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Enterprise Development Programmes For Black Entrepreneurs

As small businesses in South Africa are recognised as a driving force for economic growth and creation of jobs, enterprise development programmes offered by government and corporates offer black entrepreneurs the opportunity to find support and training to further develop their small businesses.

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Businesses serve a critical role in driving more inclusive and sustainable development. Large companies can create positive impact by improving and growing development. Corporates can achieve this by including small business into their value chains and local communities.

Helping small businesses to achieve sustainability and growth is vital for both the development of industries and corporations. Small businesses are critical for job creation, improving living standards, raising productivity and achieving inclusive economic growth and social cohesion.

In the coming years there will be a great demand for jobs and the private sector will be the core to the solution of this challenge. Many of the new jobs will come out of the small, medium and micro-enterprises, which is why enterprise development programmes are emerging around the world.

Content in this guide

  1. Junior Achievement South Africa Enterprise Development Programme
  2. The Women’s Enterprise Development Initiative
  3. Standard Bank Enterprise Development Programme
  4. First National Bank – Vumela Enterprise Development Fund
  5. Nedbank Enterprise Development Programme
  6. Absa – Enterprise Development Fund
  7. Tholoana Enterprise Programme
  8. The Royal Fields and Job Funds’ Enterprise Development Programmes
  9. Siyakhula Enterprise Development Programme
  10. National Youth Development Agency (NYDA)
  11. The Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA)

What is an enterprise development programme?

african-business-woman

This is why you should choose a enterprise development programme.

Enterprise development involves the growing of small and medium-sized black businesses through the provision of finance and support, assisting in their business development and sustainability. In creating a programme for enterprise development, budding entrepreneurs and all they hire will earn a living, which in turn uplifts their quality of life. These programmes could lead to long term economic growth for entrepreneurs, their families and friends and their entire communities.

Read: Three Things You Need To Know About BBBEE Now

The enterprise development programme is just one of the elements of BB-BEE and is considered an effective way to combat poverty across the globe. Its objective is to teach potential entrepreneurs how to create a sustainable business that will grow and increase job creation, which in turn contributes to economic growth.

Enterprise development programmes ought to be aimed at transferring skills and wealth as well as leading to the sustainable growth of small businesses.

How can you benefit from enterprise development programmes?

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This is how you can benefit from an enterprise development programmes

Enterprise development programmes aim to pass on knowledge, experience and business support. This aim will provide start-ups with essential tools and resources that can then be used for the development, survival and success of business.

Essential tools and resources can be divided into financial and non-financial support. Non-financial support can be provided in the form of mentorship, market access, network access and the learning of new skills.

80% of South Africa’s start-ups fail in the first three years and this is largely attributed to a lack of support. However, the survival rate of a start-up is increased by the incubation process, which assists small businesses in becoming financially viable.

The Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) and FNB’s Entrepreneurial Dialogues, State of Entrepreneurship in South Africa report revealed that: “Business incubators assist emerging companies survive and grow during the start-up period, when they are most vulnerable. The incubation process improves the survival rate of start-up companies by assisting them to become financially viable, usually within two to three years.”

The FNB/GIBSs report explains:

“Start-ups fail at a rate of about nine in ten in the first two years of operation. Within the 27 SEDA incubators (in operation), the survival rates are in the region of 84% to 97% in the first two years of operation. Post-graduation from the incubator, the numbers come down but they are still in excess of 70%.”

Resource: Attention Black Entrepreneurs: Start-Up Funding From Government Grants & Funds

Why do corporate businesses offer enterprise development?

corporate-building

Enterprise development programmes in South Africa

The B-BBEE Amendments are providing corporate South Africa with an ideal opportunity to construct sustainable businesses and to play a lead role in the socioeconomic transformation of the country. Investment and improvement in local economies can ensure profitability and economic success for all business around the world.

By offering an enterprise development programme corporates are awarded:

  • Points on the BEE scorecard
  • An opportunity to diversify their supply chain
  • An innovative way to increase business for both small and medium sized enterprises.

It’s an inspiring vision for business to play a real role in the sustainability and growth in the country’s economy.

Related: What You And Your Business Need To Know About BBBEE And Black Ownership

Here are some of the various types of enterprise development programmes that an applicant could apply for:

Youth enterprise development programmes

young-entrepreneur

Youth enterprise development programmes

The unemployment of youth in South Africa is one of the highest in the world. The steady increase of the youth population is not being matched by an increase in job opportunities. There is a large discrepancy between what the youth are being taught and what employers expect them to know.

Junior Achievement South Africa Enterprise Development Programme

Junior-Achievement-South-Africa-Enterprise-Development-Programme-logo

Junior Achievement South Africa

Junior Achievement South Africa is a unique intensive incubator style entrepreneurship skills programme. The aim of this project is to address the unemployment challenge amongst the youth. This programme provides practical entrepreneurial skills and traditional workplace readiness skills. This will solve the challenge the youth face when entering the job market with insufficient experience.

The programme consists of 20 four hour sessions which runs for three to four months. The students are expected to start running a real business, with the intention that the businesses are sustained after the programme is completed.

Who should apply?

This programme is targeted at young adults between the ages of 18 and 25, who are not in school and are currently unemployed. Participants are chosen based on:

  • Commitment to the programme
  • Inclination to participate in entrepreneurial activity
  • Ability to demonstrate problem solving skills
  • Commitment to their personal development.

To contact Junior Achievement South Africa

Women’s Enterprise Development Programmes

These enterprise development programmes are created to increase the economic opportunities for women entrepreneurs by supporting them in starting, strengthening and expanding their businesses.

Read: 10 Dynamic Black Entrepreneurs

The Women’s Enterprise Development Initiative

The-Women's-Enterprise-Development-Initiative

Women’s Enterprise Development Initiative

This is a niche private equity and Technical Assistance Programme that creates superior returns for investors by investing in women entrepreneurs. This fund supports wealth and job creation, while providing support to women in developing countries, helping them to build viable and sustainable enterprises.

Who should apply?

Dynamic women with a record of achievement in businesses? that support women

To contact Women’s Enterprise Development Initiative

FSP Enterprise Development Programmes

FSP Enterprise Development Programmes are offered by banks or financial institutions.

Related: How Women Entrepreneurs Can Change the SA Business Landscape

Standard Bank Enterprise Development Programme

Standard-Bank-Enterprise-Development-Programme

Standard Bank Enterprise Development Programme

Standard Bank is offering a specialised Enterprise Development programme. The aim of this programme is to offer financing solutions to primarily BEE businesses that have achieved access to superior earning opportunities from corporates or the public sector.

Who qualifies?

  • A black owned entity, either 51% black ownership or 30% black women ownership
  • A supplier wanting to sell equity to become more BEE viable.

How to apply

Standard Bank has a different approach to enterprise development programmes. A business will select or choose a supplier and then contact Standard Bank, the bank will then offer the supplier financial assistance, which will enable them to meet their obligation to fulfil the contract.

For more information

Or

Resource: Government Funding

First National Bank – Vumela Enterprise Development Fund

Vumela-Enterprise-Development-Fund

Vumela Enterprise Development Fund

This initiative was developed in 2010 and has already invested R186 million into alternative SME financing tools. The aim of this programme is to unlock explosive growth in SME businesses and for creating optimal conditions within these businesses to help them to achieve success.

Who qualifies?

“Our solution will help corporates meet the new B-BBEE requirements which could see some companies downgraded if they do not empower their supplier base. More importantly, the holistic nature of our model could yield a sustainable economic growth model among the participating companies,” says Head of Enterprise Development at FNB, Heather Lowe. This programme also targets high-impact SME’s and is open to all industries.

How to apply

Fill in the application form which is readily available and send it in to FNB or Vumela.

To find out more

For more information on the Vumela Enterprise Development fund, please email Heather.Lowe@fnb.co.za or JGoldberg@edgegrowth.com.

Resource: Government Funding and Grants for Small Businesses

Nedbank Enterprise Development Programme

Nedbank-Enterprise-Development-Programme

Nedbank Enterprise Development Programme

This programme offers you growing business flexible financial solutions along with business strategy mentorship programmes. By joining this programme you get access to a number of resources, including:

  • Flexible lending, which will help you to purchase fixed assets, maintain your inventory and meet your ongoing operating needs
  • Customised credit is structured to suit your businesses industry and cash flow cycle
  • Mentorship and training, which will take place through seminars and accredited institutes
  • This will help you to improve your business expertise
  • Networking opportunities will enable you to meet like-minded entrepreneurs in your area.

How to apply and find out more

Apply through the Nedbank website or contact them directly:

Related: Tax Basics For Business Owners

Absa – Enterprise Development Fund

ABSA-Logo

Absa – Enterprise Development Fund

Absa host a R250 million Enterprise Development fund, which finances SMME’s in the value chains of these corporates or government entities. This Enterprise Development Programme will also involve corporates and government entities that are interested, allowing them to meet their ESD obligations.

Who qualifies?

  • Previously disadvantaged individuals with 100% black owned business
  • Small to Medium-sized Enterprise (SME). This includes start-ups and existing businesses.
  • Your SME cannot get normal financing from normal banking channels
  • You are a South African citizen, residing permanently in South Africa
  • You are fully involved in day-to-day operations
  • You already have the skills/ expertise relevant to your business
  • Your business can show profitable historical financials or a realistic cash flow forecast
  • The business’ main transactional account is held with Absa, no split banking is allowed
  • You need a loan of between R5 000 and R3 million with a maximum loan term of five years
  • The economic benefit realised through the finance application resides in the province where your SME resides.

How to apply

Complete an application form and bring it in to your nearest Absa branch, along with the supporting documentation listed on the last page of the form.

Resource: Absa Enterprise Funding

Other Enterprise Development Programmes

These enterprise development programmes don’t belong to any one category and often have contributors from finance and government or are private sector developed, hosted by large companies themselves.

Tholoana Enterprise Programme

Tholoana Enterprise Programme

Tholoana Enterprise Programme

This is a high-energy solution that has helped hundreds of businesses to accelerate their success. The programme includes all round support, expert mentorship, skills training workshops, access to market, and qualified investment-readiness support.

The Tholoana Enterprise Programme has been seen to improve the confidence and skills of entrepreneurs.

Who qualifies?

  • The business is black-owned and managed
  • Your business is operational
  • Your business is headquartered and registered in South Africa
  • The business should be commercially sustainable and viable
  • You are involved in the business’s daily operations and management on a full time basis
  • You have the skills and experience necessary for the type of business you’re engaged in
  • Your business is in the initial stages of operations (older than 6 months and no more than 5 years).

How to apply

You have to register on the portal first, and then you can apply online here.

Please ensure you read the instructions on the portal carefully and download the “Online Application Guidance Document” from the link available on the portal.

For more information

Contact the SAB Foundation Tholoana Team directly on 086 111 1690 or 011 881 8798 (during office hours).

The Royal Fields and Job Funds’ Enterprise Development Programmes

The-Royal-Fields-and-Job-Funds-Enterprise-Development-Programmes

The Royal Fields and Job Funds’ Enterprise Development Programmes

Royal Fields Finance is a financial services group that focus on funding small and medium enterprises; in partnership with the Jobs Fund they have launched an enterprise development program worth R 100 million to support SME’s.

Who qualifies?

This programme focuses on SME’s that are unable to raise funding from banks or traditional funding institutions, due to a lack of trading history, security and risk capital.

The target of this programme is small and medium sized enterprises, that have an annual turnover of less than R60 million and that require funding between R 70 000 and R2,5 million.

The following sectors will be emphasised for this programme as they have been identified as high growth businesses:

  • Infrastructure
  • Manufacturing
  • Small scale farming
  • Renewable and clean energy

How to apply?

There is a comprehensive application process which can be seen on their website here.

You will need to complete a telephonic interview, face-to-face interview, credit assessment, compilation of credit reports. Your application will then be considered by the Credit Committee and an onsite due diligence is conducted to assess your business.

For more information    

Please contact Royal Fields Finance at:

Resource: The Basics Of Registering A New Company

Siyakhula Enterprise Development Programme

Siyakhula Enterprise Development Programme

Siyakhula Enterprise Development Programme

Total South Africa launched the Siyakhula programme, which is part of Total’s commitment to transformation through the development of black entrepreneurs and enterprises. Total South Africa CEO and Managing Director, Mr. Christian des Closières explains: “Although enterprise development has been a component of Total South Africa’s transformation strategy for some 60 years, it is time for the company to put more effort and resources into our enterprise development projects, start consolidating on the remarkable gains, and expand our enterprise development footprint into one consolidated programme, Siyakhula.”

Who qualifies?

This enterprise development programme focuses on three specific sectors, namely:

  • Retail – service station network enterprise development
  • Independent service providers
  • Road transport

How to apply

To find out more send your enquiry or application to: customerservice@totalcustomercare.co.za.

Government Enterprise Development Programmes

These are enterprise development programmes that are offered through various departments of the government. Government enterprise development programmes are targeted at specific demographics, including the youth and women, or focused on particular areas of trade.

National Youth Development Agency (NYDA)

NYDA-Logo

National Youth Development Agency

NYDA is the national youth development agency and they offer a government supported and initiated enterprise development programme. The programme offers entrepreneurship training which corresponds to the labour market and the business needs of young people.

Who qualifies?

Awareness training is aimed at South African citizens between the ages of 14 and 35.

Structured/modular training is aimed at South African citizens between the ages of 18 and 35 and who are existing business owners or aspiring entrepreneurs.

For more information and how to apply

Applicants and those wanting to learn more about this enterprise development programme find your nearest branch information here.

Read: NYDA Funding

The Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA)

SEDA-logo

Small Enterprise Development Agency

The Small Enterprise Development Agency is an agency affiliated to the Department of Small Business Development. The mandate is to implement a standard and common national delivery network for small enterprise developments as well as integrate government-funded small enterprise support agencies across all tiers of government.

For who qualifies and how to apply

Please find the application forms here.

For more information

  • Contact SEDA: 012 441 1000
  • Business Information Centre: 0860 103 703
  • Website: www.seda.org.za

Read: Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda)

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How to Guides

Alan Knott-Craig’s Answers On Selling Internationally And Researching Your Idea

There is no ‘one size fits all’ secret to start-up success. But there is a recipe that can be followed. It starts with being willing to go the extra mile: To know more about your business, customers and their needs than anyone else.

Alan Knott-Craig

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What is the secret to success? — Anonymous

Success is not about winning. It’s about not losing. In other words, being successful is not about increasing the odds of winning. It’s about reducing the odds of losing. There is one simple way to reduce the probability of failure. Go the extra mile.

In everything you do, do a little more than expected. Need to prepare a proposal? Format it, add page numbers, spellcheck, PDF. Need to instal a router? Arrive early. Finish early. Dress neatly. Smile. Need to refund a customer? Be polite. Don’t delay. Apologise. Follow up. Need to provide 5MBs? Provide 10MBs. Need to be at work at 6am? Be at work at 5.30am.

Go the extra mile. Over-deliver. Blow away everyone in every little thing you do. If you do that, from the littlest things to the biggest things, you will have the lowest odds of failure.

In other words, you will not lose. As an entrepreneur, not losing is winning. Go the extra mile. It’s less crowded.

Related: Alan Knott-Craig Answers Your Burning Start-up Questions On Ideas And Partnerships

I’m a virtual business on Johannesburg’s East Rand and I want to expand my target market to the US. I unfortunately don’t have any international network that I can tap into.

I’m investigating Fiverr, Reddit and Upwork as potential avenues of work and market research tools. I have also made contact with an international VA agency. What else do you recommend I do to break into the international market?  — Jade

Selling internationally is no different to selling locally. It’s all about growing your network, sweating your network, and putting yourself out there.

Everything you’re doing is right. Chase all potential channels to market. Tell family and friends. Ask clients for references or leads. Don’t forget the magic of Google AdWords. And a LinkedIn Premium subscription.

Make it easy for your potential customer to find you. If you’re going to use an agency, remember this: Make the agency rich. Don’t begrudge your ‘sales arm’ making money off your sweat. The more money the agency makes, the more business it will send your way.

I’m based in a small town where people are accustomed to what they know as opposed to adapting to something new. I’ve advertised in the newspaper, sent out fliers and have a Facebook page with over 500 likes. So far, the response to my tutoring service business has been slow. How can I improve? — Stephanie

You’ve made a big assumption: That there is demand for paid-for tutoring. Generally speaking, you should sell your product before you start your business. Sell it, then build it. It’s safer.

But maybe you’re on the right track. In addition to paid-for marketing, consider channel partner and referral programmes. Go to your local high school, meet the maths teacher, offer a commission for every student she sends to you for tutoring. The maths teacher becomes a channel partner, allowing you to put up posters at the school, and referring clients.

Even better than channel partners is a referral programme: For every new client referred by a client, give the client a 10% discount, or a month free.

At the end of the day there is no shortcut to getting more customers. Start with one. Make her happy. Let her tell a friend. Tutor the friend. Rinse, repeat. Over time your service reputation will grow and word of mouth will bring customers to your door.

Related: Alan Knott-Craig Answers Your Burning Start-Up Questions

I have an idea to build a mobile platform to connect all informal artisans in SA to potential customers. Uber for artisans. Will you invest? — Neo

Great idea. Some questions: How do you displace the other informal platforms in SA, such as Gumtree? How do you de-risk your business before raising capital? Can you secure funding without selling equity?

Before you give theoretical answers, remember this: The questions are not theoretical. No one should back you unless you have the above solved in reality, not just in theory.

In other words, raising capital is only realistic once the risk is so low you almost don’t need to raise capital.


Listen to this

Alan’s audible book Be a Hero: Make Life an Adventure is now available on amazon.com and Audible.com

Read by Alan himself, Be a Hero is a collection of stories on how to make your life an adventure by changing your mindset and tackling adversity.

Go to amazon.com or audible.com to download your copy. Be a Hero is also available in Kindle and paperback through Amazon.com.


Read ‘Be A Hero’ today

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How to Guides

6 Tips For Transitioning From Idea To Operational Business

Forget Googling startup business stories. Instead, put your trust in the tried-and-true methods other entrepreneurs have used successfully.

Thomas Smale

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It takes only a few Google searches to become overwhelmed by the abundance of information available about entrepreneurial start-ups: Many, many stories exist about how this or that start-up transitioned into a successful, established business. But, in many cases, you’ll be left trying to fill in the blanks or still searching for case studies relevant to your industry or business model.

In fact, there’s only one reliable way to take your business to the next level: And that involves putting your trust in tried-and-true methods that other entrepreneurs have used to make the leap.

Focus on productivity – not activity

It’s all too easy to get caught up in a flurry of urgent tasks that demand your attention. Unfortunately, that can take your focus away from what matters most. So, avoid the busyness trap and ask yourself what you need to focus on today, or over the next two weeks, the next month, 90 days – even the next year or five years. Plan ahead so you know exactly what your next steps are.

Related: Admin Hacks For Entrepreneurs

Leadership expert and coach Leah Wultschik has noted in a blog post that when leaders engage in all manner of busyness – emails, meeting requests and so on – employees feel pressured to follow suit. At that point, the never-ending focus to get things done can result in decreased creativity. You’ll be constantly in a reactionary state, leaving you unable to make strategic decisions.

Don’t let yourself get to that point.

Hire the best talent possible

You are whom you hang around with. Wouldn’t you rather be around world-class workers who bring valuable ideas to the table than to try to squeeze what you can out of second-rate employees?

Aislinn Malszecki, who oversees content strategy and community at MaRS, suggests the following steps to attract the best talent possible:

  • Avoid reactionary hiring: Founders often find themselves desperately in need of help and may hire without looking for fit and the right skill set.
  • Create a buzz for your company: Utilize your reputation and personal network to attract the right kind of people to your business.
  • Tap into your network: In addition to posting jobs on your website and LinkedIn, leverage your network as well as the networks of your employees to find like-minded candidates.

Building your team is not a matter to be taken lightly. Surrounding yourself with the right people can mean the difference between breaking through and remaining stagnant as a business. Work with people who inspire you.

Partner with an agency

business-agency-partnership

The opportunity cost of doing everything yourself can add up fast. So, work with an agency. The up-front cost of outsourced work will ultimately be less expensive than trying to do it all yourself.

Patrick Woods, director of customer success at Keen IO, notes certain challenges of working with an agency. To overcome these hurdles, he suggests:

  • Build a relationship with the agency: Set aside time to get to know the people you’ll be working with. Determine fit as well as expectations.
  • Communicate: Since startups tend to move fast, communicate regularly and clearly with the agency to ensure you’re on the same page.
  • Understand what the agency can do for you: Clarify its staffers’ core strengths and competencies. Determine what tasks you’d like them to take over, and which you’re looking to handle in-house.

Related: Are You An Ideas Explorer Or Are You A Rooster?

Beware of negativity

Negativity can poison the waters of your entire company. Before long, you may find your whole team expressing doubt or disbelief. Conversely, being confident will instill a sense of confidence in your employees. They’ll also follow you more willingly.

Best-selling author and keynote speaker Jon Gordon has pointed out that negativity can affect the morale, performance, and productivity of your team. Negativity can also lead to decreased energy and increased stress.

When it comes to creating a positive work environment, the responsibility lies with the leader. You need to set the tone for your team, to draw the best out of them.

Avoid burnout

When you’re first getting started, and you’re excited about your business, you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get it up and running. Unfortunately, those 16-hour days will take their toll on you, and if you keep up that pace, you will burn out. Learn to rely on your team while growing your business.

James Schramko of SuperFastBusiness is an advocate for getting more rest and sleep. This flies in the face of what many aggressive entrepreneurs are saying today, but Schramko points out that proper rest can help you boost your performance. The costs of losing sleep can be significant, and include: Depression, a weaker immune system, memory issues, obesity and more.

The costs of burnout can be especially high if you render yourself incapable of working for a prolonged period of time. Consider the costs before letting yourself get to that point.

Prioritise

You can’t do it all. No one has more than 24 hours in his or her day, and we’re all busy. Beware of saying “yes” to everything, as you will eventually find it impossible to follow through on it all. If something doesn’t make you excited, don’t do it.

Derek Sivers,  founder of CD Baby, has said he lives by the “Hell, yeah!” or “no” philosophy. He explains that saying no to most things leaves room in your life for the few things that get you truly excited. If you find yourself wavering between a “yes” and a “no,” he suggests choosing “no.” Only say “yes” to opportunities that you can’t pass up.

Final thoughts

Transitioning from startup to established business can take time. So, don’t rush the process unnecessarily. When all the right pieces are in place, you’ll be able to shift smoothly from one stage to another. If you try to force the issue, you may end up with more problems than you bargained for.

If you have any doubts, go back to the basics. Take some time to determine what your priorities are. Start pruning any tasks or activities that don’t contribute to your ultimate success. If you have too much on your plate, ask for help or delegate. And above all, avoid taking on too much.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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How to Guides

How To Successfully Open An International Office

Moving into new markets can be a strong growth plan, but the foundation of international growth requires the business to maintain the same company culture across different regions.

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As a South African expat, I always wanted to expand my digital marketing business from London to Cape Town. After eight years of hard work in the UK and European markets, TopLine Comms was ready and we opened our South African office in 2015. The usual logistics, like setting up local bank accounts, finding office space and hiring staff, were time-consuming tasks but by no means unfamiliar and they were soon sorted.

A far bigger challenge awaited us, which was figuring out how to integrate our new South African colleagues and maintain the company’s culture between two teams across two continents.

Business growth is exciting but you have to put your people first and make sure everyone feels united as a team — regardless of geography.

The following principles are universal for anyone thinking of opening up a second office, wherever it may be.

Why open an office overseas?

Expanding TopLine abroad into South Africa made both personal and professional sense, but I knew that for the move to be successful, it needed a solid business case.

An undeniable benefit of opening an office abroad is that it gives you access to a whole new pool of talent. This boosts your business with a broader range of skills, experience, ideas, languages, culture and networks. It also adds an attractive employment proposition, offering employees the opportunity to gain overseas work experience.

Related: Mitigating Currency Exchange Risk For International Businesses in South Africa

Opening a new office anywhere in the world is primarily driven by the need to scale and tap into lucrative new markets. Our office in Cape Town is more than just a resource hub that supports our London team and services our UK and European client base. It also gives us the opportunity to target the local market.

How do you open an office overseas?

Stay connected

business-connection

Connection is the word and without today’s technology, TopLine would have stayed put in London. A good, fast, reliable Internet connection is essential to doing business across borders — and to keeping our teams in Cape Town and London working together seamlessly. Skype is an amazing tool but a call can quickly become awkward between colleagues or with a client, if the connection is bad and neither person can hear the other properly.

Regular check-ins, meetings and calls are important for bringing people together across offices. They help forge stronger ties between colleagues and bring the whole team closer to the business. A poor connection can therefore be incredibly frustrating and ineffective, ultimately wasting everyone’s time with limited results.

The right technology is a non-negotiable in our modern working world — offices need to have great Internet to stay connected to one another, especially if they’re using cloud-based services.

The cloud makes it easier than ever before to set up an office overseas, and South African businesses are increasingly starting to embrace it. Cloud-based services are cost effective, efficient and they make it easy for employees to access all the information they need from anywhere in the world at any time. The best way to facilitate easy working between offices is without a doubt to keep your company data in the cloud. Collaboration is simple; everyone can work together from the same page and all documents are updated in real-time so there’s no confusion around which version of what is latest.


Tools

Some well-known cloud-based services include Google Drive for sharing and storing documents, Asana for task management, Trello for communication and Xero for accounting and financial management. These are just a few of many — whatever your business need, the cloud can help you do it better.


Communicate

A lot of communication is non-verbal and relies on facial expressions, hand gestures, posture and attitude. Long distance communication doesn’t have any of these elements which makes it very easy for misunderstandings to happen. A simple misunderstanding can be swiftly fixed when you’re in the same room. If you’re miles apart though, it can fester into something enormous and cause unnecessary issues.

Related: 3 Signs Your Business Is Ready To Expand Internationally

With two or more offices in different countries, there will inevitably be cultural differences — even if everyone speaks the same language. These differences are interesting and important to the personality of your company but they can cause some communication issues that you might not be initially aware of. The South African ‘just now’ for example, is a lot looser than its literal meaning and in the UK, business communication can be quite direct and to the point. If you’ve never met the person behind the emails, you might take their words the wrong way.


Top Tip

The best way to avoid this is with regular phone calls, emails and Skype sessions. We’ve found that sending an internal email out each Friday with positive updates from the week has been good for staff morale. Communication doesn’t always have to be work related so encourage your employees across the different offices to get in touch from time to time to just ‘shoot the breeze’ and get to know each other.


Consistency

business-consistency

A consistent on-boarding process is key to instilling your company culture across multiple offices. It’s so easy to forget that what is second nature to you is completely unknown to your new employees and colleagues in an overseas office. Starting a new job always involves taking in a lot of information in the first few months which is made doubly overwhelming when the new employee is latitude lines away from most of their colleagues. A comprehensive manual that outlines everything they need to know is critical. It needs to be a completely user-friendly welcome pack that covers all the essentials like where to find certain documents, usernames, passwords and file naming conventions.

At TopLine we give our new-starters an action-packed schedule for their first two weeks — or longer depending on their level of skill and experience. In that time, they get to ‘meet’ the whole team, are introduced to all the accounts we work on and specifically the business that pertains to their role. We make sure that the whole process is managed by a senior employee who checks in every few days to ensure that the new employee is coping and getting to grips with everything and everyone okay. It also gives them a chance to voice any concerns or ask questions.

As amazing as technology is, real relationships are made in person. If you’ve hired new people to staff your new office abroad, then you need to get on a plane as soon as possible to go out and meet them. It’s good to make a few trips a year but it doesn’t always have to be you. Give other senior colleagues a chance to meet the new team and experience their working day in their office environment.


Top Tip

I’ve personally spent many months at a stretch working from the Cape Town office and other UK team members have visited for a few weeks at a time. It immediately strengthens the connection between our two offices and puts a face to a name, avatar or screen image.


The benefits of successfully expanding your business into new territories can be significant. Of course, to do this well, you need to have the right people working together with as little frustration as possible. Make sure your employees are sharing, talking and interacting as much as possible — the greater the collaboration, the stronger and more successful your business will be.

A consistent on-boarding process is key to instilling your company culture across multiple offices. It’s so easy to forget that what is second nature to you is completely unknown to your new employees and colleagues in an overseas office.


Key Insights

Understand why you are scaling your business

A Cape Town office is a valuable resource hub that services a UK and European client base, with lower fixed overheads. It also provides the opportunity to target the local market.

Make use of smart tools in the cloud to collaborate across continents

Having offices across multiple geographic locations is possible because of cloud technology — not only because it facilitates communication, but because it allows for seamless collaboration. If all company documents are securely stored in the cloud, it doesn’t matter where team members are based.

On-boarding is essential to maintain company culture

A consistent on-boarding process is an essential element of creating and maintaining your company culture across multiple offices. Take the time to create a successful and consistent on-boarding system.

 

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