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President Ramaphosa’s Support Of Entrepreneurs And SMEs In SONA Had Us Cheering

President Ramaphosa reminded us that while change can produce uncertainty, it also presents great opportunities for “renewal and revitalisation, and for progress”.

Mari Schourie

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Like so many South Africans, instead of going out to play, I stayed home on Friday night to watch our new president deliver his maiden State of the Nation Address. And like so many of my fellow citizens, I felt revitalised by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s commitment to setting our beloved country on a path of growth and optimism for the future.

More, though, I was thrilled that President Ramaphosa recognised how vitally important it is for everyone – business and government and citizens – to support entrepreneurs and small businesses. It is something that as a company, we’ve made a core part of our business. Being in the co-working and serviced office industry, we work with entrepreneurs and small businesses every day. They are the backbone of our business.

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

As such, we’ve developed in-house programmes to support them. When we can utilise their services ourselves, we do. A member of the co-working space, who has a catering company, runs our coffee shop in headoffice. We run workshops and knowledge hubs to encourage ongoing skills development and the joy of learning. We’ve even put some of our entrepreneurs at the centre of our marketing campaigns; we live and breathe the business lives of our entrepreneur members. And we learn from them too.

Economic growth sustained by small business

So when President Ramaphosa said that ultimately, “the growth of our economy will be sustained by small businesses, as is the case in many countries”, I couldn’t help cheering. Recognising entrepreneurs and small businesses sometimes means changing our thinking, looking a little bit further than our immediate surroundings.

In his speech, President Ramaphosa said government would honour its undertaking to set aside at least 30 percent of public procurement to SMMEs, co-operatives and township and rural enterprises and would continue to invest in small business incubation. “We encourage business to do the same,” he said.

And we would encourage the public to think about it too. Instead of employing the services of a major corporate or chain, is there a small business nearby that does the same work? Do you have local suppliers in your area that you could use? Is there an innovative service in your area started by an entrepreneur you could support? Do you think about where you buy your products and services, or you on autopilot? When you discover a fantastic small business, do you tell your friends? Do you post on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram and take note of it?

As Ramaphosa says, “It is our shared responsibility to grow this vital sector of the economy. We will work with our social partners to build a small business support ecosystem that assists, nourishes and promotes entrepreneurs”.

Related: Small Business Savvy: Why You Need Negotiation Skills

Centre of the economic agenda

Yes! We are trying to do the same thing in our own way. For example, we recently opened a co-working/serviced office development in downtown Johannesburg’s central business district. While co-working is becoming a more established trend in workspaces, what makes the Village Road The Workspace different is that this time we are collaborating with MiWay business insurance to launch an entrepreneurial hub and business development programme within the space.

The thinking is that we should become a mecca for start-ups, entrepreneurs and small business owners. This partnership will bring a number of benefits to members, including monthly knowledge hubs hosted by professional speakers as well as industry related workshops where guest speakers will impart business know-how to members.

We also believe that by supporting and funding an entrepreneur competition, which will run over the next nine months, we will give voice to our belief in entrepreneurship and its ability to create jobs. We will be able to showcase innovative businesses, with four employees or less. And the prize will give the winning business a major headstart by funding office space, office requirements, and insurance requirements etc for a year. Imagine not having to pay those things every month. Freeing up that money to put back into a business.

President Ramaphosa has promised young South Africans will be the “centre of the economic agenda”. At the centre of the national agenda is job creation, especially for young people. He praised the CEO’s Initiative of launching a R1.5 billion small business fund, remarking that it was an “outstanding” example of the role the private sector can play. Government will do its bit by reducing the regulatory barriers for small business and finalising a small business and innovation fund for start-ups.

This is fantastic news. President Ramaphosa reminded us that while change can produce uncertainty, it also presents great opportunities for  “renewal and revitalisation, and for progress”.

We are behind him every step of the way. And will continue to do our bit. So if you know of an innovative entrepreneur business out there, with four people or less, encourage them to take a step closer to their dreams.

Mari Schourie is CEO of The Workspace, part of the InteSpace group of companies, provider of flexible space solutions including XtraSpace Self Storage, SpaceBox, Ecobox, ACT Logistics, Big Box and Multibox in Mauritius.

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Business Landscape

Micro-Entrepreneurs Making An Impact in Less Developed Communities

The study reinforces the fact that we are living in a global world where the power of management technology can be used across the world for the betterment of mankind.

John Roberts

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One might well ask, “What do micro-entrepreneurs in urban and slum neighborhoods across Cape Town, South Africa have to learn from the elite business schools of the world?  It turns out that the answer to this question is: “Plenty.”

I recently had the honour of being Chairman of Judges of the prestigious Gary Lilien Practice Prize given by the INFORMS Society for Marketing Science, in conjunction with the Marketing Science Institute and the European Marketing Academy. The award winning study proves that the tools of marketing science can make a major positive impact in helping to grow disadvantaged economies like the ones in Cape Town.

The award winner was a 2016 study of 850 Cape Town entrepreneurs led by Stephen Anderson-Macdonald of Stanford University, Rajesh Chandy of the London Business School and Bilal Zia of the World Bank.  They tested three interventions when trying to gauge the best way to help small retailers in the slums of South Africa grow their business: The first group was given training in marketing and sales, the second group was given training in finance and accounting, and the third control group was given no assistance, being told that they would receive training on the next round.

The researchers found significant improvements in profitability from both types of business skills training, relative to the control. Monthly profits increased by 30-40% on average for both. However, more interestingly, the way these gains were achieved differed substantially between the two groups.

The small business owners who received marketing training tended to improve and become more profitable through a focus on growth. They increased sales, purchased extra stock and materials, and added more part-time sales staff. These entrepreneurs also implemented more marketing related business practices (e.g., market research, marketing tactics, sales tactics). By contrast, the finance group achieved similar profit gains but through an “efficiency focus” on lower costs and the use of more finance and accounting practices.  While both led to more viable businesses, in terms of employment and business activity, it was marketing that grew the pie.

Related: Attention Black Entrepreneurs: Start-Up Funding From Government Grants & Funds

The study shows that powerful 21st century tools are being used in the townships in South Africa and that they can be extremely effective. Anderson-MacDonald and Chandy’s suggested tools include:

  • Take time out from your day to day activities to think about your business. Don’t let your business be busyness.
  • Look at your business from the point of view of your customers and potential customers. Put yourself in their shoes so that you can feel the reaction that they have to your products and services.  That will help identify where you can meet their needs better and any unmet needs that they might have.
  • Look for leverage points in your business.  That is, where are the points where you can make the greatest change for the least amount of effort?
  • Think of the criteria of success for your business.  For any initiative to succeed, it has to satisfy four criteria.
    • Can I do this?  Understand your capabilities and how you are going to develop them.
    • Do I want to do this? Make sure you think about what you want to achieve and do those things which will get you to where you want to go.
    • Will customers value this? An analysis of the things that your customers value, need, want (such as consistency) and the things that they don’t (such as gold-plating) will help you.
    • Will the market let you do this?  Have a good feel for the size of the market, the competition, your supply and collaborators, the economic climate and other environmental factors.
  • Generate options creatively.  Take time to brain storm with your friends and family around new products and services, new customers and markets, opportunities to grow the value and frequency of purchase of your existing products, etc.  Successful businesses recognise opportunities that others fail to see.
  • When you have done your analysis, generated your options for growth, work out a migration path.  You have your vision, now you need that first step on the path to achieving it.  Undertake little pilot projects, start by picking the low hanging fruit (the easiest opportunity), and don’t be discouraged by early failures but learn from them as much as you can.

The study reinforces the fact that we are living in a global world where the power of management technology can be used across the world for the betterment of mankind.

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Business Landscape

We Need To Unite For A Better Entrepreneurial Future!

Here are my key entrepreneurial tips from The Passport Showcase.

Godfrey Madanhire

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In our modern world, where nationalists walk the street and xenophobic beliefs are on the rise, as a Zimbabwean serial entrepreneur and motivational speaker, I’ve identified that we need to bridge this division and unite us all through celebrating our diversity.

We need to come together not because it’s the right thing to do, but because united, we can work towards a profitable future.  However, before this can happen, we need to change the global mindset. That’s why I transformed my book The Passport into a showcase in which performers from across the continent took part and showed off their talents.

While preparing for the show I noted some important lessons that I learnt along the way. Here are my key entrepreneurial tips from The Passport Showcase.

Success can’t happen in a vacuum!

Setting up The Passport Showcase took a lot of collaboration. As an entrepreneur and a believer in a united Africa, I’ve learned you can’t operate a successful business if you’re not willing to work and deliver services to everyone. It’s for this reason I invited fashion designers, artists, and dancers, to come together and educate us about the dangers of xenophobic beliefs through their art forms.

We need to be able to blend skills and overcome our preconceived notions, in business and the arts, so that we can achieve great things.

Related: As An Entrepreneur, Be A Motivational Leader To Your Staff

Education is the key to every problem

It’s a part of starting any business; educating the public about your company and quickly converting them into consumers. Arguably the same was true of the showcase, creating a truly unique experience to inform the public about celebrating diversity.

Helping individuals understand that acceptance is key for a better future is critical for business expansion. If any of us want to expand our businesses, we need to be able to engage with different markets – who won’t chase away the unknown.

Be different

Identifying a new opportunity is one of the fundamental building blocks for a new business. Finding unique solutions is a truth that echoes across corporate industries and the arts. But change can cause concern and adverse reactions.

On our continent, ideas that disrupt the norm are needed to catapult our brothers and sisters to a brighter future. But this can only be achieved when we celebrate our diversities and collaborate.

Related: 8 Books Every Manager Should Read To Become A Better Leader

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Business Landscape

9 Ways To Elevate Your Small Business To The Next Level

The South African economy is strongly supported by the nation’s entrepreneurial spirit, which encourages a culture of growth and development in communities.

FedEx

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With the unemployment rate currently at 27.71%, people of all ages and backgrounds are looking for an opportunity to work.

Although many entrepreneurs have enjoyed great success on their small business journeys, choosing to start your own business comes with many risks. One of these risks is the financial burden it can bring. While there are various challenges faced by small businesses, it is possible to overcome these and jumpstart your business with these useful tips from FedEx Express, the world’s largest express transportation company.

1. Connect with customers

As a small business owner, it is important to know who your customers are, where they spend their time, what they are looking for and how your business can meet their needs. Times have changed and waiting for customers to come to you is no longer a feasible business strategy. In today’s evolving business environment, entrepreneurs need to be approaching their customers and building strong relationships with them to form a lasting impression. If your small business cannot grow its customer base, it cannot grow profits.

2. Network

Attending networking events will allow you to find professionals and other small business owners who offer services your business may require. Many small business owners get this critical aspect of starting a new business wrong by networking purely to gain customers, not realising that networking with other business can assist you in acquiring the services you need to continue the growth of your business. Small businesses have a lot to gain through networking at the right time and at relevant events.

Related: Licensed To Thrill: Meeting The Global Demand For Merchandised Products

3. Use social media

There are a number of social media networks and social networking platforms that can drastically grow your business, however, it is important to understand your customers and identify the channels they prefer to communicate on. By implementing a comprehensive social media strategy, you can ensure social media works as a driver of new business that positively promotes your service offerings.

4. Build customer loyalty

Building customer loyalty begins with great customer service. Great customer service starts with a positive customer experience and first impressions are vital in this regard. If a customer has an enjoyable experience when using your services, it is likely they will return and use your services on an ongoing basis. By ensuring your business has a user friendly website and informative brand collateral, new business prospects will increase and those who have experienced quality customer service from your business are likely to refer you to friends and colleagues.

5. Ask for help

All small businesses face challenges, particularly in the early operational stage. This is why asking for help from your peers/mentor who may be more experienced than you is critical. Tapping into the mind of someone with more experience and a broader knowledge base will ensure you learn and acquire the skills needed to make a success of your business. The FedEx Small Business portal offers business owners useful advice that will assist you on your small business journey. Visit www.smallbusiness.fedex.com for tips and success stories that will inspire and help you to grow your small business.

6. Hire the right people

Each person that forms part of your business needs to share the same vision with you that will drive growth. Your workforce will be responsible for the success of your business therefore, ensuring your staff remains motivated is important. When hiring a new employee, implement a check list that includes traits that you feel are imperative to the culture of your business.

Asking out-of-the-box questions in the interview will also assist you in determining if the potential employee is a suitable candidate to fill the open position.

7. Manage cash flow well

Many small businesses close due to cash flow problems. Managing money spent versus money earned is critical as it provides you with a clear indication of whether your business is running at a loss or whether you are excelling. If your small business is losing money, you can implement a strategy to iron out the issues that are contributing to this and identify ways that will ensure your business generates profits.

Related: How Online Embroidery Shop Trish Burr Found Business Success With Support From FedEx Express

8. Work to build success

Work to make a success out of your business with your employees by being involved in the everyday activities that are critical to your businesses success. Being involved will ensure employee morale remains high while allowing you to identify areas that need improvement.

9. Find inspiration

There will always be someone who has been in your current position, even if it is a different business to yours. Learning how they made a success of their business during hard times will provide you with the knowledge you need to succeed as a business owner. Starting your own business is a learning experience made easier by speaking to others who inspire you.

A business can safeguard its success if it continues to innovate. For example, e-commerce has changed the way the world conducts business, and the rise in technology has made it easier to interact with customers quickly and across borders. With economies becoming more interconnected, companies large and small are now able to access markets that were previously unattainable. E-commerce will assist small businesses in establishing their territory in the market and as a result, guarantee growth and longevity,” concludes Higley.

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