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How To Plan For A Glitch-Free (And Stress Free) December Vacation

Here are three simple but important measures to take…

Colin Thornton

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With the whirlwind of 2018 now coming to an end, small business owners can be forgiven for simply wanting to lock up shop and take a well-deserved break. Local economic volatility, combined with rising costs and widespread uncertainty has made it hard for SMEs to remain buoyant. But before officially closing for the annual December vacation, business owners should implement some key steps to ensure that their online presence and back end IT systems are also robust and ready to go when work begins again in January.

Here are three simple but important measures to take…

1. Review & Revamp Online Security

At the risk of sounding too alarmist, we have to emphasise that almost every business today will be the target of malicious cyber attacks (if they haven’t already fallen victim!). Too often, SMEs think they’re too small to be a target – which is simply not true. With this in mind, take every precaution before you leave on your break.

This means checking for and running software updates and security patches, which should include all of your mobile devices and those belonging to staff. Next, review your backups and make sure that the correct data is being backed up, at regular intervals. And, with Cloud back-ups being so affordable, do you have backups of your backups? Finally, consider taking out cyber insurance for your business.

Insurance providers are now offering more cost-effective plans for the SME market.

Related: Planning A Year End Function On A Budget? Five Fabulous Tips To Get The Most Bang For Your Buck

2. Download Critical Business Apps onto Mobile Devices

In our hyper connected world, there is always a strong chance that business owners may need to access critical apps and platforms while out of the office. To plan for this, download mobile-friendly versions of key apps and ensure that you can log in from your mobile devices.

Additionally, for businesses that rely on an active social media presence, ensure that you schedule relevant content for the time you will be away. Avoid posting anything controversial that would possibly need an immediate, real-time response. When downloading and reviewing apps on mobile devices, ensure that you have strong passwords and require multi-factor authentication.

3 – Leave a Thoughtful Out of Office Message

While most of us wouldn’t dream of going offline until we have set up the usual out of office email auto responder, we tend to give little attention to the actual message. Yet even your out of office message has importance and can be used to deepen connections with clients and colleagues while you’re away.

Related: Year-End Reviews Are Not Always A Positive Experience

To this end, consider leaving a more imaginative message that not only lets people know that you’re away on vacation, but also provides some kind of resource or unexpected information. For example, HBR.org writer Michelle Gielan suggested the following:

Hello! Our most recent study found that vacations are good for the brain and can increase performance at work. This calls for further research! I’ll be out of the office with limited access to email until [date]. If you need immediate assistance, please contact [my colleague.]

Happy Summer!

Michelle

Finally, we recommend that you have a brief chat with your IT provider before leaving to ensure that there is a backup plan in place if anything happens to go awry with your IT systems.

See you in 2019!

Colin Thornton founded Dial a Nerd in 1998 at the age of 19. His first clients were friends and family and his first computer repair room the garage of his parent’s home. By focusing on home users and offering a very high level of service, he occupied a niche at the time which helped Dial a Nerd grow into the business it now is. The business has a presence in most of the major South African cities, with offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg and over 130 staff members countrywide. It has over 40 000 customers consisting of home-based computer users and small to medium-sized businesses. In 2015, in order to leverage the direction of the Technology market, Turrito acquired Dial a Nerd.

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How Sasfin Bank Is Beyond A Banking Platform – The Evolution Of B\\YOND

From opening a business bank account in one day to advanced business analytics at the touch of a button, B\\YOND is asking business owners what they need most from a banking platform — and delivering on it.

Sasfin

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Imagine you pay millions each month in rebates. The thousands of transactions are batched and go out on the first of each month. What happens if a few are incorrect and the entire batch is rejected and needs to be recaptured?

For one business owner, the entire process meant that he always needed to be available at the beginning of the month and customers were often paid late, creating a reputational risk for his business and limiting his opportunity to grow his portfolio with existing clients.

It was a huge pain point that many entrepreneurs share, and one Sasfin’s online banking platform, B\\YOND was determined to fix. “We asked real business owners to tell us what the banking issues were that they either hated the most, or that affected their businesses the most,” says Rodger Dunn, Head of Transactional Banking at Sasfin.

“This is just one problem we’ve solved, and since joining our platform, that same entrepreneur can now work remotely, knowing that his rebates will be paid on time, even if a few transactions need to be fixed.”

The Evolution of B\\YOND

What do business owners need most? What are their pain points and what tools will help them make money, save money and be more efficient? How can we deliver these solutions in a simple-to-use, intuitive way?

These are the questions that Sasfin’s B\\YOND team sat down to answer when they began working on their new online banking platform. In addition to offering business owners a platform where they can transact online, they wanted to build a strategic business tool that solved real everyday problems for entrepreneurs.

“We launched in March this year with a platform that offered much more than the normal functionality of online banking,” says Rodger.

“Through B\\YOND, our customers are able to apply for a business bank account online; perform their own payroll management; create and send personalised quotes and invoices directly from the platform; manage revenue and expenses; and connect their Sasfin Bank transactional data with Xero, the fastest growing Cloud-based accounting software provider in the world.”

For B\\YOND users, this was just the beginning. “Customers already on the platform will find additional functionality being added regularly,” explains Rodger.

“We have a vision, but we are also listening to our customers. Within the core team are two business owners who bring key insights to the product, but we also have a closed group of businesses that regularly test new functionality.”

B\\YOND’s key competitive advantage is how the entire platform integrates traditionally disparate functionality into one portal. “Everybody offers an accounting package, transactional banking, a credit card and so on,” says Rodger. “However, B\\YOND’s platform integration and how we make everything work together is our advantage, because that’s how we save customers the most precious commodity: Time.

“Let’s use Xero as an example. Instead of manually populating payments, with Xero you get secure, direct daily feed integration from your Sasfin bank account into your accounting software.”

Related: Sasfin Is Gearing Your Company For Growth

Removing banking barriers

roger-dunn

“B\\YOND’s Cloud platform enables us to take any manual process and make it digital. The benefits of this are endless, but we started at the beginning of a banking journey and worked our way up from there,” says Rodger.

“If you want to open a business bank account, you generally need to meet with your banker or stand in a long queue at a branch. If there’s more than one shareholder or director in the business, multiple parties need to be at that meeting. Once the bank has laid out its value proposition and you agree to go ahead, you then have documentation to fill in, which everyone needs to sign.

“As a result, setting up a business banking account can take up to a few weeks with multiple in-person engagements. We saw an opportunity to change that by creating a seamless, online process. If you have everything you need, you can have a business bank account up and running on the same day that you begin your application.”

How has Sasfin managed to fundamentally change this time-consuming and paper-based process? “We’ve taken something that’s serial in nature and split it into parallel processes,” explains Rodger.

“Our objective is to remove as much of the friction and barriers of opening a business bank account as possible. We’re a technology-based business, but we’re also high-touch. Technology should be an enabler, it shouldn’t take the place of people or complicate processes. We understand that business owners don’t only want to deal with a platform. They want consultants who understand their business and needs.”

Thinking out the box

As an alternative bank, Sasfin has looked for ways to make business banking more efficient and supportive of entrepreneurial needs, while lowering the costs for clients.

One way this has been achieved is through a branch-less and ATM-less environment. Sasfin customers can draw money for one flat fee from any ATM across the country.

“You’re paying for usage, instead of an entire infrastructure you hardly ever use,” says Rodger.

B\\YOND plays a key role in this value proposition. “Instead of migrating businesses onto different platforms as they grow and evolve, we’ve kept things simple. More people and money generally means more controls. As businesses grow and more people need access to the banking platform, the system becomes complicated and more expensive. Those platforms were designed for large corporates, not growing entrepreneurial businesses.

“We have reduced the costs and complexities that corporate-focused platforms often come with. Our platform allows you to bank in a manner that supports your particular type of business, for example the platform caters for one or many users in a business with view access that aligns to the person’s role in the business.”

Another key functionality that B\\YOND has added is client classifications. Everything can be tagged and categorised. At the click of a button a full recon can be pulled, showing what was spent. All recons can be done directly from B\\YOND’s banking platform.

Related: Raising Capital In A Worsening Macro-Economic Environment

Looking to the future

There is a lot still to come. “We are building one single platform that you can run your entire financial management through.

“Our three-year goal is for B\\YOND to be a business analytics tool that entrepreneurs can access through their Internet banking platform,” explains Rodger.

Bank outside the box

The Sasfin Transactional Banking Business Account is designed for SMEs that want to focus on what they’re most passionate about — their business — while their banking platform sweats the small stuff, but also helps manage and grow their business.

  1. Do you spend unnecessary time on banking?
  2. Does your bank pay you market-leading interest rates?
  3. Does your bank give you easy cash management in real-time?
  4. Would you like to manage your payroll and invoicing from your bank account?
  5. Does your bank help you keep track of your cash flow, manage your admin, and provide tools to help run your business successfully?

Sign up today and have access to a whole new world of better banking for your business.

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At The Forefront Of Tech Adoption

Over 80% of South African companies adapt to new technology compared to two thirds in the UK and Europe.

TomTom Telematics

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South African companies are among the fastest adopters of new technology in the world, according to a survey by leading fleet management provider TomTom Telematics. The survey revealed that 66% of companies across the United Kingdom and Europe are early adopters, whereas 82% of South African companies are quick to respond to innovation.

“Technological advancement has accelerated at a rapid rate in recent years, with no signs of slowing down,” says Justin Manson, Sales Director for TomTom Telematics South Africa.

“Previously, companies could take a wait-and-see approach, following on their peers’ successes. Only then would they implement well-established technologies, but this approach is no longer an option as businesses are now expected to become more connected, mobile and adaptable to change.”

How tech impacts business

justin-manson

The study was conducted among 1 400 business managers in the UK and six European countries and duplicated in South Africa among 100 business managers. Nearly half (47%) of companies in the UK and Europe study expect artificial intelligence to become part of the normal working day in the next ten years, compared to 63% in South Africa. Also, 39% of respondents in the bigger study believe virtual reality will soon be in common use, while 65% of South Africans feel this way.

In addition, 28% predict connected cars will be commonplace during this period, and 25% anticipate ‘in-vehicle working’ will become prevalent due to the development of autonomous vehicles. In South Africa, 41% of respondents envision a rise in self-driving cars over the next ten years.

Already, several car makers are producing commercially available semi-autonomous vehicles that can steer, park and avoid collisions.

In Europe, 21% of respondents believe companies will adopt the use of microchip implants on their employees, while 45% in South Africa see this happening over the next ten years. Almost two thirds (62%) of businesses say remote working is — or will be — the norm for their employees, while 74% of South African leaders agreed with this sentiment. A discrepancy between SMEs and large corporates currently allowing employees to work remotely was also identified, with 52% of SMEs offering this, compared to 66% of large corporates.

Related: Getting More Than You Asked For With TomTom Telematics

Staying ahead

While businesses see technological innovation picking up momentum in the medium term, leaders fear that their companies will struggle to keep pace. More than half (55%) of businesses believe those who fail to embrace digitised processes and the Internet of Things (IoT) are at a higher risk of going out of business.

This varies significantly from country to country, with 81% of Spanish leaders and 79% of Polish managers feeling that they risk failure if they don’t adapt, while less than half (49%) of UK leaders agree. In South Africa, 70% of business managers believe this to be true.

“These trends highlight a possible gap between access to and investment in connected technology,” Justin says. “Every business is different and each one needs to conduct its own thorough research on the role that technology can play in future-proofing its operation, delivering greater efficiencies and creating more employee satisfaction.”

Competitive advantages in tech

  • 55% Businesses that believe those who fail to embrace digitised processes and the Internet of Things (IoT) are at a higher risk of going out of business.
  • 74% South African business leaders who believe remote working will be the norm for their employees.
  • 52% South African SMEs offering remote working opportunities, compared to 66% of corporates.

The lesson: With the right tech solutions, SMEs can implement a clear competitive edge.

TomTom Telematics is a Business Unit of TomTom dedicated to fleet management, vehicle telematics and connected car services. Its  Software-as-a-Service solutions are used by small to large businesses to improve vehicle performance, save fuel, support drivers and increase overall fleet efficiency. In addition, TomTom Telematics provides services for the insurance, rental and leasing industries, car importers and companies that address businesses as well as consumers.

Related: On Top Of Their Game

TomTom Telematics is one of the world’s leading telematics solution providers with more than 861 000 connected cars worldwide. The company services drivers in more than 60 countries, giving them the industry’s strongest local support network and widest range of sector-specific third party applications and integrations. Our customers benefit every day from the high standards of confidentiality, integrity and availability of our ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certified service, re-audited in November 2017.

For further information, please visit telematics.tomtom.com

Follow us on Twitter @TomTomWEBFLEET

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Why SA’s Latest Tech Start-up ‘Merge,’ Is Going To Disrupt The Current Entrepreneur And Investment Landscape

Merge aims to level the playing field.

Merge Connect

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In the world that we live in today entrepreneurs and investors are seen as the pioneers of the future. Together, they have the ability to not only shape our current society, but construct a future with endless possibilities. The problem however lies in the process of becoming either one of the two.

The current entrepreneur and investor landscape in South Africa is a bit of an exclusive club. From an entrepreneur point of view, if you don’t have immediate access to a strong personal network then you are immediately at a huge disadvantage. For investors, more often than not there is a minimum net-worth requirement to be able to join an angel network or even be considered as a serious investor. This minimum net-worth figure is usually so high that it excludes thousands of potential investors that can potentially fund or provide mentorship to entrepreneurs.

Merge aims to level the playing field.

“There are so many people in South Africa with access to capital or who can be great mentors through skills transfer. These individuals can contribute to the growth of entrepreneurship but many of them have not considered investing into entrepreneurs as they haven’t had the access to do so. Entrepreneurs and investors can contribute heavily to the economy but we want to encourage and facilitate inclusive economic growth, giving more people access to opportunities.” – Christopher Watt-Pringle, Investor and Operations Director at Merge

What is Merge?

Merge is South Africa’s latest app and web-based platform where entrepreneurs and investors meet online. Think of it as on online version of the popular television series; ‘Shark Tank’, or ‘Dragons Den’, where entrepreneurs get the chance to engage with investors to potentially secure funding or mentorship for their venture.

How Does it Work?

Much like ‘Tinder’ where there needs to be a mutual interest from both parties; entrepreneurs can add their venture to the Merge platform and then immediately scroll through a network of investors. Once they identify the right investor they can send them a ‘Merge request’.

Investors also create a profile, either as a private or corporate investor. After completing their profile, they too are able to immediately scroll through all ventures until they identify an opportunity that suits their investment portfolio. Once they have done this they will also send a ‘Merge request’ to the entrepreneur. If there is a mutual interest, both parties will receive a notification whereby they will be taken to the Merge chat feature known as the ‘Boardroom’ in order to take the discussions further.

“A lot of existing ways to find funding are very one dimensional. Normally the entrepreneur will find a website, fill out a long application form and sit and wait for someone to reply to them via email (if they’re lucky). We designed Merge to be social and more community-based for easier two way communication between investors and entrepreneurs. Being an app-based platform was also important in terms of increasing usage and making the exercise of seeking investment a frictionless daily routine with faster feedback loops” – Christopher Peters, Investor and UX Director at Merge 

Related: Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

Who Can use Merge?

All entrepreneurs are encouraged to join Merge should they be seeking investment or want to grow their business through mentorship. Merge’s aim is not to replace current avenues where entrepreneurs can find investment, it is to use technology to accelerate the process for both parties.

“We intend to work with existing capital investment firms and investor networks to ensure that there is a strong investor presence on the platform. It’s important to have credible investors on the platform to increase the chances of success for entrepreneurs, so we will have a strong focus on nurturing these relationships and forming strategic partnerships” – Brandon Bate, Co-founder of Merge 

What About the Protection of User Information?

“Protecting the interests of the entrepreneurs and investors on Merge is our number one priority. We have designed some specific features to protect information and make entrepreneurs feel comfortable with sharing their ideas on the platform. We also want to make sure we protect the investors and make Merge a safe place to for them to find investment opportunities. One example of this is in the ‘Boardroom’ where before engaging in discussion, both parties have to sign a mutual NDA in the app” – Zander Matthee, Co-founder of Merge 

Watch the video for more features:

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