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Why Small Business Deserves To Be A Bigger Priority

According to a report by BANKSETA, small, medium and micro enterprises (SMEs) are estimated to provide employment to up to 60% of the South African labour force, yet the private sector has been slow to lend real support to struggling entrepreneurs.

Morné Stoltz

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According to a report by BANKSETA, small, medium and micro enterprises (SMEs) are estimated to provide employment to up to 60% of the South African labour force, yet the private sector has been slow to lend real support to struggling entrepreneurs.

Given the plentiful challenges SMEs face on a daily basis – among them rigid labour relations, excessive red tape and a shortage of resources to tackle the quantities of necessary paperwork – there remains little in the way of options for small businesses looking to improve operational efficiency as a means to further growth. 

A recent report by Goldman Sachs suggests that an additional investment of R12 million by government and the private sector could boost the economy by as much as 5% – something that could account for a significant reversal of fortunes for a country currently weighed down by recent junk status downgrades and the onset of recession.

Yet, while investment in the traditional sense is undoubtedly a top priority, the fact remains that many emerging businesses simply don’t possess the necessary resources or business smarts to facilitate rapid growth, with many stumbling early on as a result of unforeseen legal issues, inability to obtain credit and BEE related concerns. 

Simply put, small businesses in South Africa are starved of the resources required to operate an enterprise on any scale, with administrative tasks likely to consume a vast majority of billable hours.

Related: SA Small Business To Grow Through Funding, Market Exposure

Between legal compliance, SARS documentation, bureaucratic red tape and staffing concerns, emerging enterprises are left with very little time to get on with what they actually do best.

And while corporate South Africa has for many years acknowledged the importance of this sector to the country’s economic well-being, it appears there’s little understanding of the issues currently facing entrepreneurs who are starved of time, resources and expertise rather than funding.

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So what should the private sector be doing to drive the success of this sector? Here are a few of the key challenges that need to be addressed if the country’s SMEs are to realise their immense potential: 

Administrative assistance

Paperwork can cause significant productivity backlogs for SMEs. By alleviating entrepreneurs of day-to-day administrative duties, the private sector could go a long way towards driving productivity in the sector. 

Procurement

For any start-up, expenses can quickly start to accumulate, particularly when strong supplier networks are not yet in place.

By offering assistance in procuring more reasonably priced goods – be they corporate vehicles, stationery or office furniture – corporate South Africa could more effectively mitigate cashflow concerns, tapping into available supply chains so as to tackle this critical business imperative. 

Compliance

This is a key area in which numerous inexperienced enterprises get stuck, either due to a limited understanding of requirements, or simply thanks to it being assigned to the bottom of an ever-growing to-do list.

As such, it’s important that business owners have access to readily available compliance assistance and advice – not only to alleviate backlog, but also to ensure they don’t run into unforeseen legal troubles. 

Related: 8 Smart Tips for Small Businesses Seeking Investment

Human Resources

Significant problems can arise in the event of a staffing dispute, as smaller enterprises seldom have the means or know-how to deal with such issues, which can prove costly – and in some cases, fatal – for emerging businesses. 

MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970)

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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

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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.

Related: 6 Great Tips For A Successful Shark Tank Pitch

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.

Win A Business Makeover with Retail Capital

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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.

Harald Merckel

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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.

Related: The 10 Best New-Age Business Ideas You Haven’t Heard About Yet

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.

Related: 11 Uniquely South African Business Ideas

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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Small Business

How The SA Government Can Help Small Businesses Thrive

The Xero report has gathered the top five priorities – as identified by South Africa’s small business owners.

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Small businesses are a critical component of the South African economy. They account for 52% of the country’s GDP, contribute millions in tax revenue and help address the nation-wide unemployment problem by creating more jobs. The government does acknowledge this to some extent and has made some effort to support their growth – but more needs to be done.

The Department of Small Business Development launched in 2014. Its aim is to support South Africa’s entrepreneurial community. However, the initiative hasn’t quite achieved its objectives and, according to Xero’s 2017 State of Small Business report, only 4% of small businesses feel that the department has helped their organisation. A surprising 89% say it is has not helped their businesses in any way.

The reality is, the current national and global economic climate is putting South Africa’s small businesses under immense pressure. They require specific attention and support. The Xero report has gathered the top five priorities – as identified by South Africa’s small business owners. 

1More funding options

Almost half (48%) of small businesses would like to see more help from the government with regards to funding. Currently, 85% of South African start-ups are self-funded. This route requires personal resources that are out of reach for many would-be entrepreneurs. And even those who do manage to fund their own companies, won’t necessarily have enough to grow their businesses to their full potential.

Related: Smart Money For Small Businesses

Access to outside funding options is thus crucial. If the government makes more money available to small businesses through subsidies and grants, then more new companies will be able to launch – and grow.

To limit the number of South Africa’s successful entrepreneurs to those with enough money to fund their own companies, perpetuates economic inequalities, frustrates individual ambitions and does little to help the country’s progress.

2Less red-tape

red-tape-business-restrictions

South Africa is a country of rules. Our regulatory environment is notoriously restrictive and 44% of entrepreneurs would like to see less red-tape. It’s not necessarily the regulations themselves that are the problem – but rather the level of bureaucracy. The government expects full compliance, yet offers little official assistance to help businesses navigate the corridors of power.

Small business owners, who typically don’t have much time to spare, have to spend valuable hours travelling to and from various government agencies and departments. The issue is the current lack of co-ordination between these offices and their individual legislative interpretations. Entrepreneurs are often shunted from one to the other, seeking a signature here and a stamp there – only to be told that they’ve missed a step and have to start at the beginning.

Compliance is of course, crucial. However, small business growth should not be interrupted by unnecessarily obstructive rules and regulations. If the government would like to boost the economy even further, it needs to create a legislative environment in which small businesses can thrive.

3Offer tax breaks

High taxes keep 16% of South Africa’s entrepreneurs up at night and 42% would like the government to offer tax breaks. Prohibitively high taxes can hurt the country’s economy: Businesses move overseas to more tax-friendly locations and take jobs and revenue with them.

Tax breaks benefit both the small business community and the government. They make it more affordable for would-be entrepreneurs to start a business. And, as more companies launch, tax revenue increases.

Related: Cash Flow Tips For Small Businesses To Survive Rocky Times

4Improve access to finance

Access to finance is a recurring issue. With so few subsidies and grants available, small businesses battle to secure the funding they need to grow. Banks are hesitant lenders, especially when it comes to start-ups – and 35% of entrepreneurs look to the government to help them access the financial solutions they need.

The good news is, the government can help. The Department of Trade and Industry, along with its various satellite organisations, offers loans with flexible repayment terms and lower interest rates. Of course, this doesn’t meet the growing demand, and more finance options need to be made available to help entrepreneurs get their businesses up and running. 

5Education investment

The high unemployment rate in South Africa is compounded by a severe skills shortage. Small businesses need very specific skills and have to hire carefully – the wrong recruit can become an expensive mistake. Too many entrepreneurs struggle to find the right people with the experience and skills that they need – which limits their growth potential.

Almost a quarter (22%) of small businesses believe that the government needs to invest more in education. While this is no short-term solution, it is a necessary step towards building South Africa’s talent pool and safeguarding its economic future. If this doesn’t happen, neither the companies nor the country will be able to function at maximum efficiency.

The government has much to gain from working in the best interests of the small business community. The sooner the two parties are on the same page, the better for the economy.

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