It’s unfortunate reality that because of the high level of crime in South Africa, it’s imperative that SME owners know how to protect their business, themselves and their employees against crime.
Recent surveys have highlighted the following factors:
- Crime is the biggest worry for SMEs, especially in the sectors of retail, transport (garages), corner cafes and in emerging businesses in previously disadvantaged areas;
- At the present time, there is little confidence about any progress of relief for the future. Many do not see any decrease in crime levels over the next year and a third expect crime levels to rise;
- Burglaries and robberies are the most prominent crimes affecting SME owners;
- In one survey, 54% interviewed had experienced one incident of crime in the past year, 31% twice and 20% three times; with
- The main target being cash and saleable goods
The really bad news is that many have limited or no security systems, mainly because of the expense involved, and many do not have insurance cover. Also, although the actual figures are not known, most reported crimes were only made by those who had insurance cover and needed a case number so that they could claim on their insurance. So the correct figures will never be known.
In the upper market areas, although systems were often in place and the owner had insurance cover, the level of crime was still high because the pickings were much greater and the criminals were taking more risks, especially in retail stores and jewellery shops.
The negative psychological impact of exposure to crime was very evident amongst those surveyed, noting that trauma and stress cannot be measured of course.
What can SME owners do?
The following points are a guide line:
- As a business owner, foster better communication with your local police and insist on a follow up by the police;
- Keep in touch with your local neighborhood watch;
- Have a good relationship with other owners nearby;
- You must know your nearest police station, hospital and fire station and importantly know how to contact them;
- Always be alert and aware of persons in the vicinity of you premises;
- Don’t let persons into your premises without knowing who they are and ensure that they are escorted;
- Don’t have trees, shrubs blocking entrances, windows, fencing etc;
- Try to get finances to assist you with getting systems such as guards, alarms and especially insurance cover in place;
- Report crime even if the perpetrators are not found;
- Don’t keep cash on your premises, lock it away;
- Have a clean desk policy;
- Watch danger periods and protect your staff going to the banks, change their routes etc;
- Don’t leave staff alone at night time;
- Beware of persons looking for jobs;
- Don’t leave brief cases, important documents etc in your car;
- Check out your staff carefully before employing them, with proper background checks – they may be in league with criminals;
- Employee relationships are vital – create a positive work place and lead by example;
- Ensure your premises are totally secured at night time, weekends etc;
- Have good lighting in and outside your premises;
- Do you prosecute staff who steal? There are many reasons for saying no, but I believe that the right course of action is to prosecute. However, you must go into court with clean hands. In other words, if you yourself are breaking the law – and your staff know – it could prevent you prosecuting, otherwise they will report you as well;
- You have an obligation to protect your staff and their assets;
- Make sure your fire extinguishers are in order and you have first aid equipment available;
- In buying a SME, a security due diligence is necessary – has the seller kept to the law etc.
Understanding threat situations
With regard to specific offences the following points are relevant:
1. Robbery/Hi-jacking situation
- Often the criminal is armed
- Accept their requests – do not argue
- Don’t try to negotiate
- It is imperative to identify the robber in one way or the other – such as language, names if used, weapons being used, kind of vehicle escaping in
- Do not activate alarms unless it is really safe to do so
- Deal with the persons in stress-get help
- And always follow the DETAIL code:
- DRESS – what was the robber wearing
- ETHNIC COLOUR – Skin, complexion
- TALLNESS AND BUILD – Skinny, fat, tall, thin
- AGE – Mid 20s etc
- IMPERFECTIONS – Limp, scars, speech
- LOCKS (HAIR) – Length, wavy, clean, dirty
2. Shop lifting
The increase in shoplifting is a cause for concern. Small shop owners must get professional advice – such as lighting, mirrors, searching etc.
To the small business owner, you don’t want to be a victim of security – precautions are necessary, so put them in place. Get training and learn from others experienced in fighting crime.
Having your own business can give you great rewards, but one of the dangers is crime. Learn how to deal with it, it will be to your advantage.
Customer Control For Entrepreneurs
How can small companies exert a degree of control over their customer base and help ‘guide’ them in such a way that they remain loyal and continue purchasing from them?
No organisation, irrespective its size, industry, and geographic location, can succeed without customers. And given how the digital environment has made it easier for competitors across sectors to emerge, entrepreneurs are especially under pressure to balance customer needs and desires, with value propositions that still make them money.
There is clearly a fine balancing act to manage.
On the one hand, you have people who (thanks to technology) are aware of the power they have over product development and pricing. After all, if a competitor sells a product or service at a lower price, who is the customer going to go with? Add to this, the ability to customise solutions according to data analysis of specific end user needs, then you have a situation where many entrepreneurs feel they are facing a never-ending struggle.
On the other, small to medium businesses must be able to produce products and services in such a way that cash flow is maintained. As any entrepreneur can attest to, not having a reliable cash flow is tantamount to business failure. So, how can small companies exert a degree of control over their customer base and help ‘guide’ them in such a way that they remain loyal and continue purchasing from them?
One of the most important elements in this regard is managing customer expectations. The emergence of social media and the power it has to influence people’s buying decisions, cannot be overestimated. Today, more than ever before, the likes of word of mouth, marketing, and public relations as a direct result of social networking can often grow or sink a burgeoning business.
It has also created a dynamic where customers feel that if they leave a negative comment or ask a question, they expect a response almost immediately. For entrepreneurs already trying to do everything themselves while managing the business, this can often be a major cause of frustration. But it does not have to be the case.
By setting parameters up front with customers in terms of response times, queries, and even experiences, small businesses can start leveraging the power of social networking and other digital communication technologies for their benefit.
Being pro-active and taking charge of these expectations puts the organisation in more control than if a hands-off approach is followed.
Openness and transparency might sound like luxuries no entrepreneur can afford, but these concepts build strongly from managing expectations. Having open discussions with customers on aspects of support, product requirements, and even their (the end user) own expectations can greatly assist a small company to provide a more bespoke approach to products and services.
In addition, by providing customers with various resources (think troubleshooting or ‘self-help’), the entrepreneur is empowering them to take control of their own experiences with the company. It also means they are not as reliant on company resources if they were to phone the organisation or email a complaint. The added benefit to this approach is the customer can manage their own experiences when they have the time to do so irrespective of whether it is 10:00 or 22:00.
Granted, the path to customer control (perceived or otherwise) is not an easy one to take. However, no entrepreneur can afford not to take notice of these requirements and put the customer at the forefront of their thinking.
What Can Businesses Expect From The Future Of Work?
While the future of work will always be a constant process of innovation and change, here are a few things that business today can expect in the near future.
The phrase “future of work” is something professionals have been talking about since the birth of the traditional workplace in the late 19th century.
Once defined by cubicles that were arranged neatly side by side with meeting rooms and, of course, the head office with an amazing view of the skyline, today’s offices are strikingly different.
Over the last decade, there has been a surge in the development of open-plan offices, and more and more companies are moving their employees to co-working spaces and experimenting with remote work. For businesses that are still straddling the traditional office, but looking to embrace the future of work, it could be overwhelming at first. While the future of work will always be a constant process of innovation and change, here are a few things that business today can expect in the near future.
Expect flat hierarchies
In 2017, most companies have recognised that employees, especially younger ones are turned off by the conventional hierarchies that once dominated the world place.
Start-ups and small businesses often pride themselves on their “flat” workplace culture, which aims to give both leaders and employees the chance to give input on an equal level. In theory, these structures aim to make room for more innovation and also to help workers feel more appreciated in their roles.
Yet, it doesn’t come without its issues. There have been various studies showing that egalitarian workplace structures can be disorienting and can potentially result in higher turnover rates, as employees feel lost in their roles. Thus, it will take time for the workplace to strike a balance between structure and equality, but so far it seems we are well on our way.
The architecture of the office space is changing rapidly
Chances are you’ve heard of open-plan offices. With corporate giants like Facebook and Google companioning the flexible workspace, company around the world are breaking down literal walls to create airy and open offices that encourage collaboration.
Again, much like the flat workspace, open-plan offices need to be considerate of individual needs. While many workers appreciate the chance to work in a more informal setting, the open office has also faced criticism for introducing new distractions by not including enough private areas, which can lead to a downturn in productivity. As a result, more companies are turning to co-working spaces, which offer both workspace and community space.
Co-working spaces differ from open-offices in the way that they provide community management, structure, and flexibility, ensuring that workers have their needs met, whether that means a private office for the whole company or a hot desk for workers who just want to come in a couple of times during the week.
Remote work will be commonplace
Allowing employees to work remotely has proven to be successful. Companies have been introducing remote days over the last five years, and some even allow their staff to telecommute on a full-time basis. In the early days of the freelance ecosystem, remote work was considered to be unprofessional, but we have learned over the years the allowing employees to telecommute, even on a part-time basis can make them more productive and satisfied in their roles.
There’s no doubt that advancements in communication tools, such as Slack, have allowed workers more freedom, but there are also enormous benefits for businesses as well.
Companies can save on overhead costs by moving teams into a co-working space, or take out a flexible lease in combination with allowing workers to work outside of the office, even if it’s just a few days a week. By saving on rent and utilities, leaders can make room in their budget to invest in employees, by offering educational workspaces or purchasing new equipment.
Overall, these changes have a long way to go before they become permanent fixtures in the workplace. In fact, many businesses are now experimenting with various workplaces trends to find what works best for them and their employees.
Yet, even if you are not ready to grant your staff remote days or turn your office into a single shared space, it’s vital that your business is aware of these trends so you can keep up with the rapidly changing future workplace.
How Investors Can Take Advantage Of The Rand’s Currency Trading Rates
Negative sentiment is likely to be pervasive with the SA economy, and it will take more than a new figurehead in government to right the wrongs of a mismanaged economy.
The USD/ZAR currency pair is trading in the 13.65 range heading into mid-December 2017. Over the past year, the 52-week low was 12.3126, and the 52-week high was 14.5742. As one of the more volatile currencies in the trading spectrum, the ZAR is closely associated with the political shenanigans taking place in South Africa.
The year to date return for the currency pair is -0.50%, after having started 2017 at 13.7351. Much of the activity taking place with the ZAR is speculative. Futures contracts are largely responsible for the whipsaw movements in prices.
Wilkins Finance strategists stress the importance of credit ratings agencies on currencies:
‘Whenever credit ratings agencies such as Moody’s and Fitch downgrade their assessments of the South African economy, this has a negative impact on the ZAR. The impact is not always predictable however – towards the end of November 2017, the USD/ZAR had appreciated after the recent ratings downgrade of the economy.’
Moody’s Investors Service downgraded South Africa’s economy to a rating of Baa3. This is the lowest rating level for Moody’s. Further ratings will be announced in February next year. Fitch has already downgraded the foreign currency and local currency to BB +, but has offered a stable Outlook for the ZAR.
That S&P also downgraded the South African economy to sub-investment grade is an important decision, and one that will have negative ramifications for the South African bonds market. Now, the Barclays Global Bond Index will no longer feature South African bonds. That South Africa’s bond market will be excluded from the World Government Bond Index will also be a bugbear to any hopes of the ZAR appreciating.
Interest Rates in the South African Economy
The South African interest rate is highly attractive to foreign investors, given that the UK, US, Canada, Japan, and European bank rates are at historic lows. There is little to be gained by investing cash in fixed-interest-bearing securities in these economies. The current interest rate in South Africa is 6.75% (as at November 23, 2017). The interest rate has dropped to expand economic activity in the country.
Overall, South Africa’s inflation rate for the year is expected to remain at 5.3% dropping to 5.2% in 2018 and rising to 5.5% by 2019. Global investors remain concerned about the risk/reward environment in South Africa. The country has experienced significant capital outflows in recent years, driven in large part by uncertainty regarding future prospects. The USD/ZAR was trading at 14.60 in late November, and current ZAR strength is being attributed to USD weakness.
Factors on Both Sides of the Atlantic
One of the major economic events affecting exchange rates will be the reconciliation of the House and Senate bills on US tax legislation. Any major overhaul of the US tax code will invariably result in a dramatically boosted USD, and a weakened ZAR. For traders, it appears to be short-term call options on the local currency and long-term call options on the USD.
It is evident that currency traders are hedging against the ZAR over the long-term. The fundamentals of the economy are structurally unstable. The power grid infrastructure, water supply problems, and political instability at the highest echelons are but a few of the many problems plaguing South African growth prospects.
However, the ZAR will draw strength from the election of a credible leader, and this will be particularly noteworthy with Cyril Ramaphosa’s appointment. Overall, negative sentiment is likely to be pervasive with the SA economy, and it will take more than a new figurehead in government to right the wrongs of a mismanaged economy.
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