Yoco: Back to business, but not as usual
JOHANNESBURG – The importance of language – the words and phrases we choose to use – can never be understated. The Covid-19 pandemic has given rise to new vocabulary and we have quickly become accustomed to much of it.
One of these phrases adopted rapidly around the world is the new normal. At first glance it makes sense.
The world as we know it has changed, forever. However the more I reflect on it, the more I realise it is too early to start using such language as we are still far away from any form of “normal”, including new.
Each week we make time to reflect on the data we have gathered from the week before. The Small Business Recovery Monitor gives us a broad picture of how and what business owners are doing. From these graphs, we construct a narrative. We use language to make sense of it and by the end of the process, develop our best guess on what the data is telling us. Trends and insights interpreted out of data are not 100 percent accurate – they are narratives woven together by experts to give us a way to process the information.
A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say and this is the picture right now:
- What we have learnt during the pandemic from our data is that we never know quite what to expect. The line doesn’t always go up when you think it will, nor does it go down when you predict it might. The simple fact of it is that this is not our “new normal”, yet.
- We are witnessing and living through the early formation of our new normal. As small business owners prepare to turn the lights back on in Level 3, they will pick through what remains and put together a new way of doing business. Their shoppers will develop new habits that entrepreneurs will have to rise to meet. Experts can do their best to forecast some of these trends and insights but none of it can be assumed to be our “new normal”. Placing that label on this upside-down version of our world would be premature.
The Yoco Small Business Pulse is a quarterly report that dives into business sentiment and asks small business owners, in essence, to reflect on their industries and consumers through five simple questions.
Each report gives us a glimpse into how small business entrepreneurs perceive not only their business but the world around them. Will it improve? Will it get worse? How will you navigate the challenges you see ahead of you?
Our first quarter report for 2020, released earlier this week, paints a grim picture. It was compiled in the depths of the hard lockdown in March when business sentiment dipped to the lowest that we have recorded (a 47 point drop from the forth quarter in 2019).
Many small business owners communicated difficult stories of what lay before them. Many simply didn’t have the words.
It is a tall enough order for small business owners to pick up where they left off, without asking them to accept the world around them as the new normal. It would be overwhelming.
Instead, look at this period of doing business as your development cycle. We have to go through the hard work of putting the pieces back together, testing our new product, and perhaps if it doesn’t work, taking it apart and trying again. 2020 will not be your new normal, it will be your normal for now.
In the months to come, we will make normal what works and leave behind what doesn’t. In the meantime let us begin sifting through what used to be and looking forward to what we will become. It’s back to business.
Katlego Maphai is the co-founder and chief executive of Yoco, a financial platform for small businesses. | The Yoco Small Business Recovery Monitor in partnership with IOL is a live small business transaction data resource. The index is updated daily with the latest information from over 80 000 Yoco merchants, relating to their turnover by province and industry. | The Yoco Small Business Pulse is a quarterly report that dives into the small business environment. The Pulse score is developed through a set of five standardised questions and is the largest measurement of small business sentiment in South Africa. The report is free for download on the Yoco blog.