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Business Landscape

Born from the Flames

A new breed of SMBs.

David Ribeiro

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We’ve all heard about how regular forest fires clear the way for new life, making for a healthier ecosystem overall. The recent recession has worked in the same way, put millions of people out of work or threatened their employment. But if there is a silver lining to be found in the struggling global economy of the last few years, it’s that these unprecedented economic shockwaves has spawned a new breed of entrepreneur: the accidental entrepreneur – defined as a company founder who started his or her small businesses out of pure necessity rather than a lifelong dream of ‘being their own boss’.

The makings of accidental entrepreneurs

Accidental entrepreneurs tend to have one thing in common: they are agile, highly educated, tech-savvy, battle-tested business professionals and the companies they have founded are born to grow. They make decisions for their company based on analytics and market opportunities rather than emotion or gut-feel. In short, they are driven by profits, not passion. Unlike the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, these entrepreneurs are less likely to be fulfilling a life-long dream to own their own business or make their passion their profession.

Like a pack of velociraptors among a herd of herbivores, accidental entrepreneurs are quick to react and take advantage of changing conditions, which gives them an edge over their larger competition. These owners are resourcing and operating their company quite differently from the traditional small business; they understand technology, and they are more willing to adopt the latest trends, such as Cloud computing and virtualisation, to meet the current needs and future scalability requirements of their growing business.

Harnessing the virtualisation

To support this, we have found that South African SMBs are using virtualisation technologies as a steppingstone to the Cloud. Furthermore, the South African market is one of the fastest growing Cloud adopters in the world, second only to the UK. This is attributed to the bulk of SMBs that perceive the move to the Cloud as a cost saving exercise that allows for greater mobility and business flexibility. Some of the major concerns around Cloud adoption in SA, though, are that of security and the unknown, but this has not hampered its uptake.

Sizing up accidental entrepreneurs 

In the rubble of the recession, the impact of this explosive economic “tsunami” has been difficult to quantify, but the evidence has landed in the United States at least. New data from Forrester Consulting shows that 75% of US accidental entrepreneurs that are bullish about growth, expect their revenue to grow more than 10% over the next year, compared to just 39% of small businesses founded before the recession. And, 46% expect to double their number of employees in the next two years – that’s four times the number of pre-recession small businesses who report the same. With the right mixture of knowledge and technology, even a small business born of the economic crisis can have a real impact in the market and challenge larger competitors.

The Forrester’s study had a number of other interesting findings, for instance:

  • Profits not passion drive small businesses started post 2008. 54% of small businesses founded in the dark days of the recession consider their company a growth business (having an exit strategy) rather than lifestyle business, which is 15% higher than pre-recession companies. More than one-third of the founders of post-recession companies came from a position with a large (500+ employee) company
  • Recession-born small businesses take dramatic and immediate advantage of the Cloud. 21% of accidental entrepreneurs have zero servers versus 5% of those founded before 2008. These small businesses trust more applications to the Cloud, with 51% deploying Cloud software and 26% having implemented Cloud security, compared to just 39% and 16% of pre-2008 small businesses, respectively. Interestingly, the research found that all small businesses are aggressively adopting Cloud storage and backup.
  • Accidental entrepreneurs are better prepared to scale security. Accidental entrepreneurs are also 27% more confident that their current security solution will scale with their company’s growth over the next two years.
  • More self-sufficient in making software decisions. Whether financial/accounting/ERP, collaboration or security software, accidental entrepreneurs base their decision on what software the founder used in their previous job or that they used as a consumer. They also strongly prefer known brands. On the other hand, the majority of pre-recession small businesses base their software decision on the recommendation of a value-added reseller (VAR). For collaboration software, the difference is especially striking, with 50% of pre-recession small businesses acting on the recommendation of a VAR, while 36% of post-recession small businesses chose software that the founder used in his former job or as a consumer.

To this end, software developers globally are redefining their products and service to maximise value to the business owner. The growth and development of the IT and security industry means that services and infrastructure can scale with your business, and is no longer a barrier to entry in terms of cost, availability or functionality. Entrepreneurs can stop worrying about IT solutions and focus on what really matters – growing their business and realising their vision.

David Ribeiro is a Partner Account Manager at Symantec South Africa. He is responsible for managing the relationship between Symantec South Africa and the managed reseller Channels. During the past years with Symantec, David has been recognized for his dedication and achievements both locally and on a global level. In addition to receiving the Small Business Team of the Year awards for EMEA in 2008, he was also named the Small Business Salesperson of EMEA for FY10.

Business Landscape

Unlocking Optimism

South African entrepreneurs have one singular advantage that makes them stand out and succeed – optimism.

Howard Feldman

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Game drives. There is a remarkable similarity between the South African on a game drive and the South African entrepreneur. In both cases you’re driving through new territory on the lookout for that ultimate sighting or an opportunity. It’s the endless optimistic belief that around the next corner, after that last stretch of long, hot road, will be that crocodile eating that leopard that’s chasing a caracal. It’s an optimism that’s permeated the very fabric of our culture, our business personalities and the way we face adversity.

South Africans live with adversity every day. We face challenges and issues that our entrepreneurial counterparts in Europe or American don’t even realise exist. Adversity sits on every street corner, hangs out at every robot and reminds us of its presence whenever we stop and look around.

Yet the entrepreneur can take these complexities and harness them to be better at business and more positive in the face of failure. Here are five ways to re-examine what the world has on offer with the eye of the optimistic entrepreneur…

1. The tremendous challenges in our socio-economic and political landscape, from poor sanitation to the unemployment situation, can inspire us to do more and better the world we live in.

Today, many of the most impressive entrepreneurs on the African continent are those who stood up from within adversity and used it to create opportunity. From organisations that ensure children have sanitary pads so they can attend school to non-profit businesses that use the blind to detect breast cancer, optimistic belief in the future is the beating heart of entrepreneurial endeavour.

Related: 6 Of The Most Profitable Small Businesses In South Africa

2. Anyone can succeed

There are people standing at robots across South Africa who are using them as a shop corner, using the captive car audience to sell products and make enough money to get by. Some create works of art, some dance to an invisible beat, and some stand out in their ingenuity. There is a robot in South Africa today where a man stands selling life insurance. That’s the optimistic entrepreneur.

3. We are constantly surprising ourselves

South Africa’s transition from apartheid surprised the world. There wasn’t a bloody revolution, there was a peaceful shift. It was, and still is, imperfect, but it happened with far less brutality than many imagined. The same applied to the World Cup – the stories of doom were ready to be told, but the event was an incredible success. South Africans are capable of surprising themselves and this unexpected brilliance shines through in our ideas and our ventures.

4. Sometimes you just have to laugh

The corruption, the political manhandling, the rage, the insanity on the drive to work, the rising cost of living – the pressures of living in a volatile country take their toll, but South Africans manage to find the humour hidden in the hardness. The adverts that poke fun at the insanity, the ability to laugh at mistakes – this nation’s sense of humour is a very powerful quality that allows the South African entrepreneur to stand up and face each day with a fresh sense of purpose.

Related: 27 Of The Richest People In South Africa

5. We bounce back

The one quality that every entrepreneur needs is resilience. Businesses fail, ideas crash, customers leave and bad times arrive, but through it all self-belief and the ability to see something positive in what’s happened will ensure that lessons are learned and new paths taken. It is perhaps one of the hardest things that any entrepreneur has to learn and yet in South Africa, with its ongoing failure to provide that crocodile-leopard-caracal viewing, has imbued its entrepreneurs with the enviable qualities of patient resilience.

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Business Landscape

Depressed Economy Leading To Business Bust-ups

Palmer looks at the most common causes of business bust-ups and how to avoid them.

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News that our GDP had shrunk by 2.2% in the first quarter of the year, coupled with downward revisions of growth forecasts, are casting a pall on the investment climate. Deals are not only drying up, but there has been an increase in business partnerships bearing the brunt of the economic pressure.

After the initial flush of economic goodwill post the inauguration of President Ramaphosa, we’ve seen a flurry of business owners looking for finance to buy out their business partners.

We have had a number of attorneys and accountants refer dissatisfied partners to us who are looking to exit partnerships. When the economy slows – as we have seen over the last few months – many partnerships begin to show signs of stress. All too often partnerships are seen as tools of necessity and those who rush into these deals without properly exploring the common values between parties will not fare well when things get tough.

What many don’t understand is that undoing a partnership is not as simple as they may think and will come with legal and other costs over and above the finance to buy a partner out.

Related: Government Funding And Grants For Small Businesses

The most common causes of business bust-ups (and how to avoid them) are the following:

1. Misaligned expectations

This occurs when potentials partners don’t share a common vision of where they want to go, how they want to get there and what each wants from the deal.

Misaligned expectations of a business venture will result in disagreements sooner rather than later as they impact every strategic (and even some operational) decisions. It is worth considering a mediated session between partners before the deal is even drafted.

2. Effort Resentment

Another problem creeps in when one partner feels like they are tasked with doing all the work. Resentment around how much effort is put into the success of a venture is not something to be taken lightly – irrespective of it being based on perception or fact. Most contracts will be clear on the value of the equity each partner has, but many ignore the value of sweat equity and how that will be measured and factored into the deal structure.

3. The Golden Rule

Many partnerships are based on one individual who puts in the lion’s share of the capital and another who is committed to doing the day-today work. Effort resentment extends beyond the deal negotiation. When a contract between partners is drafted it reflects a future which is not yet known. As the venture progresses, reality will set in and the division of labour agreed at the outset may not match day-to-day business in year three or four.

It is sometimes useful to draft partnership agreements as you would a lease. Give it a three- or five-year timeframe, with clear deliverables and then, at the end of the period, reassess the partnership and allow for renewals or re-negotiation. Having a sunset clause in your partnership agreement removes the soul-crushing feeling that you are trapped in an unhappy relationship with no chance of escape.

Related: How South African Small Business Owners Can Overcome Economic Uncertainty

4. Honour amongst thieves

Although seldom encountered, there are some partnerships which fall apart because someone is doing something blatantly untoward. Finding out your partner had their hand in the till can be devastating but in tough financial times, such as we are currently experiencing, some people will resort to desperate measures.

5. Absentee landlords

In many cases, a partner may have committed capital to a venture and even agreed to joint expectations. But other work commitments (or a lack of interest) means they disappear from operations for extended periods. No-one wants to work with people who are uninterested in the future of your company. However, the truth of the matter is any breakup has associated costs. Unwinding a partnership can cost more than setting it up and this should be considered before going down that road. Many investors are involved in multiple ventures with the same partners and exiting one deal may result in prejudicing the future of others.

While no-one can predict how long the economic slump may last, minimising the potential for partnerships falling apart requires a meeting of minds. This means agreeing to a common set of values and ethics which will govern how the business is run.

Partners need to agree on how they see the world if they hope to make a success of the business relationship. Thereafter, they should explicitly voice their expectations of how the venture will work, what they want out of it, and how they see their role in achieving that result. In some instances business partners have been together longer than they have been with their spouse. It makes sense to treat the relationship with the same care. More particularly, healthy partnerships will attract more investment and will be a key decision factor when it comes to raising future funding.

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Business Landscape

Giving Our Youths The Edge That The Need To Succeed

With youth month just past, LFP Training posed a challenge to corporates via its online platforms. Using a hashtag campaign, we looked to remind the private sector of its crucial role in educating and empowering the youth.

AJ Jordaan

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young-employees

The latest IMD report depicts a grim picture of youth unemployment in SA; we currently have approximately 3.3 million youths without employment and South Africa is ranked a poor 62 out of 63 in our global competitiveness ranking. With this in mind, LFP’s #YouthMonthChallenge was created. Our team challenged corporates to do even more: whatever you are doing now, double it!

Whilst many countries prioritise their youth, our country chose to overlook them. Those who get to lead our legacy and are responsible for moving the country forward, will inherit our baggage and are left to fight some of the toughest battles yet.

What can aptly be described as a ‘system in crisis’ has left very little hope for South Africans. AJ Jordaan, Sales Manager for LFP Training says that a weak foundation from pre-primary onwards has left us with my unemployed and uneducated people, with very little hope of a successful future. “At LFP, we provide learnerships to the unemployed and disabled thanks to the assistance of corporates. A key requirement is that the learner should have a Grade 10 qualification. We see learners of all ages – some fall into the youth category whilst others are still fighting unemployment at an old age,”

“Many lack confidence and are truly victims of a flawed system. Basic education at a public level has certainly failed many South Africans and as a result, us as private sector participants are left to pick up the pieces” says AJ.

Related: 10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets

AJ explains that with all the odds stacked against the learners who come onto their courses, it might be surprising to hear that LFP Training’s pass rate well-surpasses the industry norm. “When you think about it, we receive unemployed, disabled and often very destitute learners”

“We believe that LFP’s pass rate signifies the benchmark for what our country could be. If we go the extra mile, employ quality educators and provide more opportunities in a growth conducive environment, our youths certainly will flourish. LFP Training’s formula once again proved itself in April when we hosted a graduation for more than 500 learners; a record-breaking ceremony” says AJ.

The formula takes all the wrongs of the system and rights them. “Beyond theory and winning methodology, we connect with our learners. Every single facilitator, moderator and employee at LFP Training is fair, compassionate, patient, stern when needed, knowledgeable and truly understands that more than just a learnership, this is actually an emotional journey for our learners too. We take the time to recognise and address weaknesses, ensure that our facilitators have a firm understanding of our course materials and can connect with the learners”

“We want to equip people for the workplace and ensure that they are hungry and able to take on opportunities. By giving people the tools to succeed, we have seen them do exactly this. Beyond circumstances, we know what it takes to create great leaders and we don’t let their pasts dictate their futures” AJ concludes.

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