2020: A year in quotes

What has 2020 taught your business?

2020 has been a ride. A rollercoaster. And relentless.

As 2020 draws to a close and the channel looks back on a frenetic and challenging year, what are the things that stand out for South African businesses? What are the lessons learned and the plans made? What have local companies taken from the mayhem of the pandemic and the economic impact of the lockdown? We ask South African channel leaders, thinkers, business people and entrepreneurs one simple question: what has 2020 taught your business?

Shaune Jordaan, CEO of Hoorah Digital, on what separates the wheat from the chaff
“Terms like flexibility and agility are sexy and get bandied about all the time, but in times of crisis, their application is what separates the wheat from the chaff. A year like the one we’re currently experiencing forces a business to be flexible, agile, and to accelerate – or urgently make new plans to ensure it remains relevant to the rapidly changing local and global demands.”

Rudi Potgieter, executive head at Vox, on changing the world of business, forever
“Whether it is the way we learn, the way we meet, the way we bank, the way we shop and, for some time, even the way we socialise, 2020 was the single biggest accelerator in digital transformation across all industries.”

Mike Smollan, chief growth and information officer at Smollan, on the building of a purpose lens
“It has been a year to rebuild through a purpose lens. It has been coming for a long time, but this year has shown just how important it will be going into the future. The inertia of business as usual can make it hard to pause and rebuild or change direction. This year has forced us all into making changes we may not have made otherwise.”

JAMES HICKMAN, Altron Karabina JAMES HICKMAN, Altron Karabina
James Hickman, head of sales at Altron Karabina, on stable finances in unstable times
“From a purely business and financial perspective, the major lesson is that you cannot be overly invested – to the point where there is little cash left. Nobody can predict the future, and no one predicted the pandemic. The businesses that suffered the most were businesses that did not have sufficient cash to tide them over the first few months while they worked out how to survive and operate in our new reality. Looking ahead, this should be a fundamental core that should never change, no matter what. Stable and sufficient finances are key.”

Duran Vieira, CEO at Amecor, on how security has undergone a significant change
“The reality is the security environment has changed. Security clients across business and in the residential space were financially strained – and that meant that many had to cut down expenditure where this has included security services. What became important for the security segment is to understand consumer and business challenges and needs and package products differently to meet this changing demand.”

ALLAN SAFFY, Decision Inc. ALLAN SAFFY, Decision Inc.
Allan Saffy, managing executive, Decision Inc., on how every organisation matters
“The lockdown further served to highlight just how fragile the South African business ecosystem is. Even if an organisation that was not a direct client of ours was hard hit as a result of the pandemic, we felt the impact in one way or another as a client of ours might have been reliant on them in some way. The greatest take-out for me is that the stability and success of every organisation matters.”

Grant Phillips, CEO of e4, on optimism and digital transformation
“There is a renewed energy and effort with a high level of optimism for business. Initially, businesses were paying lip service to digital transformation, but 2020 business has demanded a new way of working. If nothing else, 2020 has taught us that digital transformation, digital onboarding and digital servicing is no longer a nice-to-have, but is, rather, a necessity for business survival.”

JD Engelbrecht, MD, at Everlytic, on game theory
“Applying game theory evaluation techniques, we hypothesised and then observed that businesses that stayed the course or doubled down on marketing communications during lockdown came out the other side of the crisis (not only) having maintained their own, but often having gobbled up market share from competitors that were either too risk-averse, or didn’t have a strong enough balance sheet.”

Andreas Bartsch, head of service delivery at PBT Group, on digital fatigue and the human factor
“Some people struggle with very little to no human interaction and engagement that would usually take place in an office environment, and some also struggled to set themselves clear boundaries between work and home time, when working from home. There is also the very real challenge of digital fatigue. With everything happening on devices, digital fatigue is something businesses must be cognisant of when planning ahead – especially as this year has seen people jumping from one online meeting to another with no ‘office breaks’ in between.”“If nothing else, 2020 has taught us that digital transformation, digital onboarding and digital servicing is no longer a nice-to-have, but is, rather, a necessity for business survival.” Grant Phillips, e4

Kyle Woolf, CEO of Saicom, on fight or flight
“Personally, it was one of the steepest learning curves in my career to date and the uncertainty of what was happening and the unpredictability of the fallout of the pandemic changed my approach to leadership and business management. For many business leaders, the first two months of lockdown sparked a fight or flight response. More than anything, the critical lesson has been that staff-centricity is the cornerstone of having a successful business.”

Joy John, business development director, cloud native & integration, Middle East and Africa, Oracle, on agile tech investment
“This year has dramatically forced enterprises to realign their business operations model to suit the changing trends. Increasing costs and unpredictability of business outlook have forced enterprises to adopt more agile IT models and cloud has emerged as a lifesaver in the majority of the cases.”
Benjamin Marais, chief information officer, Liberty Group, on rapid digital change
“We had to quickly enhance the digital capacity of our organisation and ensure that everyone had the necessary tools and capability to work remotely. As an example, the connection of staff to our VPN went from a few hundred people using it on the weekends to thousands every day.”

Sandra Crous, MD of PaySpace, on accepting uncertainty when building strategy “It has showed us that it doesn’t matter how much you plan, you have to accept uncertainty and things that are out of your control. We now embrace working remotely for the entire business and see things we cannot control as an opportunity to experiment and drive innovation.”

Schalk Burger, director at Supply Chain Partner, on connection and benefits
“In the midst of the disruption and suffering, 2020 created a blessing: we’ve become more efficient in terms of our usage of space and decreasing our travel time (now used for family time or more work). We’re connecting with colleagues in a far more targeted and efficient manner. We’ve also been able to deliver value to our customers faster, with shorter implementation timeframes at a lower cost, as our customers now specifically request remote deployments instead of us having to convince them of the benefits of these deployments.”