Back in September 2017, I joined a promising South African tech company called Honeybee in Stellenbosch, Cape Town’s winelands area, as part of the team to scale the business and take the company and brand global.
We have a great product (a Field Sales Management and Mobile Sales app), a name with strong brand equity and a large customer base in the South African market. However, as we entered the UK market, we discovered that our name was not unique. There was another technology company with the same name. And worst of all, although they were not a direct competitor, they operated in the same space – CRM or sales software. After a brief discussion with the other Honeybee company, we both agreed that as we had not trademarked our name and they had, we would be the ones to change our name.
While we were sad to say good-bye to our name and brand, one that employees and customers had grown to love, we saw this as a good opportunity to develop a brand that was more versatile and suited to a global market. I was tasked with finding the right name and developing the brand and making sure that this time we worked with trademark attorneys to guide us and ensure we never face this hurdle again.
“How hard can it be?”
I decided to work on making up a word, since all the existing suitable words would likely be taken. (Have you ever tried to register a domain name?). I naively thought it would be a matter of simply getting the creative juices flowing to make up new words that I could build a story around and then doing a Google search to see if any companies were already using that name.
You see, a made-up word is distinctive and, if you’re lucky, unique. However, in the land of trademarks nothing is this simple. Even though a word doesn’t exist in normal vocabulary, it could still potentially be confused with another made-up word that sounds similar. According to our trademark attorneys, we would run the risk of having our registration either rejected by the US Trademark Office or successfully opposed by a company in Europe with a similar sounding name registered in the classes we wanted to register in.
Our first potential name, which had an excellent back story and we could have loved as much as the name we’ve now chosen, was Xavi – pronounced “savvy.” Short and smart and with a great story. Perfect right? Apparently not. The legal team felt it was too similar to other four-letter brand names starting with X like Xavo or longer brand names that start with Xavi like Xaviant. This was the problem with coming up with a made-up word, it’s so distinct that it can easily be confused with another made-up word that sounds similar or is spelled similarly. Gutted cannot even begin to explain how we felt.
Google searching, it turned out, was only the very first step. The next step, was searching the publicly accessible databases of the various trademark offices across all the countries we wanted to register in.
Click here to read my “how to” guide on developing a unique brand name and how to conduct trademark searches
I focused those initial searches in the US, UK and Europe. If I didn’t come across any trademark registrations for that same word in our classifications, then I went to our attorneys to conduct a more thorough search using their local experts in those markets. Only once their contacts in those markets came back with no conflicts could we then proceed to register our trademark with minimal business or legal risks. If you ask any attorney, there is no such thing as zero risk.
“This is hard”
What I first thought would take perhaps a month, took over 5 months. I would dedicate some time during the week just to brainstorming a name and a lot of headspace thinking about it while commuting or walking the dogs.
Every time I would come up with a great sounding name I could build a story around, I found myself stumbling over one of the hurdles in the process: an initial Google search would result in me finding another technology company with the same name, or after clearing that first hurdle, I would find a registered trademark for that name in one of the national trademark office databases. Then, if I managed to clear that hurdle, I would approach the attorneys only to have them come back after a more thorough search and analysis with a similar sounding registered name that could pose a business or legal risk if we were to try and proceed with a trademark registration.
It got to a point at the pinnacle of our frustration when, exasperated, I just typed a bunch of random letters on my keyboard and came up with a ridiculous word that was over 20 characters that I half-jokingly, feeling defeated said, “maybe this is the only choice we’ve got: Schaneffenhoogenstorm.
I ran into our CEO’s office and shouted the name, “I could build a story around it! I could make up a character called Baron Schnaffenhoogenstorm – an historical character with a colourful past! He could be our mascot! The Baron of Sales-bury!”
My CEO looked at me with a combination of amusement and concern as he saw the desperation in my eyes to let us just settle on a freakin’ name that the attorneys would find posed minimal risk. “The .com is available!” I said in a last-ditch effort to convince him. He laughed. I laughed. We laughed and laughed. I pretended I was just kidding. And I went back to my desk to start over.
Inspiration can come from anywhere at anytime
Then one day, looking up at the sky and thinking, “I like the word sky, it would be nice to have a name with the word sky in it,” and then later on admiring my wife for the little dynamo that she is, I hit pay dirt: Skynamo! I quickly went through the previous mentioned steps and managed to get all the way to “green light” from the attorneys.
Inspiration can come from anywhere at any time. It cannot be forced. You just need to be open to it and in the right frame of mind to receive it. After months of trying, I finally had a great name that fulfilled all of the criteria of a great name to build into a global brand:
- it was easy to spell and pronounce in various languages
- it invoked positive connotations – Sky (upwards, limitless) and dynamo (converting mechanical energy to electricity)
- it was distinctive and hopefully memorable
- and above all – according to our trademark attorneys – it is unique in our desired trademark classifications.
Sasfin Is Gearing Your Company For Growth
How trade and debtor finance solutions can enable business growth beyond self-imposed ceilings created by cash flow restraints.
When an entrepreneur running a manufacturing business approached Sasfin for Trade and Debtor Finance, he had four things going for him: Experience, reliable customers, orders and a relationship with Sasfin. When other banks let him know via email that his financing had not been approved, he approached Sasfin, knowing the organisation would take a deeper look at his company than a spreadsheet analysis.
“He approached us because we had a working relationship with the business and they were looking for a facility that would enable them to purchase the stock they needed to fulfil their orders,” says Linda Fröhlich, Head of Business Banking, Sasfin.
“They didn’t have any assets, but they did have those orders, which meant they could bring their debtors to us and we could advance cash against them, getting them started.”
Solutions to enable growth
Today, Sasfin offers a full suite of inter-connected products designed for entrepreneurs and SME owners, but the bank, which operates under the slogan, ‘Beyond a bank’, was built off a base that began with trade and debtor finance.
“Sasfin’s founder, Sydney Sassoon, went into trade finance in the 1960s because as a textile importer he recognised the need for trade finance amongst SMEs and importers,” says Linda. “It takes an entrepreneur to understand entrepreneurs. This business has never been about products — it’s about the best solutions to enable our clients to grow their businesses.”
When Sasfin first launched trade finance it was because of the challenges around importing goods: The time it took for the shipment of raw materials to arrive, manufacturing to take place, the finished article to be sold and then a further 60 days for payment was crippling for SMEs.
Not only were no facilities available that understood that time frame, but traditional overdrafts require security and are not designed for specific needs. Trade and debtor finance on the other hand work hand-in-hand and provide SMEs with the most valuable commodity: Cash.
Cash is King
“Through trade and debtor finance, we can finance the purchasing of your goods and I can give you terms that fit your cash flow cycle,” says Linda. “Now that’s meaningful for the business owner. Yes, we charge for the facility and the risk we carry, but if you have to make a payment upfront to an exporter, you can also negotiate discounts and off-set a portion of the discount you will receive from the supplier to our fees, which is win-win.
“More importantly though, the biggest challenge that SMEs face is cash flow. Cash flow is king, and that’s where trade and debtor finance comes in. If you borrow money that enables the growth of your business, the finance cost is part of the cost of your sales. The upside is that you have access to cash, enabling growth.”
Many SME owners are familiar with the challenges of growth: You work hard, build your client base, get traction in the market, and suddenly you’ve signed a large order or client whom you can’t service without assistance, because your own cash flow doesn’t cover the raw material costs of the order.
“This is true across all product-based industries,” says Linda. “Instead of slowly building cash reserves to grow the business organically, or waiting between 30 days and 60 days for clients to pay, we advance our clients up to 80% of the value of fulfilled invoices, enabling business owners to grow beyond a self-imposed ceiling created by cash flow restraints.”
Related: Think Beyond The Box
Over the years, Sasfin has watched its clients grow from strength to strength.
“One of our SMEs started out with a R5 million facility. Today they’re operating a R50 million facility and continue to grow. That’s the power of cash flow,” says Linda.
“There’s always a good time to gear-up the growth of your business, where it will enhance the growth and profitability of your company. If the time is right, a financing solution that suits your needs can make all the difference.”
The benefits of trade and debtor finance
- Converts sales with proof of delivery into cash for day-to-day expenses
- Extended terms of repayment, with up to 120 days for local purchases and 150 days for imported goods
- A fully disclosed factoring facility or a confidential invoice discounting facility
- Match sales to repayments, enabling cash flow management.
My Business Is Growing… What Now?
Unplanned growth can be disastrous for a business, particularly a start-up where most of the departments consist of one person – the founder – or where the business has been based in one city or town or focusses around one service or product for some time.
It is a known fact that most growth and change are uncomfortable – especially in business. However, when your business grows, you grow with it and so will the business revenue, employment numbers and contribution to the country’s economy. Planning for growth is not only a good way to stay motivated through tough times in business, it will equip you for when the moment of growth arrives– to take your business to the next level.
Make the mind shift
James Cash Penney, founder of JC Penney, said:
“No company can afford not to move forward. It may be at the top of the heap today, but at the bottom of the heap tomorrow, if it doesn’t.”
Business growth should be actively pursued and be a constant part of your business planning acumen. Frequently ask yourself and your staff members: Where do we want to go to next, and what will we do to get there?
Take time out to plan
Research and planning lead to informed decisions which will be critical for your business growth. Consult all stakeholders – external and internal – through meetings or Strat sessions. Whether you bill by the hour, or bake by the truckload, it is critical to remove yourself from operations at least twice a year to take figurative stock of your business growth. This process requires you to be quiet and give it the importance it demands.
Reasons for growth
Studies have shown that the top five reasons for growth include:
- To increase the business’ market position
- To increase profitability
- To improve the use of company resources, better economies of scale
- To increase frequency of use or number of users
- To remain in business.
Know your obstacles
Know what challenges you may face on your journey to growth and be ready for them. Listing the obstacles will bring reality home and help you prepare for how to tackle these obstacles. Think of creative ways to sidestep these barriers to growth by being flexible.
Continuously look for planned, achievable and sustainable growth opportunities. Calculate the risk, be mindful of the pitfalls, but do take up new growth opportunities in your business. See growth as the opportunity – that big break – you have been waiting for in your business, and it just could be that. Start slow or small but do continue to grow your business. In the words of Virgin’s Richard Branson: “There are people in this world who choose to see the glass half empty instead of half full… Personally, I see any glass half full as an opportunity to top it up, start a conversation and perhaps spark a great new idea.”
Growing Globally – Supporting SMEs On The International Stage
Successful internationalisation is often recognised as generating considerable business benefits, which can include increased efficiency, innovation and productivity, whilst also generating growth for the wider economy. However, recent reports have indicated that SMEs in South Africa are not growing and expanding as expected when compared to its international peers.
Internationalisation refers to the increasing participation of businesses in international markets. Commonly associated with exporting, internalisation is far broader than just this activity alone. Importing, supply chain participation, establishing business partnerships and foreign direct investment are all notable examples of relevant activities.
Evidence from ACCA SME members revealed some of the following insights:
- Just under half (45%) of SMEs said the main benefit of internationalisation was access to new customers in foreign markets. Increased profitability (35%), faster business growth (33%) and access to new business networks (30%) followed.
- Both SMEs and Small Sized Accounting Practises (SMPs) considered ease of doing business and high growth potential as the most important factors when choosing an export destination. Geography was seen as less important, which may be a result of new technologies reducing its significance as a perceived barrier.
- Both SMEs and SMPs recognised foreign regulations as the most significant barrier to internationalisation. For SMEs, the second most important was competition (27%) whilst for SMPs it was foreign customs duties.
- In terms of the future, SMEs’ international ambitions are focused on building the capacity of their business (45%), building networks in foreign markets (45%) and introducing or developing more products and services to market (44%).
Small businesses’ call to action
SMEs see the capacity of their business as the most significant internal barrier towards internationalisation and expansion. This may be linked to a limitation in resources, often associated to either the ability of employees to respond to the workload or access to financial capital.
Accordingly, 45% of SMEs also planned to increase their international activities by upscaling their business’s capacity. SMEs looking to successfully enter into the foreign markets should focus on development across the following areas:
1. Adopt cloud technologies from the start
Providing a valuable platform for future international expansion, appropriate applications will provide SMEs with a real-time flow of information, offering detailed measures across various workflows and complementing existing reporting processes. However, each business will need to adapt their business models and management processes to suit these applications, rather than the other way around.
2. Create a business strategy with global ambitions
Internationalising businesses should ensure relevant activities form part of a wider strategic plan and detailed in specific growth objectives. This could form the basis of agreed relevant working priorities and the investment needed to achieve international growth. Such an approach can facilitate a managerial mind set around international growth to be channelled across the business’s wider operations.
3. Develop the scalability of your finance function
An internationalising SME’s growth trajectory can often be unpredictable, often requiring the business to scale up their operations rapidly in order to meet the demands of suppliers, customers and partners. It is therefore crucial that SMEs develop a finance function which has the flexibility to withstand these challenges. Building the right finance function early on can provide greater operational agility allowing better management of future challenges.
4. Identify where external advice could support your international journey
It is important to consider where external advice may be able to support businesses international objectives, depending on the stage of international growth reached by the SME. This should be conducted as part of a business’s planning process, such as through an internal review programme or through regular meetings with senior management.
Technology enabled solutions
SMEs today have access to a wide variety of cloud-based technologies that enables businesses to develop their finance function rapidly when internationalising.
In particular, relevant software can help businesses to monitor operations in international markets. Activities such as processing payroll, compliance events and employee expenses can now be managed centrally with the use of innovative software solutions.
This technology also allows SMEs to understand the flows of data within their own systems as well as with business partners and suppliers. This becomes increasingly necessary with the added operational complexity of participating in global value chains.
Working with professional advisers, this data can be used to support the development of one’s finance function which in turn can cater for international growth. This allows for new business streams to develop as external professional insight with these new technologies is required.
Lessons Learnt2 weeks ago
Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage
Increase Profitability2 days ago
Leon Meyer GM At Westin Cape Town Shares 4 Experience-Driven Tips On How To Keep Your Team Productive
How to Guides2 weeks ago
The 10 Most Reliable Ways To Fund A Start-up
Celebrity Businesses6 hours ago
11 Celebrities That Are Profiting From Their Investments In The Lucrative Pot Industry
Cool Offices5 days ago
6 Companies With Amazing Office Layouts To Inspire Your Office Redesign
Company Posts2 weeks ago
Building Customer Relationships
Self Development1 week ago
(Infographic) How 9 Creative Minds Got Their Ideas
Entrepreneur Today1 week ago
How Are South Africans Feeling About The Work Environment?