Lockdown lessons from an entrepreneur [Opinion] 

With the pandemic hitting businesses hard and causing entrepreneurs to think on their feet, Lars Veul, director and co-founder at Pargo, one of South Africa’s leading smart logistics platform shares insight into 20 lessons he learned during the first 20-weeks of lockdown. 

Veul shares valuable insight into lessons learnt at Pargo and as an entrepreneur

Veul shares that as we move into level 2 of lockdown it has been 145 days since the country entered into a lockdown mode but that it has taught it a host of valuable lessons. 

“With the new normal beginning to feel normal, some learnings transpire. No doubt these last few weeks taught me some valuable lessons that will serve me well into the future.”

Twenty lessons 

  1. Innovation Prevails – as the age-old saying goes, “when life hands you lemons, make pineapple beer.” The ingenuity South Africans have demonstrated during times of crisis has been a true inspiration for us all, from soup kitchen turned breweries to drive through pickup points. 
  2. Think Opportunity Not Problem – any change holds both challenges and opportunities. Specifically, a crisis provides the ideal ground to cultivate resilience, to become aware of your mental activity, and unhook from non-constructive thoughts. 
  3. Agility Is Paramount – to say COVID threw the world a curveball is putting it lightly. Agility is paramount. The need for risk mitigation led to the lightning-fast implementation of projects. 
  4. Move Quickly But Move Strategically – when uncertainty hits, it’s tempting to throw your vision overboard and rush changes. Decisions made under duress may not be the best. Take the time to keep things in perspective and develop the right course of action.
  5. We All Have Bad Days – though a tough pill to swallow, accepting bad days for what they are makes them much easier to deal with. We are (probably) experiencing the biggest crisis in our lifetime so don’t underestimate the mental impact this can have on you and the people around you.
  6. Customer Experience Is Non-negotiable – with the risk of infection ever on consumer’s minds, companies have had to find new ways of offering superior customer experience. The companies that do this best, will come out strongest. Inspired by this need, Pargo’s first Drive Through Pickup Point was born in collaboration with the V&A Waterfront.
  7. Reinforced Mission – despite the lockdown putting a halt to some plans, it strengthened the belief in our mission to create accessible delivery for anybody in Africa. We discovered during level 5 that our services are deemed essential, which demonstrated the importance of delivering products and even study materials to the far reaches of the South African landscape. 
  8. Digitalisation Is Mandatory -, if lockdown taught us anything, it’s that online businesses prevail and digital transformation is non-negotiable. 
  9. A Strong Team Can Withstand Any Storm – heading into the unknown is much easier with a strong team behind you. Nurture your team when things are going smoothly and they will trooper on when things get rough.
  10. It Doesn’t Matter Where You Are – what matters is what you do. The shift to remote working taught me that anything can be done from the comfort of your home whether it’s hiring, onboarding, or account management. 
  11. Productivity Isn’t Tied To Office Time – having our entire teamwork from home has surprisingly upped productivity, which proves that independence and trust are tied to stronger performance. 
  12. Cabin Fever Is Real – when the fine line between home and office begins to fade, it’s just a matter of time before the computer brain sets in. Getting a change of scenery is the perfect remedy and will do one wonders.
  13. Stay Active – healthy body, healthy mind. One of the few benefits of lockdown is the opportunity to reassess your routine. Cutting business travel and distractions out of my day allowed me to develop a much healthier schedule balancing work, leisure, and sport. 
  14. Communication Is King – and it reigns supreme. Setting up strong communication channels has been the key to our successful remote operation.
  15. Bring Clarity To Disparity – setting the right tone top-down frames the circumstances affecting your business positively for all your employees. 
  16. Be Transparent – openness, honesty, and staying in dialogue keeps everyone on track and instills ownership and care in the work that is being produced. 
  17. Office Moral Is Your Pal – and don’t forget to have fun. It’s easy to forget how important simple things like office chats can be for your sanity especially when you’re sequestered in your home office for days on end. 
  18. Have An Attitude Of Gratitude – small victories can make big impressions. It’s easy to focus on the negative during times of crisis, but dwelling on it leads to nothing. Focus on the things you are grateful for, and you will find your mood, energy, and capacity for a crisis are completely transformed. 
  19. Give Back – if you can. Everyone’s been hit by the Covid-crisis in at least some way, but there will always be others that have been dealt a worse hand than you. Nelson Mandela Day came as a strong reminder to help others wherever possible, whether it’s assisting under-digitalised students with access to study materials or donating to charity — everything makes a difference. 
  20. We’re All In This Together – despite being isolated, lockdown has been a unifying experience. From both a business and personal perspective, this means that every hardship, as well as every victory, has become a shared experience as we all deal with the continued effects of the COVID crisis together. This has been a moment of great empathy, understanding and community, and a series of lifelong lessons.

Read more: Pargo in talks with Alibaba to become delivery partner for ecommerce giant
Read more: Starting a business in a crisis [Opinion]

Featured image: Lars Veul, director and co-founder at Pargo



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