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Opportunity And Optimism: Business Feeling Positive Amidst Ongoing Challenges

It’s well known that hindsight is an exact science. And while the old adage is usually said in jest, it is worth considering the value of reflection, particularly in the context of business where the default is always to look forward and plan ahead.

Warren Bennis, widely regarded as the pioneer of contemporary leadership study, wrote in his classic On Becoming a Leader “experiences aren’t truly yours until you think about them, analyse them, examine them, question them, reflect on them and finally understand them”. 

While we’re typically preoccupied with looking ahead at this time of year, the value in looking back should not be underestimated.

In this article, business leaders share their views on the year that was 2021, the second in a global pandemic. 

Client relationships are key to building resilience
Brent Haumann, Managing Director, Striata

Given our line of business (digital communications), we saw an increase in interest and requirements to improve digital customer experience, which should have worked in our favour. But at the same time most organisations have seen a dip in their revenues which has constrained their budgets and dominated their priorities. All in all, we were grateful to have a year of marginal growth but it required a higher than usual level of effort.

At the end of the day, the most important realisation for us has been that client relationships are key to building a resilient business. Though I suspect many would answer that “agility” and preparing for the unknown were key lessons, we found that strong client relationships and sharing our vulnerabilities during this time helped to strengthen our relationships and business as a whole going forward. 

Having  the right people in your business is what ultimately determines your organisation’s success. During tumultuous times like in 2020/2021, it is amazing to see how your best people just step up, bring their optimism, bring their energy, show their resilience, and make things happen. At the same time however, the people that are wrong for your business use these times as an opportunity to fade into the background and provide little or no value. It’s a good time to identify the team that will be core to your success going forward. 

Having said all this, my feeling about 2022 is best summed up as “determined”.

Time is our most precious resource, use it wisely
Greg Gatherer, Account Manager – Southern and Eastern Africa, Liferay Africa

2021 was a year of reflection. I feel a lot of organizations have reflected on how the impact of the global pandemic has affected their businesses and how they need to adapt and reinvent their current product/service offering.

Growth in terms of new business sales and onboarding new logos has been very tough, primarily due to the inability to physically meet, present, strategize and workshop solutions for prospective customers. The virtual boardroom presentation doesn’t quite live up to the impact a physical presentation delivers. But we also realised that this is the new normal (to use an overtraded term) and that we need to adapt our processes accordingly. 

The new normal also prompted conversations about true digital transformation and how behavioural science theories can be applied to technology to better serve people. Tied to this was the realisation that in business, as in life, time is our most precious resource and to use it meaningfully.

Despite the challenges that invariably await us in 2022, I am very optimistic about the new year.

There’s an opportunity in every crisis
Tim Cordon, Senior Area Vice President Middle East & Africa, Radisson Hotel Group

Though less severely than in 2020, the hospitality industry was still very much impacted by the pandemic but we’re undoubtedly seeing consistent recovery now which brings us much-need relief. 

Challenging as it is, there is opportunity in every crisis and finding these has been hugely rewarding. It’s been a long pandemic for some and our teams, particularly those in isolated locations, have been under tremendous pressure at times. Health and well-being is at the forefront of our approach and we actively encourage our people – and remind ourselves – to spend quality time with loved ones whenever you get the chance because there won’t always be another time to go. 

Looking to 2022, I feel encouraged and ready to embrace it – challenges and all. 

Seek and you shall find
David Seinker, Founder and CEO, The Business Exchange

Thanks to the nature of our business, we actually enjoyed significant growth this year. The pandemic certainly accelerated the adoption of hybrid work models and the serviced office space is ideally positioned to support hybrid work. And while it could be argued that this was luck, one always has to be prepared to leverage luck when it comes your way in business. 

What this year proved to me again is that there are always opportunities – although sometimes you just have to look a bit harder to find them. We leveraged many great opportunities this year and the lesson was simply to always be on the lookout for ways to grow, expand and evolve because even in a pandemic it is possible to do so, if you approach it with the right attitude.

The Business Exchange’s two notable highlights of 2021 were the opening of our operation in Cape Town, our first foray into the Mother City. Within a matter of days we signed our anchor tenant, Crypto Banter, and interest in the space remains high.

In April 2021 we launched a first-of-its-kind investment opportunity in Mauritius, offering South Africans the chance to invest in a sectional title serviced office space for around R500 000. The significance of this opportunity is that it offers investors the chance to own property in a Dollar-based country that is recognised as one of the top performing economies on the continent. 

Countless times in 2021 I was reminded that change is the only constant in business. When you understand and accept that things are constantly changing it becomes easier to adapt and to resist your own comfort zone. 

Excited is definitely how I’m feeling about 2022. Bring on the challenges!