At the beginning of the year, we announced our intention to launch a digital platform, in collaboration with TEPA and ARA. Back then, we couldn’t have known that almost everyone in South Africa would be working online by April.
Now that Zoom has become a household buzzword and online shopping is the norm, even skeptics will agree that the Internet is a platform without rival when it comes to convenience. And that’s why we’re unlikely to turn back.
COVID-19 has forced us to communicate with our members differently and this will definitely continue in the future. We’ve experienced communicating and learning through webinars and podcasts and the power of communicating through our telegram information channel. This has worked so well. It is quick and efficient and gets to the right person immediately. We look forward to keeping our digital lines of communication open. It is so critical we stay connected.
It also means the way you communicate with your customers needs to change. This may seem daunting at first, especially if you have little experience in the digital realm – which does, admittedly, require certain skills. Fortunately, we’ve been able to partner with Connected Life to offer all MIWA members a complete social media marketing package, including a website and daily marketing on all social media updates.
Why is this such a great medium? Simply put, social media directs your ideal customer’s attention to your brand. However, the real magic lies in the fact that they are empowered and in control of all decisions throughout the conversion process, which can work powerfully in your favour.
However, the attainment of this goal hinges on providing quality content across a variety of platforms, from your website to newsletters, emailers, and blogs. Again, Connected Life is able to assist in compiling targeted, gripping content that will hold your consumers’ attention.
MIWA members can access the power of online for just R99 per month for the first six months.
This is the ideal time to reach out to customers. Regular communications will remind them that you are available to answer all their needs – but the flipside is that if you fail to start that dialogue, they may move on.
Don’t feel intimidated by this new world – remember that you are not alone. We are here to support and help you in any way we can.
Are you ready to open your workshop? Customer needs have changed significantly during the five weeks of lockdown, and trust has become more important than ever as people seek to ensure they deal with entities that can keep them safe while providing great service.
First things first: before you open your workshop, it is critical that you have a risk strategy in place and you ensure your workshop is ready for business. We are preparing a whole set of Sanitisation Protocol posters for your workshops which will be sent to you by the end of the week. You can print these out and laminate the posters. They are a great reminder for everyone. There are a variety of different options but here is a short summary of each:
All staff are required to undergo a temperature register before entering the premises, and may not enter if a temperature of more than 37.6 degrees Celsius is recorded. The key or touchpads of time systems must be disinfected after every physical interaction. From entry, staff must proceed to a sanitisation station and sanitise their hands, and bags must be handed over to a designated person for sanitisation and storage. Employees will then go to their workstation, remaining at least 1,5m away from colleagues. The workstation, including desk, telephone, and other devices must be sanitised before starting work and should be sanitised again before leaving. If employees have to leave their workstations, they must take care not to touch any handles or stair railings. This process must be repeated every time people exit and reenter the building.
Employees are reminded to follow hygiene rules, such as coughing or sneezing into a flexed elbow and throwing away used tissues.
Please note that staff may not share tools, equipment, or workstations; nor should they share food or masks.
Masks must be worn at all times, especially while using public transport, and must be washed and dried daily. Damaged masks must be replaced immediately. Staff must make a concerted effort not to touch anything on their daily commute and must try to stay away from other passengers who are coughing and sneezing.
Guidelines are in place for managing deliveries from suppliers, too. All deliveries must be made in a strictly designated delivery area, which is separate from the general production and administrative area. All suppliers are to be screened before entering the building. All parcels and deliveries must be sanitised, and any pen used during the handover must be disinfected, too. Staff must wash their hands immediately after taking delivery.
Workshop owners are to follow strict protocols for handling vehicles, too. Please note that all customer vehicles must be sanitised before entering the workplace production area, including the seats, dashboards, exterior door handles and boot lid handles, and should be sanitised once more before being transferred to the next department, focusing on the areas that have been worked on and the driver position. The exterior door handles, seat, steering wheel, and driver side dashboard must be disinfected again. Only one technician should work on the vehicle from the time it enters the production area. The car must be completely sanitised before it is collected by the customer, and should be locked with keys secured.
Customers must maintain social distancing, keeping a distance of 1.5m between them.
Customers coming to collect their cars must pass through an entrance sanitiser, and the keys must be sanitised before handover. Only the customer may touch the vehicle. If the car is being delivered to the customer’s home or office, the driver must carry a sanitising kit and must sanitise the driver’s position in the presence of the client. The driver’s seat must also be sanitised if the car is driven for any reason.
Please note that if anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 enters the workplace, the business will be forced to close and all staff will be quarantined. We know this first month is especially difficult. We trust you are considering a phased-in approach to restarting your business. It’s advisable to invite around 30% of staff back to work at the outset; this not only speaks to social distancing requirements but also eases the pressure of paying a full complement of salaries until the business has gained momentum.
Finance is, obviously, a key concern for all of us at this time. Since you’re already thinking about new budgets and financial challenges, you may as well as take a moment to contemplate your credit score, too.
In fact, according to African Bank, you should check your score regularly as part of good financial hygiene. It’s more important than ever to keep track of how lenders perceive your credit risk, as this affects their willingness to lend you money – and this may be critical moving forward, when the real impact of the economic shutdown becomes apparent, especially if you find yourself in need of some financial assistance.
To maintain a favourable credit score and ensure you qualify for loans going forward, remember the following:
Any default on payments like rental, cellphone contracts, bond, and vehicle repayments will be noted on your credit record. Make sure you keep these up to date or, if this simply is not possible, alert your lenders to your predicament and find out if it’s possible to make alternative arrangements.
Don’t use up all the credit available to you. Leaving a margin of 30% shows that you are able to manage your finances efficiently, which will make lenders more likely to trust you with a loan.
Prioritise your spending. Increased financial pressure means that some expenses will have to go, so review your budget to find out which ones – like education – cannot be cut down, and which can.
Checking your credit score is a simple – and most importantly, cost-free – exercise: simply request a report from one of South Africa’s credit score reporting agencies. You’re entitled to one free report every year, although banks like African Bank even allow you unlimited access to a detailed credit report on a monthly basis; a service that is not limited to African Bank customers.
Everyone has one: the car that should have been theirs – and would have been, were it not for some regrettable decisions. We asked our directors which cars they wish were parked in the garage.
Teresa Spenser Higgs – MIWA Chairperson Border region
Being from the feminine side of the fence, I must admit I am more likely to long for a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes than a car! Having said that, I have always joked that I would like to own the new look VW beetle as it makes a statement – that statement being that I have so much money I don’t mind spending it unwisely. However, being married to a technician, I accepted years ago that my husband will be the one making the decisions when it comes to choosing vehicles.
Les McMaster – MIWA National Vice Chairman
The first car I purchased as an 18-year-old apprentice was my dream car; the one I so wanted to own and which I revered as the ultimate cool machine totally suited to the hip fraternity of that era. I had just completed my military service and had saved the ‘danger pay’ I received for serving on the then South West African border, as a member of the South African Defence Force.
I can clearly recall the moment I first set sight on this car, as I was passing on my way from work. It stood there in a used car lot, just beckoning me to stop and feast my eyes: the most beautiful blue 1969 Datsun 1600 SSS in the entire world. I remember my heart pounding in my chest with excitement. I hastily made arrangements to test drive this vehicle and, having satisfied myself that everything was in order, I purchased it.
My life was forever changed. This Datsun was my pride and joy; not only because it was my very first car, but because it drew loads of attention wherever I went (plus, how could I forget the countless trips to the drive-in with dates who were not too keen on seeing the movie). I quickly bought and fitted California deep-dish mags and revamped the exhaust system to give a deep-throated roar, which just sent chills of joy up my spine with every acceleration.
My regret, thinking back, was that I didn’t keep that Datsun. I sold it to purchase a brand-new Datsun 160U SSS, which was a phenomenal vehicle in its own right – although it never really had the magic of its predecessor.
When I still couldn’t get that car out of my head many years later, I decided to purchase a Datsun 1600 SSS and clone my first car. It took a long time and a lot of searching, but I finally found one in fair condition. I completely stripped it down to bare metal and rebuilt it as a clone of my first car. I just couldn’t wait to start it up after reconditioning all the mechanical parts.
Finally, the day arrived … I had just finished the final item of the assembly. I put the key into the ignition and started it. No words can express the feeling of utter enjoyment that exploded within my being. In a déjà vu moment I was 18 again; a feeling that can bring a 61-year-old man to tears. I proudly drove the Datsun home with the exact same feeling that I had with that first drive home all those years ago.
I still have my Datsun and, after five years I still drive it around, even participating in a classic car rally to Maputo in 2019. I still get the appreciative recognition from other road users when I drive around. I would even put a bet on it that I could still get a date to the drive-in if they still existed, that would really put the cherry on the top (although we would probably want to watch the movie this time!)
Nowellyn van Vuuren – Vice-Chairman Border region
Cars aren’t everyone’s passion – either you love them or you don’t. My favourite car of all time was a Ford Anglia station wagon. I was lucky enough to be the second person who owned this car.
I was just a little boy when I realized that my mother’s late uncle – a foreman at the Ford Motor Company – had this car in the garage. He’d bought it from the factory line.
I still remember my excitement the day I bought that car. I paid R600, which was a lot of money for a 17-year-old. We collected it from the house, where it was covered under five years of dust. I was so pleased to get it outside – we all deserve some sunlight.
After many long nights and weekends, I had transformed the car from its faded green state to its former glory.
I made so many happy memories with that car. My biggest regret is selling it – it would have been such a fun little car to own, and I would have loved my family to have the same kind of experiences. I’m still on the lookout for a car in a similar condition to buy.
It is easy to become disheartened with all the uncertainty and negativity in the news these days but, every day, we are reminded that there are some amazing people out there who are challenging the odds or opening their hearts in the spirit of giving. We’re so proud to hear these stories. Here are just two we thought you may like. Here’s a salute to their creativity and big-heartedness!
Delmari Kent of Stirling Auto Centre in East London has joined forces with a doctor and local councilor to create the Nahoon COVID-19 Support Group, which keeps the 470 families in the Nahoon-Bonniedoon-Stirling area up to date and informed of important developments during the lockdown. Delmari represents the local community policing forum, of which she is a member. “I’ve met amazing people from this group, but what really makes me happy is being able to help others,” she says.
Jason du Plessis is filling his time creating beautiful portraits of cars; a hobby he started with a drawing of his own car, an NKI Rabbit Golf. After posting a picture on Facebook, his inbox was flooded with queries from people asking him to do the same for them. Jason says he loves the process because it’s all about capturing the fine detail in the cars and how the design all comes together. His portraits cost R150 and can be ordered over WhatsApp: 065 939 9845.
Tattoo artist Jason Du Plessis is filling his time creating beautiful portraits of cars.
This week our workshops started to open. There is still a lot of uncertainty out there and we know that trading volumes are not going to be very high until we reach at least Level 3 and 2. Over the last seven weeks, we have been sharing as much information with you as possible to enable you to survive this crisis. I must remind members to please read these COVID-19 Monitor alerts as they are very comprehensive and answer most of your questions.
We hope that you are managing your stress and anxiety levels during this time. We trust that we are closer than ever to a return to normal life – albeit a ‘new normal’. Please keep in touch with us during the first couple of weeks and let us know any problems you are experiencing. We are here to support and help you. You will have read about the Sanitisation posters we are preparing for you as well. These will be important in the workshops.
This month’s newsletter contains some ideas to help you prepare for reopening your workshop, tips to handle your finances, and a lighthearted look at cars we’ve loved.
Rethink and rework future business plans by Jakkie Olivier, CEO, RMI
“The automotive aftermarket was already under severe economic and financial pressure prior to the announcement of the coronavirus and subsequent lockdown. Car sales were stagnant and subdued, consumers had less disposal income, unemployment figures were on the increase, we were witnessing an unusually high number of business closures amongst small to medium size businesses, and consolidations were taking place even between larger businesses. Since the advent of the crisis, SA has been downgraded by Moody’s. This will no doubt deepen the impact on the retail aftermarket industry, along with the recession that SA is facing in the future. Add to this the impact of the current lockdown, the true effects of which will be felt only much later, and the automotive aftermarket has to face the unfortunate fact that we are in for real hardship and a very difficult time. We are likely to see more business closures during 2020, resulting in more job losses.
The question is, can workshop owners do anything to minimise these impacts? Clearly, business owners will have to rethink their business models, with specific reference to overhead expenses, debt control, diversification of products and services to the motoring public. The future of small business, including the automotive industry, will be largely dependent on how effective and promptly the SA government responds in providing the required incentives and protection to small businesses, initiatives to grow the economy and protecting jobs that will come mainly from small businesses in the future. This makes it more important than ever for individual businesses to unite under the RMI and MIWA brands to effectively lobby government for quick and effective interventions that financially secure and sustain the future of the automotive aftermarket.
My own response is to rethink and rework future business plans in our own businesses and organisations. Besides this, the best thing we can do right now to cope with the current pandemic (and possible similar situations in the future). We need to acknowledge that we are in for a rough ride and that the impact and rebuilding will not happen overnight. Remaining positive and keeping a cool head is imperative. From an RMI perspective, the main focus now is to guide our members with informative news flashes covering topics such as how to deal with employees and how to apply for and access government funding, as well as providing practical assistance and sharing critical information that drives the industry’s sustainability.”
Adopt a mindset of acceptance and try and stay focused by Dewald Ranft, Chairman of MIWA
“This virus could not have hit SA at a worse time. We were facing an economic crisis even before the lockdown and, although many of us thought at the time that the situation could not get worse, it’s clear that we will continue to feel even greater economic pressure in the months to come. I think that, although some MIWA members may be able to absorb the effects of a 21-day lockdown, many more will be affected if the lockdown is extended. The situation is particularly difficult for small, one-man operations, and the chances of their survival are very slim. However, it is in times like this that true character shows. I believe that we, as South Africans, have overcome so many hurdles in the past that if we focus our energy and keep our mindset positive, we will overcome this too. We are true entrepreneurs, and where we are today in our businesses is testimony to that fact.
I think that the first step for business owners is to adopt a mindset of acceptance. The lockdown – and even the time it takes for us to recover from this period – will take character and a positive attitude. You also need to use all the information that MIWA has placed at your disposal, such as portals where members can apply for financial aid. Contact your landlord if possible to make arrangements for rental payments. Contact your bank manager to see how they can assist. I am lucky to have a bookkeeper who really looks after my best interests and was able to assist me by ensuring that we are geared for the worst, if this is what the situation comes to. If you are also fortunate enough to have access to such resources, ask your bookkeeper for assistance. I would also suggest that you download the TELEGRAM link from the MIWA website. It’s a useful source of up-to-date information that you will need to know during the lockdown.
From a personal perspective, I have to admit that I find it difficult to accept the fact that we are not able to trade, but I’ve had to come to terms with this. The one thing that I can suggest is to keep busy at home; do the tasks you’ve been putting off or never get round to doing. Get up at the usual time in the morning, get dressed, follow your normal routine and find something to keep you busy, even if it’s just for part of the day. I’m using my extra time to step back and analyse my business and day-to-day operations to see where I can make improvements using the technology we have available.
Spend time with your family, cook some delicious meals together, have a Netflix night – just use this time to rest, because we all need it. Most importantly, be safe. I will be seeing you on the other side.”
Put together ideas and plans to attract customers by Madoda Sonwabo, MIWA Associational Representative
“We are really facing an extraordinary time of our lives. The outbreak of Covid-19, amongst other things, will have a negative influence on our local economic activities, but the global economy will also suffer drastically. It is clearly not business as usual, and our members might want to spend this time putting together ideas and plans to attract customers. I believe that customer service should be a big focus going forward. You might want to revisit your customer service approach and refine service related processes to provide seamless service that can be applied beyond this lockdown. For instance, you may wish to improve the reception area, something that can be done without incurring any cost. All it takes is rearranging the area to make it look neat and welcoming. You may also consider reorganizing the workshop. Think about storing tools and work materials in such a way that your workforce is able to identify, locate and quickly store these items without any hassles. This will avoid wasting valuable time and will enable the staff to work more efficiently, thus helping to reduce stress levels. A well-ordered workshop is the key to improvements in productivity.
You might want to reach out and show appreciation to your customers during the lockdown as a means to keep the relationship active; perhaps by sending personalised messages of encouragement, whether by email or telephone. Keep the message short and simple: “Best wishes for your family during this difficult time” is a perfect sentiment.
It is easier and more cost effective to keep the customers who are already loyal to you than to find new ones. This might, therefore, be an ideal time to offer exclusive offerings for loyal customers.
At the same time, it’s important to look at ways to expand your customer base. Can you offer something different or unique that will lure customers away from your competitors?
In the words of Winston Churchill, ‘Let’s not waste a good crisis’.”
Put lives before profit by Teresa Spenser-Higgs, MIWA Border regional chairperson
“In my opinion, the best we can do at the moment is take one day at a time and draw comfort from the fact that we’re all in this together. We also need to do our duty by staying home. We have to put lives before profit.”
Focus on what you can do to prepare your business going forward by Riaan Botha, Regional Chairman of the Eastern Cape region, ARA
“All we can really do is ride this wave out. It doesn’t help to become anxious – panicking never achieved anything. We need to take help where we can, accepting the grace offered by economic packages and landlords. We also need to realise that, when things get back on track, we’ll still be behind. With this in mind, I’m focusing on what I can do to prepare my business. We’ve cancelled all events that were scheduled for the year; we’re sorting out our relationships with our bankers, and we’re focusing on what we need to get done before the end of the annum. One thing I know is that it doesn’t help to worry about things you have no control over – from there, it’s easy to go into a downward spiral that can sink you. I’m avoiding this by deepening my spiritual life and reflecting on who I am as a being. The reality is that when you’re constantly chasing after the next thing, you don’t have time to meditate and think, so that’s what I’m doing now. I’m staying away from the news and showing gratitude for the small things. Things will unfold as they will, so all we can do is look to the future.”
Staff remain a priority by Johann de Bruyne, member of TEPA’s Northern Region
“We’ve done what we can to soften this blow. We let our people off early after paying them, so that we can safeguard their skills and experience, and maintaining their salaries is a priority for us. We’re doing as much as we can online and, where possible, our people are working remotely. We’ve released online training so that people can use this time to build on their skills, from writing letters to crafting emails. We have daily management meetings online and maintain contact with our staff through WhatsApp, so that we don’t feel quite so disbanded.”
Remain in the public eye by sharing RMI’s content and avail yourselves to virtual service by Brione Schoeman, MIWA Associational Representative
“We have to remember that things will change and it’s not going to be like this forever. It’s good to see that members are abiding by the rules and have locked down and resigned themselves to the fact that the most important thing to do now is stay safe, stay closed and rest during this forced leave period.
Although businesses have gone into survival mode, it’s also important to think about the future.
I’ve seen some great examples on social media of businesses continuing to remain in the public eye by sharing RMI’s content, availing themselves for telephonic/online mechanical advice, sharing video tips about how to care for your vehicle during lock down (for example why – and how – you need to disconnect your car battery), sharing car hygiene tips, readying themselves now for when they’ll be able to open their doors again by advertising specials that customers will be able to take advantage of after the lockdown has been lifted, as well as what’ll be included, like free vehicle sterilisation, decontamination.
Businesses need to lean on their RMI membership now in order to be kept informed of up to date and accurate information, and in order to get help with obtaining and understanding the opportunities available to them, without being distracted by misinformation. It is vital that members thoroughly read every, single communication that’s emailed to them from the RMI, follow the MIWA Facebook page (@miwasarmi), download Telegram and join the MIWA SA group, and download the RMI Connect App.
Members must remember that they’re not sitting alone on an island, without support.”
As you’ll have realised by now, time spent idle is a trap for brooding and stewing.
This is where we’re fortunate: as one Internet meme has it, imagine if this had happened in 2005. Now, we have a surfeit of online resources offering ideas to keep kids busy with crafts, free exercise classes, science experiments – even puppet shows. A quick Google is all it takes to come up with novel suggestions for spending time for you, too. If you’re not into learning a new hobby, taking a virtual tour of an international art museum or gallery, streaming a free performance from your favourite musician or singer, or upping your skills with a free online university course, a number of South African game reserves (including the Kruger National Park) are offering virtual safaris. Log on to the Internet to do a bit of exploring – but remember that it’s not necessary to set goals to become an improved version of yourself. This is an angst-ridden situation for everyone, and if it’s all you can do to get up and shower, that’s fine, too.
For most of us, the fallout of the lockdown is of tremendous concern. Although it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to escape this impact completely, the following tips may help to minimise it:
Ask all creditors if they are able to offer any form of relief, whether that’s waiving interest or extending terms. The sooner you do this, the better, especially if you suspect that you may have trouble making payments.
Reach out to your debtors, too. Although they are likely to be facing difficulties of their own, you may be able to come to an agreement – for example, perhaps you can offer a discount in return for immediate payment.
Find out what relief may be offered from your bank. Are you able to take advantage of a payment holiday, for instance? Be wary of asking for a loan, however. This is not the time to be taking on more debt. Rather find ways to cut back on your expenses. Remember that you don’t need a debt holiday if you have credit insurance, which will pay your premiums for the next year.
Investigate the packages made available to small businesses by government.
Look for other areas to make savings. Your insurer may be prepared to offer reduced premiums because you’re driving less, and therefore exposed to less risk, for example.
Remember if you have a loan and are battling to pay the instalments don’t look at a payment holiday as this will only extend your debt, rather use your Credit Life Insurance. This is an insurance banks already have in place for loan customers who are retrenched, receive short time or are placed on compulsory unpaid leave. You need to be up to date with your payments and you need to contact your bank to see if you are eligible to apply for the benefit. The insurance would then pay up to 12 months of instalments of the loan