It was the 1st of January 2016 and I was stuck. Stuck in my uninspiring corporate job and trying to decide on what my next entrepreneurial play was going to be. After months of research, contemplation and soul searching I had observed two things. The first was how the main stream media was portraying the realities of entrepreneurship. Here is a series of headlines from this week alone.
What this does is paint a picture of entrepreneurship that isn’t entirely real but more importantly, it creates a perception that being an entrepreneur and starting a business is easy. I mean come on right, let’s all quit our jobs, start a business and be millionaires overnight? How great would that be? After starting 8 companies, 6 of which failed and 2 of which I sold, I knew this type of news was painting a picture of entrepreneurship which simply wasn’t true.
The second interesting thing I came across, was this article in MacWorld dated July 22nd, 2013.
Today, there is now an estimated 1.5 billion podcast subscriptions around the world – that’s 1 quarter of planet earth. Contrary to this was the South African context where podcast statistics were non-existent.
So, I came up with what seemed to be a terrifically bad idea, which was largely driven by one question and that question was this:
“How can I paint the realities of entrepreneurship and help South African entrepreneurs succeed using a podcast?”
By all accounts I should have failed – there was no podcast market to launch to and I had little to no idea about how to even produce a podcast. Despite all the reasons not to do it, I decided to do it anyway. From literally one listener (that was me) – fast forward 18 months to today, where I reach on average 30,000 people per episode with no bought media and have built a loyal listenership in 100 countries around the world.
By taking the leap into the world of podcasting and consequently building the Matt Brown Show into a global media platform, my life has completely changed. Today, I speak about my story to businesses and decision makers all about story telling. You see, the question I am asked most often is: “What has made your podcast successful?” To answer this question, I must point to two things.
Firstly, I’ve discovered that South Africans – especially South African entrepreneurs – have some amazing stories to tell, but for some reason the richness of these stories are lost in 400-500 word articles so commonly found in the main stream media.
The second reason is that I simply got lucky. While I launched to a podcast market that didn’t exist at the time, by fluke I caught the wave of new consumers who have switched onto the world podcasting thanks to growing smartphone penetration and overall awareness of the term “podcasting”.
There are an estimated 30 million smartphones in South Africa, ant the interesting thing about this stat in the context of podcasting, is that if you have a smartphone and more broadly an internet connection you can access a podcast and therefore the world of informal learning. But as great as this statistic is for South Africa, herein lies the problem.
South African podcast statistics are still almost non-existent to this day
But I want to change this once and for all.
And this is where I need your help. I have just released the “Pod Power” survey with the goal of undertaking the largest independent research project into the South African podcasting industry.
Why am I doing this?
Well, I believe that we all have a story to tell and as South African’s, the ability of a single story to make a positive difference to the communities that we hold dear are grossly under estimated. Every time I publish a new episode, I receive feedback from entrepreneurs who I have never met describing to me how much of a difference my show is making to their lives.
With that in mind, my intention with this initiative is to share the research data with a view to hopefully encouraging other brands and business owners to tell their own stories through podcasting so that they too can make a positive difference to the communities and customers that they serve.
And this is where your help is fundamental to the success of this initiative. Simply click here or go to http://bit.ly/sapodcasting to give your opinion of South African podcasting. It will only take a few minutes to complete and your answers will be kept confidential.
As a small token of thanks, you will also receive a free eBook on South African podcasting at the end of the survey. In today’s digitally connected world we should never under-estimate the power of our media to make a difference. So please join me in supporting this initiative.
South Africa Seeks Innovative Solutions to Payments Systems
How to bridge the divide and bring FinTech technology and a new infrastructure of POS systems to the masses.
News has been circulating that high-level players in South Africa are working hard to introduce structural changes in payments solutions. Some of the biggest players in the industry, including the Payments Association of South Africa, and BankservAfrica have begun work in earnest on facilitating expedited transactions settlements, by adding new payments systems and features into the market.
Financial technology, a.k.a. FinTech is powering the payments gateway to cost-effective solutions for South African businesses, consumers, domestic and international stakeholders. According to industry pundits, the payment system that currently exists in South Africa was formulated in the 1980s. At the time, it was highly regarded by world standards. However, the rampant innovation that has taken place with the Internet of things since then necessitates updating.
Various solutions have been touted, to rethink the infrastructure framework that currently exists in South Africa. The economy is rapidly changing, and mobile technology is being embraced across the board. The South African payments system is long overdue for an upgrade, as shifting priorities and the widespread digitisation of the economy take place. For starters, payments solutions across South Africa must factor in the large underbanked and unbanked sectors of society.
A key industry player, Bankserv which is owned and operated by Standard Bank, ABSA, and Nedbank among others is ringing the changes. Back in 2017, this financial entity processed R188.2 billion worth of ATM transactions. The total number of transactions numbered 452.6 million additionally. It processed 52.5 billion POS transactions valued at R290.9 billion in credit card authorizations in the same year. Electronic funds transfers (EFTs) to the value of R9.4 trillion were also processed by Bankserv. These are significant figures, and they point to a shift in financial transactions processing in South Africa.
Groundbreaking POS Systems to Debut in SA
The widespread innovation currently taking place in POS systems is reshaping retail industry, the food and beverage service, and other merchant networks across the board. One of the industry leaders in this regard is revel systems POS. It is fully integrated with a robust selection of features, the likes of which include superior reporting features, full kiosk functionality, and a modern kitchen display system for the thriving restaurant industry in South Africa. The technology was created back in 2010 by Chris Ciabarra and Lisa Falzone as an innovative Apple iPad point-of-sale system. It was tested in the San Francisco Bay Area and became an instant hit.
Today, the Revel POS system sports 25,000+ terminals around the world, at high profile company such as Cinnabon, Goodwill, Smoothie King and others. South African restaurants and food industry businesses can enjoy monthly subscription fees, and the software license is included in the monthly subscription fee. Flexible pricing is another advantage of using this POS system. Plus, users get to enjoy industry-specific software and integrations that can be used by quick service businesses and restaurants.
It’s ideally suited to businesses that have 500,000 SKUs, although it’s equally adept at serving smaller SA businesses. In terms of ease-of-use, this POS is intuitive for front-end use, and training videos facilitate backend learning and integration. The backend management is particularly effective in terms of training regimens, navigation, and utilisation. All that’s required to get started is an Apple iOS device, and any standard barcode scanner is fully compatible with the system.
Among the many features include the following:
- Fully Functional point-of-sale systems
- Real-Time Inventory control of SKUs, including cost considerations, pricing, inventory, size, colour, style etc. Digital menu boards, kitchen display systems, and kiosk point-of-sale systems are also available
- Purchase Order Management and QuickBooks integration
- Customer Management in terms of purchases, details and personal data is also available.
What Are the Current FinTech Challenges in South Africa?
Contrary to widespread belief, South Africa has one of the most sophisticated payments infrastructures. This is certainly a feather in the cap for South Africa’s financial and FinTech sector. Given that Internet usage is widespread, and the telecom network that facilitates Internet functionality is highly developed, South Africa ranks on par with the best of them.
There are effectively 2 parallel economies operating in South Africa – the first world developed FinTech economy, and the informal economy which dominates the outlying areas. South Africa has a challenge on its hands: How to bridge the divide and bring FinTech technology and a new infrastructure of POS systems to the masses.
Investing In Value Creation Tools Can Help Your Business Grow
ACCA on attracting new clients, establishing and strengthening commercial partnerships and accessing external finance to help your business expand.
The business journey of many SMEs is often characterised by a gradual change in internal management practices which develop as the business operations grow. The subsequent recognition of the business’s value creation, across all its operations – tends to emerge slowly but surely alongside this process.
Gaining an understanding of ongoing value creation can be challenging. This is because smaller companies tend to not have access to simple and understandable data sets on everything, which is and isn’t contributing to value across the business.
For example, customer and supplier relationships, human capital and intellectual property are all common examples of activities where SMEs regularly experience difficulties in determining the real contribution to the businesses’ overall value. These are areas that are not picked up by financial reports that are a focal point of many growing businesses, hence the importance of these areas in business is not given the proper attention it deserves.
However, by improving trust and relationships between customers and those along your supply chain, this information can be used to attract new clients, establish and strengthen commercial partnerships and access external finance to help your business expand.
Key actions to consider when capturing the value within your business include the following:
- Use cloud and data analytics technology to support growth;
- Create a business strategy which incorporates everything;
- Allow staff to use new technologies to innovate; and
- Appreciate the importance of technology in attracting external finance.
These actions will help you succeed in developing a successful business strategy.
Use cloud and data analytics technology to support growth
Purchasing relevant software packages could help you access the data you need to understand where and when value is being created. Cloud and data analytics technology can provide a real-time flow of information, offering detailed measures across workflows, whilst also complementing existing reporting processes.
More long term, this technology can provide you with greater flexibility when anticipating future periods of growth.
For example, when the time comes to up-scale your business operations, it could help your finance function adapt more easily to any additional demands being placed upon it and mitigate the risk of disruption towards ongoing operations.
At the same time investing in this technology doesn’t have to happen overnight. Software packages can be purchased in stages and tailored to meet the specific needs of your business.
Create a business strategy which incorporates everything
Business success will often be determined by how effectively you can combine the value of ongoing operations into the development of a single, overarching business strategy. Understanding of the key strategic themes by employees is critical in aiding future business expansion plans and growth. This integration can support planning processes.
By taking a short, medium and long-term view on how value creation might change across the business, you will be in a much better place to identify upcoming risks and opportunities related to your growth ambitions.
The practical delivery of this might involve regular integrated reporting across your business’s operations. The more data that is involved in this process, the more helpful it will be towards informing your management decisions.
Allow work teams to use new technologies to innovate
Companies might also want to consider supporting work teams in certain areas to come up with new ideas to enhance plans for business growth and learn from possible failures, without the personal risks that entrepreneurship entails.
Allowing employees to use new technologies could help to reduce costs and offer new revenue opportunities as your business expands. It could also help to stimulate a high growth business and to fully communicate business’s value to potential clients and commercial partners.
Appreciate the importance of technology in attracting external finance
Investing in technology at an early stage can help attract external investors, as well as reducing the cost of raising growth finance. Such investors need to be able to understand the broader strategy of your business.
Lenders are increasingly using data to build up a broad perspective on the growth potential of SMEs. If you can provide real-time information – rather than just historical data – of your business’s performance, this could greatly increase the chances of obtaining the finance you need to grow.
However, there remains a gap and potential to co-create new approaches of raising capital amongst growing businesses and in creating agreed terms of sharing risks. This could bolster the advancement of entrepreneurial houses toward creating real economic equity in long term.
Embracing Technology For Business
The technologies that can boost efficiency in your organisation.
The world is dominated by technology. So if you haven’t yet heard terms like ML, AI, VR, and the wave of other acronyms used to address the new developments in this modern age, you will soon. Because, the era of big data is here. And resisting it is futile. We have to embrace new technologies to survive, let alone compete. Luckily, a lot of today’s tech helps make business more streamlined.
Here are a few that make all the difference:
WebVault is a digital ‘vault’ for securely storing documents, emails, certificates, voice files, and other data in the cloud. WebVault Achiever can even load completed trainee certificates into the vault, without your needing to vet or track them.
Asana is a tool for managing team-based projects. It allows users to break projects into tasks, assign them to individuals, add followers, and schedule deadlines. This ensures transparency, accountability, and helps to streamline and track deliverables.
Slack is like a WhatsApp group for business. You can sort interests by topic, and use the search function for anything, including old discussions and shared files. The most notable benefit is that Slack stops back and forth email discussions, decluttering your inbox. It also integrates easily with platforms like Twitter and Dropbox.
Wave is accounting software that offers small to medium-sized businesses access to helpful tools. Through mobile and web-based platforms, users can build and send professional cost estimates and tax invoices, accept credit cards, keep track of payments, administer payroll, and streamline expense tracking.
Artificial intelligence (also known as AI) is created from technology called machine (or computer) learning (ML). In other words: by using complex networks, computers can learn without the need for human direction or oversight.
One of the most exciting ways that AI affects learning is by identifying overlaps between different industries and subjects. Connections that would take humans many years of study to discover, can now take computers less than a day to unveil, revealing complex subjects that we may never have realised existed without it.
Virtual & augmented reality
Most people learn best by getting involved. But, where the stakes are high or expensive, like the military, medicine, and mining, this isn’t feasible. By digitally influencing how learners see their environment, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) allow them to safely, cost-effectively practise the impractical.
The modern technologies we’re seeing today are fascinating, but they aren’t always fool-proof. Indeed, for every new technology, there are thousands of hackers spending all of their time looking for ways to break in.
For example, consider how you can monitor your home on a device. This is convenient for you, but it defeats the point if a hacker can access the video feed. There are even organisations online that provide malware and phishing as a service.
If you’re stepping into new technological territory, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. The best protection against threats like this is to hire an ethical hacker yourself; one who can tell you where your weak points are and how to protect them.
Blockchain technology is controversial thanks to its association with Bitcoin. But it is critical to differentiate the two. Bitcoin, on the one hand, is a digital currency. Blockchain, however, is the technology it uses for its distributed digital ledger.
Because a blockchain is both distributed and transparent, it allows digital peer-to-peer transactions to be executed safely and stored securely. And because the technology isn’t limited to finance, it has the potential to disrupt the way many companies do business. Notable leaders in this space include WalMart, IBM, and Nestlé, who are using blockchain technology to improve their systems.
The age of the digital innovation is here, and that means the world is changing rapidly. The best ways to be prepared are to be aware and to adapt quickly.
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