Business Maverick


Don’t let a good crisis go to waste

Don’t let a good crisis go to waste

Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve ... didn’t. Don’t let it be too little, too late. Crises are part of life for any business owner, and change is inevitable, yet loaded with opportunity. So says Pavlo Phitidis, author of Build your Business to Thrive in a Crisis, in the latest Daily Maverick Webinar with host Ray Mahlaka.

Pavlo Phitidis is a renowned business turnaround specialist based in Johannesburg. He co-founded Aurik in 2000 with Carien Engelbrecht, from a genesis of starting, investing and building businesses into assets of value. It sold 12 of these businesses over eight years. 

Phitidis recently wrote Reset, Rebuild, Reignite: Build Your Business to Thrive in a Crisis, where he argues that crises either erupt or percolate, triggered by many events. 

“Think about a global health pandemic that redefines how your business is able to operate. Think about sociopolitical events such as Brexit causing the fastest-growing Italian food distributor to kill all his growth plans. 

“Or think of trade wars seeing a successful manufacturer of baby car seats flip-flop from importing parts to localising its manufacturing, only to find itself unable to compete with importers of final products. Crises can consist of fires in an Australian caravan manufacturing plant leading to cancelled orders in an already pressured market.”

He tells Mahlaka that crises are either imposed on you or created by you, and explains how opportunity lies hidden in the resultant change.

“The action you need to take when a crisis hits must do more than help your business survive. It must see you thrive,” he says. 

The reason is simple: Crises bring change that either cracks or smashes the status quo of how your customers, suppliers or competitive edge is contained. “It is the fastest and shortest route to instituting changes in your own business or completely changing the rules of the game for your competitors,” says Phitidis.

This, he argues, can only happen if you step up, step ahead and lead the engagement with your customers responsively. Missing such an opportunity will come at the cost of either being the victim of a competitor who beats you to that insight and action, or getting to the other side of the crisis the same way you had entered it.

Emerging successfully from a crisis changes the stuff you are made of. You will be stronger, smarter and wiser. Or, you can emerge broken and spent. It all begins with adopting the right mindset – something we have 100% control over. The right mind then needs the right action and the right action is led by clarity on why you do what you do as a business owner. 

In my view, that future should only ever be one thing – to build your business into an asset of value. 

Phitidis discussed how to do this in detail in his first book, Sweat, Scale, Sell: Build Your Business into an Asset of Value

An “asset of value” business is a customer-centric enterprise that enjoys consistent revenue. It is built on systems that operate smoothly without you, the business owner, being constantly required to get involved, and it is supported by a reliable and purposeful team. It is your greatest wealth-generating asset, a business that is ultimately saleable.

Phitidis says many of us spend our lives head-down in the trenches of building our businesses. We know the nooks, crannies and workings of how to build the product or service that we offer customers. We hold it all together in the hope that each year will bring better harvests, be it through new customers, talented employees or more favourable economic conditions.

“A crisis spins that world out of your everyday orbit,” he writes. “It presents an instance of newness, often with daunting consequences. That is, until you learn to see it differently and, in that, take actions that metamorphose your business into a far better, bigger and more beautiful outcome.”

This book is based on people, ideas and action. You will put the book down knowing how to:

  • Develop and get into the right mindset to deal with a crisis and come out winning.
  • Use a method to quickly evaluate the risks and opportunities that the crisis brings.
  • Create a negotiating framework and strategy to work with your team, customers and suppliers.
  • Accelerate a digitisation strategy across your business to get it and your team working.
  • Reset your products/services for a new environment.
  • Stand out in a competitive, noisy and overcrowded market.
  • Focus and empower your teams to perform.
  • Rebuild predictable marketing, sales and operational systems.
  • Spend more time leading and less time doing.
  • Reignite your growth ahead of your competition.

Nothing in this book requires the remarkable, says Phitidis.  

“I have done it. I have seen many others do it. And you can do it too.” DM/BM


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