For many would-be entrepreneurs, information about starting and running a small business can give mixed messages: It’s the backbone of the economy, the solution to unemployment, but the statistics of small business survival and success aren’t very encouraging either. Then there’s the question of funding.
It’s easy to become discouraged before you even start. But read on and see it’s possible to overcome many of the initial challenges.
What is considered to be a small business?
A small business is one that is privately owned by an individual or with a partner or two on board. It is for-profit and its actions, whether selling a product or service, are designed to generate income.
A small business can employ a handful of staff, or it may be a sole proprietorship in which case everything that goes down is through you. From a financial perspective, a South African small business has turnover of less than R1 million a year.
Related: Do You Speak Start-up?
Stats on small business
Latest statistics of small businesses in South Africa are enough to make anyone want to give up before they start.
Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies, said in May 2013, that five out of seven new small businesses fail within the first year.
That’s a scary statistic especially when 68% of South African workers are employed by businesses that have less than 50 staff, and 43% are employed by businesses that hire less than five staff, according to the Minister.
Adcorp Analytics (2012) also paint a gloomy picture: The growth of local small businesses has stagnated between 2003 and 2012. Despite the economic boom of ‘04-‘06 that saw small businesses increase from two million to 2,4 million, since then the number hasn’t increased as hoped but shrunk on average 100 000 a year, meaning 440 000 small businesses have closed their doors in the subsequent five years.
This is a worrying trend, especially since the number of would-be entrepreneurs starting their own business is also at an all-time low. According to Adcorp Analytics (2012), in 2001 approximately 250 000 individuals were engaged in some kind of activity to start their own business. But by 2011 that number had dropped to 58 000.
The glimmer of hope is that this isn’t a global phenomenon. While recession has influenced some prospective entrepreneurs to stay in their secure, salaried jobs, developing economies like Brazil and India have thriving entrepreneurial communities.
The difference lies in the fear of failure. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2011 report, South African’s aren’t afraid of a challenge: Approximately 64% of SA entrepreneurs are driven by a sense of opportunity rather than necessity, and nearly 73% of South Africans believe entrepreneurship is a good career choice with high social status, so the key to improving entrepreneurship is to improve success rates through business and entrepreneurial education.
Small business as the backbone of the economy
Even with these poor statistics, small businesses remain the backbone of the economy:
- In 2011 South Africa had 5,579,767 small business owners – that’s roughly 10% of the total population involved in entrepreneurship.
- The total number of small businesses was slightly higher, owing to some entrepreneurs having more than one business.
- Of these 5,5 million businesses, nearly 80% were retailers – selling something in the same form it was bought in – while a little more than 20% were service providers – providing a skilled service like hairdressing or accounting for example.
- Nearly two thirds of these businesses were run from home and accounted for nearly 12 million jobs.
The government is acutely aware that small businesses are the key to addressing high unemployment and developing the economy – with an average of seven individuals benefitting for every one person employed. To this end, great emphasis is being placed on mentorship programmes, micro and small business finance and non-financial support, and making the red-tape associated with registering a new business as streamlined and easy as possible.
Are small businesses sustainable?
The high failure rate of small businesses suggests that something fundamental is going wrong. The key to small business success lies firstly lies in hard work and dedication to the business, and secondly in sustainability.
Many an entrepreneur has been blinded by the excitement of starting a business and initial success, that a solid foundation in the form of a business plan and cash flow management has been ignored.
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Here is a list of some top reasons small businesses fail:
- In it for the wrong reasons. If you want to start a business to get filthy rich, it won’t be a good enough reason to keep you motivated when times are seriously tough.
- Poor money management. Without basic financial and business knowledge, an entrepreneur might not distinguish profit from cash in the bank. They start living the high life, and then realise there’s no money to pay suppliers, staff, and creditors at the end of the month. Profits should be re-invested into the business while it builds equity.
- Microscope/telescope mentality. While a small business may kick off with a niche idea, entrepreneurs need to pay attention to their market. If the market is too small it will fail to generate enough consistent income throughout the year. Similarly, if the business is trying to be too much to too many, the business can lose focus.
- No business or marketing plan. Some businesses emerge from a spontaneous gap in the market and may enjoy success growing organically. But unless there is a comprehensive business plan and marketing strategy in place, the business’ growth can be unsustainable.
- Lack of brand awareness. Thanks to today’s technology, building a brand is easier and more affordable than ever. Without access to a good and informative website, consumers will be less likely to engage you. Build an online presence through blogging, online advertising and social media, and don’t ignore poor reviews – building a reputable brand is critical to success.
- Wearing too many hats. Some businesses have to start off with just you running all aspects of it, but it’s a balancing act. If an entrepreneur gets too involved in the daily operations of a business, they don’t have the time or energy to work on developing the business, managing it, and strategising growth. Conversely, if an entrepreneur is too involved in business strategising, they won’t be devoting time and energy to sales. Business owners should spend their energy in areas of personal strength and recruit skilled people to fill in the gaps.
- Uncontrolled growth. While hyper-growth might seem fantastic at first, growing too quickly for business resources, infrastructure and skills to keep up with is a recipe for disaster. Businesses mustn’t over-gear either, and strategy is essential to sustainable growth.
Small on purpose or small because owners are unable to grow it?
When starting a business, a small business owner needs to determine their reasons for starting a business. Is it because you want a change from the nine to five rat-race? Want to be at home more for the family, because you want to be your own boss, or because you have spotted a gap in the market and believe it’s a gold mine, because you want to harness your skills better?
One of the main reasons for a business being stunted is because of the owners themselves. Without systems, a business owner may find themselves in a position where only they can complete the required tasks – either because of specialised knowledge, reluctance to delegate, or because of lack of systems.
Another reason for limited growth may be an issue of money. As the saying goes: You need to spend money, to make money.
This may require the business owner to take out a loan to increase their business’s capacity through equipment, for example, or by spending money on hiring an administration assistant, manager or accountant.
Pros and cons of small business
Starting and running a small business comes with its fair share of benefits and drawbacks. Here’s a list of the most common pros and cons:
- You get to be your own boss, meaning any success you experience in a business is your success too.
- You have the potential to exceed your current income and control your future wealth.
- You can take your skills and personal interests and turn them into your own business that your employer might not be interested in pursuing.
- A small business has the potential to positively impact your surrounding community with jobs and skills development.
- Until a small business is sustainable, income will be unstable. In fact, many small business owners need to forfeit a salary for a long time.
- You may need to take significant financial risk to get the business off the ground – taking a bond on the house or cashing in a pension fund, for example.
- A small business will take up significant amounts of time and energy that can result in neglecting family responsibility and sacrificing personal time.
- Until you can afford additional staff, you may have to perform tasks that don’t align with personal strengths.
Growing a small business
For small businesses that have survived the first year failure-hurdles, sustainable growth is the next goal.
Depending on the kind of business you own, there are a number of courses you can take, some on their own, some simultaneously.
Here is a list of some ideas for growing your business.
- If your business is operating at full capacity, investigate opening another branch, but plan your strategy and financials carefully. Ensure that your current business has consistent bottom-line numbers, examine the market for demand, prepare a complete business plan for the new branch (don’t assume that what works in one location will work exactly the same in the new location), and figure out how you will finance the new location – a loan, bootstrapping, using the existing business to fund the second – each option having its own pros and cons.
- Consider franchising if the business is thoroughly systematised. While converting to a franchise can be a costly exercise, the benefits include expanding in a less capital intensive manner as franchisees foot the bill new locations. You will have to be absolutely certain, however, that the business is replicable and has all the operational kinks ironed out of it.
- Seek an investor. Provided your business is in demand and well run, you can approach angel investors, venture capitalists or banks for funding to expand. Make sure your books are in order, that your research and projections are realistic (and conservative), and that expansion is what you really want.
- You can expand your business by diversifying your product or service portfolio and by targeting other markets. Both strategies require intensive market research, time and energy.
- You can negotiate a merge or acquisition with another small business, taking on board skilled staff and better resources, but at the risk of losing control of your original business goals, vision and culture.
Support for small business
Entrepreneurship can seem like a lonely and isolating experience for some. Networking is important to your confidence and providing opportunities to learn from others.
Networking also allows you to develop your reputation as a subject expert and bring in new business through referrals.
No new business owner is expected to know all the answers all the time and it’s a good thing to learn from those who have different ideas and perspectives.
Having an experienced business person to mentor you can provide a sounding board for ideas, a channel to offer advice and caution, holding you accountable to your decisions and actions, and guide you on a path to success.
There are also numerous private and public organisations dedicated to improving the skills of small business owners. Don’t fall into the trap of believing you can be great in all areas of running a business.
If you have a weakness in finance, try self-study, short courses, part-time courses, or ask someone with the right skills to teach you what you need to know.
All great entrepreneurs eat, live and breathe the philosophy of never stopping learning and being curious about things they don’t know much about.
Small business resources
Small Business Savvy: Why You Need Negotiation Skills
Work on your negotiation skills and you will see your business grow from strength to strength.
Starting and running a successful small business requires skills and knowledge that many business owners may not possess. For example, the owner of a food truck may be an amazing chef but they may not have ample knowledge of accounting, employee management or inventory control. They may also not have the ability to successfully negotiate with landlords, partners or suppliers.
The ability to reach an agreement on an issue without having to compromise too much comes with practice, and can be learnt by taking negotiation skills courses and interacting with more established members of your industry. The reasons why these skills are vital to small business owners are outlined below.
These skills are beneficial for everyone involved
While negotiating in a boardroom is a useful skill to have, small business owners need skills that translate to their situation. Negotiation skills are needed when meeting with suppliers, in order to receive a better price for bulk goods, and can be useful when hiring a new employee and discussing what their responsibilities will be.
Being able to negotiate professionally is also beneficial when dealing with customers. You will be able to reach an agreement that suits you both, without fumbling and settling for less. Your customers will respect you as a vendor, especially if you are able to stay calm and collected throughout the transaction.
You can create win-win situations
Negotiating is not simply creating a positive outcome for one party but reaching an agreement that both parties benefit from.
The best small business owners are those who are able to negotiate an outcome that has a win-win result, in which every party involved believes the deal is a good one.
Being able to reach agreements that are positive for both you and the other party is a highly valuable skill. Not only will everyone involved have positive results but you will become a more respected businessperson. Your suppliers will enjoy dealing with you, your clients will respect you and partners will be more likely to use your viewpoints in their decisions.
Good negotiation will improve your bottom line
The ultimate goal of a negotiation is to reach an agreement that is favourable to you and your business. By being able to negotiate a good deal, you are automatically improving your bottom line. But, this takes a keen mind and a knack for negotiation, which some business owners do not have. By taking courses, you’ll be able to improve your ability and thus improve your end results.
If you are able to reduce your overhead by 10% due to an effective negotiation, that money can go directly to your profit margin. Negotiation skills are imperative for a thriving small business, because as the business owner, you are in charge of dealing with suppliers, partners and clients and will need the ability to create outcomes that favour your bottom line and end goals.
Related: How to Win a Business Negotiation
Your business confidence will be boosted
Walking into a negotiation feeling unsure of yourself and your ability to negotiate can lead to an agreement which favours the other party, not yourself. However, by improving your skills and being able to argue and negotiate professionally will boost your business confidence tenfold.
Having confidence when walking into a negotiation means that you will be able to concentrate on the issue at hand, not worrying about whether the other party is out-manoeuvring you. The ability to confidently make a presentation and provide offers and counter-offers has been shown to garner better results. Confidence in business helps to win many boardroom battles.
You will build respect
Having effective negotiation skills will build respect in the eyes of your competitors, suppliers and staff. Having the respect of your employees is vital for a successful small business, as your team is most likely small and close-knit. If they respect their employer, they will most likely work harder and be more productive.
Being respected in your industry is another benefit of having sound negotiation skills.
The impression you leave after a negotiation can have a lasting effect on how you are viewed in your industry, so it is best to be able to have a positive impact. Being able to negotiate professionally and without incident will more likely result in respect from vendors, partners and clients.
The simple fact of the matter is that it is better to be seen as intimidating rather than a pushover at the negotiation table. Your ability to confidently present your case will have a positive effect on your reputation in your industry, and will ultimately work toward achieving your bottom line and end goal. Work on your negotiation skills and you will see your business grow from strength to strength.
Win A Business Makeover With Retail Capital To The Value Of R250 000
Retail Capital is giving SMEs an opportunity to win a makeover to build their brand with an investment of R250,000.
Retail Capital is giving SMEs an opportunity to win a makeover to build their brand with an investment of R250,000. During the summer campaign, SMEs are encouraged to share the vision of how they would like to see their business grow, and led by a team of experts, Retail Capital will work with the winning SME to help make their vision come true.
While South Africa’s economy is not faring well, Retail Capital CEO Karl Westvig remains optimistic about the country’s retail and hospitality sectors. “We are seeing some green shoots, with an increase in turnover in these sectors – starting from the end of September. Economic conditions remain very tough, but businesses seem to be trading well into October and we’re hoping this continues into the festive season trading.”
According to recent statistics from Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), South Africa’s retail sales rose by 5.5% year-on-year in August 2017, following a downwardly revised 1.6% gain in the previous month and above market expectations of 2.3%. It is the biggest gain in retail trade since August of 2012.
Related: How To Raise Working Capital Finance
“I do believe that these sectors will see an improvement during the summer season. But, key to this will be for small business owners to ensure that they have the right amount of stock, adequate cash flow, as well as other systems in place to meet the ever-changing needs of customers,” says Westvig.
For many small businesses, however, continually adapting to market changes requires cash injections that they don’t often have.
The prize includes the following:
- Business plan/consulting
- Marketing strategy
- Design and branding
- Website and social Media and,
- R50k capital to gear your business.
Westvig explains that the summer campaign tagline ‘Your Vision. Our Belief’ really speaks to why Retail Capital first opened its doors. “Our goal is to see the potential of small businesses and to work with them in making these become a reality.”
He adds that the idea is not to simply help one business during the campaign either. Westvig points out that one of the biggest challenges that small businesses face in the sluggish economy is enough foot traffic through their doors. “Generally, the main hurdle in creating brand awareness and projecting credibility of their establishments boils down to establishing a strong online presence.”
“One of the first ways that South Africans identify a business or service provider that they want to work with is over social media – even in a country where the digital divide has traditionally separated the technological haves from the have-nots,” he says.
He explains that companies that don’t have a social media presence are running the risk of being overlooked entirely. “They may attract customers in their own community with signage or word of mouth, but to grow a business, they need to expand their reach – and that’s where social media comes in.”
But, the reality is that resource and time constraints mean that for many SMEs, social media is not prioritised. “Unfortunately for the average small business owner, they don’t have the time or expertise to get connected.”
Understanding the importance of having an online presence, Retail Capital has also committed to developing the digital presence of all campaign entrants. This would include setting up each entrant’s digital presence on platforms such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Tripadvisor, Zomato and any others that may be relevant to their specific market or industry.
“As a partner to many SMEs in South Africa, we are continually looking at new and innovative ways to help provide them with the much-needed support in order for them to realise their visions. SMEs need to be supported with initiatives like targeted education and training, supportive legislation, and funding opportunities that collectively help them grow our national economy,” says Westvig.
Who we are and what we do:
“More than R1.25 billion has been extended to a range of businesses including food trucks, hair salons, restaurants, spas and franchised retail stores. Many of these businesses have not been able to raise funding in any other way, other than to go to unscrupulous lenders,”says Karl Westvig, the CEO Retail Capital, a company that provides working capital with the help of innovative lending technology.
“We have also estimated that for every R160 000 we lend, we create a new job. This means that 625 jobs have been created purely by enabling small businesses to get the funding they need for working capital requirements or expansion opportunities.”
Retail Capital’s system, which enables it to advance funding to small businesses, based on real time information on credit card transactions, is providing a new funding alternative to entrepreneurs who have previously been turned away by banks. Because it is able to get actual sales information, it can approve funding immediately, and allow for flexible repayment options based on sales cycles of the particular businesses it is funding.
“This creates significant opportunity for small business owners to focus on their business and grow volumes or look for expansion opportunities rather than spend their time frantically trying to repay debt or keep the business alive after debt repayments have eaten away at any cash reserves they might have had.”
Retail Capital funding is repaid by it taking a percentage of a business’s recorded credit or debit card sales, with repayments fluctuating in line with their business cycle. This has the effect of ensuring that it isn’t overburdened with debt.
“In the past six years since starting the business, small businesses have had the benefit of R1 billion in funding they would have been unable to get through traditional channels,”says Westvig.
Against the backdrop of recessionary conditions in South Africa, Retail Capital’s client information reveals growth in informal sector turnover across a number of industries.
“We believe that growth in the informal sector is outstripping that of the formal sector,”says Westvig.
As a large proportion of the businesses it funds are women- and black-owned, there is evidence that entrepreneurs who have previously been excluded from access to finance are now enjoying success now that their access to finance problem has been solved.
3 Ways To Find Ideas For A New Business
Every business starts with an idea, a vision for a product or service that the business then brings to life.
Every business starts with an idea, a vision for a product or service that the business then brings to life. Sometimes, the greatest ideas and the most successful businesses can spring from some unlikely places. So if you’re hunting for some fresh ideas for starting a new business, try these tricks to get the wheels turning.
1. Ask People What They Need
A good product or service will fill a gap or meet a need that is not being met yet. So if you need a fresh idea, start by asking people what they need. Of course, you don’t just want to stop random people at the shopping mall and ask them what kinds of products they’d like to see. You need something a bit more targeted than that.
Related: 10 Business Ideas Ready To Launch!
So start by picking a niche group of consumers that you would like to reach. For example, you might decide you want to create a product or service to help make teachers’ jobs easier. So reach out to some teachers and ask them what kinds of problems the encounter most, and what kinds of things would help them. Odds are, they’re going to have a lot of answers.
Entrepreneur Sam Ovens started his first business out of his parents’ garage, and he did it by solving a problem for a very specific group — property managers. He reached out to this niche of consumers and learned that they spent a lot of time juggling notes and photos for the various properties they managed. So, Sam created an app that made it easy for property managers to take photos of properties, add notes, and send the documents out to their clients. The app, SnapInspect, was hugely successful and launched Sam into a multi-million dollar business career.
2. Find Something That Bothers You
If you don’t have someone else to ask, ask yourself what some of your pet peeves are. What’s something that you put up with, just because it seems to be the norm, but that you secretly wish you could fix? Find what that one thing is, and fix it. Odds are, there are other people who have the same problem, and they’ll pay you to fix it for them too.
For example, one young college grad was irritated by something very simple; he didn’t feel like there was a quality no-show sock for men. As a young professional himself, he wanted something that he could wear with his slacks and dress shoes, but it seemed that the only option for professional socks were long. So he started a Kickstarter campaign, and he raised $50,000 to start producing quality no-show socks.
This simple desire to fix his own pet peeve led Kory Stevens to found Taft Clothing. The line now produces high-fashion men’s shoes, and the business now boasts millions of dollars in sales. Plus, Kory has those no-show business socks he wanted for himself.
3. Make a Cheaper Product
Certain products and services simply have a high price tag. But if you can find a way to take an existing product or service and provide it for a steep discount, you have a recipe for a successful business. Consumers always want to save money, and if you give them the chance to save money on a product they already use, they’ll take it.
One example of this is an eyeglasses company called Warby Parker, which was launched in 2010 by four friends who attended the same business school. They looked around and noticed that most prescription glasses were selling for $300 or more. So they decided to offer the same kind of product for just $95. Since the company’s launch, Warby Parker has grown to 100 employees and is still expanding.
The opportunities for new business ideas are all around you. If you know where to look, you could end up with the next big thing in the business world.
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