fall back on will test anyone and find it terrible what many have had to suffer.

We have been fortunate as we are very small as companies go, with only my business partner and a handful of employees to worry about. We have stayed open for business throughout and would have mothballed everything if we had to. Thankfully we shut down our warehouse in Johannesburg right at the beginning back in February last year as that would have been a waste draining much needed funds.

We as owners took a decision that we would not take a salary until things came back to normal , but honestly had no idea we were talking 18 months and counting. This is something you cannot plan for as we had never seen anything like this before.

Throughout we have stayed positive as that is what you have to portray even though your insides are churning. Portraying an image that we are not worried instills confidence in our employees and our customers. If we had to we would start again but that was never discussed as that was not remaining positive.

Every conversation was about staying open and servicing the requirements of what customers we had left. We dodged some bullets offloading accounts we were not confident in and many have shut down permanently. New business in these markets is not all it seems as they are looking for a reason. Either they owe money or they are genuinely looking so having people who know the truth and can call upon has helped us through the minefields.

What muddied the waters was we had rival companies hit the wall leaving companies looking for new suppliers so getting clear information was not that easy. Others have been looking to use suppliers to bank roll their businesses by trying to find a sucker to offer them a 60 day or 90 day account. Some are desperate enough to fall for this and may or may not get them into financial difficulty with cash flow problems. Raw materials in our industry are strictly cash so any profits earned have been paid for two months previously.

This week we had a breakthrough which defined our lockdown period as it was not expected. Most of our business deals take months to come to fruition with many meetings and careful planning involved. None of this was the case here and why it caught us off guard and why we have turned a corner. The rival company is the biggest manufacturer in the country and we managed to steal the deal away from them. Another 4 or 5 of these and we can knock them down as word of mouth is the best advertising. In the past we never stood a chance as they have been underhanded in everything they have done.

Next year should be a bumper year with at least a salary in sight again which will take us 2 months short of 24 months without an income. Others have asked why we took this route and the answer is obvious. If you don't have a business you have no income and why the business comes first no matter how bad things get. Thankfully that is behind us now and we can move forward.

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