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Cataclysm and strategy going forward

Article written by Sophia Misplon (Business Doctors – Dolphin Coast)

“Nothing good has ever flourished in stagnant water. Sometimes the Universe – God, the Gods, life itself – turns upside down so that we can get out of our stagnant ways. It is evident that the world at-large was not prepared and agile enough to face the COVID-19 cataclysm. How best then do we build our strategies, ensuring agility and sustainability, without compromising growth?”

Much has been said about cataclysmic effects of COVID-19, but are we seeing the gifts of the pandemic? From Stats SA’s quarter 2 results we know that as a country the impacts are profound and the future uncertain:

  • How has COVID affected you personally?
  • How has it affected your staff?
  • How has it affected your business?


  • Have you looked at the gifts or opportunities COVID-19 may have brought you?
  • Have you identified and spoken to staff about the good that has come from the pandemic?
  • What opportunities have arisen due to the very certainty of the way you do business being ripped from underneath you?

The cataclysmic aftermath gives rise to panic and threat at a large scale as it threatens our survival, growth and sustainability. In this very instance, we have an opportunity to rise from the ashes and build anew.

We can, of course, remain in the ashes if we choose to be victims, or we can rewrite our strategies and not just survive but thrive. My wish is for leadership and business owners to start asking the real questions and having the crucial conversations to address the sustainability of not just their businesses but South Africa’s economic future.

Agility – lip service or a way of being

The discipline (concept) of agility has long been in the vocabulary of corporates the world over, yet in our personal experience with our clients – while it appears as a way of being in their strategies – it is only lip service and an overused phrase.

As strategy consultants and change specialists, we have urged organizations to adopt agility as a way of being to build their strength and tenacity in the face of the only certainty of the world we live in change. Sadly, many have come back to us saying, “if only”.

The Menter case study

Being new kids on the block, having recently set-up our practice in KZN and trying to establish our client base and penetrate the market, it has been incredibly difficult to keep our doors open and our spirits high. Besides this, we did not have the luxury of building up cash reserves that older and more established businesses may have.

Starting up a new endeavor can take between 12 to 18 months to realize a client base and steady income.

We did not have that luxury. We oscillated between desperation and hope, fear and hope, anger and hope, anger and anger, desperation and fear (and soon) until our team held each other accountable.

Being truly connected to our reason for existence has ensured that we are still in the running and more determined than ever to make this work.

We are by no means out of the woods. We have creditors knocking; stress about paying our staff at the end of each month; trying to establish ourselves in a very tight business market in KZN and we have not taken a salary for 10 months. We know where we are headed though. Strategy in the future strategy going forward will be even more complex than before, with a balancing between the ways of old, a need for agility, and drastically different everything.

Isn’t that exciting?

A good blend of complexity and predictability (contradiction, you say?) in setting up organizations will allow leadership/business owners to ensure business as usual, whilst paving future approaches in super-quick time, and this is where strategy expertise becomes invaluable.

The tools and concepts of old will always have their place. This is not about throwing the baby out with the bath water. What should change is our adaptation, thinking processes and approaches to these models and tools.

How did we do this?

We used the Business Doctors Turnaround Strategiser and 4DX diagnostics to determine just how bad our situation was. Please note: guesswork has never been a good strategy. Fig 2 below explains the four disciplines in a little more detail:

Whirlwind and WIG Example Report

Our analysis showed which whirlwind activities we had to focus on to keep our doors open.

The survey results were tremendously helpful in that we knew exactly what needed our attention.

We allocated responsibilities in line with the short term strategies with deadline dates that we manage through scrums to ensure traction and momentum.

The Wildly Important Goals was where we revisited and unpacked every aspect of our strategy and scorecard to date.

This was not business as usual.

It involved a hard look at assets, cost efficiencies, cost-cutting and our resource model. We also had to let go of harmful attachments, pet projects, old and archaic approaches and pure stubbornness to change.

The result of the focus on the Wildly Important Goals was a whole new approach to some of our service offerings, this just when we thought we could not be more daring with our approaches.

For example, our initial strategic stance on recruitment was that we charged 8%, which is significantly lower than the industry averages.

Our fee strategy challenged competitors and confused consumers when we first launched our recruitment wing in February. This is a good thing, but a strategy that will take time to change the hearts and minds of consumers.

Businesses see a lower than average fee and immediately assume that quality will be compromised (we all know the meaning of “assume”: no need to elaborate on that).

The only way for us to ensure sustainable income, keeping our doors open and building a business brand that adds value to what our customers need right now, was to sharpen the pencil even more.

We revisited our business model and did a very comprehensive product/service profitability analysis, and based on the analysis, we could safely introduce our recruitment and OD subscription services.

Our subscription services are priced at costs that our customers cannot comprehend. We have reviewed our entire service offering and have made similar changes, ensuring value to our clients and at the same time our survival, growth and sustainability.

This strategic direction is in line with our values, vision and mission: our reason for existing.

It is our distinct belief that service providers have “taken the piss” for a long time. We know this will rock the boat, and quite frankly, we are happy that it does.

The way of consultants and the likes will never be the same either.

When you look to hire a consultant, be sure that there is a strong alignment of values and an aligned passion to do what needs to be done.

Strategy Fatigue and Shell Shock

When we interact with our own strategies for too long, we develop attachments and blind spots.

To avoid this, we did the initial work as an internal team and then invited strategic partners, our accountant (that keeps us grounded and honest) and some disruptive voices to critique our strategy.

We strongly recommend that you make use of external strategists and strategic partners to assist you with planning or reviewing your strategy.

Whether your strategy is a turnaround, regeneration, business builder or growth strategy, Business Doctor’s has the tools and very experienced consultants that are looking forward to working with you.

I leave you with some questions to ponder…

Since the cataclysmic lockdown, have you reviewed your business model in terms of the following:

  • Cash flow options
  • Relevance of your value proposition.
  • Optimizing and either expanding or retracting your channels.
  • Customer segments relevance and diversification.
  • Operations, key activities and how your resources align to that.
  • Which partners could you collaborate with and should you perhaps widen your net of key partners?
  • Product/service profitability.
  • Cost structures, leanness, fixed and variable costs, economies of scale and scope.
  • Revenue streams in terms of asset sales, subscription fees, fixed and dynamic pricing etc.

Until we meet again, happy recovery and happy growth.

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