5 tips to help your business survive tough times

There’s no denying that the economic climate is extraordinarily tough for South African businesses right now, and it has been for almost 3 years. Pandemic lockdowns, restrictions on the sale of certain goods and services, Eskom load-shedding, destruction caused by extreme weather events and civil unrest, disrupted supply chains due to the war in Europe and periodic Covid-19 flare-ups in China – all have dealt successive body blows to many enterprises.

The reduced supply of oil, grain, fertiliser and many other essential commodities is raising costs, putting pressure on both consumer-goods importers and local producers with international suppliers. Like most of the rest of the world, South Africa is feeling the pinch of inflation and inadequate growth – our GDP is projected to grow by only 1.8% in 2022 and 1.3% in 2023.

This environment is challenging if you own a business, but there’s no point in carrying on as usual and hoping that ‘things will get back to normal’. This could be our new reality for some years to come, so it makes more sense to adjust your business plans and practices to remain sustainable, even if more economic shocks lie ahead.

Here are 5 tips that may help your transition

1. Ensure cash flow sustainability

Cash flow sustainability is the lifeblood of any organisation. Continued inflation and volatility in international markets mean that working capital remains critical. It’s important to partner with a financial services provider that understands the fluctuations of business cash flow and offers support to smooth out temporary shortfalls.

Products and services that banks can offer in this area include a business overdraft facility, restructuring debt, waiving penalty fees for early withdrawal from long-term investments, debtor management and invoice discounting, as well as reducing monthly credit card payments. Nedbank Commercial Banking has a range of innovative solutions to meet clients’ working capital requirements.

2. Digitise your operations

Incorporating more digital technology into your business operations can increase efficiency, improve the user experience and boost sales. In modern retail, an online store is essential and needs to be as user-friendly as possible. If your business involves manufacturing, integrating your factory-floor automation with your digital business system can help you maximise production and coordinate the whole process, from the supply of raw materials to the dispatch of completed orders.

Nedbank is committed to seamless digital banking, and we have several products and services to make digital adoption easier for clients. For example, your online store can be available to a larger potential market instantly if you partner with the Avo by Nedbank super app. Nedbank Enterprise is a payment solution that you can integrate into your company’s website, so you don’t need to redirect customers to another site to make payments.

Digitising your business operations may make it easier to explore new virtual markets


Even if your business is not in retail, you should have some kind of online presence, even if it’s only your own social-media page or a blog. If you can afford to build and maintain an interactive website, even better. Browsers searching for service providers in your industry will be able to find you, and you can engage in online marketing. Your company website could include bots that use artificial intelligence to interact with customers and deal with their questions, saving your business time and money.

If you digitise your accounting system, the software takes care of harmonising all transactions through your business bank accounts and assigning payments made and payments received to the appropriate ledgers. You’ll have real-time control of your cash flow, and the ability to generate financial reports as and when you need them.

If your business handles a lot of cash, you can choose to have Nedbank CashVault, an automated cash acceptance device that counts and verifies the authenticity of your deposit.

3. Focus on customer needs

For passionate business owners, this might seem like stating the obvious, but there is the risk of digitisation at the expense of the human touch. The golden guideline is to see digitisation as an augmentation of your strategy, rather than your entire strategy. Stay focused on what your customer wants and on how their buying preferences (and even product preferences) have changed over the past 3 years.

4. Harness data

Understand your customer through the smart use of data. Do you understand your customers’ spending behaviour, locations and preferences? Our big-data solution, Market Edge, can empower your business through a deeper understanding of your customer base. It provides innovative merchant data insights to help you understand your customers’ buying patterns, typical demographics and other valuable market information.

5. Explore new markets

Digitising your business operations may make it easier to explore new virtual markets through platforms like Opportunity Network – a digital deal-matching platform that connects more than 50,000 selected businesses and private investors to business opportunities in over 140 countries with a $500 billion transaction flow. All its members are screened by prestigious financial institutions, professional services firms, and associations worldwide. Vetting partners include Citizens Bank, UBS, Credit Suisse, ABN Amro, Eurobank, YPO, and Boston Consulting Group, among others.

Nedbank’s partnership with Opportunity Network helps mitigate the risk that comes with identifying global opportunities, enabling you to grow your business on a trusted and recognised platform. Subscription to the service is free to Commercial Banking clients as part of our ‘beyond banking’ services. This exciting partnership unlocks opportunities for our commercial clients to connect with businesses around the world at a time where they are looking to sell goods and services to new international markets, or to source new suppliers for the importation of goods and services. Making yourself available to new buyers and sellers online is an essential part of surviving tough times, however long they last.