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5 First Technology Buys For Your Brand New Business

Budgeting for technology basics is essential when starting a business that can compete in the modern, fast-paced, tech-led business environment.

Tony Koutakis

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Whether you’re still looking for funding or already engaging with your first clients, whether you have employees or not; your new business needs technology.

From communication, to creating professional documents, to managing administration, there are many ways that technology makes it easier for an entrepreneur to start, market, and grow a successful business to rival more established organisations.

However, most start-ups do not have unlimited funds at the beginning. Technology is really important, but it may not be the only start-up cost requiring consideration.

These are the five first technology buys required by every new business.

1Smartphone

Have you considered whether your smartphone or cellular package is suitable for business use? This is an important question – nowadays a new business can operate without fixed phone lines for a time if they are reachable telephonically on a mobile device.

Do your research and select the best device and cellular services package for your budget so you can take proper advantage of features like email, business-relevant apps and back-up internet access so you can work-on-the-go.

Related: Fintech: Fusing Finance And Technology

2Laptop

Tablets may be more portable and sometimes less expensive, but a laptop offers the performance and comfort you’ll need in the beginning when compiling lengthy documents like business plans or proposals or doing financial planning on spreadsheets. It is critical to protect your data from the minute you start using your new laptop so make sure your machine is backed up regularly, either to the cloud or to a fixed-site server.

3Software

Some businesses require specialised software (for example, video and photo editing or project management suites) but most can start with a basic office package and anti-virus software. These are frequently bundled with a laptop but not always, so consider special deals carefully. Don’t gamble on pirated software. It’s a business risk, and illegal.

Related: How the Right Technology Makes DIY Payroll As Easy As 1-2-3

4Internet access

Working on the free, unsecured Wi-Fi network at your nearest coffee shop will only work for so long. Eventually, you’ll need reliable internet access at your business premises – be that your home or office – and on the road. There are affordable options suited to a start-up of any size, from basic 3G and Wi-Fi packages to super-fast ADSL and fibre connections.

5Domain and email

Well before you’re ready for a website or other digital presence, invest in your domain. Yes, Gmail is free but don’t underestimate the impression that a professional email address – like name@yourbusiness.co.za – makes. Properly hosted email offers additional benefits like storage space to archive correspondence, remote access to email and anti-spam protection.

Tony Koutakis is the Executive Head of Ignite – an internet and communication technology services provider specifically focused on South African SMEs. He is convinced that with the correct business and technical support to connect, run and grow their businesses, South African SMEs have the potential to transform the economy. Ignite offers fast, easy, and affordable access to services and digital tools in four areas essential for SME growth - Communication, Connectivity, Cloud and Business Applications.

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Building Customer Relationships

Are you working in a retail environment? Explore the Wits Plus online short course in Customer Relationship Building through the DigitalCampus.

Wits Plus

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Most retail businesses agree that providing excellent customer experience is imperative for a retail store to be successful.

But what is customer experience?  According to Forrester, an independent market research company, customer experience is “How customers perceive their interactions with your company”.

They explain that good customer experiences have three relevant characteristics for the customer:

  1. They are useful, thus deliver value and meet customer needs.
  2. They are usable, so the value is easy to find and engage with.
  3. They are enjoyable, and emotionally engaging so people want to use them.

The customer ‘interactions’ are the two-way exchanges that customers have with the company. A customer will make a judgement as to whether the company meets their needs, is easy to use and enjoyable to do business with. These judgements happen every single time the customer interacts with the company: when they navigate the company website, call the contact centre, enter the retail store, buy company products, talk to an employee, respond to an advert and so forth.

Providing excellent customer experience is challenging. The systems and processes required for excellent customer experience include understanding your customers, building a positive emotional connection with them, capturing and acting on feedback, developing and training everyone in the company and measuring the return on investment. All this is difficult enough to manage in a national company but what does it mean in this age of international and multinational companies?

Related: Customer Control For Entrepreneurs

Providing a superb customer experience is first underpinned by understanding the cultures, history, experiences and sensibilities of customers and then respecting them. Again, this is more manageable if your company is national and its cultural values are aligned with the national values and history. However, achieving this in a multi-national organisation where the historical experience and cultural values of the organisation may not be aligned with the country they are operating in, can be a real challenge.  A diverse workforce is also imperative to providing an outstanding customer experience and the importance of diversity is magnified in a multinational organisation.

This is demonstrated by the infamous ‘H&M hoodie incident’ that happened early this year. In Sweden the only jungle is urban, there are no wild monkeys and the black population is relatively small. As one would expect in a Scandinavian organisation, the H&M group board has good male-female diversity, but there are few black Swedes in senior decision-making positions. Few Swedes have experienced how skin colour can provide an all-pervasive feeling of difference, of ‘us and them’, and they have little, if any, understanding of these issues on a personal level.

However, H&M is a global organisation and therefore needs to have an intimate understanding of the different cultures and sensibilities of their customers in the different countries where they have a footprint; and respect them. The simple expedient of introducing a process whereby a local executive ensures that a new product is culturally sensitive could have demonstrated some organisational understanding of this issue.

The H&M hoodie debacle is an excellent example of how not understanding the customer can negatively impact on customer experience; how it can break the emotional engagement with customers and lose their trust. This incident has made it difficult for South African customers to engage positively with H&M. The importance of diversity in the senior teams throughout a multinational can directly impact the customer experience and the bottom line. In short, one picture and a hoodie nearly undermined the reputation of the organisation in South Africa!

Are you working in a retail environment? Explore the Wits Plus online short course in Customer Relationship Building through the DigitalCampus.

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Company Posts

Entrepreneurs Can Explore Opportunities In Growing Digital Textile And Interior Décor Markets

Those wanting to explore opportunities in digital textile printing can speak to experts at the Sign Africa and FESPA Africa Expo, taking place from 12-14 September at Gallagher Convention Centre.

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According to Mark Sollman, application manager at Mimaki, ‘Digital printing technologies are revolutionising the interior décor business. Not only can these items be produced more rapidly and with less waste than with traditional manufacturing processes, digital printing offers the ability to customise – or even personalise – interior décor.’

The global printed textile market is huge, estimated at over 32 billion square metres of output annually. Print is widely used to decorate the surface appearance of furniture and surfaces. Digital textile printing is ideal for customisation – allowing consumers to print unique products for their homes or businesses.

There are also emerging niche opportunities. For example, with the wide use of online travel review sites, hotels are increasingly keen to deliver a fresh experience. A ‘TripAdvisor effect’ has been identified, with the claim it reduces the hotel renovation cycle from every seven years to every five years, consequently boosting the market for printed décor.

There are many T-shirt printers offering a web-to-shirt service, where the buyer uploads their own unique image to be printed on to a garment on demand. The printing takes a large part of the value and will be done close to the buyer. For a fashion collection, stock-outs may be avoided by printing and making popular sizes and styles locally in small quantities.

Related: Explore Business Opportunities In Print At The Sign Africa And FESPA Africa Expo

This makes higher manufacturing cost less of a problem, and internet retailers can extend this with only commissioning the product after a sale has been completed online. Increasingly, supply chains are being pressured to provide greater flexibility, which inkjet textile printing is able to provide.

Applications with interior décor include; customised wall coverings and photo wall murals; window coverings and wall decals; curtains and blinds, cushions, lampshades and bags.

Those wanting to explore opportunities in digital textile printing can speak to experts at the Sign Africa and FESPA Africa Expo, taking place from 12-14 September at Gallagher Convention Centre. There are also a range of educational features, including: 

Textile Experience

Visit this hands-on workshop where printers can learn different techniques all taught by Charlie Taublieb, who has been in the screen printing industry since 1976, and heads up Taublieb Consulting in Greenwood Village, Colorado, a company specialising in technical screen printing consulting for textile printers. This takes place from 12-14 September, in hall 1 on the Rexx Screen & Digital Supplies stand.

T-Shirt and Bag Printing Workshop

Free demonstrations by local experts on T-shirts and bags with speciality printing techniques, direct to transfer and screen printing. For more info visit http://bit.ly/EntrepreneurSignAfrica5

Related: Considerations For Signage And Printing Industry Start-Ups

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Explore Business Opportunities In Print At The Sign Africa And FESPA Africa Expo

Business opportunities will be showcased on various exhibitor stands at the upcoming Sign Africa and FESPA Africa Expo, taking place from 12-14 September at Gallagher Convention Centre.

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Opportunities for start-ups or those looking to grow their businesses will be showcased in daily 30 minute sessions on the hour. These sessions are free of charge. A range of topics relating to T-shirt printing, signage, branding, working with acrylic, doming and wide format printing will be covered.
TIME WED 12 SEP TIME THURS 13 SEP TIME FRI 14 SEP
09H30 Gawk hall 3: Take your textile printing to new levels with Triga Max and the all NEW Triga Go fabric tension display systems. 09H30 Gawk hall 3: Take your textile printing to new levels with Triga Max and the all NEW Triga Go fabric tension display systems 09H30 Gawk hall 3: Take your textile printing to new levels with Triga Max and the all NEW Triga Go fabric tension display systems
10H30 Midcomp hall 3: Work smarter with the HP R2000 10H30 Midcomp hall 3: Business opportunities in branding bottles and more. 10H30 Midcomp hall 3: T-shirt printing on the DCS 1800 mini Flatbed printer.

 

11h30 Maizey Plastics hall 3: T-shirt graphics using Poli-flex Turboflex Heat Transfers. 11H30 Maizey Plastics hall 3: Working with Plexiglas – A variety of tools will be onsite to demonstrate correct working techniques. 11H30 Maizey Plastics hall 3: Doming using UltraDome
12H30 JG Electronics hall 1: Start or expand your own corporate gift branding  business 12H30 JG Electronics hall 1: Investigate adding white toner T-shirt printing vs traditional printing. 12H30 JG Electronics hall 1: Investigate adding white toner T-shirt printing vs traditional printing.
13H30 Uprint hall 1:  Start up or value add to your business for a TOTAL print solution system on all Promo goods. Demo’s will be shown. 13H30 Uprint hall 1:  Start up or value add to your business for a TOTAL print solution system on all Promo goods. Demo’s will be shown. 13H30 Uprint hall 1:  Start up or value add to your business for a TOTAL print solution system on all Promo goods. Demo’s will be shown.
14H30 Rexx Hall 1: Visit this hands-on demo where printers can learn screen printing techniques all taught by Charlie Taublieb 14H30 Rexx Hall 1: Visit this hands-on demo where printers can learn screen printing techniques all taught by Charlie Taublieb 14H30 Rexx Hall 1: Visit this hands-on demo where printers can learn screen printing techniques all taught by Charlie Taublieb

For more information, and to pre-register online, please visit http://bit.ly/EntrepreneurSignAfrica4.

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Related: Business Opportunities In Printing And Signage

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