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Business Landscape

What Tradesmen Should Consider Before Starting their Own SME

SME success for tradesmen requires additional financial skills.

Standard Bank

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With infrastructure spending having been identified as one of the key focus areas of the National Development Plan (NDP), tradesmen will continue to play a critical role in growing the South African economy through their skills.

For many, this demand for tradesmen has led to them considering starting their own businesses.

Ethel Nyembe, Head of Small Enterprise at Standard Bank, says “Skilled tradesmen are in demand and there is no doubt that there will always be opportunities for those with the proper business skills to build a real future and legacy for their families.”

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Digital Marketing Helping SMEs Fight Above their Weight in the World of Business

“However, tradesmen starting their own businesses should be aware of the fact that hundreds of small businesses collapse within their first year of operation. The major cause is poor forward planning and attention to the financial details that are vital if you are to build a successful enterprise.”

Nyembe says tradesmen should consider the following factors when planning to start their own businesses:

Writing a business plan

A business plan gets a business off to a good start. Examining every aspect of your business will help you identify problems, work your way around them and realistically plan your future.

A good business plan should also include:

  • Reviewing the area or region where you intend to operate. Knowing in advance how many people with similar skills are working in the community will help you be competitive.
  • Pricing your services. To succeed your prices must be competitive.
  • Marketing your business. These days, it is best to consider everything from leaflets and business cards to community notice boards and the Internet. A good website can increase customer interaction and bring people to the business.
  • Just how much money you need to get started.
  • Tools of the trade you will need to launch your business. This will include the costs of buying a suitable trade vehicle and the tools, fittings and materials you will need to buy in order to supply a service.
  • A financial cost analysis that examines how many people you need to employ, the cost of their salaries, cost of transport, fuel, cell phones, equipment and rent for premises.
  • Identifying the quiet periods for your business and how you will plan your finances around holiday periods.

“A good business plan not only prepares you, but is also required by a bank if you intend on getting a business loan. Banks will examine the plan, your credit record and financial health before granting a loan. The more comprehensive your plan is, the better your chances are of getting the start-up finance you need. As a blueprint, it is also a document that can be constantly referred to and consulted to help keep the business on track,” says Nyembe.

Capital to establish the business

Many people fund a business from their own resources, look to investors, business partners or even friends and family for loans in addition to approaching the bank.

Informal borrowing agreements between friends and family however come with their own challenges such as unclear payback periods and misunderstood conditions. The capital you raise must be large enough to cover establishment costs and also operational costs for several months.

Few businesses operate profitably from ‘day-one’, so you need to have money available for the business until a positive cash flow enables the business to stand on its own.

Putting up one’s own capital in partial fulfilment of the business’s short term capital needs demonstrates to the bank that you are a serious business owner that is willing to back your vision.

Registering the business correctly

Many customers and suppliers will only deal with a business that is properly registered and has the appropriate tax and VAT numbers. It is also important that you get a specialist to explain what the requirements for different businesses are, so that you understand the financial implications.

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Getting your finances organised

For many people starting small businesses, getting the right financial documentation in order is a major challenge. The harsh truth is that having a skill and passion for your work just isn’t enough to guarantee success. Unless you know exactly what your financial position is every day, you will have problems keeping the business on track. Things you must consider include:

  • Keeping track of your cash flow. At its simplest, this involves knowing how much money is coming in and how much is flowing out to suppliers and on costs.
  • Drawing up a working budget. This should be done on a yearly basis and referred to constantly during the year. It should include provisions for ongoing items such as rent, vehicle instalments, insurance and other costs.
  • Planning for possible bad debts and quiet periods by arranging for access to revolving credit, an overdraft or other facility that will assist to keep business going when things are tough.
  • Tracking your actual sales against planned sales.
  • Effectively managing your debtors and creditors. Your financials should show what your debtors (customers) owe you and what you owe your creditors (suppliers etc.).
  • Decide whether you are going to have a credit policy. It is not advisable for a new business to build a customer base by extending credit too easily. You can end up carrying too many costs, while customers take too long to pay. This results in a negative cash flow and can impact on the health of your business.
  • Having a business ‘dashboard’ that tells you at a glance where your business is doing well and where attention is required.

“Successful small business owners understand that their business account is separate from their personal finances. Your financial plan should include a salary for yourself. This can help you to properly manage your personal and business spending, ensuring that your accounts are always accurate.”

“Taking the time to plan your business and combining it with financial discipline ensures success,” concludes Nyembe.

Speak to your business banker to see what the bank can offer your business; for more information on Standard Bank’s tradesmen offering, visit the website by clicking here: Standard Bank Tradesmen.

Standard Bank SA is the largest operating entity of Standard Bank Group, Africa’s largest bank by assets. Standard Bank SA provides the full spectrum of financial services, with more than 720 branches and over 7 100 ATMs. Independent surveys of customer satisfaction consistently place Standard Bank at or near the top of their rankings. The personal and business banking unit offers banking and other financial services to individuals and small-to-medium enterprises. For further information, go to community.standardbank.co.za

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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