by Amanda Khoza, Divisional Director: Transformation & Inclusion, Liberty Group
‘tis cold, season of long nights
skies are bleak, legs shod in tights
resolve ebbs, no strength for fights
fingers frosted, not fighting rights
few and far the sight of knights
stored for summer our plights
‘tis cold, season of long nights
A few weeks ago we experienced a very unpleasant cold front – out came the boots, beanies and coats. Heaters were dusted, stews and dumplings warmed our bellies and talk of an impending colder winter this year, trended. I love the warm things of winter. We’ve figured it all out: central heating, warm, fluffy sweaters, winter sheets, cup-a-soups and trips to warmer locations are easy to arrange. Animals do the same, they migrate, hibernate or adapt – we could learn a thing or two from them and apply this knowledge to business.
Running your own business is seasonal for many – long nights and short days, sunny days and rainy days, bare trees and blooms all round. Some of these periods can be filled with anxiety and be a little overwhelming, but they needn’t be if precautions, preparations and planning are part of your strategic business practices. It is an imperative to be geared up and prepared for these varying moments so that your business can be sustained throughout trying and even thriving moments.
May in the Serengeti is unexciting, muddy and rainy, but it precedes the Great Migration of July when prey and predator chase the wind or lurk on the ready in murky rivers where the crossing will occur. It is a life-time amazing spectacle to observe – courage, purpose, consistency and intuitive strategies displayed in their animalistic grandeur assist and determine the outcomes of this bittersweet journey. Some don’t make it through.
To migrate: to relocate, resettle, and to move. The winter of business needn’t be as fretful or stressful. If you need to move things around to remain relevant then do so. If the prevailing conditions are not conducive to business growth and transacting then you need to have the right survival skills to make it. In the savannah, it is the tenacity of the wildebeest outrunning the lion that makes them endure, yet not all do. The winter of business can be daunting however see the opportunities and the application of learned survival tactics as boosters and anchors for your next season. Seek new areas to ‘get food’, to attract and acquire so that you do make it across the river. Be a wildebeest or lion – decide which characteristic is needed at each considered moment – be perceptive and insightful with your migration strategy.
To hibernate: to hole up, and to sleep. Animals that hibernate store up food, seek safer ground from attack. See hibernation as equal to the migration strategy – don’t close shop, use the slow down as a time to reflect, re-strategize and stock up for the long season. Ensure you attack-proof your business; exploring more competitive ways to make your business ready for a new season of bloom and prosperity. Pull out your winter kit and improvements pack, measuring and evaluating your successes and critically assessing areas to focus on, change or discard. Though animals use little energy when they hibernate, that’s not for you. Don’t run your business by winter hours; you don’t have that luxury as a business owner.
To adapt: to modify, to transform, and to attune. Adaptation is the most fascinating response attribute that animals take on that we can learn from. These animals continue to be active by physiologically adapting to the season and behaviourally too, like the ruffed grouse which is known to seek alternative sleeping spots in snow drifts on particularly cold nights. What with ‘breaking news’, power changes, enactment of legislation, changing market segment needs and wants, varying social values and the age of the fourth revolution – you have to be vigilant and be ready to adapt. You may have looked at your micro-impacts in your hibernation moment; you need to in parallel be aware that unanticipated macro-challenges may come. Be ready to align and adapt. View competition and challenges as good, they should not frighten you, this should energize you and keep you awake, not slumbering. Learn from this. Adapt.
How animals react to winter is seen from the perspective and biology of their species. We, on the other hand, are influenced by situation, circumstance and experience. Plan for your migration, hibernation and adaptation strategies – don’t be caught in a blizzard – anticipate and be flexible to adequately respond. Mostly defined as contingencies, embed these as business-as-usual processes so that you are never caught off guard by a cold front that knocks unannounced at your place of business. It’s cold outside, but it’s warm inside.
Amanda Khoza is the Divisional Director: Transformation & Inclusion at Liberty Group, based in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is a passionate advocate for economic empowerment, financial literacy, and believes in the power of entrepreneurship to make real and lasting societal change happen on the African continent. Amanda is championing a host of initiatives for women entrepreneurs in South Africa, including partnering with Lionesses of Africa on the Lioness Lean In Liberty Sessions programme for intrapreneurs at Liberty, supporting The Mix newsletter each month as an impact partner, and joining with Standard Bank as the impact partners for the Lionesses of Africa Accelerator programme series in Johannesburg.
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