Being a survivalist entrepreneur or running a small business in survival mode is much the same as being a patient in the ICU unit according to John Gillespie, a financial consultant and founder of Beyond the Bottom Line.

Just as critical-care patients are vulnerable to unpredictable ups and downs, so too are entrepreneurs in survival mode susceptible to being stuck in a reactionary mindset for far too long.

As a result, he explains in an interview with, that many entrepreneurs and small business owners are not capitalising on opportunities to generate new revenue streams.

“If you’re always focused on preserving the assets you have and you’re afraid to commit to future plans, you’re going to miss opportunities. If you’re in firefighting mode and every day you’re stepping back and saying: ‘Phew, I’m glad we solved that crisis’, you’re never going to grow,” he says.

In SA, programmes like Raizcorp and Nedbank’s Simply Biz Shift Questions workshop – designed to help small business owners change the way they think about their business and approach to development – are helping entrepreneurs “unlock” new opportunities and ultimately accelerate business growth.

Raizcorp CEO Allon Raiz says entrepreneurs need to realise that there is no ‘copy and paste, one-size-fits-all’ formula to business development. Rather, he says, the key to moving your small entrepreneurial venture into an established enterprise lies in asking the right questions at the right time, and most importantly, in the right sequence.

“Many people have this notion that if they follow the exact steps that a ‘successful’ entrepreneur took in their own journey, they too will become successful,” says Raiz.

“As a young man I asked my mentor what the secret was to becoming wealthy. He gave me a rather unexpected answer and said the secret to shifting my own mindset as well as my business was asking myself the right questions and answering them honestly.”

Here are five strategies you can adopt to move your business from survival mode to an established and attractive enterprise.

  1. Know where you stand

A good place to start in determining whether your business is ready to undertake the move is understanding where your business lies on the survival-growth scale.

“You’ve got to first figure out whether the patient is stabilised. Self reflection and reality checks are important before you proceed and you want to make sure you can calm down and get your bearings so you can honestly assess where you stand,” Gillespie advises in the article.

He suggests that you ask yourself three basic questions to help you gauge where you currently stand: is the company at cash flow break even? Can you tackle your growth initiatives with existing staff? Does your company have existing cash or credit lines that can be used for growth?

  1. Focus on Human Resources

Gauging your employees mindsets is just as important as knowing the financial standing of your business and this means knowing whether employees are ready to trade in reactionary thinking for proactive thinking and the cultural changes that go hand-in-hand with growing a business.

“In turnaround I’ve dealt with it has been important to have some honest conversations with existing staff members to find out if they have the stomach to focus on new inititatives or if they’re tired and out interviewing someplace else,” says Elizabeth Gasper, MD of Beyond the Bottom Line’s West Coast operations.