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Business Landscape

Closing Deals In Africa – Keep It Flexible

Distance, economic and cultural market realities, regulatory requirements (or the lack thereof) and subtle variations in the way business is done, can all impact significantly on the outcome of a deal in Africa.

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Structuring and closing deals across African markets often demands more from South African based sales teams. Distance, economic and cultural market realities, regulatory requirements (or the lack thereof) and subtle variations in the way business is done, can all impact significantly on the outcome of a deal in Africa.

Africa – not a ‘copy and paste’ continent

Africa is not a market for ‘cut and paste’ replication of business models or products – an approach taken by many when launching their products and/or services on the continent. It requires adaption of these models, services and products to fit the local market conditions.

For example, where South African consumers are accustomed to monthly subscription models, consumers in many African markets prefer a flexible, no-obligation per-day model, even if this ultimately costs them more monthly.

In many cases, this is because people live on less than a dollar-a-day and they simply don’t know if they will have the disposable income to be able to afford the subscription tomorrow. Social realities such as these must be appreciated.

Related: How To Effectively Nurture Leads Earned into Deals Closed

Understanding the market is key

The best way to get to grips with the on-the-ground realities in another African country is to visit the country regularly, experience and discuss the conditions there and listen to what local stakeholders are saying about challenges and opportunities.

It is crucial to understand the client’s operating environment and customise your offering accordingly, to ensure that your solution can genuinely work to help the client address market challenges. This approach requires more thought and research because of these complicated conditions.

Be flexible or you won’t do the deal

Added to the above, in many pan-African regions, potential business partners are loath to make significant upfront investments – particularly when entering relatively unchartered territory such as video on-demand, not only because of potentially high set up costs, but also because the time and demand for market uptake is so indeterminable.

Build trust

trusting-relationship

Successful business across African markets depends on networking, relationships and trust. It is this consistent and collaborative dialogue with prospective partners that ensures positive outcomes are achieved.

Business models must be flexible and be structured around a model that best suits the local partner without compromising your own business requirements. These could take many forms, either an Opex model, a co-investment or a small-scale proof of concept.

This flexibility can often pave the way for bigger things later on and have regularly proven in our business to be the catalyst for closing the deal.

Related: How To Build A Winning Investment Case To Hook Investors

Exercise patience

Communication, in general, across Africa’s vast distances can prove challenging. All processes can take a lot longer than we are used to in South Africa and one should also be sensitive to subtle differences in the way in which these sales and communication interactions are handled.

Bulldozing your way into the market is not the answer, this will likely bring an abrupt end to talks around opportunities and products even though there was an appetite for both.

The keys to successful negotiations and deal closing are mutual trust, collaboration and market knowledge.

Leverage networks

Across Africa, possibly more so than in South Africa and more developed markets, business is further built on broader industry networks and relationships.

A business seeking expansion into Africa must leverage its existing networks for introductions and can expand these subsequent collective partnerships, where relevant or possible, to drive even greater synergistic objectives and achieve mutually-beneficial outcomes. Once all challenges have been overcome, you should not be afraid to push for the deal.

Related: At 21 Rodney Norman’s Business Owed R1 Million. Today He Has A R100 Million Turnover

However, you may have to wait twice as long for an answer in Africa as you do in South Africa. Where a deal might be concluded in six months in South Africa, it could take up to 12 or even 18 months to be finalised in many markets across Africa. Patience, once again, controlled persistence and communication remain crucial throughout the process.

Dale Rosenberg is the Executive Head: Commercial at Discover Digital. South African on-demand solutions specialist Discover Digital offers solutions for the delivery of digital video content. Discover Digital provides the technology solutions and a full TVOD and SVOD service, including content licensing, content administration, content delivery, billing integration and licence settlements and reporting. We have developed a range of software and hardware products, web and mobile device applications and kiosks compatible with our technology to ensure we can provide total solutions across fixed line, mobile and unconnected/offline market requirements.

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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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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