Claudia Smith
Claudia Smith

There is nothing ‘normal’ about getting back to business

by Claudia Smith. if you are focusing on ‘new normal’, you need to adjust your strategy. Avoid legacy thinking.

by Claudia Smith. The ‘new normal’… We have seen it and we have heard about it at length. In fact, if we had R1 for every time we did, we could probably make a dent in that scary fiscal deficit we face. But for me, if you are focusing on ‘new normal’, you need to adjust your thinking. Maya Angelou said: “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be”, and I think this certainly rings true now more than ever.

‘Normal’ implies typical, run of the mill, usual – and if anything, that’s exactly what we cannot be. We cannot fall into routine that negates further change and innovation. We cannot fall into complacency. It is a silent killer that eats away at business success. Organisations and individuals that are complacent do not look for new opportunities or even new threats. So, rather than falling into the ‘new normal’ – one caused by unforeseeable disruption – use it as an opportunity to self-disrupt, after all, your business has already been turned upside down in some shape of form. Just because it worked in the past, doesn’t mean it’s going to work now.

Moreover, are the lockdown band aids being applied the most suitable for change? For growth? For sustainability? Just because it seems ‘normal’ now, doesn’t mean it’s right for your business going forward. If you don’t disrupt yourself now, someone else will. Market share is up for grabs – there are huge opportunities for businesses as shakeouts happen across bigger chains; and there is opportunity to buy some great companies at even greater prices.

Consumer patterns and preferences have shifted so there is room to bring new ways of doing things to market that is price and quality sensitive. Property prices are also much lower, which could propel expansion plans or even a new warehouse or depot. Strategy going forward has to be based on a vision of exponential growth. Just take SA’s new airline for example. Who would have thought that in the midst of a pandemic, a crippled aviation industry globally, and local airline sector in business rescue, we would see a new airline set to be launched later this year? In disruption, this team saw an opportunity to relook the traditional model, take inspiration from an existing industry disruptor and rethink execution and relationships. Will it work? Maybe. Did they take their shot? Absolutely!

My point is, avoid legacy thinking. With market uncertainty locally and globally, you need to build a flexible model which can adjust to market demand. Pay attention to macro trends and micro decisions. Observe. Experiment. Calculate risk and seek advice. Look to other industries for new ways of doing things – externally and internally. Don’t be content with the status quo – you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, the wheel could work just fine, but smallest changes can make the biggest difference.

It’s time to shake off the old and ring in the new… well, that’s the beauty of it, you decide. Don’t be afraid to harness change. Don’t fall into the comfort trap of the ‘new normal’ – you may be satisfied, but somebody else may not be.


Claudia Smith (nee Ferguson), has an impressive consulting career and her fair share of industry stories to tell. And she does exactly that – tell brand stories, backed by strategy and high-level consulting – all focused on impact. She believes in the power of the African continent, the value of insight and experience and the importance of relationships on the continent and beyond its borders. She thrives on challenge and as a Business Director at Orange Ink, her responsibilities include strategic business development for the agency and its client portfolio.


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