As the country buckles under the worst recession in over 20 years, business owners are coming under increasing pressure as cash-strapped clients cancel contracts, drag out payments or downsize their procurement spend.
Ask any struggling business owner what their biggest need is and the answer will almost inevitably be unanimous: money. Without access to finance there’s little hope for an entrepreneur seeking to start or expand a business. But many are turned down by banks because they lack the necessary collateral to take out a loan. And the global financial crisis has seen banks put in place even more stringent criteria. This often means a business owner’s only hope is to turn to government agencies for help. Khula Enterprise Finance is one such option, but the organisation’s record has never been that great.
Khula doesn’t lend direct to business owners, but does so through privately owned lending organisations, and through banks with its guarantee scheme. This wholesale model, claim some in government, has effectively hamstrung the organisation. The number of guarantees handed out has never topped 1 000, primarily as banks still have the final say when it comes to approving a deal. Added to this, many of the financiers that Khula advances funds to, to on-lend to businesses, have folded.
Despite this, total disbursements have grown from R195 million in 2004 to R443 million last year, probably due in large part to Khula now opting to advance funds to financiers run as businesses rather than non-profit organisations. But the number of guarantees handed out has slumped to a mere 209 in the last financial year, from 797 in 2002. Khula MD Setlakalane Molepo contends that if the organisation, rather than banks, had the final word on granting approvals, it could lend to more businesses.
Long time coming
Six years ago, plans to turn Khula into a bank were shelved when a feasibility study advised against the move. Some critics feared government wouldn’t have the muscle to take on commercial banks. Now there’s a shift to using existing infrastructure – such as the numerous Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) branches across the country – to lend to business owners.
In December last year the cabinet approved the idea in principle for Khula to lend direct; the organisation is expected to present a business plan to the Department of Trade and Industry soon.
The way to go
Making use of existing infrastructure rather than setting up a bank is probably the way to go says Wolfgang Thomas, professor in economics at the University of Stellenbosch Business School, but government lending isn’t without its problems, he points out.
In many cases business owners hold the view that government “really has to help us, (so) we don’t have to be strict on our repayment”. This is a “recipe for disaster” as the example of the Land Bank has shown. Khula, he says, should be wary of taking responsibility away from banks for final approval of loans. Without a supervisory role, a bank could simply “wash its hands” when it comes to collecting repayments.
However, in the current economic period he believes there is some merit in Khula taking control of the approval of guarantees, but adds that this should be carried out first as a three-to-five year pilot project. Another problem Khula will have to overcome is lack of marketing. A joke once doing the rounds was of the entrepreneur who came to his bank asking for Khula, only to be told “sorry we don’t have someone by that name working here”.
That the organisation remains largely unknown and under-utilised is a view backed up by a 2007 report by the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business. The report revealed that only 9,2% of youth entrepreneurs in the Western Cape had heard of Khula and just 0,8% of young business owners from Gauteng had made use of its products. Molepo and Khula will have their work cut out for them. Experience will show whether going direct provides the stop-gap business owners have long been holding out for.
We Need To Unite For A Better Entrepreneurial Future!
Here are my key entrepreneurial tips from The Passport Showcase.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How Algorithmic Forecasting Can Improve Business Efficiency In Challenging Economic Times
Harnessing the power of predictive analytics, in-memory computing, and artificial intelligence to forecast risks will help entrepreneurs stay ahead.
The ability for businesses to accurately predict risk and develop insights has traditionally involved manual drudgery, spreadsheets, and been confined mainly to the finance department.
With the advent of new technologies such as predictive analytics, in-memory computing, and artificial intelligence (AI), smart Chief Finance Officers (CFOs) are harnessing their power to automate the process, free up human capacity, and get deeper, more accurate insights.
The success of any business, from small start-up to large enterprise, depends on how accurately they can predict future performance, as well as recognise and respond to warning signals.
Deloitte recently launched a report titled Forecasting in a digital world, the sixth in its Crunch Time series for CFOs, which delves into the advantages of algorithmic forecasting and why it will change and challenge the way businesses look at and consume data.
There is a shift away from having people gather, compile and manipulate data, to handing over the menial work to the machines – which employ data-fuelled, predictive algorithms to sift through historical data and use statistical models to describe what is likely to happen in the future.
It is a process that relies on warehouses of historical company and market data, statistical algorithms chosen by experienced data scientists, and modern computing capabilities that make collecting, storing, and analysing data fast and affordable.
Algorithmic forecasting is a well-oiled machine, with more than 80 percent of the work happening automatically. Every piece of financial data a decision maker could want is available on their device and all they need to do is ask—literally.
How it change the workforce
While it seems like the machines are taking over, humans are not left entirely out of the process. The success of algorithmic forecasting depends on collaboration with the machines and among people from different teams, including finance, data analytics, and business.
The business finance talent model should evolve to keep up with changes in how work gets done and that will likely require a different mix of people than what organisations have in place today.
However, once they hit their stride, these teams can move across the range of forecasting needs, embedding capabilities in the business and driving integration. These teams are integral to establishing an algorithmic solution that can work for the business, bring insights to life within the organisation, and support continued business ownership of the outcomes.
How it changes the workplace
The new teams required for algorithmic forecasting to succeed and the pulling of human resources from other departments will need the workplace to evolve into a more collaborative space, banishing outdated silos.
Forecasting is not limited to finance but all functions, from marketing to supply chain to human resources – basically all functions that need to predict the future to drive important decisions.
While CFOs may not lead function-specific forecasting, they should help shape these forecasting initiatives since finance will inevitably use the outputs they generate.
A shared forecasting infrastructure — even a physical Centre of Excellence (CoE)—can help improve collaboration and coordination while providing efficiencies in data storage, tool configuration, and knowledge sharing.
The beauty of algorithmic forecasting is that once the work is done to solve one specific problem, the same process and capability can be extended and applied in other areas.
Algorithmic forecasting doesn’t create anything out of thin air and it doesn’t deliver 100% precision. However, it is an effective way for getting more value from planning, budgeting, and forecasting efforts.
A commitment to algorithmic forecasting is both cultural and statistical. Making it happen involves people working with technology – neither is enough on its own. Every company will make its own unique journey from its current approach to planning and forecasting to an improved approach.
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