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Improve Your Cash Flow: Manage Your VAT

Viresh Harduth, Vice President: New Customer Acquisition (Small & Medium Businesses) for Sage Africa & Middle East on the increase in VAT in South Africa and how it affects your business.

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If you went shopping on 1 April, you likely encountered aisles and aisles of products with no price tags as retailers updated their shelf pricing to reflect the new VAT rate. As a consumer, this was probably a slight inconvenience because you didn’t know how much something cost until you had to pay.

Yet, as a small business owner, the VAT increase was more than a slight inconvenience. Not only did you have to update your systems and train your teams but you likely had to spend money printing new price tags and ensuring you were compliant – this was, after all, the biggest tax change in 25 years.

The VAT increase will also impact your cash flow because you will need to pay more money to SARS. But now that the dust has settled, Small & Medium Businesses have an opportunity to review their operations and uncover ways to improve their cash flow and offset the higher VAT payments.

Related: 5 Marketing Missteps That Make Cash Flow And Business Growth Stumble

Here are five ideas to free up cash that are easy to implement and don’t require major changes to your business:

  1. Negotiate extended payment terms with suppliers. When you receive an invoice, you generally have 30 days to pay. Try to negotiate longer payment terms with your suppliers – like 60 days – so that you have cash in the bank for longer.
  2. Enforce your own payment terms for customers. The time between issuing invoices and waiting to get paid is a danger zone for small businesses, especially when you need to pay VAT to SARS. Reduce your payment terms for customers from one month to 14 days, for example, and stick to it. Send regular reminders on overdue accounts and follow up on the phone.
  3. Incentivise customers to pay earlier. Offer various payment methods that make it easier for customers to settle their accounts sooner. Issue invoices promptly and offer discounts for early – and full – payment. This will also increase loyalty.
  4. Reduce stock on hand. If you have surplus stock, it means you haven’t aligned your stock with your sales, which ties up available cash. Stock management is as important as financial management. Knowing what’s in your stock room – and bank account – at all times, is crucial to maximise cash flow.
  5. Work with an accountant. While cloud-based accounting solutions like Sage can help you keep track of your cash flow and stay compliant, an accountant can identify areas to save money and cut costs, freeing up working and investment capital.

Related: Strategies To Help You Stay Out Of The Red With Cash Flow

When you improve your cash flow, you reduce the need to rely on bank overdrafts and loans. The key to the success of any business is to free up as much cash as possible. And, with the VAT increase, you need more cash than you did yesterday.

*Remember, you have until 31 May to reflect the VAT increase in your product and service prices. Until then, you can apply the additional 1% at the till point, as long as you put up signs informing customers that you will be doing this.

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Entrepreneur Today

Global Guide For Entrepreneurs, Innovators Launches In Johannesburg

Startup Guide partners with SAP Next-Gen, Tshimologong Precinct to bring global guidebook to Johannesburg innovation ecosystem; calls for nominations.

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Calling all entrepreneurs, accelerators, innovators, co-working spaces and experts in the City of Gold: Startup Guide, the leading global guide for start-ups in high-growth innovation hubs in Europe, the US and Middle East, is open to nominations in Johannesburg.

Founded in 2014, Startup Guide is a creative content and publishing company that produces guidebooks and tools to help entrepreneurs to connect to communities and resources in the leading start-up cities around the world. Its global footprint covers some of the most innovative and thriving start-up ecosystems in the US, Europe and the Middle East, including those of London, New York, Berlin, Tel Aviv, and Stockholm. After launching in Cape Town earlier in the year, Startup Guide now moves to Johannesburg.

According to Sissel Hansen, Founder and CEO of Startup Guide, South Africa’s largest city is emerging as a key innovation hub for start-ups.

“Johannesburg has recently emerged as a growing ecosystem for start-ups and entrepreneurs in Africa, particularly in the tech industry. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to create a comprehensive guide of resources for aspiring founders wanting to do business in South Africa’s largest city.”

Startup Guide Johannesburg was launched at Wits University’s Tshimologong Precinct, one of Johannesburg’s newest high-tech addresses in the vibrant inner-city district of Braamfontein. Tshimologong, which means “new beginnings” in Setswana, focuses on the incubation of digital entrepreneurs, commercialisation of research and the development of high-level digital skills for students, working professionals and unemployed youth. Lesley Williams, CEO of Tshimologong Precinct, says: “South Africa is fast-becoming a go-to source for innovation, especially in the tech sector. We believe the introduction of a dedicated resource for the startup ecosystem in Johannesburg will unlock significant opportunities for innovation hubs such as ours to more easily connect with entrepreneurs, experts and other roleplayers, ultimately providing a more supportive environment for growth.”

Related: Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

Startup Guide has partnered with SAP Next-Gen, a purpose driven innovation university and community for the SAP ecosystem enabling companies, partners and universities to connect and innovate with purpose linked to the UN Sustainable Goals for Development. Ann Rosenberg, Senior Vice President and Head of Global SAP Next-Gen says:

“We strive to connect digital innovators in an open innovation community to drive the future success and growth of industries through the use of technology. As we have witnessed in other high-innovation cities around the world, the introduction of knowledge resources – supported by opportunities for collaboration and partnership in an open ecosystem – enhances the overall success of entire start-up communities. Johannesburg’s world-famous energy and business acumen will greatly benefit from the launch of Startup Guide Johannesburg and the support of industry partners, including SAP Next-Gen and the Tshimologong Precinct.”

Cathy Smith, Managing Director of SAP Africa, adds that the partnership with Startup Guide aligns well with the company’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. “As an organisation we are committed to achieving the high ambitions set out by the SDGs. However, it is virtually impossible to do so alone: the concept of partnership with likeminded purpose-driven organisations and initiatives is vital not only to realising the SDGs but to foster a greater and more inclusive innovation ecosystem in Johannesburg and across the African continent.”

Nominations for the Johannesburg edition of Startup Guide are now open. If you know a start-up, entrepreneur, programme, space, accelerator, or experts and would like to see them featured in the book, please visit https://startupguide.com/shop/startup-guide-johannesburg and submit your nomination.

Visit the SAP News Center. Follow SAP on Twitter at @sapnews.

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Aspirations For SMMEs In South Africa

Research released earlier this year, revealed that there are only 250 000 formal SMMEs in South Africa.

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Entrepreneurs who have started up a business over the past 10 years have done so in an environment that has been largely negative, with slow economic growth and an unstable political landscape. “So, all in all, a very difficult setting to launch, grow or even maintain a business,” says Bizmod MD, Anne-Marie Pretorius.

Pretorius says that many entrepreneurs who operate in South Africa can be forgiven for often wondering if the slog is worth it. Yet they continue – despite economic uncertainty, strikes, retrenchments and downscaling.  “It is this tenacity that sets entrepreneurs apart, and I often wonder how much more successful they would be in an easier and more supportive environment.”

Below, Pretorius shares her ideal pro-entrepreneur outlook for the future:

  • Greater policy certainty on all key government policies from land reform to regulations surrounding labour broking.
  • Being able to do away with bad policy faster. An example of where this did not happen was in the changes of visa requirements; leading to an unnecessary dent in our tourism industry, an industry that should be targeted for growth.
  • Lower compliance requirements for companies with a turnover under R50 million. The cost of compliance for smaller enterprises is significantly higher in comparison to their income and the cash they have available. Smaller companies need simpler frameworks where compliance is required. A portal similar to SARS e-filing, which makes compliance across various pieces of legislation clear and simple, would be ideal.
  • The Labour Relations Act is a key piece of legislation that has done a lot to protect the rights of the employee. It has attempted to balance the power relationship between employee and employer. Some innovation is however required in labour practices, allowing for mutually beneficial flexible working relationships that keep pace with the changing work environment.
  • Buy small, buy South African! A framework whereby large corporations and government would have to allocate a certain minimum percentage to buying from smaller local companies. There are encouraging signs that this is happening more, however this is still not an ingrained practice. In addition, consumers should be more informed on what items are South African produced, in order for them to be encouraged to purchase locally.
  • Easier access to funds enabling entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. There are currently a few options available, but all of the options require significant governance and red tape. Whilst this is understandable from the lenders perspective, it does hamper the agility and growth of companies.
  • Make good financial governance aspirational, attractive and easily accessible.
  • The process for tenders to be corruption free and fair, enabling more companies to add value.
  • Pay SMME’s on 30 days or less. Enormous pressure exists on smaller companies when not paid on time. They simply do not have the cash flow to carry a debtor’s book of 90 days and this inevitably hampers their growth.
  • Tax SMME’s at a lower tax rate. Profit tax should be lowered in order to drive entrepreneurship.
  • Creating a platform that makes it simpler to employ young individuals with potential and create support programmes for SMMEs to upskill them. There is a significant financial and time investment required to train a young person, which can make SMME’s sometimes wary to do so.

“If we are able to make only some of these ideals a reality, there is no doubt that we would see economic growth, entrepreneurial growth, and more employment opportunities,” concludes Pretorius.

Related: A – Z Easy Small Business Ideas

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South African Students Win R50 000 In The Universities Business Challenge

Students from Mangosuthu University of Technology beat 500 students from 13 different universities across South Africa.

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The Overlings from Mangosuthu University of Technology are the 2018 winners of Cognity Advisory’s Universities Business Challenge (UBC), sponsored by General Electric (GE). The winning team of four students are walking away with R50,000 to turn their business idea into reality.

Launched in July this year, the UBC has seen 500 students from 13 different universities across South Africa participate in a business simulation competition designed to develop entrepreneurship skills.

When the competition launched, all teams were challenged to form virtual companies and to virtually manufacture and sell bicycles.

The final 10 teams were from the University of Limpopo, Mangosuthu University of Technology, Vaal University of Technology, University of KwaZulu-Natal and North-West University.

During the two-day final, the teams played six rounds of simulations. Each simulation gave the teams a chance to re-evaluate their progress and better certain areas that needed improving. The winning team realised during one of their simulations that in order to maximise profits they would need to introduce two new products and market it differently from their initial product. They paid special attention to their customer’s needs. 

The aim of the UBC was designed to tackle South Africa’s high level of youth unemployment. Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) announced that South Africa’s official unemployment rate increased by 0.3 of a percentage point to 27.5% in the third quarter of 2018.

Nkosinathi Sokhulu from the winning team said, “Even though we didn’t have a great presentation we made the most profit. This experience taught us a lot about ourselves and business. Most of the decisions that we made came from serious debates. We learnt that market research is crucial when starting a business. We learnt that marketing starts and ends with the customer.”

Related: 20 South African Side-Hustles You Can Start This Weekend

“Based on this market research information we realised that it was important for us to introduce two new products and this, in addition to the main product we were selling, helped us to maximise profits. We saw an opportunity to add more products and it paid off” said Mbali Tshozi.

Tope Toogun, development advisor and CEO of Cognity Advisory said, “All the teams showed tremendous promise and I was very impressed by their levels of engagement with one another and their tenacity.”

“We really want to ensure that students are equipped with the necessary skills to not only start a business but to run it effectively. While we have selected one winner, our hope is that each team has benefitted by having learned the skills needed in the workplace.”

“The competition is designed to develop the ‘soft skills’ that are important for those wanting to set up their own business or simply be successful at work. With rising unemployment and ongoing talent shortages, having these skills is crucial for those wanting to get a job.”

The UBC, now in its second year in South Africa, will continue into its third year in 2019 and will run as the Africa Enterprise Challenge (AEC).

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