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Demystify Business Finance

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, many businesses are suffering unnecessarily from a lack of financial literacy amongst staff.

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It’s not unusual to have staff who struggle to understand the basic financial facts of their organisations – but this is easily remedied by the relevant training, say experts.

Effective financial literacy training for non-finance staff can boost entrepreneurial development, staff innovation, financial prudence, and better decision-making processes amongst managers, all of which will lead to increased profit, says Colin Firer, Programme Director of the course Finance for Non-Financial Managers, which runs at the UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB).

“The need for non-financial personnel to understand financial statements and financial jargon is often not realised, and businesses suffer as a result,” says Firer.

Identifying red flags

This is a truth that is internationally understood, yet not acted upon often enough, specialists believe. Gene Siciliano, author of the book Finance for Non-Financial Managers, writes on his website: “We are often told that the effort to learn to build and use workable budgets is just too much.

For some managers, planning a budget is more frustrating than just hoping the numbers will all work out, if they only sell enough widgets or whatever. But I won’t quote the business failure rates amongst companies in this range.”

Locally, the picture is similar, Firer agrees. “We have seen South Africans becoming aware that financial literacy can make a huge difference to the overall sustainability of their organisations as well as to their personal lives,” he says. “Furthermore, it is essential in identifying possible ‘red flags’ in a company’s financial situation.

If you want to know why your income statement shows a profit but all you have to show for it is an overdrawn bank account, you need to empower yourself by understanding some basic financial principles.

“If more non-financial personnel had been financially literate in Leisurenet for example, perhaps someone could have raised the red flag before the company collapsed. It is a key requirement for managers in the current market context.”

Developing literacy

Developing this literacy is the main objective of the UCT GSB course which runs this May and again in October in Cape Town.

“We aim to make the language of accounting and finance accessible and easy to understand,” Firer says. “Those attending will be taught how to read an organisation’s financial statements and explore their parameters.  They will be given the tools to analyse cost behaviour and financial performance; will participate in creating a financial plan; and they will gain the knowledge and confidence needed to contribute to creating value within their organisation.”

No prior exposure to accounting or finance is necessary in order to benefit from this type of education, says Firer. The course is specifically designed for non-financial people from any sector, those responsible for meeting budgets and containing costs, and for anyone wanting to understand the key drivers of performance in organisations.

“Those who gain an understanding of the language of finance will be better able to engage with financial professionals and appreciate their points of view,” he says. “They will also be better able to examine the financial health of an organisation, identify problems and inefficiencies and contribute towards improving financial performance.

“They will better understand the drivers and measurement of costs, and be able to construct a financial plan and establish its financial feasibility.”

The first course runs from 20 – 25 May 2012 at the UCT Graduate School of Business. A second course also runs from 15 – 19 October. For more information, contact (021) 406 1323 or SMS “Finance” to 31497. Standard Rates Apply.

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SMEs: Staying On The Right Side Of The Taxman

Remaining SARS compliant can be a constant challenge for small- to medium-enterprises (SMEs), especially when they are trying to focus on growing their businesses and streamlining their operations.

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EasyBiz Managing Director, Gary Epstein, says submitting taxes can be a seamless process that does not have to take up more time than is necessary. “If business owners understand what is required of them and they put a few processes into place to deal with their tax submissions properly, their lives will be so much easier.”

What are the top three considerations for SMEs when submitting tax returns?

“Firstly,” says Epstein, “SARS returns must be accurate and submitted in terms of the relevant Act. Secondly, returns should be submitted and paid on time to avoid unnecessary penalties and interest, and thirdly, business owners must follow up on queries issued by SARS. “Do not ignore these queries, act on them as soon as possible”.

What are the major SARS submission deadlines for SMEs?

Epstein points out that small business owners need to adhere to various tax deadlines, each with their own particular dates for submission. “It is important that business owners diarise the dates (and set advance reminders for themselves) and/or enlist the services of an accountant or financial adviser to help them keep abreast of requirements.”

Value-added tax (VAT)

VAT payments need to be submitted in the VAT period allocated to the business, according to various categories and ending on the last day of a calendar month. This may mean making payments once a month, once every two months, once every six months or annually, depending on the category.

Provisional taxes

Provisional tax should be submitted at the end of August (first provisional) and at the end of February (second provisional) – for February year-end companies.

Employee taxes

In addition to submitting an annual reconciliation (EMP501) for the period 1 March to end of February for Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE), Skills Development Levy (SDL) and Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), employee tax, in the form of an EMP201 return, needs to be submitted by the seventh of every month.

When can SMEs get extensions and is it worth it?

Epstein says SMEs can apply for various extensions, but these are subject to the Income Tax Act and Tax Administration Act.

“It is best for SMEs to consult their tax professionals to get advice regarding extensions for their businesses.”

What is SARS not flexible about?

SARS is not flexible when it comes to late returns and late payments.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is for SME owners to ensure their tax returns are submitted on time. In this way, they will avoid the inconvenience and expense of additional fines and interest,” notes Epstein.

What skills do SMEs need in their organisations to be able to submit to SARS efficiently?

Business owners often don’t have the time or expertise to deal with tax submissions throughout the year. If the business cannot afford to employ a full-time accountant or financial services expert, it would do well to outsource its tax requirements to a registered tax practitioner.

“I would recommend that even if they are not submitting the tax returns themselves, business owners should have a broad understanding of the tax regulations and what is expected of them. There is a lot of helpful information on the various Acts and tax requirements on SARS’ website,” says Epstein.

How does the right software help SMEs remain SARS compliant?

SME’s (and their accountants’) jobs can be made easier by using reliable accounting software to calculate accurate VAT reports. These reports are only as accurate as the data entered into them, which means care needs to be taken when inputting data into the accounting programme. Epstein says a good accounting software package must be reliable, easy to use and functional.

“SMEs need to check that the software has thorough reporting capabilities and can interface with other software solutions. Of course, it is also important to find out whether the software is locally supported by the vendor or not.”

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4 Dangers Of Business Under-insurance

A common short-term insurance peril that many SMEs face when submitting a claim following an insured event is the risk of being underinsured.

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Malesela Maupa, Head of Products and Insurer Relationships at FNB Insurance Brokers says, many small business owners mistakenly believe that by merely having a short-term insurance policy in place they are adequately protected against unforeseen events.

“This is technically correct provided that the business is covered for the full replacement value of the items insured. However, in circumstances where the sum insured does not cover the full replacement value or material loss of the item insured, the business is underinsured,” explains Maupa, as he unpacks the dangers of business underinsurance:

1. Financial loss

The most common risk is financial loss on the part of the business. If the business is underinsured or the indemnity period understated, the short-term insurance policy will only pay out the sum insured for the stated indemnity period as stated in the schedule, with the business owner having to provide for the shortfall. This often leads to cash flow challenges, impacting profit margins or rendering it difficult for the business to recover following the financial loss.

2. Reputational damage

Should an underinsured business not have sufficient funds to replace a key business activity or critical component following a loss, this may impact its ability to fulfil its contractual obligations, leading to a loss of business or market share, and irreparable reputational damage in the worst-case scenario.

3. Legal action

A small business also faces the risk of customers or clients taking legal action against it, should it fail to deliver on goods and services following a loss or be unable to honour its financial commitments that they committed to prior to the loss.

4. Survival of the business

A catastrophic event such as fire, which could result in the loss of stock or company equipment and documentation, could threaten the survival of a small business that is not yet fully established, if the business assets are not adequately insured.

Working with an experienced short-term insurance broker or insurer is essential when taking up short-term insurance to ensure that business contents are covered for their full replacement value.

Furthermore, depending on the nature of the business or item insured, the policy should be reviewed on a regular basis to avoid underinsurance as the value of items often change overtime due to fluctuations in economic activity. Where it’s necessary, evaluation certificates need to be kept up to date.

“Lastly, SMEs should ensure that the sum insured does not exceed the replacement value, which would lead to over insurance. Should a business submit a claim following a loss, the insurer would only pay out the replacement value, regardless of the higher sum insured,” concludes Maupa.

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Inspiring A New Generation Of Learning – Education As A Basic Human Right

Access to education isn’t a privilege, it’s a basic human right – Mzwandile inspires a new generation of learners.

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Raised by his aunt and uncle after his parents passed away at a young age, Mzwandile Harmans attended a poor school in Cala, the heart of the rural Eastern Cape.  It was his matric year; but with limited resources at Masikhuthale Public Secondary school, the pass rate was low and the learning environment less than ideal for conscientious learners.

Then one day a teacher came round to talk about Engen’s Maths and Science Schools (EMSS) programme, and everything changed for this talented young man who was determined to realise his full potential.

“We were given a chance to take a test to qualify for the EMSS Cala programme. The programme offered supplementary classes in maths, science and English, which ran every Saturday morning, but was 25 kilometres away,” remembers Mzwandile. “Fortunately, I took it seriously and I got in.”

Making the long round trip every weekend to attend the programme saw a steady improvement in Mzwandile’s  maths, chemistry, and physics marks, so much so that he was awarded a full Engen scholarship to study Chemical Engineering at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).

Mzwandile later impressed with his tertiary studies and after two-years was offered a one-year internship at the Engen Refinery in Durban, which he passed with distinction. On graduating from CPUT, he landed a two-year employment contract with Engen, as part of the company’s graduate development programme.

Today, Mzwandile is permanently employed as an Environmental Technician at the Engen Refinery.  “I am so grateful to Engen for all of this,” says Mzwandile. “I never thought it could happen to me.”

Engen’s Head of Transformation and Stakeholder Engagement, Unathi Magida says access to education is a fundamental human right.  “This resonates particularly with Engen as a company, as we believe in the value of education and know how important it is to ensure that young people have the opportunity to realise their full potential.”

Chwayita Mareka, Engen’s Head of Human Resources, says the company’s investment in young talent has focused on the Maths and Science Saturday Schools because they understand the bigger country agenda.

“As Engen, we try and play our part in helping to develop South African’s talent pool, as there is a scarcity of Science, Maths and Engineering skills. We offer bursaries for students to go to universities in these fields and we look after them, especially if they are from disadvantaged communities,” says Mareka.

“Later, they come into Engen as graduate trainees as part of our graduate development programme wherein we assign them a mentor that exposes them to the real business,” she adds.

Mzwandile’s journey is just one of many inspirational Engen stories that will be shared as part of a new TV series that aims to create a positive narrative around South Africa’s success stories.  The SA INC. TV series which launches on 7 April is a partnership between Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA), Brand South Africa and producers, Regency Global.

“At Engen, we strongly believe that a country which is educated is a country that will prosper. We are pleased to play a part in helping to develop South Africa talent, especially our young learners based in rural areas,” says Magida

To watch Mzwandile’s story please visit the website: https://regency.global/engen/ and the following hashtags: #JourneyWithEngen #BusinessBelieves #SAINC #humanrightsday #awesomesouthafrica #sustainability #livesouthafrica #weheartsa.

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