2020 has brought about unprecedented conditions in the modern world. The coronavirus pandemic is forcing people to work differently as countries across the globe practice some version of social distancing and lockdown.
In South Africa, our lockdown has been extended from 21 to 35 days, now ending at midnight of 30 April. Many of us are working from home, unless we are defined as performing or supporting an essential service.
However, working from home is not a holiday. Working in a different environment requires a high level of discipline.
Many employees will be forced to stay at home as organisations have not been able to provide the technology and connectivity in time to allow remote working. There are also many employees living in difficult circumstances that don’t support working from home.
Despite these challenges, businesses should adopt a positive attitude, and not view this period as a total shutdown. People who are able to work from home, particularly those in sales, need to stay in contact with their customers. This is an opportunity to build those customer relationships, even if that means using Zoom, Go2Meeting or another connectivity tool.
Customers should be persuaded to place orders now, so they can be the first to received deliveries post-lockdown.
This should be a leading agenda item for businesses’ management teams: how do we plan for business continuity going forward?
We are also witnessing a trend where customers are using the pandemic as an excuse to delay payment to suppliers, despite a plea from the President.
This is a dangerous mindset. The banking system is built on trust and if everyone tried to pull their deposits on the same day, the banking system will crash. The same applies to the provision of credit. If payment is delayed this will result in the failure of many businesses where credit was extended on trust, and thus they will not be able to pay their creditors.
There is also a lot of confusion pertaining to the supply of product during lockdown. There is no specific category in the essential services list for stationery and facilities. However, the logical answer would be that if you have a customer that is defined as an essential service as listed in the 28 categories and you supply product to one of those categories to keep them functioning, you should then register as a supplier to that category.
Supply may only be undertaken in terms of the strict rules laid out, which requires a copy of your certificate, a copy of your customer’s certificate and a copy of the certificate from the courier.
It will also help to have a letter on an official letterhead from the essential services company stating their request for the products required.
During these extraordinary times, it is important to do what you can to nurture client relationships, continue working where possible and attempt to meet your financial obligations to prevent a complete system-wide economic collapse.