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South African businesses of all sizes and across sectors are facing a mammoth task. They have been forced to grow and achieve scale in an environment characterised by tepid growth, global volatility and ongoing political strife.
As a result, only those businesses with rock solid foundations and smart, united leadership have been able to survive, and in some cases, to thrive.

Now, as leaders brace themselves for continued macro-economic pressure following the recent credit ratings downgrades, it is perhaps valuable to reaffirm the key elements that enable businesses to innovate and achieve scale despite difficult external conditions.

Establish strong and cohesive teams

Within every business, employees are the most valuable and important asset. They should always be viewed as your brand ambassadors, and as such, need to receive ongoing support and guidance for their professional development. In our view, strong teamwork and the ability to collaborate and share ideas around key projects is an essential ingredient for sustainable business success.

It is therefore up to leadership, including managers, to create an environment in which teamwork and collaboration is always encouraged. This may involve creating open workspaces, initiating frequent meetings and conversations, and harnessing technology tools, apps and platforms that foster an atmosphere of open discussion and unity.

Added to this, it is important to provide employees with incentives to learn and to grow. Indeed, every employee should feel that he/she is an essential part of the organisation, and that he/she can progress to new and exciting roles within the business. Every individual needs to feel valuable, challenged and inspired.

Build true partnerships

Moving from an internal focus to an external one, our growth story has highlighted the importance of building and nurturing true partnerships with your clients. This requires a number of things, chief among them being trust – on both sides. As leaders, it is critical to always do what you say, and say what you mean. This means managing expectations from the very beginning of every project, and always having a detailed and clear set of deliverables/outcomes.

Within the sphere of software development, we have realised that instead of merely working with businesses on a once-off or piecemeal basis, it is far more beneficial for both parties to create a long-term partnership that allows for ongoing innovation and improvement. This model is being shaped by the fast pace of technology development (what worked last year is probably already outdated) as well as the need to constantly iterate and innovate – no matter what industry or sector the business/client operates in.

By striving for long-term partnerships, there is naturally also a tendency to ensure that there is more visibility, transparency and honesty across all processes and in every engagement.

Focus on the fundamentals; partner with specialists

In addition to our two core principles of building strong teams and developing true business partnerships, we believe that every business has to keep working on the fundamentals – throughout their growth journey.

This means, for example, always creating an environment where people are inspired and motivated. The workspace is critical to employee engagement, hiring and retaining key talent.

Naturally, every business needs to establish a strong and visible presence in their market through ongoing marketing and communications. Often, this requires partnering with specialists in their respective fields, and recognising where others can do a better job than you.

Finally, always put the customer first. While this has become an overused business term, your business journey is intricately linked to that of your customers. So, for example, when building new platforms or designing new systems and processes, always look for customer feedback and input. These insights can guide and shape business success and sustainability …

Julian Weber is the Sales Manager at redPanda Software.

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