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Business Landscape

Never Mind The New Dawn – The Sun’s Shining For Brave SA Entrepreneurs

How do you manage risks and where do you find opportunities where the ‘sensible’ money fears to tread?

Marc Wachsberger

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We’re planning to open two new apartment hotels each year, which is a pretty aggressive growth strategy in an environment where land expropriation without compensation is the hot topic of the moment, and investors are looking beyond our borders for growth opportunities.

However, I believe that smart entrepreneurs find opportunity in every financial climate, no matter how dire it may seem on the surface. For example, current investor caution means that those who are willing to take calculated risks face less competition – now and in the long term.

In our sector, international hotel groups are slowing or even halting any investment in improving existing properties or developing new ones. For us, that means our competition is thinning, and that there are more opportunities for us to build on prime sites for which we would have had stiff, if not insurmountable, competition in the past.

Related: 10 SA Entrepreneurs Who Built Their Businesses From Nothing

How do you manage risks and where do you find opportunities where the ‘sensible’ money fears to tread?

  • If an issue seems to be an obstacle, do your research to understand all the implications. In the property business, we’re finding out how to structure our new builds and acquisitions so that they’re unlikely targets for any potential expropriation, including focusing on transformation, job creation, and promoting tourism – all elements of the National Development Plan.
  • Find ways to make your investment opportunities appealing. For example, Section 12J of the Income Tax Act offers scope to create investment options that reduce tax liability and offer alternative sources of return.
  • One of South Africa’s biggest challenges is a shortage of skills. We’re changing that by investing in our people, giving them access to training and career growth opportunities, and teaching them how to be entrepreneurs. We believe that these skills will either help our business grow, or they’ll give the individuals the courage they need to launch their own businesses – yet another great outcome for the country.
  • While South Africa is developed in many ways, it still has many characteristics of an emerging market. This means that there are still many opportunities for brave entrepreneurs here, equipped with the ‘can-do’ attitude for which we are famous, that wouldn’t likely be available in more developed markets.
  • Even though countries like Nigeria and Kenya are gateways to their regions, South Africa remains a gateway to SADEC countries and markets beyond. Adapting your products or services to appeal to those travelling through South Africa is a way of growing your client base too. For example, we have found that our apartment hotels in the Sandton district are particularly popular with visitors from the continent who come to the city to shop – but who don’t like local food. They choose our hotels because they can prepare their own favourites in our apartments’ fully equipped kitchens – clear example of how adapting to meet the needs of a potentially ‘lost’ opportunity can carve a niche for your business.
  • Work harder than your competitors to convince bankers and shareholders that you’ve done everything possible – and then some – to manage risk. If you can tell a compelling story supported by solid facts, investors are likely to make decisions more quickly, giving you the edge over your competitors.

Related: 10 Successful SA Women Entrepreneurs’ Top Advice On Balancing Work And Family

Ours is truly a homegrown business, with long term plans to continue our growth throughout South Africa. Current risks have certainly made us sharpen our proverbial pencils but using these risks to identify opportunities and research them into reality has seen us stand out from our competitors.

Any business that takes the time to interrogate challenges properly will find opportunities where others flee in uninformed fear. Do your homework and you’ll agree with me: South Africa really is one of the best places in the world to build a new business.

Marc Wachsberger, managing director of The Capital Hotels and Apartments, one of the largest providers of fully serviced luxury apartments and hotel rooms in South Africa.

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Business Landscape

Medium-Sized Businesses Reap Greater Rewards In Tough Times

With prominent industry names being added to business rescue reports almost every week, risking it all in times such as these may sound ludicrous.

Kristly McCarthy

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We’ve said it before: Diversifying, streamlining and investing in new ventures during the tough times is vital to a company’s survival.

Running a successful and diverse business requires resources, passion and an unwavering vision. Poised for continuous growth, a company looks to its team of forward-thinking, calculated risk takers to help prepare and invest for the future, now.

Investing in the future and creating wealth means doing things right – right now. With headlines such as ‘real estate investments in SA increase by R28 billion’ and ‘the industrial sector is the top performer in the SA property market’, it makes sense to put your money where your mouth is in 2018.

Bartlett Construction is one such company. Wayne Bartlett, Contract’s Director for Bartlett Construction says that the company opened its property division several years ago in a quest to gain more market share and use its expertise to cultivate a robust property portfolio.

“Accelerating our economy through investment is key. While there are still high hopes for SA in 2018, applying a long-term strategy to property investment allows you to reap the real rewards in future,” says Wayne.

Related: The Ultimate 101 List Of Business Ideas To Start Your Own Business In South Africa

Acquiring, building and renovating factories and industrial spaces has been a focus for the company over the past few years. “We have all seen the headlines about the industrial sector performing well in terms of property and this is true. It’s truly sad to see some of the big names (in all industries) undergoing business rescue but ultimately, waiting for times to change and focusing on one strategy is never advisable – especially not in a market such as this one” he continues.

Creating a scalable business in times such as these is key. Wayne notes that medium-sized companies have remained notably robust by ensuring just the right amount of resources to remain lean, yet effective.

“The economic downturn has had significant impact on both big and small companies. Companies with high overheads, many employees and massive contracts on the line have been most affected. Small companies, on the other hand, with very little business and resources who rely on business from big and medium businesses have also taken a knock.”

Established more than half a century ago and with Wayne having 30-plus years of experience in the industry, it’s fair to say that he has seen it all. “What’s helped our company through the years is remaining scalable and finding balance. Times are tough, and everyone is feeling the pinch – success is dependent on how the industry performs but we try our best to never over invest or under invest; we diversify whilst maintaining high-levels of competency in our current projects, we are fair and reward long-standing, loyal employees who give us that competitive edge and we adapt according to industry and client needs.” Wayne concludes.

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Business Landscape

How To Leverage Partnerships, Industry Associations & Endorsements

Nobody can succeed in business entirely on their own without personal as well as professional support. ‘Signing up’ can be a deciding factor in the growth of a company, says the Proudly SA CEO.

Eustace Mashimbye

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Leverage by association can be a great business tool. Hitching your wagon to an industry associated body, joining a local chamber of commerce, or seeking a respected contemporary’s endorsement can change your brand recognition struggle to an opportunity. Becoming part of a whole new entity can be one of the best decisions you will ever make.

How to choose your partner or affiliation?

You know the expression ‘Two heads are better than one’ so you should choose a partner or affiliation that exposes you to twice as big an audience as you can reach alone, preferably with a different customer base. Find an association that fits with your own business ethos and has the same goals as you, otherwise you will find you are working against each other rather than complementing each other.

What do you stand to gain?

By association you will appear in listings, on websites, you will be invited to related events where you can network your socks off, and in some cases, doors will automatically be opened for you. Visibly aligning yourself with an organisation that can propel your brand and/or product into the market place should be grabbed with both hands.

What does the partner stand to gain?

Your relationship with a partner should be symbiotic, benefitting from each other’s contacts as well as a platform for sharing ideas.

Related: How Do I Register A Partnership And What Documents Are Involved?

What are my responsibilities towards the other party in the relationship?

Perhaps you will have to add a logo to your marketing collateral or packaging, perhaps you will have to comply to standards even higher than those you set for yourself. Perhaps you will have to pay subs or a small joining fee, or even a large joining fee, so you need to decide what you can afford and when.

But you must view the relationship in a positive light even if it involves redesigning artwork or re jigging your material. There is no point in ‘signing up’ if you’re not prepared to share your brand affiliation with your customers and suppliers. It’s like getting married and refusing to wear a ring.

How long should I sign up for?

You really should take a long-term view of any marketing relationship. Your hook up may take time to filter down into the market place, you may have a lot of pre- relationship stock that doesn’t have the logo of your new partner on it, so you will need to give a fair chance to the whole exercise.

What happens if one party brings the other company into disrepute by association?

No one wants to be brought down if someone or something with which you are closely associated is found not to be quite as ethical or honest as you. Don’t forget this isn’t a JV, it’s a brand partnership, and so as long as you are operating separately, you will always be able to distance yourself from any scandal should the need arise. (But hopefully you chose your brand affiliation well!) , but by and large, being the single part of a whole can only be beneficial when you’re starting to build your brand.

How does using the Proudly South African ‘tick’ logo fit in?

The Proudly SA logo is the mark of an authentically locally grown, manufactured or produced item or service that is of proven high quality. It can be leveraged in the same way as any other brand affiliation and can assist in providing access to market and building trust with your buyers and suppliers.

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Business Landscape

The Differences Between A Supplier Relationship, Agency And Distributor

To a large extent I suppose it depends on industry, the vision of the business and how quickly you wish to scale.

Nicolene Schoeman-Louw

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Many businesses reach the point where they have to consider in which way to best expand its market share and reach. In many industries, a customer and supplier arrangement are sufficient, but in others different arrangements such as agency or distribution are preferred.

So, the question is – what is best and when?

Well, to a large extent I suppose it depends on industry, the vision of the business and how quickly you wish to scale.

1. Supplier / Customer

This is a typical arrangement of a willing buyer willing seller. In most instances this is the typical way in which business is run or at the very least to a large degree this is the starting point. Clients or customers are typically engaged by agreement usually a form of terms and conditions or perhaps even an agreement detailing credit.

Related: Supplier Agreements – Do I Need A Written Agreement?

2. Agency

An agency agreement could either relate to an individual or an organisation. This means an individual or a business could represent the supplier of the goods or services and earn a commission or remuneration for their efforts to sell the goods or services.

In this context an individual is often referred to as a “rep”, which is a typical arrangement for wholesalers marketing products to retailers.  In many instances these agreements do not constitute employment contracts and further, the agent does not buy and on-sell the products.

The agent usually refers orders to the supplier and therefore is cost effective for both parties and further limits risk. This also means that the supplier benefits from a relatively low input cost and commitment but increased sale. An important portion of an agreement such as this is that the agent has certain powers in representing the supplier.  It is therefore of crucial importance that the agent’s powers are constructed in such a way as to serve the needs and best interests of both parties.

3. Distribution

A crucial difference between agency agreements and distribution is twofold – one: that the distributor does not have any power of representation as an agent would typically have. Secondly, that the distributor usually purchases the goods / products from the supplier and then stores, transports and sells, as the case may be. In most cases these agreements are confined to goods.

It is therefore important for the business to assess what would sell the most products or services in the shortest space of time. Then to seek professional advice to construct the most suitable agreement.

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